The Bee

Today I had occasion to go to one of the most thrilling and suspenseful events I have ever seen. Sporting events never did much for me, and they certainly couldn’t hold a candle to the excitement of what I saw today. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time… a real white-knuckler. And in the end, there was only one winner.

I was at a spelling bee.

Fifty-two kids from four counties participated in a regional spelling bee this afternoon to determine who would go to the national bee in Washington DC later this year. My daughter was one of them. What I didn’t expect was to find myself rooting for every one of these kids. I wanted them all to win. Every time one of them got up to wrestle with their word it was a new moment of suspense. You could tell from the looks on their faces whether or not they knew the word, and you could see the wheels turning as they tried to get clues (definition of the word, language of origin).

I’m not sure why I connected so much with watching a bunch of junior high students spelling words. It might have been the connection with my tool of trade, the English language. Or maybe it was just watching 52 kids who were the best spellers in the school. The fact that my daughter was one of them this year no doubt was an influence. All I know for sure is that I had a great time, and that I’m thinking about going again next year.

Tonight I got about halfway through the Ferman’s Devils manuscript with multi-step formatting. This consisted of:

1) Turning all special fonts and font sizes into one twelve point font. Palm Digital’s reader for PDA’s doesn’t support special fonts, and there’s a lot of them in the PH books.

2) Reformatting the video scripts to be PDA friendly. I don’t think the PDA reader supports parallel columns of text, another trick I used in PH when formatting TV commercial scripts.

3) Redoing all of the chapter headings and titles so they were consistent with the layout as Bantam did it. It looks better than the way I had it in the manuscript, all lower case and flush right.

4) Turning all of the underlined text into italics. In the old days, an author underlined text that s/he wanted to appear in italics. That convention carried through to today, or had at least was still in place in 1995 or so, when the first manuscript was turned in. This was simply making the conversion easy for the reader (which does support italics).

5) Whatever miscellaneous things I spotted that needed to be done, along with making notes for some of the bonus material to appear in the e-edition.

It’s kind of interesting going through the book at high speed like this. I’m not doing a word-for-word read – instead I’m scanning pages – and I’m so familiar with the story, it’s like the whole thing is being freshened up in my brain. I’m not the type of person to laugh at my own jokes, but I did catch myself snickering at some things that I’d forgotten writing. I tend to discount my books once they’re in print because I see the all the flaws in my wordsmithing. This is making me think that perhaps the Pembroke Hall books weren’t so bad after all.

I also surprised myself by finding a reference in Ferman’s Devils to the Mihaljevic Act. Sometime after I first moved to Ohio, a girl in Cleveland named Amy Mihaljevic was abducted and later found murdered. As far as I know, her murderer was never found. This was before it was an everyday headline like it is now, and it really haunted me. So I wrote a short story called “Going To Texas (Extradition Version)” that involved, in part, a draconian law enforcement measure called the Mihaljevic Act that was designed to protect children. It was my way of lighting a candle for poor Amy.

It turned out to be one of my rare published short stories, appearing in Amazing Science Fiction. I found out later… years later… that the story made the list of recommended stories for the Hugo award (the science fiction equivalent of the People’s Choice awards) that year. It didn’t make the final cut of final nominees, but apparently was on the reading list for the year. I’ve been thinking of posting that story in the Library section of the main site.

Spelling bees, folks. You just can’t beat the suspense…

NP – iTunes Shuffle Play (Vangelis, “Tears in the Rain”)

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