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Literati Get Their Spell On for Small Presses

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As the authors and publishing insiders mingled before the start of Council of Literary Magazines and Presses‘s annual spelling bee fundraiser last night, people were talking about their pre-election jitters. “It’s like the night before the millennium,” FishbowlNY co-editor Glynnis MacNicol observed, “or the night before a wedding, where you’re so focused on the ceremony that you have no idea what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.” Once the show got underway, however, the event’s chair, literary agent Ira Silverberg, reminded the audience that there was plenty to worry about in the here-and-now: “It’s not a happy moment for publishing,” Silverberg admitted, and as the big houses continue to tighten their belts, “the small presses, the independent presses, and the literary magazines… will be picking up a lot of the slack.” (Among the items donated to raise money for the CLMP’s support of independent literary publishers in a silent auction, Diane von Furstenberg offered a dress—not to mention the meeting space—and Kate Spade gave a bag.)

The mood was jovial before the spelling began, as Heidi Julavits, Brad Gooch, and Brooke Geahan chatted at one end of the lineup while Jonathan Burnham and Jonathan Adler compared notes at the other end. Michael Cunningham (top right) got off to a promising start with “ectomorph,” but on his next turn forgot the second M in “commingle.”

Returning champion Meg Wolitzer made it to the final three again, only to add an extra L to “vermilion.” Then Sara Nelson was given “astigmatism,” and actually spelled it right, only to second-guess herself and swap the first I out for a Y, at which point Burnham stepped in for the win.

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