The audience grew silent as freshman Mackenzie Kuester approached the microphone.
“Platypus. P-l-a-t-y-p-u-s. Platypus.”
She passed the first round of Stork Magazine’s second annual spelling bee.
“I got it right,” the writing, literature, and publishing major said, “which made me feel confident heading into the second round.”
The night of spelling served as a launch party for a book of six short-shorts — stories under four pages in length — Stork hoped to publish last semester but postponed due to layout and design issues, according to Sean Mackey, editor-in-chief of the literary magazine.
The senior writing, literature, and publishing major said the event was also to inform students that Stork is currently taking submissions for another collection of short fiction, this time with a 30 page maximum.
Gangsters in Concrete, a semi-annual, undergraduate literary magazine, co-sponsored the bee, advertised for it, and helped purchase refreshments. The Catharsis, a small, online literary magazine published each month, also collaborated to organize the event.
Paige Sammartino, head of marketing for Stork Magazine and editor-in-chief of Gangsters in Concrete, said there was an impressive turnout for a Saturday night. There were 21 participants and about 85 students in the audience of the Bill Bordy Auditorium.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm from attendees. People are already excited about next year’s bee,” said Sammartino, a junior writing, literature, and publishing major.
The night started out with two preview readings from the short-short collection by senior Eleanor O’Brien and freshman Gabriella Balza.
O’Brien’s story, titled “Cooking Lesson,” is written as one 250-word sentence, born as an assignment for a flash fiction course she took last spring, said O’Brien.
Balza’s story, titled “Fumes,” takes a trip through the life of a man trying to numb himself from the pain of a lost love with alcohol and one night stands.
After the three rounds of intense spelling, two more students, seniors Jordan Browne and Catherine Laudone, previewed their stories from the upcoming book.
Browne, a writing, literature, and publishing major, said he submitted his story titled “Ask for Shaneese” as a promise to a friend. He said he had never submitted anything to Stork Magazine and figured “why not?” since it is his last semester at Emerson.
Judges Daniel Weaver, a publisher and editor-in-residence in the writing, literature, and publishing department, and Carol Parikh, part-time professor in the writing, literature, and publishing department, kept the competition light and fun by adding some humor to the “can you use it in a sentence?” request.
When asked to provide an example for “porpoise,” Weaver replied with, “My best friend has a nose like a porpoise.” For “flambéed” he said, “I walked out of the Little Building and got flambéed by a taxi cab.” According to Dictionary.com, flambéed means to be covered in liquor and ignited, making Weaver’s statement quite the hyperbole.
Members of Stork Magazine approached professors about judging the spell-off, said Mackey. He also said there were originally supposed to be five judges, but only Parikh and Weaver could make it. Based on the audience’s reactions, the judges were a good fit, creating an amusing, noncompetitive atmosphere filled with laughter.
The final round pitted students Claire Paschal, Robert Onorato, and Rory McCann against each other, with the off-beat topic: simple words spelled backward. The topic’s announcement was met with gasps and winces from the audience.
The crowd was in awe of Paschal, who successfully spelled the word “kaleidoscope,” backward landing her first place and a $30 Barnes and Noble gift card. McCann, in second place, won a leather journal, and Onorato, who placed in third, won a stuffed bee.
Organizers are hopeful that there will be a spelling bee next year run by the future editor-in-chief of Stork Magazine. Mackey said he wants the event to become a yearly tradition.
“[Spelling bees are] like a little kid thing,” said Mackey, “but it’s something that we can still enjoy now.”