The contestants of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee speak out about the pressure, the competition, and their affiliation with spelling….

William Barfee

“Well, Science is my first love, but I like spelling because I like to compete. Spelling Bees are big, and if you win you get to be on Good Morning America. That’s my goal. Also I am not very good at Sports that require coordination… Spelling Bees are good for me. I LOVE competition. It is what I live for. I see competition as a chance to show other people how good I am. When I’m not spelling, I like collecting things, especially shells, and sea creatures. I conduct scientific experiments on them and see how they react. I like reading and learning. I also like to have lunch in the Teacher’s Room, as most of my friends are Teachers…well actually, they are all Teachers. They’re just more on my level and provide for more stimulating conversation. Although I find that most of the time I am teaching them more than they are teaching me. Spelling will take me, as I said before, all the way to Good Morning America. I really only compete for the sake of winning. I understand that my real future is in the science field, not the spelling field. Spelling is really more of a hobby, a hobby that I am extremely good at.”

“As for when I grow up, I have a fascination with all things feet, so maybe I’ll try Podiatry. But I am not sure that will fully satisfy my need for scientific expertise. Therefore I may specialise in a number of scientific disciplines and try to merge them all together. I don’t know, I guess I will know for sure next year.”

Marcy Park

“I don’t really enjoy spelling; I just partake because I am good at it. Also, Dad said I can’t have a new Microscope until I fill the gaps in my trophy cabinets, so I need to win some competitions. It just passes the time until my next tutorial.”

“I enjoy Dancing, Baton Twirling, experimenting with Atoms, Learning new Languages, Origami, Hockey, Girls Football, Astronomy, writing Poetry, Scuba Diving, Interior Decorating, Archaeology and talking to Jesus.”

“I am considering many different professions, but it’s most likely that if I don’t become the first female President, that I’ll go into Medicine, Anaesthesiology, Astronomy or Engineering.”

“Or space exploration.”

“Or… no, that’s all.”

Olive Ostrovsky

“I love spelling because I get to be myself when I spell, I’m around lots of other people who love it too and they get it! Lots of kids at school don’t really get it. But that’s ok; they don’t have to like it. Not everyone can be really good at spelling. I practice a lot on my own with my favourite thing in the whole world, my old Webster’s Dictionary. Noah Webster is like, my hero. He wrote his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, in 1806, and he was 48! I know! That’s so old right!? The British apparently were the first to publish one (so they say), Robert Cawdry in 1604……but, Webster’s was SO much better than what they did. They say it put them to shame and I have to agree, he was so amazing. I’d love to own a first edition one day. I love the feeling when you get a word right that’s really really hard that you’re not sure of. It can be exhausting, but I don’t mind. It’s such good fun.”

“Competition scares me a little bit. I should probably try and be a bit more hungry to win……. but I really get excited for the other spellers when they get it right because I know what it’s like!”

“Apart from reading and researching words (I’m really loving words of Latin origin at the moment; it’s like the Mothership of spelling!!). I’m on my own quite a lot, but I don’t mind. My Dad works late a lot and Mom is in India on an Ashram at the moment. I write to her, I know she wants to write back more often but I think it’s hard for her to get to a Post Office. I hope she comes home soon, I really miss her. So I write to her a lot and draw pictures of things and send them to her.”

“Where will spelling take me? Well, um…I’m …..I really don’t know! I’ve not really thought about it really…….I do love words so much! I would maybe study English and Literature when I’m older? OR be like a human spell checker for books? That would be so much fun. An Editor! Reading and checking words and making sure it all sounds right, that sounds like an absolute dream. Can you just imagine! Reading and checking all day every day! That would be just so great. I’m not sure I’d be very good at actually writing anything but I’m quite a good speller and can pick when things are wrong. Oh yes, an Editor I think that would be just amazing!”

“Thanks you so much, it was nice meeting you!”

Leaf Coneybear

“I like spelling because… I don’t really know why. I like to meet new people and I get to do that at Bees, and I like the bit before I spell where I get nervous because it gives me a funny strange feeling inside which is what it would be like to fly. That’s why I always wear my cape in case I do fly because I would hate to fall. That would hurt. Competition doesn’t scare me except when I’m competing against other people. That’s when it’s scary because they don’t think I’m smart and they make fun of me, but Mom says just to smile and be nice, so I do. But it doesn’t work, so that’s… yeah. I think spelling will take me to a special magic place where smart happy people are. I’m smart when I spell because I don’t realize when I’m doing it right, but it comes out right and they don’t ring the bell which means I’m right. I like that place.”

“I like to make things like Clothes and things. And Capes. I like to make Capes for my Cats. I have five Cats. They like to follow me home and for me to take care of them. Will my Mom and Dad be reading this? They only think I’ve got two Cats. I hide the other ones in my closet. It smells in there but I make them Capes to make them feel special and tell them that one day they can fly away to a magic special place. When I grow up I want to be into the field of Capeology… that’s where you make a living out of Cape Making… for Cats. I want a full range of Capes for Cats, and have a website called, and then I’ll be rich and famous and I can shop at Wal-Mart, which would be cool to do, because Mom and Dad don’t believe in big corporations like that, which I think is silly because how can they not believe in them when they’re sitting there right in front of them.”

“Thank you for my time.”