Spelldown: The Big-Time Dreams of a Small-Town Word Whiz

Karon Luddy

Published by Aladdin, 2007
ISBN 10: 141695452X / ISBN 13: 9781416954521
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Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Karlene Bridges is the best speller in her family, her hometown, and maybe even all of Shirley County, South Carolina. The trouble is, every time she makes it to the final round of a spelling bee, she chokes. But when Mrs. Harrison, the new Latin teacher, offers to coach her, Karlene's spelling jinx miraculously disappears. The year 1969 is turning out to be her best ever, especially since she develops a surprising crush on her best friend, Billy Ray.

But as soon as Karlene aims to compete in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D. C., her father's drinking begins to spell trouble. How is a girl supposed to hold her family together, savor her first kiss, and become the best speller in America before the end of eighth grade?

Debut novelist Karon Luddy spells out adolescence with unwavering faith and sass in a novel about big dreams and the people who make them happen.

From the Author: A Book Has Its Own Fate--and So Does Its Author
The Writing and Publishing Process of My Novel, Spelldown
by Karon Luddy
            
Picture this. September 2004. New York City. An editor and agent are having lunch. Editor asks agent: "You wouldn't happen to have a book about a spelling bee, would you?"
Agent replies, "As a matter of fact, I do." 
            What the agent had at the time was an 80,000 word manuscript, The Redemption
Store, which covered six years in the life of Karlene Bridges, who just so happened to be a fine speller.  I had signed a contract with the agent a few months earlier. The first time we talked, she said: "Your novel has a strong narrative voice and Karlene is a compelling character. However, there is enough material in this manuscript for three novels." 
           This is agent speak for I cannot not sell this manuscript until you fix it. Eventually, we decided the first book would cover one year in the life of Karlene, the Speller. (All I had to do was rewrite the manuscript!)
             Luckily, I was in an MFA Creative Writing program. The first time we work-shopped my manuscript, the critique group said the third person narrator wasn't getting the job done. They suggested that Karlene tell her own story. I thought they were psycho, but since I was paying big bucks for my fancy writing degree, I took their advice and rewrote the novel with a first person, present tense narrator. From the moment Karlene uttered her first "I," she became a force of nature, flipping through the dictionary, studying every word like a megalomaniac. She was curious about everything: miracles, mammals, God, sex, philosophy, etymology. She was a live-wire!
            'The next semester, a fresh crop of readers loved the narrator, but said there was no narrative drive, which is MFA speak for unless you hold a gun to every readers' head, they will never finish this story. My problem was that  I couldn't bear to take out the irrelevant chapters--I had worked so hard on them! But then a teacher gave me the edict: "Make your protagonist want one thing." That's when I realized that Karlene, the protagonist, wanted to win the Shirley County Spelldown more than anything else in the world. All I had to do was make sure that every chapter referred to some aspect of Karlene's spelling ambition. Finally, the story had a backbone--a nervous system of sorts--a real plot! Over the next two semesters, I worked through six revisions. In May 2005, I received my MFA degree and signed a contract to publish my first novel, which was now 50,000 word. Hip-hip-hooray--it had that magic ingredient: momentum. (To do this, I only had to write 70% new material but that's another story.) My editor wanted a jazzy title with "spell" in it. Fresh out of ideas, I sent an email to my friends and family. When my son emailed me the perfect title: SPELLDOWN, my editor leapt with joy.
             Picture this: January 2007. Charlotte, N. C. A box arrives on my doorstep from Simon & Schuster, the great publishing company in New York City. Inside are twenty-five copies of SPELLDOWN; the Big-Time Dreams of a Small-Town Word Whiz. I lift one and gaze at the stunning blue cover. Speller # 17 is standing before a microphone, wearing her lucky red cowboy boots. The fingers on both hands are crossed. I am delighted. Even the cover has momentum!             I open the book, flip to the last page, and read the last sentence. My finger rests on the last word. I open my mouth and say the letters: P-R-A-Y-E-R.

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Spelldown: The Big-Time Dreams of a ...
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication Date: 2007
Book Condition: Good
Edition: Reprint.

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Thirteen-year-old Karlene Bridges is the best speller in her family, her hometown, and maybe even all of Shirley County, South Carolina. The trouble is, every time she makes it to the final round of a spelling bee, she chokes. But when Mrs. Harrison, the new Latin teacher, offers to coach her, Karlene s spelling jinx miraculously disappears. The year 1969 is turning out to be her best ever, especially since she develops a surprising crush on her best friend, Billy Ray. But as soon as Karlene aims to compete in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D. C., her father s drinking begins to spell trouble. How is a girl supposed to hold her family together, savor her first kiss, and become the best speller in America before the end of eighth grade? Debut novelist Karon Luddy spells out adolescence with unwavering faith and sass in a novel about big dreams and the people who make them happen. Bookseller Inventory # AAV9781416954521

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