The adult spelling bee raises funds for the Florida Freedom to Read Project, and you don’t have to be a writer or a speller to join.
In honor of Banned Books Week, Celeste Ng and the Blaze Writers Project will turn Belmont’s Trinktisch beer hall into a school auditorium of sorts for Spell-O-Rama, an adult spelling bee for local writers and bibliophiles. All proceeds from the event on Oct. 4 will go toward the Florida Freedom to Read Project, a grassroots organization which connects parent groups across the state in order to combat book bans.
“If you spend five minutes looking at the crazy lists coming out of Florida or Missouri of books that are being banned right now, it’s pretty astounding,’’ said Whitney Scharer, an Arlington-based writer who is organizing Spell-O-Rama. “We were really excited to promote awareness about all of these book banning efforts that are happening and all of the different organizations around the nation that are trying to fight that right now.’’
Scharer teaches workshops and organizes events with the Blaze Writers Project, the in-person subsidiary of A Mighty Blaze, which was created during the pandemic to promote writers and their work virtually. The Blaze Writers Project often hosts classes and events, but this is their first time hosting a spelling bee.
At 6 p.m., attendees can cash in the free drink included with their ticket and enjoy some free appetizers. At 7 p.m., Celeste Ng will welcome the contestants and spectators, kicking off the first round of Spell-O-Rama. Participants will play in teams of six, and many of the words chosen will have a literary theme.
Contestants include a myriad of Boston-based writers. Jenna Blum, Christopher Castellani, and Mark Cecil are helping Scharer cohost the event; and among the attendees are writers like GrubStreet teacher Michelle Hoover, investigative reporter Michael Blanding, YA novelist Jennifer De Leon, and bestselling author Ilyon Wu.
“It’s definitely a literary crowd, but you certainly don’t have to be a writer to come,’’ said Scharer. “There are a lot of people who are in book clubs or who are readers.’’
Literature lovers can browse books at the event, too. Belmont Books will be selling a curated selection of banned books as well as Celeste Ng’s latest novel, “Our Missing Hearts.’’ Although Ng’s book has not yet been removed from any school libraries, it takes place in a dystopian society where books are banned if deemed “unpatriotic.’’
“Celeste is a big supporter of anti-book-banning efforts,’’ said Scharer, explaining that the Florida Freedom to Read Project is one close to Ng’s heart.
Banned Books Week started in 1982 and has since been both an annual celebration of the freedom to read and a resistance to restrictions on literature.
“We’re so lucky that most of the book banning isn’t happening here [in Massachusetts],’’ said Scharer. “But I think that means we need to do more. … I think, as good literary citizens, it feels really important to engage in both that conversation and that fight as much as we possibly can.’’
“Spell-O-Rama takes place on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m. at Trinktisch, 87 Leonard St., Belmont. Tickets are $35. More information can be found at” www.blazewriters project.com/spellorama
Elena Giardina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image Credits: Blaze Writers Project