North Royalton girl makes it to finals in Scripps National Spelling Bee; Ex-contestant offers aid in book

Anamika Veeramani is a finalist in the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Veeramani received tips from last year's national finalist Scott Remer of Beachwood.

When Anamika Veeramani of North Royalton made it to the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday afternoon, it was a double win for Northeast Ohio.

As one of only 11 finalists, the seventh-grader at Incarnate Word Academy in Parma Heights did Cleveland proud.

And few people were beaming more than Scott Remer of Beachwood, who tied for fourth in last year's national competition and is writing a book called "Words of Wisdom: Keys to Success in the Scripps National Spelling Bee."

"I'm elated," he said after watching Anamika, on TV, correctly spell "fedelini."

"That was one of the words I have in the book," Scott said. "And she knew it."

Scott, who's 15 now, began writing the book after last year's bee. So far, he has turned out 150 pages. He hopes to finish the rest this summer, before he starts 10th grade at Beachwood High School.

Words of wisdom from a wordsmith

Excerpts from "Words of Wisdom: Keys to Success in the Scripps National Spelling Bee," the working title of Scott Remer's Spelling Bee guide.

Section II: Language Tables and Observations

Portmanteaux. Some of you may be asking, "What are portmanteaux?" As the dictionary itself defines them, portmanteau words are "words composed of parts of two words (as chortle from chuckle and snort), all of one word and part of another (as bookmobile from book and automobile), or two entire words and characterized invariably in the latter case and frequently in the two former cases by single occurrence of one or more sounds or letters that appear in both the component words (as motel from motor hotel, camporee from camp and jamboree, aniseed from anise seed)." In other words, portmanteaux are essentially "combination words." They can take parts from multiple words, a part from one word and the whole of another word, or they can blend together words, as in the example given above of motel coming from motor and hotel.

Spelling strategies for portmanteaux are to 1) try to figure out which words are being blended and how they are being blended, and 2) to listen closely for the portmanteau word's definition, as the definitions often contain clues hidden within.

Section IV. Advice to Spellers 
Bee Week

"Bee Week" refers to the week that the National Spelling Bee is held.

This time will be a chance to meet other spellers, a time for commiserating about the difficulties of study and the peculiarities of the English language, and a time for forging new friendships. This will be the shining golden moment to put all of your socializing, spelling, eating, and touristic abilities to use -- not the time to hole up in your plush hotel room and study.

It may sound cliched, but it is honestly more fun to actually get to know people than to study.

The Cherry Blossom Room 
("The Comfort Room")

"What happens when you get out?" That's probably one of the biggest questions for a lot of spellers. Let's be realistic: getting a word wrong is a humbling experience in and of itself, particularly given your deep desire to win the Bee and the realization that it won't happen (that given year), and getting a word wrong in front of millions of people just makes it even worse.

Who'd want to remain onstage after hearing that dreaded ding?

Luckily, if you get a word wrong before the finals, the Spelling Bee has set up a room where you will go after you're done listening to Dr. Bailly read off the correct spelling of your word. (A lot of spellers forget to stay onstage and politely listen to the correct spelling of their words; be sure to do this -- it makes you seem resilient and able to endure a shock, even if you're only composed on the surface.)

Once you've listened to the correct spelling, you proceed offstage, where a Spelling Bee helper, usually a former speller in their mid20s, will escort you to the Cherry Blossom Room (unofficially known as "the Comfort Room"). Inside, you will find spellers in the same predicament as you, along with some family members, sitting in chairs that the Spelling Bee helpers have brought in. The Comfort Room also has delicious cookies, brownies, and drinks -- probably little consolation at the time you get out, though.

He gave Anamika a copy of an early draft a few months back, just after she won thePlain Dealer Cuyahoga County Scripps Spelling Beein Cleveland.

"I'd like this book to encourage spellers and give them a friendly hand," Scott said. "This, I hope, will not be the definitive or authoritative text, but I'd like it to be considered one of the primary guides on the art of spelling."

It includes tips, broken down by language of origin -- "fedelini," of course, is in the Italian section -- and spelling exercises as well as advice on how to succeed at the national Bee.

Anamika says she was familiar with fedelini before she read Scott's book.

"It's a type of pasta," she said by phone Thursday from the Grand Hyatt Washington, where the bee was held. "And when we go to Olive Garden, I think it's on the menu.

"But in his book, it was reinforced," she said. "So it was helpful -- very helpful."

One thing she and her mother like about "Words of Wisdom" is that it's written from a kid's point of view. Although Scott's mom, Erica, will be writing a chapter for parents and coaches.

"I think it would've been fantastic if there had been a guide -- like the one Scott has put together -- for us," the emergency room doctor says. "Once you have a year under your belt, you have so much of a better idea of what's going on."

If the book gets published, Anamika says she will be happy to write a jacket blurb recommending it.

"I would say 'If you want to make it to the finals of the spelling bee, you should definitely buy and study this book.'

"I just thought it was really helpful -- and he was really nice for sharing the draft with me," she said. 

Scott Remer