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Miami, Ep. 3 (Miami Book Fair)

November 18, 2011 — The conclusion to LDM's epic 20-city tour — at Miami Book Fair no less — couldn't have been grander, with a down-to-the-wire finale that saw comics mastermind Jennifer Hayden outduel Mat Johnson by a single point in a literary spell-off that won Hayden the Literary Death Match Miami crown. 

But before the finale was even a thought, the night kicked off at Bardot with T.M. Shine (author of Nothing Happens Until It Happens to You) and, as host and LDM creator Todd Zuniga declared them, "the T.M. Shine players." Shine shined with a somber, lovely start, reading a story about a man suffering from life, and out of answers. Next up was Johnson (author of Pym), who reeled off a pitch-perfectly-performed story short about a 16-year-old boy with and his "poison-filled" dick that was in need of being drained. 

The mic was then handed over to the trio of all-star judges: Emmy award-winning artist Dean Haspiel (the mastermind behind the Bored to Death intro), novelist Justin Torres (author of We the Animals), and Pekar Project editor Jeff Newelt. After Torres and Newelt praised Shine's boldness, Haspiel wondered if the "players" — a trio of volunteers that sang quietly behind Shine's reading — didn't distract from the story's magic, and about Johnson, the trio couldn't resist the force and audacity of his storytelling. After they deliberated, it was Johnson who was selected to advance on as the night's first finalist. 

After a booze-fueled intermission, the night continued with a Round 2 that featured Hayden (author of Underwire) versus Sandra Beasley (author of Don't Kill the Birthday Girl). Hayden read along as she scrolled through three graphic short stories focused on a mother's struggle against head lice and fantasies of murder. Finally, there was Beasley, a whirlwind on the mic delivering three poems, the first of which was told from the perspective of a jukebox. 

Again the mic was handed to the judges, and after although Haspiel said he'd love to have a jukebox that played Sandra Beasley poems, the split decision, in the end, favored Hayden, who advanced as the night's second finalist. 

Then Zuniga stepped to center-stage to explain the Literary Spelling Bee finale, pitting Johnson v. Hayden. After a slow start — in which Johnson misspelled ex-professor Chinua Achebe's name — Hayden ballooned her lead to 16-3. On his final attemtpt, Johnson used his "phone a friend" option, calling over his wife to try to spell "Solzhenitsyn." With the tipsy crowd on the edges of their collective, comfy seats, she was flawless, but after a letter count, it was confirmed: Solzhenitsyn only had 12 letters, worth only 12 points — a point short of forcing overtime. Hayden was crowned LDM Miami, Ep. 3 winner, winning literary immortality with it.  

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