October 15, 2012 — In a lit-brilliant debut at One Longfellow Square in Portland (Literary Death Match's 45th city!), it was Lily King who outdueled poet Gibson Fay-LeBlanc in a wild game of Author Word Jumble that saw King win by a narrow margin of 1.2 seconds to win her the LDM Portland (ME), Ep. 1 crown.
But before the Author Word Jumble was even a thought, the night kicked off with Monica Wood reading from When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine (an Oprah Magazine summer-reading list pick) that wowed the crowd. She was followed by Maine's 2011 Book Award champ (in fiction) Lily King, who read from the last pages of her novel Father of the Rain, about the last night her parents were together.
The mic was then passed on to the trio of all-star judges: author Jaed Coffin (author of A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants), stand-up comedian/writer Kelly MacFarland and hilaritress/journalist Kate Ghiloni. The trio went from brilliant to genius, and had the audience in constant throes, from MacFarland's adoration of both reader's outfits, to Coffin explaining what a story was. After the crowd's laughter quieted, they announced that it was King who would be the night's first finalist.
After a brief, wine-fueled intermission, it was the dazzling novelist Sarah Braunstein (author of The Sweet Relief of Missing Children) who went off-book to read an apology piece from the perspective of Barack Obama, owning up to his horrible presidential debate. Finally, it was Vassar Prize-winning poet Gibson Fay-LeBlanc (author of Death of a Ventriloquist) who started by saying he wanted to read poems about sex, drugs and rock & roll, but didn't have any. Instead, he read a desperately moving poem about his father's alcoholism, and ended with a poem about hockey, and a goalie who insisted there'd be no book talk in the locker room.
Again, the judges were handed the mic, and they outdid a historic first round of judging by leaving the tittering crowd gasping for breath, be it quips about Fay-LeBlanc's "pressed sweater" (as MacFarland) said, or Braunstein's excellently-colored fingernail polish. With another tough decision to make, they fell on the side of Fay-LeBlanc because "it had more balls in it."
Then LDM creator Adrian Todd Zuniga took center stage, inviting onlookers onto the stage to assist in a Author Word Jumble finale. The two finalists had to move the letter-holding volunteers around to spell famous author names, and while King entered the final round with a dominating lead, Fay-LeBlanc fired back in desperate fashion, nearly spelling out H-U-X-L-E-Y in time, but ultimately falling short by 1.4 seconds. Lily King was named the LDM champ, winning literary immortality to go with it!