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Seattle, Ep. 4

August 30, 2014 — In what was the greatest hour of literary wizardry of the summer, Literary Death Match headed to the amaze and awe of Bumbershoot for a mid-afternoon spectacular that saw Sara Benincasa outduel co-finalist Rachel Shukert 9-6 in a hotly contested game of Literary Spelling Bee III. 

But before the letter battle began, it was a match of brilliant words, starting with Peter Mountford, author of A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism and The Dismal Science, who staggered the crowd when he read a heartaching piece about escaping the stroke room in a hospital. Next up was Rachel Shukert, author of the Starstruck series, Everything is Going to be Great and Have You No Shame?, who read a story about high school girls who were angry at Courtney Love after Kurt Cobain's death. 

The mic was then handed to the quartet of all-star judges: David Schmader, writer, performer and associate editor at The StrangerRachel Kessler, poet and performer from Typing Explosion and Vis-a-Vis SocietyMichelle Buteau, stand-up comedian and actress featured in Enlisted; and W. Kamau Bell, stand-up comedian and star of Totally Biased. The foursome ripped off a series of praise-riddled, hilarious comments about each author (including Kessler handing out gifts) before deciding that it would be Shukert who would advance as the day's first finalist. 

Then came Round 2, which featured the inimitable Sara Benincasa, author of Great and one of Flavorwire's 25 Female Comedians Everyone Should Know, who read a piece about who the "real artists" are (spoiler alert: it's you). Finally, it was Jamaal May, poet and author of Hum, and winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award, who wowed everyone with a pair of poems performed from memory that ranged from love, love, love to the dream of being in an action movie. 

Again the judges were center stage, and after more joy-inducing quips, and a paper-rocks-scissors challenge between W. Kamau Bell and David Schmader, it was Benincasa who was advanced as the night's second finalist. 

Then LDM creator Adrian Todd Zuniga took center stage, announcing the night's finale: Literary Spelling Bee III, in which the two finalists — Shukert and Benincasa — were tasked with spelling complicated author names. It went to the final round, but with everything on the line it was Benincasa who nailed the final letter, winning her the LDM Seattle, Ep. 4 crown, and literary immortality to go with it. 

Follow us on Twitter: @litdeathmatch

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