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Saturday
Nov052011

Toronto, Ep. 3

November 6, 2011 — In what will go down as an instant-lit-classic at Gladstone Hotel, The National Post-sponsored Toronto, pre-Giller Prize epic went down to the wire, with Dani Couture storming back from a 10-3 deficit to snare a last-letter victory over Grace O’Connell by a score of 12-11 in a literary spelling bee-off that won Couture the LDM Toronto crown. 

But before the finale kicked off, the night began with Book Madam & Associates fearless leader Julie Wilson introducing the night's first-round readers: O'Connell and Carolyn Black (author of The Odious Child). O'Connell led off, dazzling with a titter-inducing story read fresh off a series of manuscript pages. Next up was Black, who told an wonderfully oddball tale about a woman's relationship with the masterful Martin Amis. 

The mic was then handed over to the all-star trio of judges: Ryan Kamstra, author and ⅛ of Tomboyfriend, comedian/actor Lindy Zucker, and The National Post book editor Mark Medley. The trio delivered thoughtful quips in order, before a quick huddle. They then made the difficult decision to elect O'Connell as the night's first finalist. 

After a booze-fueled intermission, Wilson returned to intro the readers for Round 2: Rebecca Rosenblum (Maclean’s “CanLit Rookie of the Year”), and ReLit award-winner Couture. Couture, suffering from bronchitis, led-off and had the packed crowd on the edge of their collective seats with her excerpt from her novel Algoma. Rosenblum struck back with a fantastic selection from her book The Big Dream

Again, the judges took turns dealing fun-minded, thoughtful reactions. After another huddle, they emerged to name Couture would advance as the night's second finalist. 

With the two finalists named, LDM creator Todd Zuniga took center stage, leading the two ladies through a stirring game of literary spelling bee, in which each had to spell the names of famous, wacky-named authors. After O'Connell took what seemed like a commanding 3-1 lead, Couture's phone-a-friend effort won her a short-lived lead, before O'Connell's phone-a-friend + using her "50-50" gave her what seemed like certain victory. But Couture was not to be denied, reeling off the Wa T' of Wa T'hiongo that gave her the 12-11 lead. Facing Solzhenitsyn, O'Connell overthought, and after guessing the wrong opening letter, Couture was victorious, winning both the Literary Death Match crown, and literary immortality to boot. 

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