William Finn, composer, lyricist and creator of the hit musical, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," says his own surname is the result of a misspelling. "When my great-uncle came from Russia, he kept saying he was looking for someone named Fein, so the genius at Ellis Island gave him the name Finn," he breezily explains from his Manhattan apartment.
In Jeff Blitz's documentary, "Spellbound," Harry Altman grimaces and fidgets at the 1999 National Spelling Bee. The Jewish sixth-grader has been asked to spell "banns," which refers to a Christian marriage notice. He's never heard of it.
"I was in all of one spelling bee in my life," confides Myla Goldberg, the author of "Bee Season," who'll read from her stunning debut novel at the Jewish Book Festival this week. The overachiever was in the fourth grade, and she smugly expected to win - until she was asked to spell "tomorrow," her Achilles-heel word. She spelled it "tomarrow."