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Kate represented New Zealand at the 2007 World Spelling Bee held in the United States of America.
Do you have any tips to learn how to spell?
Reading helps, but when you’re actively trying to learn a particular word, look it up in the dictionary. Use repetition to get the spelling stuck in your head, and if you do that often enough, then hopefully you will remember it for future use, or for the next spelling test your teacher gives you.
What made you want to enter this competition?
I have been good at spelling for ages and last year at Southspell (an English spelling competition in Southland), I won the impromptu bee. I also have a teensy competitive streak, in case you hadn’t noticed
How did it feel to be the first New Zealander to make it into the semi finals of the world’s spelling competition?
Amazing! Breathtaking! A dream come true. I could wax lyrical about this all day, but really, I was happy once I got to the third round, because by then I’d earned enough prize money to buy my PS2.
Is there someone you admire and want to be just like?
Not really. I want to be my own person. Though there are several people I hold in the highest esteem. Like J.K.Rowling, Edgar Allan Poe and Terry Pratchett. They’re my favourite authors.
What sort of places did you visit in America and which one was your favourite?
My favourite place was my bed in the hotel room. The jet lag was horrible but Annapolis was cool. We went on a guided tour, and the guide was dressed up like a gentleman from eighteenth century Annapolis. He looked a bit like the pictures you see of George Washington.
How did it feel to be the best speller in New Zealand?
Kind of creepy, really. I had a dream ages ago, and when I was standing at the microphone just after I spelled the last word, I felt the strangest sense of déjà vu, and I realised I had dreamt it all before. Spooky I can tell you that!
How did you feel when the American judges couldn’t understand your accent?
Eek! I knew this question was coming. Actually, I didn’t really feel a thing. My brain shut down, and I sort of froze. And they said ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and it was all OK.
What sort of preparation did you do before the competition?
Study into word roots is always useful. Language of origin gives you clues and plain old revision means you don’t forget stuff you should know.
Who was your greatest supporter during the competition?
My mum. She drove me places, she worried when fog made us late for the nationals. She waited for me in the comfort room after I misspelled jardinière, (even though I was on so much of an adrenaline high I didn’t need it). She was the one who helped me arrange all the interviews with radio people back here (and in Australia), and she was the one who found my headphones for me on the long flight back, where upon I fell asleep listening to ‘My Chemical Romance’ and woke up a teensy bit depressed. Need I say more?