I joined the Mensa Scrabble-by-Mail Special Interest Group in January 1994 when I was eight years old. I was the youngest player in the history of the group. I never belonged to Mensa, but my mom did and belonged to this group. I would frequently open her games when they came in the mail and make plays for her. After a few instances when I found better plays than she did, she got annoyed and suggested maybe I should join the group myself, so I did. Non-Mensans were allowed to join by then. I was not too good in my first few years, but by the time I was in ninth grade, I was regularly able to compete with and beat the group's best players. I beat 1986 Florida Scrabble champion Dick Lazaro (the then-ratings compiler and #1 player in the group) six times in seven games and was one of the top ten players in the group by the time I mostly stopped playing at the end of high school to focus on college. More recently, I have returned to the group, replacing Lazaro as ratings compiler.
One of the main reasons for my rapid improvement in the group was no doubt my becoming statistician of the group in October 1999 when I was in ninth grade. I expanded the statistics column turning what was usually a 5 or 6 page bimonthly column into 20 pages, adding several new data and analyses that had not been covered before, including winning streaks, upsets, detailed analyses of games, high-scoring non-bingo plays, and the "SIG championship", for which I determined the best players in each game series (the Scrabble-by-Mail group has a new game series in which all players play using the same letters in the same order every four months). Reviewing, analyzing, and commentating on several of the top players' games helped myself considerably. At my peak, I was sixth in the group against players who were almost all thirty or more years older than I was (I am now ranked fourth). What makes this accomplishment somewhat less impressive is that all the top players including me used Franklin Electronic Scrabble Dictionaries to find words. This would not be helpful in closed-book Scrabble games or tournaments, but strategic considerations were still important, so I did at least develop a solid strategic sense.
I have long been interested in the idea of playing in Scrabble tournaments since I heard about them in the Scrabble-by-Mail group (the group's greatest player when I joined was Bob Lipton, who was in the mid-'90s one of the best tournament Scrabble players in the world, so discussions of tournaments in correspondence were frequent). Other noteworthy members of the group were Peter Morris, the first World Scrabble Champion, Chuck Armstrong, winner of more American tournaments than any other player in history, Jere Guin, coauthor of the original Wordbook, Doug Hoylman, who won six American Crossword Puzzle Tournaments, Robert Slaven, a five-time Jeopardy! champion, as well as John Luebkemann, Luise Shafritz, and Ken Clark, who are also strong tournament experts. By tournament standards, I am still only an intermediate player, but I have beaten many expert players on the Internet Scrabble Club, most notably Carl Johnson and at my most recent tournament in Syracuse, I defeated top 50 North American player Ben Schoenbrun live. Although I think my actual ability is between 1400 and 1500 based on my online play, I am still a provisional tournament player (rated 1312) as I struggled in my first two tournaments. My own cross-tables profile is here.