The Fisher kernel is a generic framework which combines the benefits of generative and discriminative approaches to pattern classification. In this contribution, we propose to apply this framework to handwritten wordspotting. Given a word image and a keyword generative model, the idea is to generate a vector which describes how the parameters of the keyword model should be modified to best fit the word image. This vector can then be used as the input of a discriminative classifier. We compare the performance of the proposed approach with that of a generative baseline on a challenging real-world dataset of customer letters. When the kernel used by the classifier is linear, the performance improvement is marginal but the proposed system is approximately 15 times faster than the baseline. If we use a non-linear kernel devised for this task, we obtain a 15% relative reduction of the error but the detector is approximately 15 times slower.