Saturday, February 13, 2016

1st Place!

Kason, Gregory, and Jake
UPDATE: April 19, 2016: Kason, Gregory, and Jake competed and won 1st place at state competition today in Jackson, MS. Congratulations to them for a great job.

My previous blog post introduced you to Kason, Gregory, and Jake, who had just won first place at the district reading fair with their diorama based on The Night Train. This morning, they competed in the regional competition at Lafayette High School in Oxford, MS.

As you can probably guess by the picture, they won first place and will be competing at the state competition in April.


Sharon and I, along with Logan, went to Oxford this morning to show our support to these fine young men. Since Logan is homeschooled, Sharon and I thought it would be a good opportunity to expose him to something different and give him the chance to engage with kids he doesn't know.

Ole Miss Cheerleaders (Logan is 4th from right, back row)
He seemed more interested in the Ole Miss cheerleaders than anything else, though he was excited about one of his dad's books being represented at such a large event. The cheerleaders provided the entertainment while we awaited the decisions of the judges.

The competition was stiff, but Kason, Jake, and Gregory pulled out all the stops and made their diorama stand out (it even had working lights). We got a chance to meet with them before the competition began, and presented them each with a signed copy of The Night Train. They asked a few questions about the book -- things the judges might ask them.

(l-r) Kason, me, Jake and Gregory

In all honesty, I think they remembered more details about the book than I did. I've released three novels since writing The Night Train, and one thing you have to learn to do as an author is let go of a story and focus on the next project, but I was happy to answer their questions.

After the judges had met with them, they stopped by for a chat before the long wait began. It probably didn't take nearly as long as it seemed. When the staff began placing the cards on the floor (placeholders for the winners to stand when their names were called), we knew the time had come. I'll admit to being a bit nervous, though Sharon, Logan, and I were confident they would win. Part of that confidence, I think, came from the parents we met beforehand. I distinctly remember hearing the father of one of the boys say, "they've got this." Never underestimate the value of parental support.

Chatting while we waited

Gregory, Jake, and Kason were in M division, so we had to wait while A - L took their places on the floor. Each division had three winners, with the first place winner of each division advancing to state.

As exciting as it was for me, Sharon, and Logan when their names were called, I'm sure it must've been much more exciting for them (and their parents). We hurried down to the floor to congratulate them and I heard one of them say he had been nervous. They didn't show it. Their parents have every reason to be proud of them, as do the parents of every child who competed today. I think the announcer said there were three hundred kids participating. They had to win twice to get there. I'm sure they'll win at many other things before they're through.

Congratulations Kason, Jake, and Gregory. You could have picked any book for your project and the result would have been the same. Thank you for choosing The Night Train.


  1. I was there with my daughter at the msrrf and remember this prodject. They did a great job on thier board - my son who is 15 even took a pic of it -he thought it was so good. And now after reading your blog and seeing the board - its on our reading list !!! So they did thier job very well I'd say!

  2. Hey turns out - I know Jake! What a small world!

  3. Your support meant everything to the boys and us parents. I really appreciate your attendance. Needless to say, I was so excited and proud when they placed first. They received recognition at their home school and are looking forward to the state competion at Jackson, MS.

    Tracey Whitehead

    1. Sorry I missed your comment earlier. Fitting that I saw it today, after just learning that they won state! Congratulations to them, and to you parents ... and thank you for your kind words.