Students win prestigious awards at young writer/illustrator event


By Michael Fitzpatrick

Leah Vaughn, a third grader at Wilcox Elementary, won Best in Show for writing in her grade level for the book “The Amazing World of Jonathan J. Jonathan” at last week’s 2017 Lorain County Young Authors contest. Vaughn is pictured with New York Times bestselling author Ridley Pearson.

A pair of North Ridgeville elementary school students pulled in a pair of prestigious awards at a county writing/illustration contest.

Wilcox Elementary third-grader Leah Vaughn won Best of Show for writing in her grade level for her book, “The Amazing World of Jonathan J. Jonathan,” about a guy who helps fend off a plot by sharks to take over the world.

Faith Schneider, a fifth-grader at Wilcox, won Best of Show Artist in her grade level for the illustrations she created for her book, “Gone.”

The two were part of an exclusive group of just eight students in the county in grades three through six who walked away with Best of Show honors at the 2017 Lorain County Young Authors Contest.

The May 16 conference was held at the Lorain County Community College’s Stocker Arts Center.

Vaughn, who would one day like to be a marine biologist, said she was stunned when she heard she won.

“When they called my name at the conference, I stood there for a second, not believing that I actually heard them,” Vaughn said. “I was surprised and feel really proud.”

Vaughn’s been reading since preschool and has already read all but one of the books in the Harry Potter series.

Shannon Vaughn, Leah’s mother, said she loves how her daughter is pushed to excel in school and the writing contest was an example of that.

“I love this. She’s very smart and she’s being challenged. She’s not bored, she’s doing fun stuff and being challenged, and I like it a lot,” said Shannon, who attended the evening portion of the conference.

During the evening portion of the conference, attendees got to meet and greet New York Times’ best-selling author Ridley Pearson, who has written 50 novels, equally divided between crime/suspense and middle-grade adventure. Pearson spoke to the students during the morning conference. Asked what advice he gives young writers, he said he emphasizes two things: “Every story must have a beginning, middle and end. And choose a time everyday or week when you are going to write, and write at that time,” said Pearson, who during the evening portion of the program signed copies of his books and posed for pictures with the young writers and illustrators.

Participating districts in the conference included Amherst, Avon Lake, Clearview, Columbia, Elyria, Firelands, North Ridgeville, Oberlin, Perkins, Sheffield-Sheffield Lake, St. Jude of Elyria and St. Mary in Vermilion.

Nominees in the best of show “exhibit exemplary work in their respective grade levels, in either writing or artist category” according to the conference’s program.

The judges were artists and teachers “trained to evaluate students’ books using standards-based” rubrics.

Schneider’s win was sweet as she made it to the competition in fourth grade but did not win.

“I was really excited because last year I didn’t get it,” Schneider said.

Schneider’s book dealt with a group of three who have to find a brother of one of the three who has gone missing.

“It’s kind of action. They knew where he was. They just have to get him back,” Schneider said in explaining the plot.


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