This is the second of three profiles of Rockville authors whose work is part of the third annual Gaithersburg Book Festival. The festival will be held on Saturday at Gaithersburg City Hall. The first two profiles feature finalists in the festival's second annual high school student short story contest. Click here for Wednesday's profile of Jasmine Smith.
Phoebe Temkin, an 18-year-old senior at Richard Montgomery High School, was assigned by English teacher Davina Smith to write a short story for the Gaithersburg Book Festival’s student short story contest using the same line as her classmates.
“Mrs. Smith has been fantastic in encouraging my writing,” Temkin said in an email. “She forces me to push myself to write and think creatively.”
The contest offered three opening sentences. Smith’s class wrote stories that began: “Lots of people heard of love at first sight, but this was something else entirely.”
The line inspired Temkin to write “The River,” a mysterious tale of marriage and its aftermath. The story begins at the altar, as the bride and groom exchange hurried vows.
“It was a challenge to take a line I hadn’t written and come up with a story about it,” Temkin said. “Studying symbolism in my [Advanced Placement Literature] class contributed to the characters I created. There was definitely some angel/devil undertones.”
Temkin had never entered a writing contest before. Being a finalist the first time out has given her confidence.
She recommends other young writers experiment with writing in genres outside their comfort zone.
“I never considered myself a poet, but I’ve written and performed poetry this year and it’s been very exciting,” she said. “Try to do what you think you can’t."
Temkin will attend Sarah Lawrence College in New York City in the fall, where she plans to study literature, history and French.
Judges picked 13 finalists from among the 141 entries to the high school student short story contest. The winning stories will be selected by award-winning mystery author Brad Parks and novelist Jennifer Miller, two of the more than 100 featured authors who will appear at the festival.
First-, second- and third-place winners will be announced at the festival, after which they will read their winning stories. Winners will receive gift certificates for $100, $50, and $25, respectively.