When Telling a Lie Isn’t so Bad…

Author Sarah Pekkanen was one of the keynote speakers at last year's book festival and this year she helped with the prompts for a writing contest for high school students.

In my entire life, I’ve fibbed dozens of times — usually to be polite or to get out of attending some mind-numbing social event — but I’ve only told one really big lie. …

Are you on the edge of your seat? Waiting to see what big lie I told? Shocked that I’m ready to reveal something so private to the world in these pages?

Well, you’ll have to keep waiting, because that opening line isn’t mine, and I have no intention of sharing some big secret with all of you.

In fact, the line is the brainchild of local novelist Sarah Pekkanen. She, along with organizers of the Gaithersburg Book Festival, hope it will strike a chord with local high school students, because this year the Gaithersburg Book Festival is launching a short story contest for high school students, and that is one of three opening lines students can use in crafting their stories.

Participation is easy … and best of all free. To enter, you must be a high school student (grades 9 – 12 in the 2010-11 school year) living in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. Your story has to be 1,000 words or fewer, and your story has to start with one of three lines:

• In my entire life, I’ve fibbed dozens of times — usually to be polite or to get out of attending some mind-numbing social event — but I’ve only told one really big lie. …
• “Don’t open the box,” my father always told me. …
• When I left my parents’ house for good, I took five things with me. …

Pekkanen, author of “The Opposite of Me” (2010) and the forthcoming “Skipping a Beat” (2011), provided all three opening sentences for the contest. She also participated in last year’s festival and will again be a featured author at the 2011 festival.

The finalists — up to 10 — will get to read their stories to an audience at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on Saturday, May 21, 2011, held on Gaithersburg City Hall grounds. After the reading, festival officials will announce the winner of the contest, who will receive a $100 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble, provided by the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus.

Other details:
• Submission deadline: January 31, 2011, at 5 p.m. ET
• Submission method: electronically as a Word document to writingcontest@gaithersburgbookfestival.org

For further information and to read the complete contest rules, go to www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org/writing-contest.htm.

Oh, and for those of you not yet “in the know,” here’s a little more information about the Gaithersburg Book Festival. The event — now in its second year — is an annual, large-scale celebration of the written word and all things literary. Held outdoors, it features presentations and signings by authors of national and local acclaim, writing workshops, literary exhibitors, book sales, children’s activities, food and a coffee house featuring poetry readings and music. The inaugural book festival in May 2010 featured 56 presenting authors, including a 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner, a National Book Award winner, a Newbery Medal winner and more than half a dozen national best-selling authors. General admission to the Gaithersburg Book Festival is free.

For more information about the Gaithersburg Book Festival, go to www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org/, connect with us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter (@GburgBookFest). And stay tuned as we’re about to announce some big national authors who have agreed to participate in the 2011 festival!


Robin Ferrier is the communications manager at the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus and the chair of the Public Relations Committee for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Share