Contest seeks Baltimore County senior writers to share their stories

If publications coordinator Peggy Dryden had her way, every older resident of Baltimore County would submit an essay or poem to the Department of Aging’s 2017 Silver Pen Creative Writing Contest.

The second year of the essay and poem contest runs now through Sept. 1 and is open to all Baltimore County senior citizens, ages 60 and up.

"Judging from the success [last year], obviously it is a great outlet for people," Dryden said. "We had so many people respond last year and we didn't expect that. We were pleasantly surprised so we're hoping to have more this year."

Aspiring writers won't have to go at the writing process alone, Dryden said. Writing workshops will be held across Baltimore County, with the first set for the Bykota Senior Center, in Towson, at 1 p.m. April 26.

Other workshops include those at the Seven Oaks Senior Center at 10 a.m. May 16; Parkville Senior Center at 10:30 a.m. May 31; Essex Senior Center at 1 p.m. June 7; Jacksonville Senior Center at 10:30 a.m. June 20; Overlea-Fullerton Senior Center at 1 p.m. June 21 and Catonsville Senior Center at 10:30 a.m. June 29.

Dryden said participants do not have to be professional writers to receive help with their essays and poems. A finished manuscript is also unnecessary as the workshops will be catered to whomever attends.

Stories can be fiction or nonfiction, but the work must be original, unpublished and created in 2017 to be entered in the contest.

Dryden said she encourages the sharing of everyone's story, not just for the potential prize of gift cards or books from the Ivy Bookshop in Mount Washington, but also for the catharsis that comes with writing out experiences. Although the theme of this year's contest is "reimagine aging," entries aren't judged entirely on following the theme.

"Talk about something in your life that's meaningful," suggests Dryden. "The good, the bad it doesn't matter as long as you take the time to reflect on things. "

Dryden said last year's entries ranged from experiences with war or losing a son to drugs to changing family dynamics.

In 2016, Charlotte Eliopoulos won the essay portion of the Silver Pen senior writing contest for "A Surprising Love," an piece on the changes in the relationship between herself, her mother and her aging father after his Alzheimer's diagnosis.

Ultimately, the disease won. However, the Glen Arm resident said the contest was the kick she needed to get her thoughts on paper.

"When I started cutting back on work a couple of years ago, one of my goals was to explore creative writing," said Eliopoulos. "It's interesting in that it forces you to get in touch with feelings that are latent. When you start dealing with your own experiences of your life it's a different world."

Winners will be announced at Department of Aging's Discover the Power of Age expo on Oct. 4 to 5 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

All entries must be submitted electronically at seniordigest@baltimorecountymd.gov. For questions, or if assistance sending the entry electronically is needed, visit a local senior center or call 410-887-2002.

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