It's not even fall, but members of the Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library are looking forward to judging and sharing the macabre ahead of its third annual Edgar Allan Poe-themed October fundraiser, "A Toast Among Ghosts."
In preparation for the party, Poe fans and scary story enthusiasts are invited to compete for three pairs of tickets to the Oct. 7 event, or an Amazon gift card, by entering the Tales of the Dead Short Horror Story Contest before Sept. 22.
Entrants are asked to write original horror stories of up to 3,000 words.
The nonprofit foundation supports the county library system's programming.
Although story submissions are already being accepted, library officials will host four interactive writing programs a few weeks before the deadline to help aspiring authors, including one at the Cockeysville branch.
Attendees can share their favorite stories, get input from other writers and be inspired to write the next great horror story at the workshops, according to Baltimore County Public Library spokeswoman Erica Palmisano.
"Horror fiction doesn't typically appeal to the majority of writers who attend our programs throughout the year," Palmisano said. "These workshops will provide an opportunity for fans of the horror genre to share their ideas with each other, receive constructive pointers and feedback and, hopefully, be inspired to write a winning ghost story."
Workshops will be held at the Reisterstown branch Sept. 6 at 6:30 p.m.; the Perry Hall branch Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.; the Hereford branch Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. and the Cockeysville branch Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.
Entries are accepted through Sept. 22 at 5 p.m.
Three adult winners will be invited to read their stories at the party's Ghost Story Fire Pit in October, along with a guest, and will receive a "A Toast Among Ghosts" T-shirt.
The under-21 winner will win a prize package that includes an "A Toast Among Ghosts" T-shirt, books and a $50 Amazon gift card.
This year's Poe-themed party, held on the 168th anniversary of the author's death in Baltimore, celebrates his work — and his relationship with the Reisterstown branch of the library. Poe once applied to be headmaster at the Franklin Academy, which later became the site of the library, according to library officials.
The fundraiser, which features live music, food and beer, is held in honor of his legacy at the Reisterstown Community Cemetery, which is adjacent to the library.
Edgar Allan Poe impersonators will be on hand for the night's festivities. Attendees can listen and share ghost stories around a fire pit, meet author Gareth Hinds, who translated Poe's poems into graphic art in a new book, and take guided tours through the historic cemetery.
"It's a party-like fun atmosphere with everyone talking," Palmisano said. "The fire is really cozy and warm, and it's just laid back with fun and good music."
Entrants are asked to include the story title and contact information on the first page of their submission. Those under 21 must include "Teen Submission" in the subject line of their email and their age in their listed contact information.