WESTMINSTER - A small group of local writers plan to launch a literary and visual arts magazine -- titled Prism -- that they hope sparkles like the Patapsco River that flows through central Maryland.

In fact, these writers borrowed the river's name to form Patapsco River Publications, a non-profit corporation that will oversee the publication and raise $17,500 to finance the project.

"It's an exciting venture," says Sharon Myers, a part-time College of Notre Dame student, who serves as the group's secretary during weekly meetings at the Westminster Inn. "It's a great idea. There aren't many outlets for people who aren't published."

Slated for a spring release, the magazine will highlight writing -- prose, poetry and essays -- photographs and art work from novices in Carroll, Baltimore and Howard counties.

The magazine's intent is to open doors for non-published writers and artists who live, work or attend schools in those counties, says Scott Swain, a free-lance writer and manager of The Spider Web Inc., a Westminster commercial screen printer.

"There's no publication serving those areas. We noticed a need in central Maryland," Swain says.

Local colleges have largely served as outlets for literary hopefuls. Carroll Community College, for example, publishes Bittersweet, a student literary magazine.

Swain says the group hopes to tap the talent at local colleges and from residents who may not have written since college. Anybody, however, may submit materials, which will be read and considered, he says. Prism's mailing address is 103 E. Greene St., Westminster, Md. 21157.

"We want to reach those people who have not had the opportunity to be published," says Kathryn Johnson, a CCC student and former editor of Bittersweet. "Some of the material we received at Bittersweet was from deep thinkers. We want to encourage that."

Ann Weber, a CCC English professor and faculty adviser for student publications, says Prism should have no trouble pulling local talent.

"The talent is there," she says.

Adds Charles Stanfield, a graduate student at Mount Saint Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Frederick County, "You won't have to have a degree to write for Prism."

Swain says the group also hopes to raise the awareness of literary and visual arts in the three counties. Patapsco River Publications plans to participate in community events, such as FallFest, to publicize its efforts and showcase local talent.

Other promotion plans include periodic poetry readings, seminars, scholarship awards and on-going contests, such as the creative writing contest under way as a means to garner submissions for the premiere issue.

Although months away from launching some 1,000 copies, editorial and other deadlines loom for the group of writers.

This week the group plans to mail letters to potential donors and drop off brochures in public places, such as libraries and county buildings, to attract dollars and submissions.

The letter and brochure outline the magazine and the goals of the non-profit group. The brochure also includes the academic and professional backgrounds of the magazine's founders, who also include Emily Ferren, who works for the Carroll County Public Library in Westminster.

The group's members, all Westminster residents, met at CCC, where they were either students in Weber's writing classes or worked on student publications such as Bittersweet and Spectrum, the student newspaper.

"Ann has a unique way of bringing out the best in people," Swain says, adding the group sees the magazine as an opportunity to showcase the talent she nurtured.

Weber, though, says the magazine's launching by this particular group is circumstantial.

"This group would have found each other, anyway," she says.

The group has met regularly since forming in late June. Patapsco River Publications received non-profit status in July.

Besides ironing out business details, Ferren has been busy applying for federal and corporate grants to finance the publication. So far, each of the members has contributed money for printing and other minor expenses.

The group chose the name Patapsco River Publications to pick up on a common thread between the three counties.

The magazine's name "just seemed to fit so well with our goals," says Ferren.

The group has yet to design a logo for the magazine. The cover, Swain says, is likely to include local artwork. The first edition will contain about 80 pages and Swain envisions the magazine, if successful, being published on a quarterly basis.

The philosophy behind the magazine rests in stone, though.

"We don't want to outgrow the first-time publisher. We want to always be there for the newcomer," Johnson says.

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