Literary magazine fosters writing by senior citizens

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

In a mirror, wrinkled age. Beyond the eye, a young girl laughing.

--Martha Carter

The poet is one of some 200 ''voices of the Third Age'' who have published in Expanding Horizons, a literary magazine written for, by, and about senior citizens.

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Started four years ago at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, the magazine is the outcome of a course called ''How to Publish a Magazine.'' Instructor Bob Abel let his Elderhostel students learn by doing, and the 32-page collection of poetry, short stories, narratives, and items of interest to senior citizens was born.

A year later, it found its present editor, Sylvia Baron, a former teacher who took early retirement to explore her own potential in the arts. Ms. Baron, who says the magazine is trying ''something sort of impossible - we're not commercial like Modern Maturity but we're bigger than a senior citizen newsletter,'' says she wants to encourage the ''Grandma Moses in the writing world.''

Ms. Baron feels her magazine is providing a motive for seniors who have always wanted to write. ''I get many letters from people who tell me they enjoy writing, and have never really done it before. Almost all of our contributors are published for the first time in our magazine.''

For such a new group of writers, the material is of surprisingly high quality. Ms. Baron and a small team of consultants wade through the 300-plus manuscripts they have on file from contributors in the United States, Wales, India, and Australia, looking for pieces ''that could be written at any age. We get a lot of pieces from widows who can't look forward, but dwell in the past - I can't stand that,'' Ms. Baron admits freely.

Still, some of the best works are taken from the wealth of memory available to these writers. Like the piece from Sandor Levinsohn, a physician recalling the first baby he delivered.

Or the observation, tucked into a short story by Stella Ragel, that ''housework eats into a woman. It's a work that no one sees, and it's the same every day.''

Keeping the channels open for such literature is a full-time job for Ms. Baron, who selects, types, and lays out each issue herself. She takes no salary, and pays writers in copies only. Printing costs have also been cut by using the services of a charitable organization in Queens. Still, she must depend on the $ 4 yearly subscription rate and a grant from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines to fund each issue, and has had to cut back from quarterly to twice-yearly editions this year.

''We could break even with 300 subscribers,'' she says - triple their present number - ''and I think it's worth trying. The magazine works everywhere except financially. We get a lot of letters saying, 'Please continue, it does us so much good.' ''

Ms. Baron quotes one of the magazine's poets: ''Words are the tears I never shed.'' She hopes they may continue to flow.

Further information is available by writing to Sylvia Baron, editor, Expanding Horizons, 93-05 68th Avenue, Forest Hills, New York, N.Y. 11375.

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