Here are a few things to consider to give yourself the highest chance of acceptance. While we try to provide personal notes with every response, we reserve the right to return a submission without feedback when the reason it does not meet our needs is listed below.
This anthology does not accept pure erotica, explicitly sexual content, or works where sex acts are the primary focus of the piece. However, it’s a fact: humans have sex. If it’s incidental to a great story we’d be willing to consider your work.
Gratuitous descriptions of injury, abuse, or attack are discouraged. Conflict is integral to a good story, and may include fighting or death, but we do not seek gory blow-by-blow itemizations of violence in progress. We also avoid stories of rape, both explicit and implied, whether the characters understand it as rape or not.
Because we’d like to reach the widest audience possible, we actually recommend that you avoid vulgarity and profanity entirely when submitting work to Spark. This isn’t a matter of being prudish; this is a matter of understanding our audience and format. If you believe that the few occurrences of strong language flavor your story but do not define it, and that the story would stand if those instances were changed or removed, we’d be willing to consider your work.
Will We Revise It or Reject It?
If your great writing is accepted but contains explicit content, expect to work with us to tone it down for a broader audience. However, bear in mind that we do not simply count up the number of times cussin’ or copulation appear and make a word-count-to-content decision. Instead, we carefully consider the importance of the content to the story and the characters. Works which can be trimmed to remove or edited to replace explicit content while preserving the voice of the story (and the author) are left open to consideration. If such changes would be detrimental to that voice, we prefer to return the piece to the submitter, encouraging the author to seek a market that will better retain the integrity of the work, even though this means we’ll miss out on a good piece of writing.
Previously Published Work
As a rule, the goal of Spark is to publish great writing & poetry the world has never seen from both established and up-and-coming writers and poets. However, exceptions may be made for exceptional writing; for CSSSA alumni who attended the California State Summer School for the Arts more than 10 years ago, or who have had more more than two short pieces professionally published; or any writers who have had at least one professionally published novel. We may also occasionally solicit reprints of stories we love. Please see our FAQ entry My work has appeared on my blog. Do you consider it ‘previously published’? for details on what we consider “previously published work.”
You are a great and amazing writer of “fan fiction,” as are all fanfic authors*. However, because there are so many competing copyright issues—some universes with the creator’s blessing, some with strong copyright enforcement, and some in the public domain—we do not have the resources to validate rights, and it is therefore our policy to decline all work which makes use of another creator’s universe or characters, including fictionalized scenarios featuring public personalities.
* My uncle was an amazing woodcarver. He once whittled me a special toy boat out of a larger toy boat I already had. The new one was just as good as the first, except all the paint was scraped off, and there were bumpy whittle marks all over it.