An Open Letter to Poets who entered Contest Five (“Fables”)

[Originally sent as an email message to Contest Five entrants on 16 June 2014.]

I know that great poetry is out there and being actively written—and that many of you are writing it.

Even so, we have been consistently challenged in attracting that great poetry to our writing contest. In two different events, we were unable to award prizes for poetry: in Contest Three, because there were too few entries in total, and in Contest Five because there were too few finalists after blind voting by a panel of judges. Both scenarios are described in the “Rules and Restrictions” before each contest starts, but this situation leaves everyone upset—me, poets, and judges—and is understandably seen by many as unfair.

To proactively address this, I am personally reaching out to poets like you to ask for help.

Our next writing contest has opened for entries. To ensure both fairness and transparency, if you are not entering the contest will you please consider volunteering as a staff judge instead?

The duties of the role are fairly simple:

  • Unlike the regular submission queue, detailed notes are not required. Simply vote Yes, Maybe, or No to indicate whether you feel the piece should be considered for the next round of more judging using our contest judging criteria.
  • Later rounds get more discussion and scrutiny as fewer pieces are passed on.
  • About the 3rd weekend of July, staff judges are invited to join the live online chat with the guest judges (Danielle Lazarin and DA Gray). These chats are scheduled to be convenient for the guests, wherever they are in the world, so the time for this contest’s discussion will likely be morning in the U.S.

Here’s what you’ll need to keep in mind:

  • Once you agree to be a staff judge, you can’t enter the contest.
  • Once you enter the contest, you can’t be a staff judge.

If you would be interested in and willing to participate in this way, please contact me directly at I can add up to seven more judges to our panel, and I’d be delighted to have your help.

If you have already entered the contest or are unable to participate as a judge, please consider helping by telling other poets about this opportunity. Contest entry is always free, and I believe that more participation will raise awareness of the great poetry being written and its importance in modern literature.

Thank you for your help,

Brian Lewis, Volunteer Editor-in-Chief
Spark: A Creative Anthology

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