“Ask the Editor” Interview with Tina Pollick – Part 3: Responses to Reader Questions

This week, I’m off visiting Tina Pollick as a guest on her blog for a three-part interview series about Spark: A Creative Anthology. Part 1 was “Interview with editor Brian Lewis.” Part 2 featured a discussion with some of the authors and poets to be published upcoming volumes of Spark. In today’s final installment, I answer questions posed by Tina’s readers. See my answers at tinapollick.com!

Tina Pollick: What do you look for in a story—or a poem? Why?

Brian Lewis: It’s interesting that you say “story” and not just “submission”—and that’s actually important, because what we’re looking for is a story. Spark is looking for great writing that tells a compelling story, regardless of length. Even very short pieces, like flash fiction, should tell a story, though there will certainly be fewer dramatic elements developed than we’d see in a longer piece or novel. The presence of “story” is what distinguishes flash fiction from “vignette.” (read more…)

Tina Pollick: Do you provide comments when you reject a story?

Brian Lewis: We try to provide comments with every rejection. There have only been a few times where we really had nothing to say other than “No.” [. . .] When possible, we also provide suggestions for improvement.  (read more…)

Read the responses to these and other questions at tinapollick.com!

“Ask the Editor” Interview with Tina Pollick – Part 2: Ask the Writers

This week, I’m off visiting Tina Pollick as a guest on her blog for a three-part interview series about Spark: A Creative Anthology. Part 1 was “Interview with editor Brian Lewis.” Part 2, posted today, features a discussion with some of the authors and poets already accepted for publication in upcoming volumes of Spark. Be sure to join us for the whole discussion at tinapollick.com!

Here is a preview.

Tina Pollick: My guests for this preview are John Stocks, j.lewis and George Wells. Thank you for joining me.


Writers have different sources of inspiration. I was wondering: What inspired you to write your first story, poem, or book?

John Stocks: A teacher at secondary school encouraged me to contribute to an anthology of creative writing, which was produced by the school. In doing so they planted a seed that has only recently grown into a committed programme of work with people in my local community, leading community workshops and enabling others to experience the therapeutic beauty of reflective and creative self-expression, and the thrill of being published. The latest incarnation of this magazine, GANDA, Diverse Visions, launched in Sheffield, UK, in the last week of November.

j.lewis: The first poem I remember writing was about Robin Hood and Maid Miriam, inspired by reading a book about Robin Hood from the school library. I was eight years old, the poem was 3 or 4 pages long, and my mother didn’t believe I could have possibly written it. I was crushed and elated.

George Wells: I was told that I could write throughout all of elementary and high-school, and enrolled in a course in college. I didn’t finish a story in that class, only a few sketches. The project for the semester was to be a novel. I freaked out and dropped the class. I didn’t write another word of fiction for over ten years, but even then I couldn’t continue. I finally started to write seriously when I turned forty. I didn’t finish that story, but it’s still in my archives, and I hope to get back to it one of these days. I think more than anything, I needed the age and wisdom to say, “Why not?” and not be afraid anymore.

Tina Pollick: I, for one, am glad that you decided to write again, George. If you could choose one writer as a mentor, who would it be?

George Wells: Just one? Annie Dillard, Annie Proulx, Fannie Flagg are constant favorites, but the writer that always blew me away was Kurt Vonnegut. He hit all emotions in his writing, consistently, and in every story. In fact, I remember confronting my English teacher in my junior year of high-school, asking him why Breakfast of Champions wasn’t required reading. He laughed, and told me that he’d lose his job if he were to put that on the list.

I think that reading early on is a huge asset. Some stories that we read as children or young adults really stick with us. In some ways those books influence what kind of writers we may become.

Tina Pollick: j.lewis, you’re a poet, what other poets have influenced your writing? 

j.lewis: Carl Sandburg was the first poet I read that wrote in free verse, and that freed me from the notion that all poetry had to rhyme and be rigidly metered to be good. e. e. cummings made a strong case for lower case, and I have adopted that for the majority of what I write.

Tina Pollick: George, have any writers influenced your writing?

George Wells: Annie Dillard, Annie Proulx, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Coupland. For dialog, I think that John Sayles has taught me the most about realistic conversations that are cleaner than real life without sounding false.

Tina Pollick: If you don’t mind, I’d like to get a little personal. What writers or works have influenced your life?

George Wells: For the Time Being, by Annie Dillard. I’ve read it so many times that the book has fallen apart. It seems random at first, but I love walking with her on her spiritual journey. It also has one of my favorite quotes, “For the world is as glorious as ever, and exalting, but for credibility’s sake let’s start with the bad news.” Douglas Coupland’sLife after God spoke to my own search for God, and I’ve read that many times as well.

Tina Pollick: And j.lewis, a slight twist on the same question: are there any poems or poets that have influenced your life?

j.lewis: Arthur H. King, one of the most intelligent, educated people I have had the pleasure to know, had an uncanny ability to make me feel simultaneously utterly ignorant, yet totally capable of being his equal.  He exposed me to the concept of “literary trash”, which he defined as any writing that was not honest, or that attempted to manipulate the reader into a desired response. By extension, he made it clear that manipulating other people in everyday life was equally inexcusable.

Tina Pollick: Thank you, John, j.lewis, and George for being my guests. Interesting and thought provoking answers. I look forward to finishing this conversation on my blog, where we will be joined by other Spark authors.

Continue to Part 3: Responses to Reader Questions

An Open Letter To Our Friends


Quote startI am committed to the idea that all contributors should be paid for their writing—whether they are experienced professionals or first-time submitters.Quote end  
— Brian Lewis, Editor-in-Chief

Dear Friend,

As Spark: A Creative Anthology enters the final hours of its Kickstarter fundraiser, please consider pledging a dollar or two and sharing the link with others. A pledge as low as $1 helps us reach our goal, and just $4 secures you an eBook copy of Volume I. Higher pledges come with rewards such as personal critiques and copies of the original artwork we will be using for the covers of our first volumes. Remember: Kickstarter operates on an “all or nothing” model: if we do not reach (or exceed) our goal, no pledges are collected and we get nothing.

Spark was founded with the goal of providing a high-quality market where emerging writers are published alongside established authors and poets. To maintain that high quality, I am committed to the idea that every contributor should be paid for their writing—whether they are experienced professionals or first-time submitters.

Unfortunately, while I am funding this project myself, I am only able to offer token and semi-professional payments. That’s just not enough. When you choose to support Spark: A Creative Anthology, not only are you getting great writing, you enable Spark to pay its contributors the professional rates I know they deserve.

Please take a minute to watch and share our Project Update video on Kickstarter or YouTube, read and share one of the recent news articles about Spark, and make your pledge at http://SparkAnthology.org/support today.

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

“Ask the Editor” Interview with Tina Pollick – Part 1

This week, I’m off visiting Tina Pollick as a guest on her blog for a three-part interview series about Spark: A Creative Anthology. Be sure to read the whole “Interview with editor Brian Lewis” at tinapollick.com!

Here’s a quick excerpt.

Tina Pollick: Are there any publications or publishers that you admire?

Brian Lewis: Without hesitation, I’d say Stupefying Stories from Rampant Loon Press, edited by Bruce Bethke. There are handful of living writers who can say they’ve influenced writing or culture; I can’t think of any, besides Bruce, who have had such an influence on writing and culture that not only did the term they coined become part of our lexicon, but the whole concept became completely detached from and disassociated with the original writer. The term? Cyberpunk.

Now, with Stupefying Stories, Bruce Bethke is mapping the future of publishing through this direct-to-eBook monthly anthology, foregoing the expensive and inefficient traditional publishing model in favor of what is, in his view, the best way to distribute new fiction.

I’m also somewhat enamored with Unstuck and Shadow Road Quarterly. Unstuck is a “kindred spirit” publication in that they actively seek to publish emerging authors alongside established professionals; the cross-genre focus of their annual print & eBook release is “literary fiction with elements of the fantastic, the futuristic, or the surreal.” Similarly, Shadow Road Quarterly seeks literature without genre boundaries, is an online anthology accepting “writing that has, at its heart, characters that speak to us or experiences that echo through our minds even after the piece is finished.”

Shadow Road Quarterly is where I found To The River by George Wells, which I quickly solicited for reprint inSpark: A Creative Anthology, Volume III.

These three publications in particular, though there are several more, are important to me because they prove that there is still an interest in and demand for great short literature—and that there are still writers producing it.

Read more at tinapollick.com …

Continue to Part 2: Ask the Writers

Continue to Part 3: Responses to Reader Questions

Join the Spark team as a Staff Reader / Screener!

To help us keep up with the positive response to Spark and process submissions in a timely manner, we seek two Staff Readers to join us immediately. This is an unpaid, volunteer position (as is Editor-in-Chief), but it may be listed on your resume/C.V. or used as a reference.

See the full job listing for details and to learn how to apply!

Press Release

Download this press release in PDF format.


November 13, 2012 – For Immediate Release

Spark: A Creative Anthology is a quarterly anthology accepting fiction, poetry, and cover art from emerging and established writers.

In a bold move that seems contrary to the trend of online- or eBook-only magazines, each volume of Spark will be published in both print and electronic formats. The intent behind this decision was to underscore the lasting value of the anthology’s featured content.

“My goal was to establish a high-quality, paying market where emerging authors and poets are published alongside respected and established writers,” said Brian Lewis, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Spark.

Lewis continued, “While Spark actively encourages submissions from new writers, regardless of age, we are looking for quality writing and artwork across all genres—from professionals and amateurs alike. We set the bar high to encourage young writers to excel, and to maintain a publication to which established professionals are excited to submit.”

And writers are, in fact, excited to submit their work for consideration. Spark allowed its first unsolicited manuscripts in September, 2012; in sixty days, the editors have received nearly 250 submissions across varied genres and skill levels.

Spark has confirmed contributions from Todd Walton, author of Inside Moves, and John Stocks, a Mariner-award-winning poet from the UK. Traci Gourdine, the well-known poet from Davis, CA, currently chairs the Creative Writing Department at the California State Summer School for the Arts and will write the introduction to the inaugural volume. Margaret Dilloway, an alumna of CSSSA and author of How To Be an American Housewife and The Care and Handling of Roses With Thorns, is currently completing a solicited short story for inclusion in the anthology.

Besides these established authors and poets, Spark has accepted work from several talented writers whose work has never been professionally published.

Spark: A Creative Anthology invites global participation in the ongoing project in any or all of the following ways:

  1. Share! The most direct path to the project’s success is to make sure the authors and readers who will benefit most are aware of the opportunity.
  2. Support! Be a partner in the endeavor and support talented writers by backing the project at http://SparkAnthology.org/support. Great rewards from art prints to personal critiques on fiction & poetry are available to patrons of Spark: A Creative Anthology.
  3.  Contribute! Spark welcomes fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and cover art proposals. Detailed submission guidelines can be found at http://SparkAnthology.org.

About Brian Lewis

Brian Lewis is an active member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, an alumnus of the California State Summer School for the Arts in Creative Writing, and a Senior Software Engineer working on a Master of Science degree in Information Security and Assurance.

About Spark

Spark: A Creative Anthology is administered and published by the Empire & Great Jones Creative Arts Foundation, a registered non-profit corporation with pending 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Additional details are online at http://SparkAnthology.org/about.

Spark: A Creative Non-Profit Corporation!

Spark: A Creative Anthology is now administered and published by the newly-formed Empire & Great Jones Creative Arts Foundation, a registered non-profit corporation with pending 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

The stated purpose mission of the Empire & Great Jones Creative Arts Foundation is:

To promote and encourage literary and other creative pursuits in established and emerging writers and
other creative artists.

Kickstart Volume I — With Kickstarter!

We’re excited to announce a campaign to raise enough funds to switch from paying semi-professional rates (currently 1¢ per word or US$10, whichever is more) to professional rates of 5¢ per word or US$50, whichever is more.

Check out our Kickstarter project and make your pledge today!

Fund Creativity with Kickstarter
Fund Creativity with Kickstarter

What Happens If Funding Is Successful

Fully funding this project means covering publishing and distribution costs for Volume I and paying all contributors professional rates of at least 5¢ per word or $50—thereby enticing established and well-known authors to continue their participation and rewarding great writing from new authors!

Contributors who have already been paid will receive the difference between what they’ve been paid and the calculated professional rate.

Exceeding the minimum funding means paying Spark staff at all; right now the project is entirely founder-funded and a 100% volunteer effort.

Any excess after paying contributors and staff will immediately be put toward the costs of Volume II.

Are There Rewards?

Oh, yes, there are rewards! Since every dollar counts, each and every backer gets their name or the name of their organization listed in the “Friends” section at the back of Volume I—even if you only pledge $1.

Pledge at least $25, and we’ll make sure you get a free print copy and a digital copy of our first volume!

Want even better rewards? More copies of the book? Visit our project page to find out more!

Slight Change to Poetry Submission Process

We are still accepting multiple submissions for poetry (up to three at a time), but the submission form must be filled out separately for each poem. (Previously, we allowed up to three poems in a single submission.)

We continue to accept only one active submission at a time for creative non-fiction, short stories, and flash fiction. Feel free to submit new work as soon as you have received an acceptance or rejection of the previous submission, but please do not submit multiple works in any of these categories if you already have a submission in progress.