Contest Five: “Fables” (Winners Announced)

Contest Five ran from March 15 to April 1, 2014, and winners were announced May 2, 2014. Check out our full list of quarterly contests for past winners and current or upcoming themes!

Prose Winners

Grand Prize

The Frog Who Swallowed the Moon by Renee Hall

Second Place

The Second Coming of Mr. Whiskers by Katie Burgess

Third Place

Clean Ice by Andrea Hoff

Honorable Mention (in no particular order)

Pillbox Rattle by Garrett Faulkner
After the Apples by Briana McGuckin
Silky Mouse and Kookaburra by Josh Morrey

Special Mention by Guest Judges (in no particular order)

Butterflies by Stephen Koster
The Giving Lake of her Backwashed Tears by Leo Norman
Maker of Birds by Cassandra Arnold

Poetry Winners

By unanimous decision of the judging panel, there is no poetry award for this contest as there were fewer than three qualified finalists. See Rules and Restrictions below.


The theme for this contest was “Fables.”

Fables have been a part of storytelling as long as we’ve been telling stories. Fables do more than entertain: they also present a lesson or attempt to teach a moral. Traditionally, fables feature anthropomorphic animals as main character(s).

For the best chance of winning this writing contest, your story or poem should feature at least one animal as a primary character—does not have to be the protagonist, and does not have to speak, but certainly can do both—and should contain a lesson or moral. The lesson or moral may be humorous or somber.

Artwork NEW!

You asked, we listened. The original artwork for Contest Five: “Fables”, custom designed by Goodloe Byron, is now wearable as tattoos and T-shirts!


Contest entries were accepted from March 15 to April 1, 2014.

Winners were announced May 2, 2014.

Guest Judges


No fee is required for this contest. You will have an opportunity to make an optional donation once your entry is submitted. Your tax-deductible contribution helps keep our contests free.

Spark’s production costs are covered and contributing writers are paid in part through sales of the anthology and in part by generous donations from people like you. Funds for all remaining expenses are donated by Brian & Amy Lewis.


We will award one prize at each level for poetry, and one at each level for prose.

Grand Prize

  • US$500.00
  • Publication in Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume VI, as the first (poem) or second (prose) piece in the collection
  • Lifetime Premium Membership at Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers
  • One-year subscription to Duotrope
  • One-year print subscription to American Poetry Review or Poets & Writers magazine or The Writer magazine
  • Complimentary print & digital copies of Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volumes I through IV

Second Place

  • US$100.00
  • Lifetime Premium Membership at Scribophile
  • One-year digital subscription to American Poetry Review
  • Complimentary digital copies of Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volumes I through IV
  • Complimentary print copy of Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume I

Third Place

  • US$20.00
  • One-year Premium Membership at Scribophile
  • Complimentary digital copy of Spark: A Creative Anthology Volumes I through IV
  • One-year digital subscription to American Poetry Review

About the Guest Judges

Helena Bell is a poet and writer living in Raleigh, North Carolina where she is an MFA candidate in Fiction at NC State University. She has a BA, another MFA, a JD, and an LLM in Taxation which fulfills her lifelong ambition of having more letters follow her name than are actually in it. She is a graduate of the Clarion West Workshop and her fiction and poetry have appeared in ClarkesworldShimmerElectric Velocipede, the Indiana ReviewMargie ReviewPedestal Magazine and Rattle. Her story “Robot” was a nominee for the 2012 Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Learn more by following her blog at

Brittani Sonnenberg has an MFA from the University of Michigan and lives in Berlin, where she is a frequent contributor to Berlin Stories on NPR. She is currently a visiting lecturer at the MFA program of the University of Hong Kong. Her award-winning fiction has been widely published in magazines such as Ploughshares, anthologized in the O’Henry Short Story Prize Series, and received distinguished story recognition by Best American Short Stories. Her non-fiction has been published by Time Magazine, the Associated Press, NPR, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and elsewhere. She studied English literature with a citation in Mandarin Chinese at Harvard University. She was a European Journalism Fellow at Berlin’s Freie Universität from 2009-2010. Her novel Home Leave will be available in June, 2014.


Contest entries will be accepted from March 15, 2014 until the stroke of midnight, U.S. Pacific Time, on April 2, 2014. (In other words, make sure your entries are in before 11:59 pm on April 1).
There are no genre restrictions for this contest, and content guidelines are similar to our standard submission guidelines, including what we are not accepting.
Contest Five awards prizes for poetry and prose according to our contest judging criteria.
Prose includes both fiction and creative nonfiction, but we have not divided the category further because we believe that well-written creative nonfiction should tell a story so well that the result is indistinguishable from fiction. Prose must be less than 12,000 words.
Poetry includes all styles, meters, and rhyme schemes, or may be free-form. Poetry must be less than 150 lines.

Rules & Restrictions

  • Publication Rights remain with the author or poet. Grand Prize winners are not obligated to publish their winning entry in Spark, but if our publication offer is accepted, the cash portion of the prize serves to purchase First Publication rights as outlined on our Rights & Rates page. All other entrants retain full rights to submit and publish their entries as they wish.
  • Prose limits: We are looking for excellent writing and storytelling, not length. A compelling and well-written “flash fiction” piece has equal chance against a novelette. Prose must be less than 12,000 words.
  • Poetry limits: We are looking for evocative imagery that paints a small story in a poem. A haiku or tanka has equal chance against a sonnet or epic. Poetry must be less than 150 lines.
  • Only previously unpublished works will be considered.
  • You may enter a previously-written piece if you feel that it satisfies the prompt for this contest, so long as it has not been published.
  • There are no age restrictions for this contest other than legal restrictions imposed by your local jurisdiction.
  • In the event that a winner is ineligible for the Scribophile prize because of age or chooses to decline the membership, a three-year print and eBook subscription to Spark: A Creative Anthology will be substituted.
  • Spark: A Creative Anthology contest judges and their immediate families are not eligible.
  • Because entries are blindly judged, authors and poets who have previously had work accepted for any volume of Spark: A Creative Anthology may enter this contest. In the event that a Grand Prize winner is an author or poet whose work has been accepted for Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume V, we may choose to postpone or decline publication of either the previously-accepted work or the winning contest entry.
  • You may enter multiple pieces in this contest, and you may enter both poetry and prose, but each entrant can win at most one prize, no matter how many entries are made.
  • Spark: A Creative Anthology reserves the right to post “No Award” for either category in the event that fewer than 30 total entries are received or fewer than three qualified entries can be selected for the final round of judging.
  • Because this contest is judged blindly—that is, the author’s name is withheld from the judges—please omit personal information (such as author name or contact details) from the manuscript.
  • Judges will be unable to provide feedback on specific pieces.

About the Awards

Scribophile is the largest online writing workshop and discussion group, boasting over 202,000 peer critiques written by community members ranging from amateur writers to professional authors and editors. Learn more at

Duotrope is a subscription-based service for writers that offers an extensive, searchable database of current fiction, poetry, and non-fiction markets, a calendar of upcoming deadlines, submissions trackers, and useful statistics compiled from the millions of data points they’ve gathered on the publishers they list, including Spark.

Cash Prizes are made possible by generous supporters like you. Sign up as a sponsor today and join these contest patrons:

  • Brian & Amy Lewis

Notes & Disclosures

The Lifetime and one-year Scribophile Premium Memberships were donated by Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers. Learn more at
The one-year Duotrope subscriptions were purchased at a discount by Brian Lewis.
Spark: A Creative Anthology is administered and published by the Empire & Great Jones Creative Arts Foundation, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.

57 thoughts on “Contest Five: “Fables” (Winners Announced)

  1. Pingback: Call for submissions: Spark Anthology | The Miami Grindstone

    • Yes, a great example of a short story written in chapters is “From Here to Gehenna” in Volume IV. The word count range is from 400 to 12,000, so 6,000 is right in the middle!

  2. Is “From Here to Gehenna” a published book or if not where can i find it? . What do you mean by volume IV?

  3. Times New Roman, twelve point type? Single spaced or double spaced? I just want to make sure my work isn’t rejected because of a formatting formality.

    • You can never go wrong following Standard Manuscript Format!

      Personally, I prefer proportional font (e.g. Times New Roman) and italics over monospace (e.g. Courier) with underlining, since we’re working with digital manuscripts and not typewriters. However, either is acceptable.

      Anything listed in the Shunn tutorial as “this or this” you have some flexibility on. Anything he calls out as “always this,” you should always do that. For example, William Shunn says, “Always double space,” so you should always double space.

  4. Wonderful contest! I was wondering if we can make multiple submissions–one for prose and one for poetry? Or if you would prefer just one submission for one category? Thank you so much.

    • Yep! Under “Rules & Restrictions” (right after the stipulation that you may not write about brown M&Ms) it says:

      “You may enter multiple pieces in this contest, and you may enter both poetry and prose, but each entrant can win at most one prize, no matter how many entries are made.”

    • Sim subs are okay for this contest, as are multiple subs. The only time it becomes a problem is if the entry is accepted by another market before the end of the contest … awkward!

    • No — if you submit through the main Spark submission queue, we won’t see it in time for the contest! Links will be posted ON THIS PAGE when the contest opens for entry.

      Thanks for your interest!

    • Submittable tracks all the contact info we need to get in touch with you after the contest (or to notify you that you won!)

      As mentioned at the top of the entry form, the contest is judged blindly, so we actually want your name and contact info not visible on your contest entry.

      If you were not prompted to enter your name and email, it means you were already signed in to your Submittable account before uploading your entry. Everything’s in order!

    • Not specifically, though unlike prose it’s not as critical to double-space the manuscript. Make sure the stanza breaks (if any) are clear and focus on making the language of the poem more important than its form on the page.

  5. Pingback: Entering Writing Contests | Swings & Seesaws

  6. I have a fable (call it fable C) which is a kind of a combination of 2 other fables, fable A and fable B. I have submitted fable A and fable B to the contest. Can I also submit fable C to the contest?

    I appreciate your prompt reply in view of the little time remaining for the contest deadline.

    Thank you

    • There is no set limit to the number of entries you may make, even if they are similar. Please try to make each well-polished and ready for publication before entry, and you’ll have a good chance of being selected as a finalist.

  7. does the title words too count? and can the story be for kids as we’ve heard fables are long time written for children.

    • Title words do not count. The story should appeal to a broad audience; it can be “for” kids but should be engaging and enjoyable to adult readers, too.

  8. So, no award for the poetry – did you not get enough donations this cycle? It’s hard for me to imagine that all the entries were so terrible – what were they being judged against?

    Putting a budgeting move into a contest strikes me as rather unethical. And, unfortunately, that’s not really the sort of thing anyone will freely admit to.

    • The decision to give no award in the poetry category was made and approved by all judges collectively, including guest judges, based on contest criteria.

      I am aware that this will be an unpopular and even controversial decision, but I am comfortable that it was reached ethically: funds for the prizes are set aside before each contest begins, and budget was not a part of the judges’ deliberation or decision.

      • How many poetry entries? I agree with ContestEntrant and find it hard to believe none were even worthy of some sort of honorable mention in an endeavor that is based on creativity and judged so subjectively. Quite a direct slap in the face to all those that did enter and one more notch in the sticks of those that detest self-righteous art snobs.

    • The grand prize winner receives an offer of publication as part of their award, and the other winners are always invited to submit to the regular queue.

      If you scan past winners lists, though, you’ll find that many of the second-place, third-place, and honorable mention winners have gone on to be published!

      • I respect the judges’ decision in regard to the poetry part of the contest, but I would appreciate it if you would give us some more information on how they came to that decision. As it stands now, it feels like our contributions have simply been dismissed without any sense of closure on our part.

        Was it a problem with the number of poetry entries overall, or the quality of the entries that you received?

        Thank you.

  9. Thank you so much for your time and attention! It was my first time ever submitting my writing anywhere, so being an Honorable Mention has encouraged me to start submitting more of my work to journals! Congrats to the winners!

  10. Pingback: It’s a major award! | Renee Carter Hall

  11. Yeah, poets are cheap on the internet, I know … but I don’t think I’ll submit anything here again.

    • I understand that you feel that way, and I’m sorry you do, but the point is: we’re trying to change that. Poetry has value in contemporary literature, even in contemporary culture outside literature. Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled makes a great case for the importance and accessibility of modern poetry, and further asserts that everyone is capable of good poetry by virtue of their ability to speak and feel.

      In this particular contest, just one out of five entries was a poem. Why the disparity? Why do so few poets participate in a free contest or, for that matter, bother to submit their work to a paying publication like Spark outside of the contest?

      I have worked to ensure that the judging panel includes poets, and am constantly inviting established poets to participate. Helena Bell and Ken Liu were both invited for their experience as published poets as well as authors. I’ve also reached out personally to poets like Simon Armitage and Brooks Haxton.

      Remember that this is neither a one-time contest nor a contest-only publication. Each time we’ve had enough finalists to select a winner, not only the Grand Prize poetry winner but several of the runners-up and honorable mentions have gone on to be published in our pages—and paid for the right to print their work.

      I love good poetry. I want to buy more of it. If you want to help me change the perception of poets and poetry as “cheap on the Internet,” don’t withhold your work, submit more of it. Encourage your fellow poets to submit their best work, too. Better yet, join our reading staff or volunteer to be on the judging panel for future quarterly contests—help me find, love, and print the great poetry we both know is out there.

      — Brian

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