Contest Six ran from June 15 to July 1, 2014, and winners were announced August 1, 2014. Check out our full list of quarterly contests for past winners and current or upcoming themes!
New for Contest Six! See overall totals, category distribution, daily entry breakdown, and voting progress on our contest statistics page.
Niqab by Day Jamison
She Compares the Pink Houses by Abriana Jetté
with Special Mention by Guest Judges
Graveside: A Conversation with My Dad by Carolyn Martin
Honorable Mention (in no particular order)
River Rescue by John Davis, Jr.
My Father Watching His Father Die by Sara Hughes
Tabs by Chera Hammons
In a Year by Karen Paul Holmes
Discounts by Stephen Spanos
Between You, Me, and Andromeda by Elaine Wong
In the Garden of Medusa by Hunter Liguore
Honorable Mention (in no particular order)
Fugue in a Minor Key by Stewart C Baker
Chalk It Up to Experience by Simone Martel
The theme for this contest has several lofty terms: self-reflection, introspection, epiphany. We chose a simpler way to describe it: “You Are Here.”
Good stories give us characters we can connect to—maybe not like them, but at least make us care what happens to them. The best stories go further and show some progression, development, or change in the main character. Sometimes the reader sees the change but the character does not. Other times, the character is actually aware of their personal development and understands that they have a new perspective.
For this contest, entrants were asked to present a story where the main character or characters not only go through growth and development, as is appropriate for a good story arc, but are aware by the end of the piece that they’ve changed.
Two pieces from Spark which were used as examples are “Perspective” by Michelle Soudier, a winning entry in a past contest and later published in Spark, Volume II, and “The Clock has Ceased its Ticking” by Alexis Hunter, published in Volume V.
The artwork for this contest, and subsequently for the cover of Volume VII, will be created by Tatiana Marlee and is based on the painting “You Are Here” from her recent (successful) application to the California State Summer School for the Arts as the “self-reflection” assignment. The painting this artwork will be based on can be seen below.
- D.A. Gray, published poet, contributor to Spark, and past Spark contest winner
- Danielle Lazarin, MFA, author and fiction workshop instructor
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.
- Publication in Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume VIII, 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
- One-year print & digital subscription to Spark: A Creative Anthology
- Lifetime Premium Membership at Scribophile
- One-year digital subscription to American Poetry Review
- One-year digital subscription to Spark: A Creative Anthology
- One print copy of Spark: A Creative Anthology, any volume
- One-year Premium Membership at Scribophile
- One-year digital subscription to Spark: A Creative Anthology
- One-year digital subscription to American Poetry Review
Contest entries will be accepted from June 15, 2014 until the stroke of midnight, U.S. Pacific Time, on July 2, 2014. (In other words, make sure your entries are in before 11:59 pm on July 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 Six 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 as the purchase payment for 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 this contest uses “blind judging”—that is, the author’s name is withheld from the judges until the contest is complete—please omit personal information (such as author name or contact details) from the manuscript.
- Because this contest uses “blind judging,” 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 VII, 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.
- Judges will be unable to provide feedback on specific pieces.
- 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. This has happened before: in Contest Three (too few total entries) and Contest Five (too few finalists).
About the Guest Judges
D.A. Gray retired from the US Army in 2012 and currently studies as a graduate student and MFA candidate. His work has appeared in Grey Sparrow Journal, Poetry Salzburg Review, Bellow Literary Journal, O’Dark Thirty: The Report, Good Men Project, and the upcoming 94 Creations. His collection of poetry, Overwatch, dealing with the return home from Operation Iraqi Freedom, was published by Grey Sparrow Press in November, 2011.
Danielle Lazarin’s fiction has been published by Five Chapters, Boston Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review. Her story “Spider Legs” won first prize in Glimmer Train‘s Family Matters competition and can be found in Glimmer Train #88. A graduate of Oberlin College’s creative writing program, she received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where her stories and essays won Avery and Jule Hopwood Awards. She is a three-time recipient of an individual artist grant from The Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance. She lives in her native New York, where she is raising her daughters and working on a novel and a collection of short stories.
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 Scribophile.com.
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
- Alex Cabal
- Thadeus Bowerman
- Richard S. Rose
- Loren Block
- Bernie Hafeli
- Connemara Morgan
Notes & Disclosures
The Lifetime and one-year Scribophile Premium Memberships were donated by Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers. Learn more at Scribophile.com.
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.
Hello! Currently I live in Japan, but I am from the US. Would I still be able to participate in the contest?
Yes! There are no geographical restrictions to this contest. The only requirement is that if you win, you must be able to receive your contest funds from a U.S. bank. For international winners, PayPal is easiest.
are simultaneous submissions acceptable? I would assume if so the condition would be that we notify you if the piece is published elsewhere?
Yes, you may simultaneously enter this contest and submit elsewhere. You can even simultaneously enter this contest and submit to Spark!
If your work is accepted for publication elsewhere and it will be published before Spark, Volume VII (October/November 2014), we’d prefer that you withdraw it from the contest. However, as long as it will not be published before winners are announced on August 1, 2014, you are not obligated to withdraw from the contest and your work remains eligible.
If your work is accepted for publication elsewhere and will be published before winners are announced on August 1, 2014, it is not eligible for a prize in this contest.
I hope that helps clarify and answers your question!
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Hi there! Is this contest for prose only, or are there separate prizes for both poetry and prose?
Each set of awards applies to both poetry and prose. So, there’s one Grand Prize available for poetry, and one for Prose. One Second Place award for poetry, and one for prose. Etc.
Hope that helps!
Hey, how long can the submission be? I have a perfect idea, but it will be long, so I want to know if there is a cap on length.
Same as our regular submissions (https://sparkanthology.org/submission-guidelines), so up to 12,000 words.
At first, I had an idea for a story, but then i got a poetic inspiration and I already wrote my poem down. However, I have to ask, is 123 lines too long? It’s a bit confusing that here it says ‘from 3 to a 100 lines’, and in the guidelines stands ‘up to a 150 lines’, so…
123 lines is not too long, and we’d really love to see some great poetry entries.
It is true that poems from 3 to 100 lines have the “best chance” of acceptance in the regular submission queue, but in both the queue and the contest the firm maximum is 150 lines.
Great! I’ll submit it the moment I can for the contest. My last question though – when I submit, where do I add my scribophile link for the critiques of the poem? I already posted it there and I know that I can link that, but do I just put my link at the end of the submission or what?
Since this contest is separate from (and not hosted by) Scribophile, please do not include links back to your posted Scribophile work. Have it workshopped/critiqued until you feel it’s ready, then enter it into the contest without any personally-identifying information in the manuscript.
How many poems may I submit, please?
For the contest, since there is no entry fee, there is no limit to the number of entries you may make.
This is in contrast to the regular submission queue, which allows only three poems or one story to be submitted at the same time.
To repeat: for the contest, there is no limit to the number of entries you may make. We only ask that if you’re going to make multiple entries to the contest, each one be really, really good.
So, you think you’ll actually give out these awards this time?
I mean, last time you didn’t give out a poetry prize at all, even though you advertised the prize.
Yes, I hope so! I have been actively promoting the contest to published poets, poetry sites, and previous contest entrants. I also very intentionally chose a published poet as one of the guest judges. I am very keen to have enough entrants and finalists to give out prizes for both categories.
There is still no entry fee for this contest, no limit to the number of entries you may make, and donations still fall far short of the prizes for even one of the categories, so I am a little unsure where the general antagonism comes from.
I just wanted to say, for people who may be wondering, that I had a poem published in Spark last year and your journal is beautifully bound and edited. Many have remarked on the quality of the book itself and I’m proud to have been part of it. Thank you.
If i publish my poem with you, do you own copyright? I plan to publish my own book of my poetry some cay, and that publisher does not want copyright issues over any of the pieces.
We purchase the right to publish your poem, and ask for a six month period where we are the only market publishing that particular work, but you retain all other rights, including the right to reprint with another publisher.
Details on what rights we are purchasing when we accept and publish a poem can be found at https://sparkanthology.org/rights-and-rates/. Anything not explicitly called out there or in the acceptance contract automatically remains with the author or poet.
I, Hal O’Leary, have presumably submitted a story for the contest, but I have received no confirmation. How can I be sure it has been received?
Hello, Hal, and thank you for your interest!
Because our contest entries are managed by Submittable, you should always receive an automated response when you have completed your entry. This is true of both our regular submission queue and our quarterly contests.
However, it’s important to note that contest six has not yet opened for entries: at the top, under Schedule, you’ll see that entries are accepted beginning June 15 and continuing through July 1. On June 15, entry buttons will appear on this page, taking you directly to the contest entry forms.
Did you submit your story through Submittable to our regular queue, or did you send your entry by email?
Through Submittable. I will re submit on June 15. Thank you.
Should citations be included for creative nonfiction pieces?
Yes, any required citations should be included. However, it is acceptable to omit them from an entry so long as they are provided before publication if the entry is selected as a winner.
Could you explain the process of simultaneously submitting to this contest, and to Spark overall?
Sure! Both processes use Submittable to manage entries/submissions. You are welcome to submit to both, just keep in mind that submitting to Spark does not enter a work in the contest, and entering the contest does not submit to Spark.
You can submit to Spark by following the Submission Guidelines at https://sparkanthology.org/submission-guidelines. This submission queue is ongoing: there is no deadline, and we are always open for submissions.
You can enter each contest by using the entry buttons on the contest page. These entry buttons are only visible during the contest entry period, so if you load the page and can’t find any contest entry buttons, either the entry period has not started or it has already ended.
For example, today (June 13) the entry period hasn’t started, and so there are no buttons yet.
It’s worth noting one other important difference between the contest and the regular submission queue: for contests, since we’re on a short timeline to select a winner, we don’t provide personal feedback. For regular submissions, we try to always provide personal feedback.
If someone submits to a contest and does not win, is he able to submit to a later anthology (not the current?)
Also, what is your policy on pseudonyms?
Yes, at the end of the contest you are more than welcome to submit to the regular Spark queue for consideration. A good number of non-winning but worthwhile works have gone on to be published that way.
If you tend to publish under a pseudonym and win the contest, you may ask us to announce your achievement either by your real name or your pen name. The same is true if we go on to publish your work: you tell us what name you want to be published under.
As with all publishing, the only time your legal name is required is for receiving payments.
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If I want to enter the contest and use a pseudonym how can I do so?
Since you are instructed to leave names off the manuscript, a pseudonym is irrelevant at this stage. However, when we contact you at the end of the contest to tell you your piece has won, you may instruct us to list your pseudonym on the Winners announcement and any subsequent publication of your work.
This has happened in the past. Several of the winner names are pen names, and several are real names.
is there a way to give a one-time donation, rather than a recurring one?
Yes, thanks for asking! At the top of the description for the recurring donation, there’s a link to make a one-time donation instead.
And here, for your convenience, is the target of that link: http://store.sparkanthology.org/products/support-once
Thanks again, and best wishes!
Does the character undergoing change have to be a person? Can it be instead an allegorical story with an animal as a lead character?
The character does not have to be human. Thanks for asking!
Hi! Will the submission status indicate ‘In Progress’ until August 1st when the contest results are given? Thank you for your help!
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If a contest entry has not acquired a position then can that piece be submitted elsewhere and does ‘in process’ mean that it is still under review
Winners will be notified and announced shortly, but all pieces—including the winners—can be submitted elsewhere as we always allow simultaneous submissions.
That means the results will be announced today only
Why aren’t there links to read winning poems and stories?
The grand prize winners automatically receive a publication offer, but neither they nor the other entries listed here are obligated to publish with Spark. Because these authors and poets may wish to submit to other markets, we would be doing them a disservice if we published them immediately on the website; we would effectively be robbing them of the opportunity to choose where to have their work published.
On the other hand, I would be delighted if these winners either submit their work to Spark for consideration, or provide us links to the published work with another market. We’d be happy to direct you to great writing wherever it lands!
Pieces that are accepted for publication in Spark will be formatted and edited to ensure optimal presentation and showcase of each writer’s work. Since entries are submitted in manuscript format, not typeset for publication, we feel it’s unfair to the author or poet to simply post the raw manuscript online without giving it the respectful treatment it deserves.