If you’re on the lookout for a new, cool, speculative fiction market, Spark: A Creative Anthology might be the place for you. I had the opportunity to interview the series editor, Brian Lewis, about the journal to give Amazing Stories readers a closer look. Right now, Volume I has just released and features an incredible array of writers–including me!
Q. Tell us a little about Spark: A Creative Anthology, your vision, etc.,
A. With Spark: A Creative Anthology, I have created a professional market for emerging writers ready to take the next step: publication in a paying anthology. I have set the bar for acceptance high, not only to encourage new writers to submit their best work and continue to improve their skills, but also so that the established authors and poets I invite to contribute will feel that Spark is an appropriate showcase for their work.
By combining work of emerging writers with work of professionals in every volume of Spark, and by issuing the anthology in both digital and print formats, I intend to provide quality literature to today’s reading audience, to highlight the lasting value of modern short stories and poems, and to foster talented authors and poets. At Spark, we take this last point one step further: not only do we pay writers for every acceptance, we also provide personal feedback with every rejection.
Q. Tell us a few highlights and/or favorite pieces from the first volume.
A. I love every piece in Volume I for different reasons. I want to tell you about each piece, but since that would take several pages, here are just a few thoughts:
- “Five Hundred” by D. Laserbeam—in addition to bearing the coolest author name in the issue—expertly demonstrates that it’s possible to maintain tension and story in less than 1000 words.
- “Last Rites,” by George Wells, gives me chills ever time I read it; the understated emotion is powerful.
- “Momentary Forgiveness,” by Hunter Liguore (yes, that Hunter Liguore!) delighted me by being deceptive in what it was really about. The first time I read it, I thought I had it figured out by the end of the first page; when I finished the last page, I realized I hadn’t even been close. “Momentary Forgiveness” underscores the assertion that the best speculative fiction stories are those in which the speculative elements are secondary to the characters and relationships. The central themes of this story are the personal growth and change of heart of the main character, and that’s why I picked this for publication.
- In “Image of a Treasure, as a Negative,” Valentina Cano implies an entire story in just a few lines of great imagery. I loved the metaphor. This was actually one of the first poems accepted for Volume I.
Q. Tell us a few favorite moments from putting the first issue together.
A: The very best part of this experience hasn’t been a single moment, but the process of discovering that throughout the writing and publishing industries there are people who are just excited to work together. Outside of the public face of the Big Publishing Houses, the whole environment is more collaborative and less competitive than I would ever have imagined. From garnering support from established authors to working with the marketing staff at Writer’s Digest, I have run into one friendly and helpful person after another.
I was particularly delighted to work with the writers accepted into Volume I. When I have humbly proposed changes to their submissions to prepare for publication, they have been gracious and willing to work with me. Two examples of this: John Stocks, whose poetry has been published in many anthologies, submitted the poem Vows, which I loved. But there was one word I wasn’t quite sure I understood the use of, so I asked him about it—over the course of an afternoon, John and I discussed the poem at length and he ended up choosing another word that better conveyed his intent. Not only was John Stocks wonderful to work with, but the entire discussion took place with me in the western U.S. and John in the U.K
The second example is similar: James E. Lewis, who publishes poetry as j.lewis, took a simple play on words (“surgical mass”) and created from it a poem that explored the metaphor. I liked the piece a lot, and James spent time talking through the poem with me in a “collaborative workshop” type discussion until we both felt it was ready for publication. The best part for me? The similarity of our names is no coincidence: Mr. Lewis is my dad.
Q. Do indie publishers have an edge on the big publishers?
A: The state of publishing is definitely changing, and indie publishers have the flexibility to keep up with those rapid changes and explore new paradigms. However, they also lack resources that serve to buffer them from missed guesses or risks that don’t pan out, and they often operate without the established reputation which earns the trust of independent authors. This means that the turnover rate of independent publishing groups is high, and the profit margins are low.
I think we’ll be seeing a continued coexistence—sometimes symbiotic, sometimes uncomfortable—between big publishers, independent publishers, and self-published work for the near future.
Q: Plans for volume II?
A: As we move forward, we’re excited to bring back some of the authors we met in Volume I and establish a core of regular contributors. We’ve also brought on new published authors like Brandon Tietz and fresh talent like Ellen Denton. As always, we’re looking for good stories and good writing, regardless of the submitter’s experience.
We’re also following the success of our first quarterly writing contest with Contest Two—guidelines and awards have been posted at http://sparkanthology.org/contests/two/. The list of judges will be announced later this month. One of the big changes we made is that we no longer exclude previously-accepted authors or winners from the contest; since entries are blind, we already provide a level enough playing field. The only exclusions we’re making are for judges and their immediate families; they will continue to be ineligible.
Of course, the most exciting news is that Spark is continuing at all—the support and enthusiasm around Volume I has been invigorating and validates all of the hard work the authors, poets, and volunteers have done! Having set this solid foundation, I expect to be able to provide even better opportunities for writers in a year’s time, and that really excites me.