Saturday, March 15, 2014

EDITOR INTERVIEW: Brian Lewis of "Spark: A Creative Anthology" Speaks About a New Contest, New Publication, & Writing

This marks the second installment where I look at quality publishers who support writers and the writing industry. Last month we had Grey Matter Press, who supports their writers through some serious marketing efforts (UPDATE: Grey Matter's books currently occupy 4 of the top 6 selling horror anthologies on Amazon). This month, we take a look at the Empire & Great Jones Creative Arts Foundation, a registered non-profit and publisher of fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and art.

I've had the pleasure of working with them on their series Spark: A Creative Anthology and a newly founded YA line entitled Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. My novella Dead Dog was featured in Spark Volume IV and will also be reprinted in the inaugural issue of Ember, something I'm very pleased about. I had written Dead Dog with the intention of creating a story people of all ages would enjoy. I kept the timeless voice of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes in the back of my mind while writing, and while my story fails miserably in meeting Bradbury's standard, I am happy to find that people of all ages are responding to it.

Anyway, I've witnessed first hand how Empire & Great Jones supports writers. Three things in particular have blown me away.

1: The editors of Spark personally respond to submissions - for a paying market (Spark is semi-pro), this is rare, especially for rejections. According to, Spark is ranked among the most personable fiction and poetry markets available. From a writer's POV, this is amazing. Most paying markets spew form rejections with the regularity and intensity of Old Faithful. And there's nothing worse than waiting six months or more for a response to a submitted manuscript only to receive a faceless rejection. Spark, on the other hand, tries to offer a constructive reason as to why something was rejected. With the right attitude, a personalized rejection can help a writer learn and grow immensely.

Consider the inverse: I recently waited 816 days for a response from Mixer Publishing, another semi-pro publisher. Every time I queried the status, the editor promised he would read it ASAP and respond. After months of being strung along in this manner, I gave up, ultimately receiving no response to my submission whatsoever. None, zero, zilch. That equates to a lot of wasted time on my part.

2: Recently, when receiving payment for Dead Dog, I was paid double--yes, that's right, double--the agreed upon sum. At first I thought it a mistake. But in the note attached to the payment, it was explained that fundraising efforts had allowed them to pay authors more for Spark: A Creative Anthology Volume IV. WHAT?!? Maybe this is the cynic in me, but I believe most publishers wouldn't do a thing like that. Not when I had already signed a contract agreeing to less. While this shouldn't be expected for all of their publications, it's certainly a good sign of intentions.

3: Contests. Paying contests. Paying contests that you don't have to pay to enter. Paying contests that are judged by accomplished members of the field that you don't have to pay to enter. This, sadly, is another rarity in the writing world. Too many publishers exploit authors in an effort to monetize their own underfunded business plans, using hopes, dreams, and promises of a big payday to lure writers in. These types use a lottery-like model when holding contests, and I'd like to think writers and publishers have higher standards than the lotto. (What has 6 balls and screws the unfortunate?)

Well, these guys do have higher standards and require no fee to enter. With judges like Ken Liu, Brad Torgersen, and Brittani Sonnenberg reading the entries, you'd be crazy not to enter.

There are many other reasons Empire & Great Jones deserves recognition, and we get into some of those things in the interview with owner/editor-in-chief Brian Lewis.

I'll start with an easy one: If you could be any anthropomorphic creature, what would you be?

Wait, that's the easy question?

Monday, March 10, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Road Through the Wall by Shirley Jackson (1948)

"I delight in what I fear." --Shirley Jackson

This book can be found on Amazon
According to Ruth Franklin's foreword, Shirley Jackson once told her daughter "the first book is the book you have to write to get back at your parents . . . Once you get that out of your way, you can start writing books."

Well . . . Boom! Shirley Jackson's parents, you have been served!!!

Jackson's first novel, The Road Through the Wall, does just that. This slice of weird literary fiction often comes across as an autobiographical stab at the way she was raised, consisting of themes that subtly resound through the rest of her career--social pressures, living as an outcast, the importance of raising children, etc. And boy do those themes stand up and smack you in the face in this book. Some fiction is character-driven, some plot-driven, some even seems driven by atmospheric effect. But The Road Through the Wall is a theme-driven locomotive.