If you are interested in contributing to a future volume of Spark, we ask you to read through these guidelines before doing so. The guidelines address the Editorial Collective’s perspectives on submissions and the double-blind peer-review process, as well as providing practical guidelines for submission formatting and style.
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At least since Richard Delgado’s 1984 article, “The Imperial Scholar: Reflections on a Review of Civil Rights Literature,” critical race theorists have argued against non-inclusive citation practices, with special consideration to scholarship regarding actions or works by people of color. Inequitable citation practices are not uncommon in writing, rhetoric, and literacy studies. All too often these practices serve as a systematic gatekeeping mechanism in peer-reviewed journals. In academe, scholarly citation practices demand that one define their research in conversation with “established” scholars and their research frames. Even when one disagrees with or finds these theoretical frames irrelevant, the politics of citation demand that we position our work in relation to those “established” scholars. These practices extend beyond citation into peer review and editing as review and editorial boards reinforce the dominance of these “established” scholars by pushing contributors to cite specific works or rejecting a manuscript when the author does not. Because of exclusionary practices across higher education institutions, academic research has historically favored tenured and tenure-track scholars who work at research-intensive institutions, and scholars who are often a combination of middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, and/or male.
Furthermore, the exclusivity of a journal and the number of citations that one’s work garners sometimes become fodder for tenure and promotion committees and merit pay decisions by administrators. Exclusivity serves as the bedrock for academic research as an industry. With this history and the economic underpinnings in mind, we ask that contributors be conscious of who you cite and who your reference pages overlook, not simply because it might mean that your are being inclusive, but because it means that you are critically engaging with the politics of citation, peer review, and editing. Citation, peer review, and editing are political.
We invite submissions from activists in all “ranks” of writing, rhetoric, and literacy studies and adjacent areas of inquiry–from non-academics, to undergraduate and graduate students, to teachers and faculty members off or on tenure lines located in various institutions (e.g., p-12 schools, 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities, etc.). We also seek submissions that move beyond traditional academic articles. To that end, we invite submissions that fit into the following “genres,” which are drawn from zine culture and popular magazines/blogs:
Extended essays & discussions
An extended essay or discussion piece would detail a project, its tactics, or a political moment in a 2000-3000 word piece that might take the shape of a conversation between activists or a reflective essay about a particular experience. These pieces are different from interviews or scene reports in that we encourage authors to connect their activism to scholarship, reflect on emerging trends and new directions for their work, or offer interventions into current conversations and/or activist movements.
A scene report should do one of two things: either it provides a broad overview of local events (e.g., teach-ins, rallies, marches, etc.) and addresses the different organizations involved in these events, or it provides a detailed description of one event. In either case, you should position yourself in relation to the event(s) by addressing how you contributed and/or participated. These reports could include photos from the events or documents used to organize them. Note that you do not need to submit a page design. Scene reports should be limited to approximately 2500 words.
We encourage interviews with activists and organizers that address questions about local work, particularly how and why local events were organized, issues the organizers faced and how they overcame those issues, public response to the events, etc. Interviews may be submitted as print or video. They should be limited to approximately 1500 words, if submitted in print.
We invite 2000-word columns that address key terms or concepts related to activism and organizing. Columns are an ideal space to review current events or movements, offer “explainers” about a movement, or summarize how activist trends work within rhetoric, literacy, and writing studies pursuits.
Media reviews can include books, films, records, etc. We are interested in publishing reviews of scholarly and popular texts that address different aspects of or issues related to activism and organizing. Reviews should be limited to 800-1200 words.
We invite submissions that address different tools used in your organizing and activist work. Such submissions might address how you use specific writing genres, web applications, street team tactics, canvassing tactics, etc., in your work. Tool reviews should be limited to approximately 1000-1500 words.
We also invite submissions that are “born digital,” that is to say work that involves multimodal composing and must be presented online to be experienced. These submissions might include, but are not limited to, podcasts, videos, photo essays, art, or downloadable resources.
Note: Word counts are general guidelines.
When considering submitting to Spark, please read through these guidelines and follow them as closely as possible when preparing your submission. We ask the contributors submit a .doc file with minimal formatting. If you include images or multimedia with your submission, please only list the placement for your assets in the body of the submission. Do not embed the files into your .doc. Include them as separate files. See the instructions for including media with your submission listed in the next section of this guide. Finally, please name your file using the first author’s last name and an abbreviated version of your title, e.g, Unger_LocatingQueerRhetorics.doc. All submissions should be sent as email attachments to the Managing Editors at 4C4Equality@gmail.com.
For the Spark Editorial Collective, accessibility guidelines reflect issues of inclusivity, and questions of why or how to make our journal accessible are connected to our overall mission. We understand that accessibility concerns and guidelines reflect questions about whose voices are valued and included and that contributor guidelines in all journals, academic or otherwise, establish the editors’ values. While many of our guidelines reflect academic values and conventions (citation style and formatting, submission procedures, etc.), we’ve tried to explain whenever possible the purpose these guidelines serve in making the journal more inclusive.
In terms of logistics pertaining to accessibility, our policies attempt to reflect the extensive guidelines developed by the US General Services Administration (GSA) Section 508 guidelines for creating documents. Their accessibility guidelines serve all federal agencies, and for us, they provide an extensive, though not comprehensive, list of considerations and resources aimed at making our journal accessible. Still, we are always working toward increasing accessibility. If you have questions or concerns about issues of accessibility pertaining to the Spark website or materials, please contact the Managing Editors.
Figures, images & multimedia assets in submissions
Include captions and alt-tags with every image and embedded media asset (e.g., animated gif, map, chart, etc.) to provide a clear and concise description of the image and improve accessibility:
- Alt tags should describe the image
- Captions should explain the rhetorical use of the image.
All submissions that include audio or video multimedia files must also include transcripts. These transcripts need to include both visual descriptions and audio transcriptions. For guidelines on creating transcripts, see the GSA’s guidelines.
Upon acceptance, any text files or transcripts must be supplied to the Managing Editors as .doc files for archiving on our server. The Managing Editors will ensure that all .doc files are converted to PDFs with optical-character recognition (OCR).
Please name your files using the following convention: CorresponfingAuthor’sLastName_[Name of Media Asset]_Transcript.doc. Please be sure that your transcript name corresponds to the media asset’s file name, for example, For example, Lane_Video1_Transcript.doc would provide us with the transcript for Lane_Video_1.mpg.
Finally, all media assets must be created and used by creative commons license or with the creator’s permission.
Web design considerations
While we ask that contributors minimize the design work included in their submissions, we have designed the Spark website to be responsive to different devices–from personal computers to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. In considering accessible web design, we try to follow the guidelines provided by the WC3 Web Accessibility Initiative as closely as possible. The guidelines address issues related to site navigation, color contrast, interactive elements, and multimedia control and alternatives.
Contributors should use a modified version APA formatting. For information on APA formatting, see the Purdue OWL Guide. In terms of defining what we mean by modified APA style, we believe that standard APA style can erase one’s gender identity and possibly their ethnicity by excluding an author’s first name. To address this issue, please use the modifications listed below.
- Include the first names for all authors on the “References” page
- Use authors’ first names the first time that you reference then in the body of the submission.
All work published by Spark is anonymously peer reviewed by two peers in writing, rhetoric, and literacy studies unless otherwise noted.
In an attempt to provide contributors with some sense of what our reviewers look for in submissions, Spark is particularly interested in publishing work that reflects voices left out from most academic journals, and we seek to present such work with respect for the author’s language use, including word choice (e.g., “vernacular” spellings, pronoun use, etc.) and argumentative structure. We are interested in what it does for itself or how it makes space for itself and for readers who are located in various communities, and not simply in relation to what it brings to existing conversations or what it does for academics in writing, rhetoric, and literacy studies. We look for submissions that might resonate with readers in different communities connected, but not beholden to, these fields. Each piece submitted to Spark goes through a double-blind peer review process.
Delgado, Richard. (1984). The imperial scholar: Reflections on a review of civil rights literature. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 132(3) 561–78.