Several years ago I saw a posting about Spark on the Maryland Writers Association discussion board. It sounded intriguing, so I checked out the website and first took part in the project in October 2009. My first partner was Sally Duback, who is a brilliant painter. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but the experience was amazing. After that, I was hooked and have participated in many rounds since then as both a writer and an artist.

The magic of the Spark experience lies with the inspiration pieces. The piece provided isn’t a static writing prompt but rather serves to inspire you as a writer or an artist. As the working period comes to a close, aside from often feeling frantic to make it “just right,” I have always found myself excited to see what my piece inspired someone else to produce. So many times I have come away honored by my partners’ thoughtful response pieces.

I’ve found that Spark also produces the unexpected. In the most recent round, I participated with Uma Gowrishankar. Her inspiration piece reminded me of my Floridian family and our roots there. I began to research parts of old Key West. As I crafted my story, I also researched parts of my own family history and wove them into the story itself. Had I not participated in this round of Spark and been given this piece, I don’t know if I would have uncovered that part of my history.

Over the last couple of years I have been working on my book, The Missing Pages of the Parent Handbook, which is based on interviews I conducted with parents across the country. As enriching an experience as that has been, participating in Spark lights a totally different creative response from me. Being assigned a random partner, a previously unknown inspiration piece, and a deadline forces me to think creatively—but with tight time constraints. While it can be hard for me to submit something that I don’t feel is fully complete, I know it is good for me to step out of my perfectionist self on occasion. I’m truly grateful to Amy Souza for putting together Spark. Over the years I have been extremely fortunate to meet and interact with some wonderful artists and writers. It is my sincere hope that the project continues for many years to come.