Tag Archives: narrative poetry

Sulfurings: Current Needs

If you haven’t heard by now, Garden Gnome Publications is taking submissions for its second anthology in the Biblical Legends Anthology Series. The first anthology – Garden of Eden – has been on the shelf for almost two months. We’ll be taking submissions for Sulfurings until April 7, 2014 at midnight EST.

But what are we looking for, exactly?

Our official guidelines say we want narrative poetry, essays, flash fiction, and short stories, but we’d like to take this time to elaborate on those current needs. So here goes.

Narrative Poetry

Last week we discussed the difference between narrative poetry and lyric poetry. Since then, we’ve received at least a couple of palatable poems. But not all of them match our length guidelines.

The garden gnomes prefer longer poems, although the reason may not be clear.

Longer poems give the poet more opportunities to be creative with the theme. We think it may be prudent to drop the minimum line length, but we’d still like to see at least a couple of longer poems just for the sake of diversity. It takes a lot of chutzpah to pull off a long poem in the first place, so if you have what it takes, we’d love to see it.

More than length, however, what gets most poets is theme.

While we’re looking for poems that address the theme of the anthology, we prefer subtlety in this area. Tangential awareness, metaphor, indirect reference, and derivative expressions are encouraged.

In other words, instead of addressing the theme directly, we’d be more delighted if poets hinted at the theme through language and imagery. Readers should come away with a sense of mystery and intrigue, or perhaps scratching their heads. Remember, this is speculative fiction, er, poetry. Speculative narrative poetry. Whatever that means.

Speculative Essays

We’ve struggled with the proper term for what we’re looking for in this category. Simply calling them “essays” won’t do because we’re not expecting the typical expository writing that involves a thesis statement backed up by facts and logical analysis. We’re more concerned with taking the reader on a journey, a storytelling journey in a creative manner that doesn’t involve storytelling in a fictional sense.

The closest thing we can come up with in comparison is what journalists call a reported essay. One term is “creative nonfiction,” but that’s so vague it almost has no meaning.

Still, the term “reported essay” is problematic because it tends to be personal in nature with elements of reporting. There’s nothing wrong with that and if the garden gnomes received a reported essay that is worth publishing, well, we’ll publish it. But the subject matter of our anthologies might prove personal narratives in the form of reported essays a bit too challenging. Therefore, we prefer “speculative essay.”

A speculative essay can take any form as long as it isn’t fiction, however, it can use fictional techniques to tell a story and may even include elements of journalism or academic writing. The goal is to tell a compelling story that educates, informs, intrigues, entertains, raises questions, or some mix of the above.

Flash Fiction

The garden gnomes believe flash fiction has become popular enough that most people know what it is by now. Nevertheless, we’re looking for stories that are 300-1,500 words. Stories do not need to be linear or follow any particular narrative structure. In fact, they can be downright experimental (like this memorandum, for instance) as long as they adhere to the theme and address the speculative question posed by the garden gnomes.

Short Stories

It’s not hard to figure out what a short story is. Anything between 1,501 and 10,000 words with a beginning, a middle, and an end that tells a compelling story within the theme of the anthology and which addresses the speculative question posed by our call for submissions. We could use a few more of these for the Sulfurings anthology. We hope you’ll consider submitting your story by midnight EST on April 7, 2014.

We are also taking stories, flash fiction, speculative essays, and poems for the next anthology, Deluge.


We have not stated our needs on novelettes to date, but we’re open to receiving stories that address the theme of our anthologies up to 20,000 words. We have not decided what we’ll pay for these, but if you feel like you can address the speculative theme and tell a compelling novelette-length story, we’d like to see it.

So there you have it, straight from the garden gnomes. We hope this clarifies some of your questions. If not, feel free to query editor @ gardengnomepubs.com. If you are ready to submit your flash, essay, short story, poem, or novelette, please do so by reading our submission guidelines and sending your document to submissions @ gardengnomepubs.com.

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What Is A Narrative Poem?

By Allen Taylor

Chief Garden Gnome

Narrative poetry has fallen out of fashion. At one time, narrative poems were quite common. In fact, throughout much of history, poetry was used to tell a story much in the same way that fiction does today. Early literature was primarily written in verse or poetic form while still maintaining the elements of narrative.

So what constitutes a narrative poem as opposed to lyrical?

With lyrical poetry, the essence is wrapped up in the way the words fall together. The mode of expression is more important than the depiction of story. In fact, lyrical poetry may or may not tell a story at all. If it does, the mode of expression is at least equal in importance to the narrative if not more so.

By contrast, narrative poetry first and foremost tells a compelling story. Like good fiction – be it flash fiction, a short story, novelette or novella, or a full-fledged novel – it has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Central to its form is conflict, or tension.

That’s not to say that narrative poetry can’t contain lyrical elements. It most certainly can. A narrative poem can include any mode of expression common to any type of poetry. It can include elements of the avant-garde, surrealism, concrete poetry, rhyme and meter, typographical elements, various forms of alliteration, metaphor, irony, or any one of the other thousands of poetic elements in the poet’s bag of tricks. However, all of those elements must bow in service to the narrative itself and propel the action forward from rising action to the climax, the denouement, and the final line.

Narrative poems can be long or short as long as they tell a story. Very long narratives may rise to the status of epic as in the case of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, or they may simply be long narrative poems. On the other extreme, the could be as short as a Twitter poem.

They may or may not include characters, a plot, description and setting, or other elements of fiction. Or they may simply be constructed as dramatic monologues.

Narrative poetry is a flexible form. It has every bit of the same versatility as lyrical poetry with one primary ingredient that can’t and won’t be found in the latter – the story that begins, holds the reader’s attention through a narrative arc, and has a definite end that gives the reader a sense of satisfaction for having spent her time with the author. With all this going for it one must ask, why don’t poets write narrative poems any more?

The garden gnomes would like to invite you to submit a narrative poem to our next anthology, “Sulfurings.” Get more specific guidelines on all our Biblical Legends needs.

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Deadline Extension For The Garden Of Eden Anthology

Deadlines are necessary evils. On the one hand, they serve as closure for a project that, without a definite end in sight, could go on forever. On the other hand, they provide writers with the necessary motivation to get writing and to complete that project they’ve put on the back burner.

Recent events have encouraged me to re-consider the established deadline for the Garden of Eden anthology. That deadline was going to be tonight at midnight EST.

I put a lot of thought into that deadline. I gave writers four months to prepare for it, but because Garden Gnome Publications is still in its infancy, it’s unreasonable to expect that word has spread to all corners of the globe. The gnomes are humble enough to know that we haven’t even penetrated the first corner yet. But we’re hopeful.

Nevertheless, one writer pointed out that today’s deadline is right at the end of NaNoWriMo, so many writers are focused on kicking out their 50,000 word tomes. Believe me, we understand.

On another note, the gnomes have received some great entries, however, we feel like we could use a few more. Therefore, we’re extending the deadline to midnight EST on Tuesday, December 3, 2013. We hope this will give writers a chance to complete their NaNoWriMo novels and get us a few more submissions to offer readers of the first anthology.

What Kind Of Submissions We’re Looking For

I thought it might be beneficial to discuss what we’re actually hoping to achieve with this anthology. While we’ve received some excellent submissions so far, we have noticed that there is a bit of a disconnect between our hopes and some of the submissions we have received. Therefore, an elaboration is offered to help clear this misunderstanding up.

First, there is a reason we’ve dubbed our anthology series Biblical Legends Speculative Fiction Anthology Series. The idea is to use the Bible as a starting point for the imagination.

We are not necessarily interested in stories that lift up the Bible as the true Word of God, a necessary and inspired holy book, or the Truth. That said, we have no interest in dismissing stories that do so if those stories are good.

The “Biblical” in the name of the anthology series is simply a reference to a body of literature contained within the Bible. Our intent is to focus on stories and legends within the Bible that have an element of absurdity to them when viewed from an early 21st century perspective. Their truth or falsity is not our concern. What we want are stories that use the legendary tales themselves as a jumping off point.

We thought the Garden of Eden would be the perfect starting point – for a number of reasons.

  1. It is the first story, or legend, in the Bible where humans are the focal point.
  2. As legend, it is the genesis of the Bible’s overall story arc – at least where humanity is concerned.
  3. Thirdly, we just thought it would be fun.

The reason we’re calling the story anthologies “speculative fiction” is not as obvious as we initially thought. Speculative fiction is not an easy-to-define genre. It can include any number of fantastical elements that might include:

  • Science fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Weird elements
  • Supernatural elements
  • Utopian or dystopian story lines
  • Apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic tales
  • Superhero or superhuman characters
  • Alternate histories
  • And other miscellaneous oddities

Trust me, we’re interested in all of the above. Your only limitation as a writer is your imagination. We encourage you to go hog wild. We have imposed only one limitation – please, no Biblical characters.

Why No Biblical Characters?

Look at any submission guidelines and you’ll discover that there is always a reason behind them. Writers do not have to agree with those reasons. But if you want to get published, then it’s in your best interests to take note of those guidelines and follow them.

The garden gnomes decided to stipulate one restriction – no Biblical characters – for one simple reason: We want to encourage the speculative aspect of “speculative fiction.” It’s too easy to fall back on those old paradigms that have captured the human imagination for millennia.

There have been countless variants of the Adam and Eve story. While many of those are speculative, we believe they are overdone. It’s time for something new. We’re not interested in new takes on old paradigms. We want new paradigms. We want to take the stories that people are familiar with in new directions – myth and reality be damned. That is the essence of speculative fiction, in our view. “Make it new” is not just for poets and disciples of Ezra Pound.

From time to time, we may allow the inclusion of Biblical characters into a particular anthology. When so, it will be noted. Otherwise, we ask that writers do their best to honor this restriction.

The Garden of Eden’s Greatest Needs

We’d love to get more flash fiction and short stories. You can never have too many submissions to choose from. At least, we’re not so overwhelmed – yet – that we would change our minds on that point. But those are not our greatest needs.

In order for our vision to be most perfectly fulfilled, we’d like to see more narrative poems and essays submitted.

Narrative Poems

Narrative poems are hard to write. Believe me, we know this. But we want narrative poems, as opposed to lyrical poems, for one simple reason. They render more easily to the digital format.

Another reason we insist on narrative poems is because the anthologies are intended to be stories. Stories by definition are narratives. And we want longer narratives because our intent is to publish only one poem per anthology. We want it to be a good one.

In this day, there are few poets writing narrative poems. Most poetry is “free verse,” which is really prose with line breaks. So why not write prose?

While prose does not necessarily lend itself to narrative form, per se, we believe the two go hand in hand quite nicely. Therefore, we’re looking for long narrative poems in the range of 50 to 500 lines. But understand a few things about narrative poetry, specifically what it is and what it isn’t.

  • Narrative poetry does not necessarily exclude lyrical qualities. As an example, I’d like to point your attention to a narrative poem titled “On The Road Home” by yours truly. It was published in the November 2012 issue of Ygdrasil as the Post Scriptum. We encourage you to read this poem and take note of its many lyrical qualities, including many formal poetic elements, while remaining true to the narrative form.
  • Secondly, narrative poetry can be surreal or avant-garde. Here’s another narrative poem that includes many formal and free verse elements with some concrete poetry and avant-garde qualities, as well. Warning: It’s a long one. But notice how the poem moves through it’s narrative using visual elements, backward lines, indents, and odd elements that take the reader by surprise. I hesitate to use this as an example because many of the visual elements found on the web page could not be accomplished in an e-book, so this is not really what we’re looking for. It is an example, however, of how creative you can get with narrative poetry. For that, I’d say it’s well worth a read.
  • First and foremost, narrative poetry tells a story. That’s what we want: A story told through poetic elements on the digital page. Get creative, but please stay within our guidelines. No Biblical characters and no lyrical verses.

The two biggest mistakes we’ve seen so far with poems submitted for The Garden of Eden anthology are 1) the use of Adam, Eve, and the serpent and 2) poems being too short and lyrical in nature. These poems are automatically discarded and not considered. We really want your speculative narratives.


Essays pose a different challenge. We’ve had a couple of submissions for essays but nothing that has me excited – yet. I’m still looking for that one perfect essay.

We’re not necessarily looking for expository or academic writing. We use the term “essay” loosely. What we really want is creative nonfiction that says something interesting about the theme. Hear how Lee Gutkind defines the genre of creative nonfiction:

In some ways, creative nonfiction is like jazz—it’s a rich mix of flavors, ideas, and techniques, some of which are newly invented and others as old as writing itself. Creative nonfiction can be an essay, a journal article, a research paper, a memoir, or a poem; it can be personal or not, or it can be all of these.

What we’re looking for are thoughts, expressions, and personal writings that explore the theme in new ways or that give us a new take on the theme. If we received an “essay” about the Garden of Eden for our anthology which we believed was worthy of publishing, our hope would be that it would give us something to mull over and cause us to think differently about our lives. We don’t know what that means precisely, but we know what it doesn’t mean.

We want something creative, something imaginative, something outside the bounds of tradition. We want it well-written and thought-provoking. We want it to incorporate all elements of genre writing without falling neatly into any genre. If that makes any sense.

Can we tell you what we want? No. But we’ll know it when we see it. It’s up to you to help us realize it when it presents itself.

Our Final Invitation

Having said all of that (we apologize for the length), we’d like to send out one final invite to writers, poets, and creative essayists to send us your best work. Give us your take on the Garden of Eden theme, and please follow our general submission guidelines. We’re looking forward to seeing what forbidden fruit you have to offer.

As always, feel free to ask your questions in the comments.

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