Open Call: Plant Life

Stories, poems, essays, and art about the secret lives of plants and the people who live with them

Deadline: Tuesday, 15th November, 2022

Is there something strange about that person with a hundred house plants? Or something enviable? Plant collecting can be an eccentric addiction, but house plants and patio gardening kept many connected to nature during Covid lockdowns. A walk in the quiet forest can be rejuvenating. What do plant people know that others don’t? A time lapse video of a house plant shows instead a house pet. Electrical signals in a tree can play a beautiful symphony. Beds of seaweed and forests are the lungs of the planet. Vegetation is the ultimate source of all our food and all our oxygen. Plants have been on this planet for over 500 million years, the Amazon forest is over 10 million years old, and individual redwoods on the West Coast of America are over 4,000 years old—yet they are now facing more devastation every year. We and the trees share a common ancestor, but today we are more detached from plant life than ever. Plants enliven our window sills and sustain our lives; but what do they mean to us, and what do we mean to them?

The London Reader is issuing an open call for stories, poems, essays, and art about plant people, plants, nature, and our interconnected lives woven tight like roots. Longer stories should focus on people and their interactions with plants or nature; short works and poems can have plants as silent characters. Stories can touch on the natural world, urban plants, croplands, or house plants; succulent mommies and daddies or psychedelic plants and illegal harvests. Stories can be set in the present day or in a utopian or dystopian future with abundant or dying plant life. Submissions should show how characters like us are connected to plants and nature. 

Submit through the London Reader submission portal for this open call.

Possible Prompts:

  • Snapshot moments of a houseplant over its lifespan: a seedling a fresh couple purchase together, a sturdy stem growing among lively parties and heated arguments, and finally a withering plant in an empty flat following a breakup.
  • The intricate home-gardening routines gleaned from YouTube tutorials and TikToks get an isolated Millennial through their day.
  • Your personal anecdotes of looking after one dying houseplant after another.
  • A young couple join an alternative commune and learn about the gardening techniques for their weed crops.
  • Intimate relationships with succulents and houseplants is the only company a retired pensioner has.
  • The members of a gardening social media group plan an urban garden to provide food for their low-income community.
  • A man returns to the tree his father planted to find the same scrapes from his youth grown over in its bark.
  • Anarchists cycle around a sleeping city tossing seed-bombs into vacant lots left empty by developers.
  • An elderly monk tends to the hops and barley that are the prized ingredients in their old Monestary’s legendary ale.
  • The magical and medicinal herbs tended to by a wise woman die out or go wild as she is forced into exile from her mediaeval community.
  • A recent widower on a rural farm clinging to their routines with their crops for stability
  • A hiker lost alone in a forest holds onto a tree for support before bedding down into a lean-to amongst its roots as the twilight turns to dark.
  • A farmer packs the saplings of an apple tree their grandfather planted and all the belongings they can fit into a truck as they leave behind a farmstead and their crops catching fire from a devastating bushfire.
  • The routines and spiraling psychedelic inspiration that float out of a psychonaut’s closet mushroom farm.
  • A far-future space station left adrift following cataclysms on Earth relies on the work of a scientist gardener.
  • Snapshots of a houseplant as it’s moved from one box-room flat to another as its owner faces evictions during the cost of living crisis.
  • A tobacco lobbyist struggling with alcoholism and their amoral career leaves it all behind and goes off barefoot into the forest searching for something more.
  • The secret music plants play for each other as they communicate in deep bass notes across roots and trunks.
  • Ecologists discover the charred remains of the tall redwood forests following a devastating forest fire.  

How to submit: The London Reader submission portal.

This form requires a Google account. If you cannot use the form, you can also submit by email. If you have any questions or difficulty submitting, email coordinator@LondonReader.uk

What to submit: Creative works can be stand-alone pieces or collections, but should generally be fewer than 6,000 words or no more than three poems per submission. Multiple submissions, simultaneous submissions, and previously published submissions are welcome. Artwork should be favourably viewed on a tablet or single A5 page.

The deadline for submitting on this theme is Tuesday, 15th November, 2022.