All posts by Erika Raskin

The Cantor’s Window by Michael Cohen

Chess pieces on board
 

The old cantor and the new rabbi were to meet in the lunchroom behind the office wing of Congregation Beth Tzedek, the House of the Righteous. There was no empty office for the new rabbi, Jacob Kleck, to occupy, so the plan was to split the cantor’s office into two new but smaller rooms. It was unfortunate that only one of the new offices could possess the single window of the old room; the other would be windowless. The cantor intended to keep the window. For over four decades, Cantor Samuel Krakowski had shared his … Continue reading The Cantor’s Window by Michael Cohen

That Sketchy Area Known as Writer’s Block by Erika Raskin

Boarded up brick building
 

Sometimes trying to write is like playing Scrabble (old school—not virtual) and reaching into the bag for more letters only to have your fingers come up empty-handed. In fact, I’ve been racking my brain for blog topics for so long even my Facebook page has taken to castigating me. I’m pretty sure my disappointing search for ideas may have crossed over into Writer’s Block territory. For those who have never visited this particular geographical area, think ghost town in the middle of a super fund site—with a large population of large rodents. Recognizing the landmarks … Continue reading That Sketchy Area Known as Writer’s Block by Erika Raskin

The First Chapter by Charles J. Shields

Dirt blowing and darkening the sky
 

I wrote an entirely new Chapter 1 for the new edition of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee (Holt 2006; rev. 2016). The idea to open the biography at a low point in the her life, instead of during childhood was suggested by Garrison Keillor in a review of the first edition appearing in the New York Times ‘Sunday Book’ section: ‘If you were going to draw a movie from this book, you’d start on York Avenue in Manhattan on a cold winter night in the late 1950’s. Pages of manuscript fluttering out of an … Continue reading The First Chapter by Charles J. Shields

The Rock of Lost Hope by Bill Gaythwaite

Boulder on the beach
 

My father seemed well enough when I saw him, though he did remind me of someone who’d been woken up too quickly from a deep sleep and was trying really hard not to bump into any walls. I’m not sure how reliable my opinion was though, since I was only there for the weekend and was coming down with the flu or something by the time I got to the house. I felt feverish and sort of submerged most of the time and only felt better when I headed back to the city Sunday night. … Continue reading The Rock of Lost Hope by Bill Gaythwaite

Drive-Thru Angel by Lynne T. Pickett


 

Bonnie took a toothpick and dug at her fire-eaten scalp. Fifteen more minutes. Her mama always loved Bonnie’s red curls. “Just as sweet as the bluebirds singing in the oaks,” Mama would whisper to her. “God spun those curls out of fire with his little finger just for you, precious.” Maybe that’s why the perm solution and the hair dye burned so bad: Bonnie was trying her best to take on God’s job. In the past few years, her perfects curls had turned into frizzy wires and her flame-red hair diluted into a muddy rust. … Continue reading Drive-Thru Angel by Lynne T. Pickett

Ernestine Goes to Heaven by Susan Heeger


 

“Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” the actress Bette Davis famously said, and these words reeled through Muffin’s head as she crammed a pill pocket down the throat of her ancient basset hound. Ernestine was no sissy. Overweight, asthmatic, maybe a little depressed, the dog had the droopy-eyed mournfulness of Davis during the late “Baby Jane” phase of her career. Some of her teeth had fallen out. Her swaybacked body was knobbed with benign tumors the vet said were “evidence of her aging immune system.” She smelled musty, cheesy, like a Brooklyn deli on … Continue reading Ernestine Goes to Heaven by Susan Heeger

Best Intentions by Erika Raskin

Copy of novel on table
 

My second novel, Best Intentions, is a medical thriller that falls solidly between Write-What-You-Know, a form of untaxing research I heartily recommend, and Write-What-You-Worry-About, a selfless act of spreading alarm. (You’re welcome.) Shining a light on important issues while plucking details floating around my house to flesh them out was pretty much my dream project. As a doctor’s wife and a mother of a child with a serious illness, I’ve had an interesting vantage point from which to study our medical system. While I don’t claim to be an expert on the subjects I touch … Continue reading Best Intentions by Erika Raskin

Travelogue: Venice Biennale by John B. Ravenal


 

Once a decade, the European cities of Venice, Kassel, and Munster form a trifecta for the contemporary art world. There’s the every-two-year Biennale in that glorious jewel on the Adriatic. And a mammoth show every five years organized by an internationally-known curator that spreads throughout the mid-sized German city of Kassel. And every ten years, Munster—with its town center entirely rebuilt to its historic appearance after World War II—hosts an exhibition of new outdoor sculptures and installations. This was one of those years when all three coincided. Over the course of two weeks, I saw … Continue reading Travelogue: Venice Biennale by John B. Ravenal

Felled by Sharon Louise Howard


 

  “While you’re not doing anything—again, today,” Manda said, “you can get estimates on having that tree cut down.” Ben rolled over and propped himself against the mahogany headboard. He pushed a strand of gray hair off his forehead and watched Manda pick through a dozen or more perfume bottles that took up a quarter of her vanity. “Think you have enough of them?” She selected one and put it aside. “You tell me. One for every Christmas, birthday, and anniversary since you stopped using your imagination.” “Forgot Valentine’s Day.” Ben stretched and thought about … Continue reading Felled by Sharon Louise Howard

Monana! Or: A Writer Thinks About Language in the Age of Trump by Erika Raskin


 

When I was in college I took a child development class with a lab, complete with Osh Kosh B’Gosh clad tots. We studied how they picked up language to convey meaning. It was fascinating. I remember one experiment in particular. The little kids would be shown pictures of an action word–in present, future and past tense illustration: –See the clown? Soon the baby will laugh. –The baby is laughing now. –The baby laughed when the clown came over. Then the young subject would be shown a picture of somebody doing something random like touching a … Continue reading Monana! Or: A Writer Thinks About Language in the Age of Trump by Erika Raskin