All posts by Erika Raskin

You Are Here by Erika Raskin

Photo of confusing map of parking garage

I’ve written previously about missing a sense of direction and thought an update might be warranted: It still sucks. Recently, when I was taking my ups driving my brother to chemo appointments in DC (where I haven’t lived since 1982) I asked which way to turn to get into the hospital parking lot. ‘I told you yesterday,’ he said. ‘And, what, you can only tell me once?’ He instructed me to take a left. Grudgingly. Then I’m pretty sure he called me ‘hazy’ under his breath. I stopped myself from reaching over and pinching him … Continue reading You Are Here by Erika Raskin

Butter Moon by Lydia Gwyn

Photo of man in spotlight

  The full moon is bright yellow tonight. She watches it rise above the tree line as she drives, rising above the high school building, the water tower. She knows all the months’ moons have names but can’t remember the name for December. It’s not strawberry or harvest or salmon. She thinks it may be ice. An ice moon, but it looks more like a butter moon. A solid, creamy pat in the sky. When she gets to Shadrack’s Land of Lights, she can still see the moon, though lights are everywhere as promised. There … Continue reading Butter Moon by Lydia Gwyn

Second Marriage by E. K. Riley

Black and white photo of picture on ground

    She kept track of what belonged to her and what belonged to him. She felt guilty, but also compelled. The silver coffee spoons were hers, a family heirloom and dormant in a back drawer since she didn’t throw those kinds of parties anymore. The spinning top collection that reminded him of a similar basket from his childhood were his. The vintage bomber jacket mixed in among the coats, the one that still smelled faintly of club cigarettes and highway exhaust, that was hers. The white plates, chipped with use, and the ceramic mugs … Continue reading Second Marriage by E. K. Riley

A Map Of Her Mind By Benjamin Roque

Photo of someone getting a facial wrap

Suddenly Emery stopped walking. He just stood there, a still-life in the afternoon, on a busy sidewalk. The crowd parted around him—one businessman swore into his cellphone as he sidestepped past. The sun burned between buildings, a theater and a bank. Broken glass, trodden into pebbles on the concrete sidewalk, reflected brightly. Someone tossed a coin Emery lost in the sunlight. The ring when it hit the ground revealed it to be a bottle cap. Emery touched his mostly gray swirl of beard and sat down on the sidewalk, his back against the brick facade. … Continue reading A Map Of Her Mind By Benjamin Roque

The Closet Full of Darlings by Erika Raskin

Photo of person against long row of shelved boxes

Lots of people have gotten credit for the literary adage advising writers to kill their darlings. In fact it was Arthur Quiller-Couch. I think. Anyway, the exhortation is important because it acknowledges how scribes sometimes become overly attached to “ornaments” of their own creation. As your piece evolves, plot twists and descriptions may no longer serve you. Characters, too, may overstay their welcome. Even really, really good ones. (Move along. Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?) The positive news is that when you cut something from your current work, you don’t have to actually vaporize … Continue reading The Closet Full of Darlings by Erika Raskin

Joshua Number Eight by E. Hume Covey

Photo of old yellow bus

    If you could sit totally still for long enough on the big rock by the sycamore, the catfish would peek out tentatively from the hollow underneath and then would move out, browsing along the bottom. A few minutes later, the ribbon snakes would slither down the honeysuckle, gliding back and forth across the pool with their heads raised barely above the surface. This time a gray watersnake had joined them, below the kingfisher’s perch, half in the water and half in the patch of jewelweed, near where the lone trout lurked  in the … Continue reading Joshua Number Eight by E. Hume Covey

The Cat Goddess of Apartment 15B by Alex Barr

Photo of figure in hoodie, face obscured, crouched down

The back of Bill’s neck smells for some reason of peach and is delightfully warm to my lips. He murmurs something I don’t catch but sounds like a note of appreciation. I turn my attention to the tangles of his hair, scented with some fairly pleasant chemical with overtones of coconut. He makes no further comment but squeezes back into my embrace, warm inside his thick toweling bathrobe. I’ve caught him on the landing. The sun streams in through the roof light as if the gods are pouring honey. “What time is it?” he asks. … Continue reading The Cat Goddess of Apartment 15B by Alex Barr

The Importance Of Interior Design In Writing by Erika Raskin


The way someone curates their personal space conveys who they are. For a writer, that’s hugely important. “Show, don’t tell” is a guiding principle of effective storytelling. To wit: the oft-repeated movie scene featuring a wiseass sidekick walking into the leading man’s apartment, lousy with unpacked boxes, and saying, “Love what you’ve done with the place.” The old saw is employed because decorating—or its opposite—carries a lot of information. If you’re writing a character, ask yourself if the character’s home is consistent with other aspects of the personality you are trying to impart. As a … Continue reading The Importance Of Interior Design In Writing by Erika Raskin

Waterfall by Jo Riglar

Photo of waterfall with rainbow through it

  Jo Riglar is the 3rd place winner of Streetlight‘s Flash Fiction Contest I reached the waterfall as the rain started. Little vicious drops. A breeze bothered the trees. An angry dog in the distance. I rested on a flat rock, no moss, but cold and damp under my thighs. A summer sun was thwarted in its mission by the grey of the clouds. When I was a child I used to chase clouds, sat in a light chair and raising my face in worship. I remembered that now. It was a hopeless enterprise. ‘Nice day … Continue reading Waterfall by Jo Riglar

Sinking by Deborah Prum

Photo of hands sticking up through water
Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash

I attended a state university that required you to pass a swim test to graduate. I will not mention the name of the institution because I’m about to malign them.

When the orientation materials arrived by snail mail, included in the package was an inquiry about whether I could swim. I could not swim. The thought of getting into a pool terrified me. I grew up in a city apartment surrounded by a sea of asphalt and concrete. We had no access to water for recreational purposes, not even a leaky fire hydrant. As a child, I did not swim laps at the neighborhood pool. As a child, I got my exercise running away from my combative companions at Smalley Elementary School.

I crafted a vague response to that swimming form which I hoped would lead them to believe I could swim. I assumed they’d take me at my word; to be precise, take me at my ambiguous words.

When I arrived at orientation, I received an invitation to come at the gym for swim test. The letter had a Mafia-like tone to it, succinctly stating that this was an offer I could not refuse.

On the way to the gym, I engaged in magical thinking: Dogs can doggy paddle, right? Who teaches them? Nobody. I am smarter than a dog. Certainly, I can doggy paddle if I try hard enough.

About fifty women stood shivering in a line around the perimeter of the pool. That autumn morning, the maintenance folks must have thrown ice in the water especially for us. An older woman stood next to the diving board, clipboard in hand. She wore a white polo shirt and a gym skirt, which irritated me no end. Why wasn’t she in a bathing suit? She should be prepared for all emergencies.

I stood about tenth in line. The first nine girls walked down the diving board, dove in, then swam across the pool. Clearly, they hadn’t lied on their swimming form.

As I reached the end of the gang plank, my knees began to buckle. Who was I kidding?

I yelled, “I can’t swim. Don’t make me!”

That gym teacher did not care. Not one bit. The forty freezing women standing behind me also did not care. They shouted, “JUMP!”

I jumped and sank to the bottom. Even dead bodies float, but my bones must be made of lead. The instructor took her sweet time pulling me out.

Feeling wobbly, I staggered to the locker room where I saw a bright burst of light in the left corner of my vision, then passed out. Over the months, I passed out more times. A doctor determined my problem likely stemmed from the many head injuries I’d sustained as a child, due to both my ill-advised risk taking (another story) and my combative schoolmates.

You may wonder how the university responded. They didn’t say, “Bless your heart, child, we are sorry you’ve been through so much. Take a relaxing poetry course. On us.”

Instead, they grudgingly waived the swimming requirement and forced me, the shortest person in the entering class, to take fencing with a horde of tall, aggressively wild women who spent a semester in a tiny room chasing me around with large fake swords. That’s why I see a therapist to this day.

The moral of this story?

I agree with Walter Scott who said, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . . when first we practice to deceive.”

Deborah Prum

Deborah Prum’s non-fiction has appeared in The Washington Post, Southern Living and Ladies’ Home Journal, and Huffington Post. Her fiction has appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Across the Margin, McQueen’s Quinterly, The Virginia Writers Centennial Anthology, Sweetbay, and Streetlight Magazine. You can read her fiction and non-fiction writing at Prum’s radio essays have aired on NPR-member stations; here is an example of one. If you would like to hear a recording of SINKING, check out Prum’s blog at

Deborah Prum’s articles on writing have appeared in The Writer, The Writer’s Handbook, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Bulletin. She works as a developmental editor and teaches at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, Va.

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