Category: Special Features 2023

Some Questions for Alexandra Rivera

What inspired you to write “A Promise Goes Both Ways”?

I wrote “A Promise Goes Both Ways” for my introduction to creative writing course after being prompted to create a flash fiction piece. “A Promise Goes Both Ways” was inspired by the numerous post-apocalyptic stories that exist in the media. I love seeing supernatural elements in media, but although zombies (currently) do not exist and therefore there are no facts/laws to them, I hate seeing interpretations of zombies done the exact same way every time. When watching shows and playing video games that feature zombies, I always wonder about the people who are turned into creatures and if there’s any sentience after they turn. I wanted to explore that in my piece while also writing a story about love and morality.

What was your writing process like for this piece?

I only had a few days to write this piece for my class, and I spent most of it debating on how the story should even go. I originally wanted to write a simple story that comes off as an excerpt from a much larger piece with some foreshadowing of a bad ending for the two lovers, never actually confirming their fate and leaving it to interpretation. Also, I was going to make our narrator, Hannah, the survivor of the two, meaning she would betray Sam. Ultimately, I gravitate towards creating pieces with sad endings (which I didn’t expect since I hate reading stories with sad endings), and I chose to write the version of my story that I knew would be the most gut-wrenching and impactful.

Read Alexandra’s flash fiction, “A Promise Goes Both Ways.”


Some Questions for Victoria Segarra

What inspired you to write “Ode to a Strange Planet”?

I actually wrote “Ode To A Strange Planet” as an assignment for a creative writing course I took last year at LaGuardia. We had to write an ode and I decided to write an ode to my body. I had always had a very difficult relationship with my body and lacked a lot of confidence, but about two years ago I began my self-love journey. This poem is almost an apology to myself for not recognizing my beauty after all this time.

What was your writing process like for this piece?

I wanted to write an ode to something that I didn’t always think was beautiful. The idea to write about my body came from a recent boost in self confidence that I got once classes were in-person again. I had started dressing nicer and actually felt beautiful for the first time in my entire life. I thought of nature and how nature has this rugged and raw beauty about it. It’s not perfect and it’s not symmetrical but it’s still gorgeous. I decided to talk about my body as if it were a planet with its own natural wonders like Earth because my body is a natural wonder in and of itself. All of our bodies are natural wonders.

Read Victoria’s poem “Ode to a Strange Planet.”


Some Questions for Kaylin Rivera

What inspired you to write “Era Death”?

“Era Death” was something that I randomly thought of. We’ve seen the idea of writing letters to your child self and letting them know you’ve succeeded or are cooler now, etc. However I feel like during my teen years I had different ‘eras’ of myself. And during those moments I thought I was the evolved version of myself. I kept trying to bury those past versions of myself on top of a new self. I realized that I can’t really ignore the past versions of myself. I can recognize them, ‘kill’ their existence and learn from them to continue evolving. The whole point of Era Death was to face the not so appealing parts of myself so I can make room for the new me every time I evolve.

What was your writing process like for this piece?

My writing process was a bit underwhelming. I literally just wrote! My brain felt like a wet sponge dripping with ideas and as I wrote, my brain sponge dried out and suddenly Era Death was there. I will say as I wrote I had to think of my past memories and that was hard from time to time, but I’m glad I reflected because I learned a lot about myself during the process.

Read Kaylin’s piece “Era Death.” 


Some Questions for Robbie Atienza

What was your writing process like for this piece?

In my creative writing course last semester, I was tasked with writing a flash fiction piece. I took that opportunity to write a horror story because I had never written one before and thought it would be fun. I started out with an idea that I thought was scary and paranoia-inducing: “What if your house was broken into but nothing was taken?”

I went through a bunch of iterations before landing on my final story. Initially, I was going to have the narrator discover that someone had buried a body inside her house but I kept coming up with questions that poked holes in that idea: Why would someone go through the trouble of burying a body in someone’s home? Isn’t that unnecessarily risky and inconvenient? Why not just bury it in the woods or something? The more I thought about that idea, the less I liked it. I then played around with the idea of a Stranger Things-like portal hidden in the basement and someone breaking into the home to access it. I didn’t care for that idea either. I later came across a picture of an internet urban legend called “The Hat Man,” a spooky, shadowy figure with a brimmed hat. I thought the concept was interesting and retooled it to become the monster of my story.

With Stephen King being one of your inspirations, were there any techniques of his that were used in this piece? Did you read or watch any other horror pieces to gain inspiration for this piece?

I’m a huge Stephen King fan and what stands out to me in his writing is his word choice. For all genres, but for horror especially, using precise, descriptive language to create imagery in the reader’s mind is very important if you want your work to be effective. Pacing is also important for horror. If things happen too slowly, the reader will get bored. You don’t want things to happen too quickly, either, because the reader will just get desensitized to the parts that are supposed to scare them. Varying the structure and lengths of your sentences will help with pacing too. When you write horror, it’s critical to build up tension and then release it at just the right moment.

Beyond Stephen King, I also took inspiration from the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I think that story does an excellent job of putting you in the narrator’s shoes as she questions her own sanity and slowly descends into madness. I also love the claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere that story has and tried my best to emulate it in my own story.

Read Robbie’s short story “Mine.”


Some Questions for Matthew Pacuruco

How did you begin this piece? Did the poem take a sudden turn that even you didn’t expect while writing?

I began this piece during the early beginnings of the pandemic. Being enclosed and tightened in my room, I have felt depressed and started becoming quieter and overwhelmed with everything around me. In which, inspired my poem “Cold Show” to be more focused on mental illness or any of its kind itself. As for the poem, it didn’t take a sudden turn in any way as it is how I had expected it to be. The spike in mental illness and the media as society, I brought these two and played around with them until I found a profound ending in my poem.

What made you think of this specific office type setting?

To be honest, I just popped in my head to have an office building as the main setting. To be fair, I have thought about enclosed settings while thinking about it. But, an office building, in my own interpretation, represents an isolated closure to yourself to think and imagine possibilities that you could’ve done before you got in here in the first place While depression and anxiety sparks overtime for sitting and slouching most of the time, I feel like an office building is also to reflect and, despite our low self esteem, along the way we’ll find a hint of satisfaction in our work lives.

Read Matthew’s poem “Cold Show.”


I Pledge Allegiance

by Dom Glover

[after Danez Smith]


You remember how
in school they used to make us recite the Pledge of Allegiance?
Each morning our young undeveloped overstimulated selves
would be giddier than a motherfucker to announce our undying devotion
to a country that couldn’t give a fuck less about people that look like me
But what if I made a more properly fitting rendition?
One that more accurately describes what I call home
It would go a little something like this

I pledge allegiance
To those working two jobs to only barely afford that month’s rent
To those who sacrifice food in their belly to be able to put it on the table
To those too tired to function yet find the strength to do it anyway
To those who make instead of break

I pledge allegiance
To the ones fighting invisible battles
To the ones who feel they’re forced to live in the shadows
To the anxiety and ADHD gone undiagnosed
To those who feel like closure is nowhere close

And I pledge allegiance
To those who sit in remedial classes, dreams of Howard undeterred
To those who would be eye-level with Yao Ming if they stand on their student loan money
To those who use education to avoid being another statistic

I also pledge allegiance
To the aspiring rappers only getting 27 plays per song on Soundcloud
To the drivers blaring bachata music out of their cars so loudly
it would make Jesus bust a move
To the congregations of hookah smokers and dice rollers right outside of a barbershop
And, yes,
to the $20 shape-ups that’ll have a brother feeling like Michael B. Jordan for the next 2 weeks

I, of course, have to pledge allegiance
To the single mothers
The fathers that actually do stick around
The young child watching LeBron drop 30
A gleam in his eye, inspired to reach for the sky

I pledge allegiance
To the basketball courts with conspicuously missing nets
To the full-court 5-on-5’s like it’s game 7 of the Finals
To the Nike apparel adorning our outfit
To the “yo check up”, “AND ONEEEEEE” and eventually, the “ayo run that back bro”

And I pledge allegiance
to the box of fried chicken wings for $6
The bodega on every corner
The manager that roams around, licking his paw
And to the ock, ready to whip me up a baconegg&cheese on a roll, salt pepper ketchup

I pledge allegiance
To the Nike tech sweatsuits
To the Yankee fitteds and North Face windbreaker
An Ethika logo can be seen along the waistband
While a fresh pair of Jordan’s complete the fit

I even pledge allegiance
To A-Boogie, Lil TJay, the drill scene, and yes, Ice Spice
To 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, that’s my MoMA
To our dance moves, ayeeee ayeeeeee as we get sturdy
To the one and only Big Woo, you cannot say Pop and forget the Smoke

Now that is my nation
With liberty
We’re still trying to get justice for all

Listen to Dom Glover read his poem “I Pledge Allegiance” here:

Dom Glover was born and raised in the Bronx. Dom has always had an affinity for storytelling. One of his favorite pastimes during his formative years was drifting away into his notebook, writing fictional tales about cartoons and pro wrestling that served as exercise for his creative muscles. Eventually, he was able to channel that into making music, a career which is still only just beginning. Dom’s biggest strength is his vibrant personality and sense of humor which shines through in his creative works. It’s clear that he has a lot to say, and his mission is to spread his message worldwide. Follow him on Instagram @domglover.ny, on Twitter @DomGloverNY, or on TikTok @domglover.ny. 

Image Credit: “BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTEST, JUNE 2, 2020. (BROOKLYN, NEW YORK),” by Andrea Murguia Dajbura, The Lit 2022.


Childhood Fragments

by Favi Olmedo

Chaotic mornings. Shoes scattered across the living room floor.
Missing hairbrush, untamable bedhead.

Blurting things out at random times.
At the wrong times.

Being carried
after a bath,
to bed,
just because.

Rubbing lotion on the dog for fun.
Getting caught, acting scandalized.

Falling onto the train tracks
a recurring nightmare.
Mom’s hands, calloused but warm.

Eternal nights, full of possibilities.
Yearning. For nothing. For everything.


Listen to Favi Olmedo read her poem “Childhood Fragments” —

Favi Olmedo is a 17-year-old, first-year student at LaGuardia Community College. She is majoring in veterinary technology. She writes mostly for pleasure and is especially fond of writing poems, which sometimes draw upon her personal experiences and other times are a mix of the world around her.

Image Credit: “Empty Childhood,” Chris Bellerophon Dotson, Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0.