Letter From the Editor

Nikki Gonzalez

Let me be totally honest here.

I had two very different layout designs of this issue going simultaneously and it was all the way up to the release date that I waffled about which one I was going to finally select for publication.

Cravings and compulsions, compulsions and cravings.

I've thought about this theme for months now, reflected on what these words and these experiences mean to me. On the one hand, they are very real. Tangible. Our cravings and our compulsions are literal. They are lace and sprinkles. They are alcohol and cigarettes. They are the designer clothes and the love that got away. On the other hand, they are the intangible, too. Our desires and our needs swirl in a depth that is often inaccessible and incomprehensible. They are, in this sense, metaphorical.

In capturing cravings and compulsions metaphorically, I created a design of clouds and trees. The branches of the trees, bare of leaves, seemed to be symbolically reaching like strong, desperate, utterly needy fingers. The clouds a tempting soft-sweet. As it were, I first pondered the trees and clouds as such as I went running to clear my own mind of the compulsive thoughts that tempt and pull and scratch insistent. But, ultimately, going metaphorical seemed to belie the bravery that I boisterously laud the contributors for. These authors and artists took up a challenge that was meant to provoke, to poke at the shadowy spaces of the mind that aren't often given light simply because it's not easy to do so. They confronted this theme and all the aches and anxieties and self-doubts that go into it head-on; they put to their conscious mind the feelings and experiences that others protectively bury deep, let alone dare to share so openly. 

The brave writers and artists in these pages stood firm. And so I know: We need no metaphor here. There will be no beating around the bush. We are putting it on the table. All of us. Together.

My educational background and my day job, too, is in psychology. Picking themes such as 'Cravings & Compulsions', as well as the ones that came before it and the ones we have coming eagerly down the pike are natural amalgamations of my psychological mind and my love for writing. But they are hard. And so I hold tight with gratitude and awe the writers and artists that have joined me in this pursuit to create from rawness. This is true for the hundreds of people that submit their works to us and it is exponentially true for the ones that have returned, featured now in multiple issues. I hope they feel a sense of home here -- a place where their voices are respected, where they are loved unconditionally, and they have unwavering support not just from be but from each other. I am building a family here. A family of the most courageous and vastly talented people I encounter across the world. 

Speaking of vastly talented, I didn't need to search far for the artist who provided the work, "Rising From the Deep" for our Art-Inspired Contest for this issue. Joe Campbell is a photographer from my hometown of Highland Park, New Jersey but whose reach is far beyond. Submitters to the contest couldn't help but note in their cover letters how compelled they were to write after seeing the photo. Some were haunted by the image. Others felt awash in its colors. Serenity and anticipated dread, polar opposites though they may be, were both evoked in this art. Marion Horton's Nothingness and Sarah Elizabeth Gordon's Merlife were declared our winners. These two pieces represent a bit of that very dichotomy while also overlapping with palpable emotion.

Thank you for adventuring with us through these pages. I do hope you will feel at home in them.

Nikki Gonzalez


Sarah Gordon



Zach Murphy

The Dumps