The critics all agree – PLEASE CRY is ‘compelling’ and ‘excellent’

The above over-wrought headline above is true. All the critics (both of them) who have read Please Cry have lavished praise on it.

Here’s what the first one said:

This is an important and interesting topic. Medical ethics are changing as technology changes, and this is a great look into a particular situation. It’s an interesting story of the author and his wife.
The pacing was well done. You shift time from the present situation in the hospital back to meeting Miri, the jobs you have along the way, your feelings about yourself and women and later, your future child. It was all very interesting with variety to keep the reader wanting to know more.thumbs up
The narrator’s voice is honest, and we get to know him as a fully fleshed out human being with strengths and weaknesses and emotions. Your voice is consistent throughout. I really enjoyed living in your world for a little while. I enjoyed how you describe yourself physically—your height, for example—and how you feel about it, and measured women by their height. That kind of detail really helps the reader get to know the narrator. And one more example of great writing on page 14: “That word, miscarriage, fell out of my mouth like a heavy rock.” Well done.
Other Characters:
Miri is a fully fleshed character. We get to meet her when the narrator meets her. She’s singing in church with her mother. That tells us volumes about her character. And later, when she’s in the hospital, she gives advice on how to keep a dog from barking. We learn about her caring character, her work with animals, and of course her love and patience for her husband and future baby. Even brief characters are distinctive and described well. Page 25: This man was older, with gray hair . . . he had a grandfatherly sadness about his face—I could see him picking up his sick grandchild at school with that face.” In just a brief sentence we got to know something important about this doctor. You do this throughout the story with the people we meet along the way.
Dialogue, Narrative, and Exposition:
There is some really excellent writing in this book, and the writing got better and better as the book progressed. Some examples of great writing: page 23, when the author asks the nurse if he can bring a wheelchair for his wife “She looked at me as if I had brought a beer keg and a box of knives to kindergarten.” Very funny. Another great example on the same page: “She looked like a first-grade teacher, with long dark brown hair and a warm face that seemed to be ready to praise a badly drawn butterfly.”  And on page 25: “He introduced me to Orthodoxy back in college, this strange religion with lots of standing, singing, kissing and men dressed like Byzantine emperors making smoke.” What an awesome description. Also on page 25 you mention a near death experience that made you take religion more seriously. I really wanted to read more about that.

There was also some redundancy early in the piece. On page 4 you write about children growing up with lions everywhere, then just a couple of paragraphs later say the same thing again. “Lions? Why am worried about lions.” We have to trust the reader to get the idea the first time, and not hit them over the head with it.

Back to the great writing — page 10. The entire paragraph that begins: “Miri let out a gasp and a cry as if she had broken a bone.” You go on to describe your thoughts, and your feelings about your thoughts. You had been making mental plans of the upcoming summer if the baby didn’t survive. This is very well written, but also lets the reader know you’re human. Really excellent writing.
Setting and Scene:
There are a lot of scenes in these first 28 pages, and you do a great job of describing them in a way that makes us feel like we’re there in time and place. Example from page 8: “If you didn’t know this was a hospital, you might think Swedish Issaquah was an alpine resort.” Clever use of using the web description to show us the place, but also how the hospital wants the public to feel about the place. Other scenes are similarly well described. The church scenes, for example, including where you first meet Miri, and later, on page 6, where you describe the church service for Pascha. All the scenes came alive for me. Good descriptions, bringing in a variety of senses.
Very well written with only one or two minor typos (example, page 14 “He me to get to the emergency room . . .”
The medical facts are an important part of this story, and the facts are clear. Examples include the description of the ultrasound, including the reaction of the technician when Miri tells her she was having cramps. Later, the cervix is dilated 3 centimeters. In the synopsis, the decision to have a feeding tube installed. Also the descriptions of the religion and churches and practices were all clear.
These next two questions are intended to reflect editor/agent’s way of thinking.:
Do you think this would appeal to the intended audience?
I think there is an audience who would be very interested in this book.
Would you read more, based on the current version of the submission?
I would read more, but primarily my interest is in the author and his wife and baby. And I want to learn more about that near death experience.

And then here’s what the second one said:

The subject is original and compelling. What would any of us do, if our child was so premature? And we learn how difficult it is for both the parents, and the medical people who are looked to for advice.
The story is also enriched with the lore we taught about the Orthodox church.
Pacing is very consistent. Shortening paragraphs might add variety, increase momentum, and eliminate the monotony of the long paragraphs. Despite that, the reader is still pulled onward while reading, wanting to know what happens next.
The narrator’s point of view is consistent and appropriate. He comes across as a good, kind person, whose voice is true and believable.
Other Characters:
Miri also appears to be a sweet person, kind and compassionate. I wanted her to be all right.

Dialogue, Narrative, and Exposition:
There could be more dialogue. It would help readers to understand what Miri was thinking. The dialogue on page 14, when Miri is talking about shock collars for dogs, is perfect.
Some of the description, as of Miri singing in church, is elegantly beautiful, as is the detail about her leather jacket.
The passage on guilt on page 24 is beautifully written.
At times, the narration and description get in the way of the story, and slow down the action, as on page 9. Too much description can sound like exposition, and in such a personal story, so emotionally laden, exposition interferes with the story.
I was confused on page 13. Did a doctor come in, or was the narrator imagining that happening? Reading onward, apparently “one doctor” did come in. Perhaps that should be worded better.
Setting and Scene:
Most of the settings come through clearly, but more description might help us engage with the story.
The mood is anxious and fearful, as it should be, and that charges the atmosphere of the piece.
The author might consider breaking up his paragraphs. This would add variety and keep the narration from reading like an info dump. There are missing commas throughout the story.
It was believable, and the medical explanations supported the events.
These next two questions are intended to reflect editor/agent’s way of thinking.:

Do you think this would appeal to the intended audience:
Once this is edited a bit, it should appeal to many people; those who have lived through the experience, and those who have a strong faith.
Would you read more, based on the current version of the submission?
I would love to read the rest, especially after editing for commas and paragraph length.
Additional comments about the submission can be made here.:
About 18-19 [pages in, the paragraphs are shorter, and it feels as though there is more action. You might use those pages as examples for the rest of the story.
I love that you mention “Firefly.”
There is so much that is beautiful in this story. Please continue with it.

Ok, now for the more honest version of where these reviews came from

I entered the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary contest a few months ago in the “nonfiction/memoir” category. The rules had me submit the first 28 pages of my unpublished memoir. These reviews were sent to the writers last weekend, but we still have to wait a little while to find out if we have won anything. So I am taking advantage of all the lovely adjectives in these reviews (excellent, beautiful, great writing) to trumpet about how great my writing is right now, before I would have to admit that (heaven forbid) I didn’t take first. But if I do take first, I’d win $600, most of which would get spent on the $500 registration to the summer conference at which the award is given. But, it would get my manuscript some distinction and visibility, which would be very, very helpful as trying to get an agent’s attention makes you feel like a bug circling a porch light in the summer.

Oh, and you might notice that I haven’t identified the critics. That’s because the contest rules say they won’t tell you who it was who actually read your stuff. Like, never, not even if you sue them. But the headline’s true — all the critics love it!


2 thoughts on “The critics all agree – PLEASE CRY is ‘compelling’ and ‘excellent’

  1. Pingback: They don't cry

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