Friday, November 29, 2013


GENRE: Literary Fiction

Sara, a school social worker, has a six-year-old patient she doesn’t know how to help. The problem isn’t that he’s stopped speaking; it’s that he thinks they can go find his dead mother and her dead father in a magical land in the sky. And even worse, he’s right.

Jake settled himself deeper into the cloud-nest of his bed, top-bunk, high and lofted, closer to the sky and the Stories. When mom came in, she would have to climb up the ladder to reach him, and he would have time to watch the darkness under her eyes crinkle up and break apart, and there would be humor and soft pillows to lean on instead of the edged cliffs her face had earthquaked into, ever since she started school. School and work and him and dad and church and still somehow the quiet spaces she needed to fit herself into, he knew, were too many things pushing together. It was like the tech tonal plates under the ground they’d talked about once in school, that made big earthquakes where houses scrunched up like people who are too cold, and roads flew up in the air, to the sky, to nowhere, toward the Stories. He didn’t like either kind of earthquake; he liked the windy open sky, the soft pillowed clouds, both here on the earth, and in the smooth light brown of her face. That’s where the Stories were.

There was a small sound at the door, and there she was. The light from the hallway framed a fuzzy arch around her big blue sweater, the one that hung all the way down to her knees and that dad said was ridiculous, but she wore every single night, and her head and her shortshort hair that looked just like his.


  1. The writing in this is just beautiful. There was a slight disconnect between the logline, which had Sara as the main character, and opening with Jake, but one I got past that I was engrossed by his unique and lyrical voice. I'd read more.

  2. Maybe leave off the "even worse, he's right" part of the log-line -- it blurs genre and undercuts the simple tragedy you've already laid out.

    I really enjoy Jake's voice when it's purely Jake's, but you intersperse narrative in the midst of his mind that tugs me out. Don't start sentences with "He" or "Jake" unless it's about an action he's taking.

    Instead of "He didn't like either kind of earthquakes..." try something along the lines of "Earthquakes were bad no matter what sort they were(but better because you're a very good writer)."

    Even so, I'd read on.

  3. I really like this - the writing style, voice and flow. From the logline, I'm a bit confused - is Jake the 6 year old? And if so, how did he become so introspective that he knows all this about his mother's busy life/schedule? I like it, but it doesn't feel like something a kid on a bunk bed would be thinking about when his mommy comes in to tuck him in.

    I would read on just to find out who really is talking - the kid or the narrator, and then, to see if this is just a particular writing style. But I don't know that I'm hooked enough to read from the logline. I'm not really into "and even worse, he's right."


  4. Like the other commenters above, after reading the logline, I am confused about who is speaking. I expected Sara and heard instead a young son, but one who seems older than 6. Maybe 9 or 10? I also wonder if the boy would know that “dad” thought the sweater was “ridiculous” and further, that he would understand what that implied. As others have mentioned, this young son's understanding of the difficulties besetting his mom seem awfully mature (even for someone the age of a husband!). I'm not sure this particular observation of his works, as a child's observation anyway.

    Regardless, this prose is mellifluous and filled with original and memorable imagery, thoroughly captivating.

    Here are my picayune notes:
    --Instead of “the cloud-nest of his bed, the top-bunk”, you could just say “the cloud-nest of his top bunk” (don’t need “bed”).
    --“mom,” as used here, should be capitalized, as it’s a name, not a generic mom.
    --“dad” should also be capitalized.
    --I don’t understand tech tonal plates; do you mean “tectonic” plates?

    This is very wonderful to read (“there would be humor and soft pillows to lean on instead of the edged cliffs her face had earthquaked into” and this is gorgeous: “where houses scrunched up like people who are too cold…”; also “shortshort hair” is nice. I could go on, and would certainly read on. Congratulations.

  5. It is not the type of story I would read so can't fairly say if I would be hooked or not, but it certainly seems well written!

  6. I'm intrigued by the writing here, though I also have a few questions. I realize here this is a child's POV but it is not a children's book, so I sort of excuse the more mature storytelling here. Though, I think readers can't be pushed TOO far with that concept; the child will still need to have a believable voice. I'm thinking back to Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close and what that child protagonist's voice was like.

    I also paused on tech tonal plates. I did a google search which kept trying to correct to tectonic. Hmm.

    The last paragraph, the repetition of "there was" could be rearranged with stronger verbs. I think this story has tons of potential and I wish you much luck!!

  7. I thought the writing was beautiful--great word choices and lovely images. On the other hand, all that insight was totally unbelievable coming from a 6 year old.

    I also expected to read something coming from an adult's POV and was surprised to get the kid's. Perhaps bring the prose down a bit. It doesn't have to be simple. It just has to be in terms a six year old would think in. For instance, in the first parg, the first sentence would work fine and so would much of the second, but a six year old probably wouldn't think 'humor' or 'edged cliffs of her face.' So perhaps just change some of the word choices.

    I wondered if maybe you'd be going back and forth with POV's, and if so, you might start with Sara's, since this is classified as adult.

    ANd then the title says 'and other stories' and I wondered if we were going to get a series or related short stories.

    For me, I just didn't know what I was going to get based on comparing the log line and the first page.

  8. The writing is beautiful and impressionistic and fresh. It's not clear in the first graph if he's hallucinating or dreaming or experiencing a real encounter with his dead mother, but that is OK, I am willing to go on this journey.

    Tiny thing: He is 6 and in school but she, the mother, is starting school? That stopped me.

    You've given the reader an excellent sense of writing voice and ability.

    Nancy Bilyeau

  9. I'm really intrigued by this. The voice is captivating and even a little haunting. The premise itself sounds very promising. At first I wondered about the long sentences, but by the time I was midway intot he first paragraph I caught the rhythm of it and settle in. Very nicely done.

    I really have no crits. I'd definitely keep reading.

    Best of luck with it!

  10. I love the logline, however I was confused with the title on whether this book would be multiple stories revolving around their journey, or a compilation with other stories. Either way, the premise for this story sounds beautiful.

    It was a bit jarring at first to start with Jake's POV. His voice, assuming he’s the six year old, reads overly mature. If there’s a reason for this, I think it needs to be clear (like if he’s a genius/protégé) before or while we’re introduced to his voice.

    The imagery you evoke is so beautiful and captivating that I wished I could keep reading. Good luck!