Beau Berman


Month: September 2014

How Lists Can Light Up Online Articles

"Strung" by Donna Namnoun

Sometimes online articles can feel bogged down by too much information jammed into long paragraphs.

One effective solution is to deploy lists, or “listicles” as some are now called.

A perfect example is a recent article published on the West Hartford News’ website titled “Evolving” Exhibit features women’s works of art.

The article begins with an awkwardly placed date for an upcoming art exhibition and goes on to stuff a lot of details into long paragraphs.

I would structure the article differently, as such:

“Evolving” Art Exhibit Features Local Women 

Eight local female artists are reuniting to once again showcase their “exploratory” modes of art work. The ladies met years ago through connections with the West Hartford Public Schools and will present their work for the third time

The work is varied in media, theme and style and, as the show title promises, presents each artist’s current point of exploration in a creative process that is constantly evolving.


The artists include: 

*Joanne Barry-Dutro

*Francie Bergquist

*Sheri Ellis

*Marsha Lewis

*Jo McGinnis

*Donna Nammoum

*Kelly Smurthwaite

*Mary Lou Solomon

As current and former art educators, the artists have extensive and varied personal art experiences as well as a strong commitment to the important role that the visual arts play in the education of young people.


The show features various mediums:

*acrylic oil


*pastel paintings



*raw abstractions

*vibrant still-lives



*reflective figurative pieces

*organic ceramic

*fiber forms


Artists reception

*Saturday October 4th 2014

*5pm to 9pm



The ArtSpace Gallery

555 Asylum Ave

Hartford, CT


Gallery Hours

*Friday 11am to 2pm

*Saturday 12pm to 4pm

*Sunday 12pm to 4pm

*By appointment



*Francie Bergquist














How Steel City Summers Leave An Indelible Impression on Pittsburgh Youth

(A PopCity Exclusive —‘A weekly online magazine about the people and places moving Pittsburgh forward’)

 TAGS: Pittsburgh, Summer, Millennial, Coming of Age, Steel City

By Beau Berman


Not Camp Kids

We weren’t the poor kids or the rich kids. Mark and I were between. We were best friends in the neighborhood. So when summer scorched its way into the calendar, we weren’t at camp. David (Deak), Mark and his older brother Matt, Josh, Tyler and his older sister Kirsten, Gorana and Vedrana (the Croatians) and Mary were the same. We were neighborhood kids.


The girls watched the boys play “butt ball”. It was a vicious game, really. It required throwing a tennis ball against a brick wall in the parking lot of the apartment building on Claybourne Street. The apartment manager reminded us daily that we couldn’t play there.  We played anyway. A fear lingered in your thoughts – knowing if you drop the ball you immediately become a target. The ball could be fired at you as hard as possible until you touched the wall. Oh the feeling of relief. I would take a deep breath and loosen once my hands felt those khaki-tinted bricks and lines of mortar. Welts would come though. Matt wound up like Nolan Ryan and desecrated the younger kids. It was a moment of pain followed by a bruise of honor.


Boredom struck sometimes. We’d listen to “B94” – Pittsburgh’s most popular top 40 radio station- while sitting on Mark and Matt’s porch. Sweltering days prompted trips to Rite Aid, at a time when a ‘pop’ cost less than a dollar. Back on the porch we’d play Truth or Dare, as I secretly hoped for an excuse to kiss Kirsten. Those games were innocent, yet charged with something.


The boys were sports-addicted. We’d watch the prolific center, Mario Lemieux torch NHL opponents on the ice, for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The next day’s emulation meant strapping on rollerblades, grabbing Mylec hockey sticks and setting up our Civic Arena in the middle of Claybourne Street.


That was the common cry during hockey games on Claybourne and football games on Noble Street. Our fields were the streets. Cut knees and hurt feelings were something you just overcame.


There wasn’t a cafeteria or camp counselor.  We created our own activities. We were kids being kids. Mark and Matt’s mom died years earlier. The rest of our parents worked or were busy. It’s not that my parents couldn’t afford to pay for camp. I refused to go. My camp was the neighborhood. Yet nothing was scheduled, and boredom breeds mischief.

Boredom Breeds Mischief

It started small. The boys would have “Super Soaker” battles. We’d fill the green cylinders at the hose, screw them to our guns and make teams. You had to go far enough around the corner until you couldn’t see the other team. Then it was a guessing game. Would you go back the way you came or take the other way around the block? Routinely, we’d cut through neighbor’s yards holding our guns. Sometimes we’d wear camo pants or dark clothing while playing. It was 1996. I’d become frustrated that the block limited us to only two options: go left or go right. Super Soaker battles lacked an element of surprise.

One day I ventured by myself through a neighbor’s stone-covered drive way. I nervously approached his fence and began to climb over while holding my gun. This proved difficult. I was suspended above the white picket fence and the ominously pointed heads of each plank. I started sweating, caught in a position where I was too high to just get down and too weak to reposition and get to the other side. Then it happened. I couldn’t hold my weight anymore and dropped down, straddling the fence. It hurt so bad I gathered enough muscle to plop off. Inspecting the damage, I noticed blood from my crotch.

“Will I ever have kids?” I thought in horror.

Running home as fast as I could would have been grand. But I couldn’t. So, I begrudgingly towed my stupid gun around the block, the way I was expected to be coming, by the enemy. It was like a death march. I was injured. I should have been a POW, not a target. But little did the other team know of my injury. Little would they believe me if I even had the chance to explain what happened, which of course, I did not. I turned the second corner and felt the burst of hose-water on my body. This was Mark’s first time using his new CPS 2000 Super Soaker. It sprayed like a water machine gun. Thick streams of water struck my shins, face and worst of all, my torn scrotum.


Two hours later I was at Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Room. The nurse asked if I preferred a male or female doctor. I said I didn’t care. Although, when I watched a female doctor come into the room moments later, I felt relieved. She stitched the sack and said nobody would ever know it was cut, because the scrotum usually wrinkles with age. Hallelujah.

The Potato Gun 

Our toy guns shot more than just water. “The Potato Gun” was a favorite. Mark and I would see how far we could shoot the chunks of potato and aim at pop cans. One morning we chose to fire at oncoming traffic. Most shots misfired or hit closed windows, not noticeable to drivers. Yet one blast flew into an open window, hitting the driver in the eye. The woman immediately stopped her car, shouting.  Mark and I ran for refuge the closest place we could find: our friend Tyler’s house. We scrambled up the stairs and through the unlocked door into his parents’ air-conditioned condo. Tyler wasn’t even home. I briefly wondered if Kirsten was home.

Potato Gun

No one saw us enter aside from the victim of the walk-by potato shooting. We were in Tyler’s room hiding when the doorbell rang. Tyler’s mother answered her door, unaware of the tidal of rage she’d soon receive, all the while clueless the culprits were upstairs in her son’s room. Thankfully, his mother told the driver nobody was home except for her. It was strange. We watched her wholly believing herself even though she was lying. The driver finally gave up and returned to her car, still in the middle of the street. We eventually presented ourselves to Tyler’s mother who was outraged. I felt like a really bad kid. I don’t think I truly was a bad child. However, sometimes I wonder what would have happened if that potato chunk blinded that driver or if she would have swerved into a tree and died. Would I be branded as a killer? Would it be chalked up to ‘boys being boys’?

The City and Beyond

We got out of the neighborhood at times. The boys would ride our bikes out of Shadyside, cutting across Oakland into the South Side of Pittsburgh. A few wrinkled one-dollar bills meant we could buy some pops midway through our journey. Some days it felt like we were just inventing new ways to kill time. In reality, me and Mark were creating memories and growing up by ourselves. Bike rides, bus rides and long walks brought exposure to other neighborhoods. It was summer and we had fun. We swam, built things, threw pies in each other’s faces while my mom recorded it on video, had water-balloon fights with Kim and Kevin, the married couple next door. Mark and I were best friends. We talked mostly about the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Steelers, and the Pirates here and there.  We were Pittsburgh kids spending summer on the streets. We knew the city like we knew ourselves: comfortably familiar, with room left for discovery.




Week 2 Writing Assignment Critique

JOMC 711 Week 2 Assignment Critique:

Beau Berman reviewing Ashley Wolf’s writing assignment 


Wow. Wow.

This piece of writing was incredibly stirring for me and evocative. It’s not just because I like sports, but more so, the way you splattered words on the page in such a beautifully descriptive manner, with the creativity of an abstract painter and precision of a surgeon. As I read excerpts like “…striped green couch and cherry coffee table…” I felt as though I was transported to your childhood living room. Perhaps it’s my age, also 28, or perhaps its just sentimentality in general, but I truly felt kindred with your description of the living room. It reminded me of my parents’ worn-down red rug and emerald-green ottoman- relics of the 80s on living-room life support in the early 90s. I digress.


From the clatter of the cleats to the emotional description of your softball glove, you used words as more than just conveyers of meaning, but as emotional delivery systems when strung together into emotive sentences. I was sincerely thoroughly impressed by your “wordsmith” qualities that shined throughout this piece.


Curiosity did have me wonder where you actually lived, besides North Carolina. However, I’m not sure if that really would have added or taken away from your story. Part of its beauty was that “where” your from was described as an experience rather than a tangible “place”.


Ala “Bullet in the Brain” you dive off topic slightly at times, to delve into descriptive detours that delight the senses of the reader.


I found the paragraph construction to be well executed with the graphs nicely separated. I might strive to end each paragraph with a short and memorable line.  End with something brief and punchy, perhaps.


In the third paragraph from the end, the final sentence begins with “And”. Is that proper grammar? I’m honestly not sure. I remember once hearing not to start sentences with the word “And”.


This piece clearly centers on your “sense of place” rather than a particular city, state or street address. I think you pulled this off masterfully by beginning the piece conversationally and gradually focusing on your “thesis”. This, again, reminds me of “Bullet in the Brain” in the sense that the author led with the narrative of the bank robbery before narrowing the focus exclusively to the protagonist’s thoughts.


While I loved your piece, I think it might have been interesting to delve into the impact this upbringing and time with your father had on your current self. How did these memorable softball sessions shape the current Ashley Wolf? We can certainly infer the game taught you the values of leadership, hard work, and the importance of family. But beyond inherent assumptions, I’d like to know in your words, what you took from all this softball and retain today.


Again, I’m not convinced that it should be added, but I’m also curious as to what level of softball you played. I’m wondering when you specifically started competing and whether you played in high school, for a travel team and in college or beyond.


In the third to last paragraph, the first sentence ends with “… are distant in the rearview mirror…”. I reckon this might be one of those clichés we’ve been reading about. Personally, I get it and understand it, but I suppose proper writing demands we drop these!


The field to diamond analogy was wonderful though. I thought you did a great job of describing the fields you played on and weaving in metaphors without being “cheesy”.


Overall, I liked your writing sample better than mine! I really appreciated your descriptive words and the imagery they brought about in my mind. I thought the descriptions were effective and not just there for the sake of trying to write descriptively.


On a side note, there is some debate about whether “what do you?” is truly an appropriate conversation starter. Aside from that, I enjoyed your introduction to the piece, which set up the fact that your life has been transient. I think some explanation for the moves and how they’ve impacted your mental state or worldview would have been interesting. For a third time though, I’ll reiterate that I’m not sure if that addition would help or hurt your piece. It’s information I’d like to know, but it might not jibe with your thesis here.

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