JOMC 711: Week 3 Writing Partner Critique

Hi Beau,

Thanks for sharing your blog “Hot, Wet Pittsburgh Summer.” I enjoyed reading about your past as you grew up with your friends in a close-knit Pittsburgh neighborhood. Your story reminded me of a cross between the city-community vibe of Nickelodeon’s Hey Arnold and the good-ole-days nostalgia of The Sandlot, except minus a protagonist with a football-shaped head and a chase scene with a gigantic dog.

I had to chuckle at your term “walk-by potato shooting,” and I can definitely relate to your games of butt ball. My elementary school classmates and I called this game wall ball, but I shared your dread of a dropped tennis ball. I noticed a recurring theme that injuries equated rites of passage. You suffered welts from butt ball, cut knees and hurt feelings from hockey, and a fence-post-induced injury from a Super Soaker battle. Ouch!

Overall, I thought you did a great job describing the summertime shenanigans of young boys in your neighborhood. The reader gets a strong sense of how your pack of friends roamed the local streets seeking fun, adventure and escape from boredom.

Here are a few suggestions to use or disregard at your discretion.

Although your friends might read this piece, the majority of readers are not from your social circle. The original list of names becomes hard to track throughout the blog. Since Mark and Matt shared a porch and a mother, I assumed that Matt was the older brother and Mark the younger. While hiding in Tyler’s house, you said you wondered if Kirsten was home. Were Tyler and Kirsten siblings? You also mentioned David, Josh, Gorana, Vedrana, and Mary in the opening paragraph, but you did not discuss these particular characters again. How are they important to the story?

After reading your second sentence, “Mark and I were between,” my first thought was, “Who’s Mark?” By the end, I got the impression that your relationship with Mark was the strongest in the group, despite the fact that he drenched you with a Super Soaker post injury. I would suggest highlighting your best-friend status earlier, maybe in the first or second paragraph.

You also mentioned camp in the opening paragraph and then returned to the camp thought in the sixth paragraph. Maybe include all camp thoughts in the same paragraph rather than jump around?

I found a few sentence fragments:

  • “Throwing a tennis ball against a brick wall in the parking lot of the apartment building on Claybourne Street.”
  • “A moment of pain followed by a bruise of honor.”
  • “Oh the feeling of relief.”

I was torn on “Oh the feeling of relief.” It’s technically not a full sentence, but I thought it worked.

I’m familiar with Mario Lemieux, but some readers might not know the former Pittsburgh Penguin. I would provide a few words to identify him as well as the Civic Arena.

I believe Super Soaker is a brand name and a proper noun. I would capitalize Super Soaker instead of using “super-soaker.”

You switch between ampersands and the word “and” a few times. Keep the style consistent throughout and use one or the other.

The word “myself” is a reflexive pronoun and must be the object of a sentence. Change “myself secretly hoping for an excuse” to “as I secretly hoped for an excuse.”

Remove the comma after “Will I ever have kids?” Also remove the hyphen in Rite Aid.

Try varying your sentence structure. In the final four paragraphs, you begin a sentence with “But …” seven times:

  • “But I couldn’t.”
  • “But little did the other team know…”
  • “But when I watched a female doctor…”
  • “But one morning we chose …”
  • “But one blast flew…”
  • “But sometimes I wonder…”
  • “But in reality…”

This becomes a little redundant for the reader. I’m guilty of this infraction as well.

From the writing handbook, beware of ambiguous pronouns. I got lost a couple times when you switched between character names and pronouns. In the first sentence, does “we” refer to you and Mark or the entire group? I encountered the same problem in the final paragraph:

  • “We got out of the neighborhood at times.”
  • “… we were creating memories …”
  • “… we had fun …”
  • “We swam…”
  • “We talked mostly …”
  • “We knew the city …”

I couldn’t tell if “we” meant you and Mark, the group of boys, or the entire group of neighborhood kids.

I was also confused by this section:

“One day I ventured by myself through a neighbor’s stone-covered driveway. I nervously approached their fence.”

Is there one neighbor or multiple neighbors? If there’s just one neighbor, switch “their” for “he” or “she.” If there are two or more neighbors, change the apostrophe placement to neighbors’.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed your blog. I grew up on a rural street without many kids my age nearby, so it was fun to read about someone else’s childhood memories growing up in a city.


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