On the edge of the Berkshires

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By the time I had finished my third drink, getting into the hot tub with strangers didn’t seem so weird. It was a perfect summer hot tub night – dry, a little breezy and not to hot. Located just outside the main door of the hotel, there had been a steady flow of people in and out of the thing for about an hour, so when I saw the older couple holding court step out, I made the decision to head in.

A chatty couple sat to my right, my husband and a single man clearly warmed on wine sat to my left. I turned to the chatty couple and asked, “What do you do?” The man was an attorney who split time between New York and Washington, D.C., and the other wrote for the New York Times, mostly about art.

“I’m a writer, too,” I blurted out, wishing almost immediately that I hadn’t. The Times writer looked back at me expectantly, steam circling her head. I opened my mouth but for a few seconds, all you could hear was the low gurgle of the bubbling jets.

“I write mostly for trade publications and some regional publications.” I paused. The wine, the steam and the late hour made this exercise seem more exhausting than ever. “Look, I’m not going to do that thing where writers try to impress each other by listing off all the places they write for. I write, but not for any place you’ve ever heard of.”

The attorney smiled. Clearly he had heard others go through the exercise before. The Times writer looked surprised at my bluntness, then relieved. She didn’t want to hear it and I didn’t want to give it. I sat back against a jet and let the bubbles work out a knot in my lower back.

My kind of art.

My kind of art.

My evening in the hot tub and this interaction pretty much sum up my experience at the Porches Inn at Mass MoCa and most of North Adams’ art scene. It’s nice but not overtly friendly. Cool, but in that elite liberal arts college kind of way. It’s a nice mix of odd and cozy — and a little bit awkward. North Adams is for people like me, its got the culture without that Berkshires pretense.

The Porches occupies a stretch of mill worker row houses across from Mass MoCa, housed in the old mill. It was gutted and updated with retro lamps and vintage art; the rooms have large, clean bathrooms outfitted with the little extras (shoe shine kit!). The king sized bed was backed against the wall on one side, which I hate, but the turn-down service and locally made chocolates on the pillow made up for it. Our room had a small porch with a bistro table and chair set. It was a great place to sip wine, play cards and watch the action in the heated pool and hot tub.

2014-06-23 13.43.04Walk over to Mass MoCA and you’ll find a sprawling industrial-era campus of brick stone and wooden buildings. Finding the entrance was not intuitive, nor is the gallery layout. An impressive set of installations by Teresita Fernandez greet visitors as they enter. Metallic pins wind their way along the walls of the first gallery, while in the next room, a wave of plastic, colored tubes floats into the cathedral ceiling. Walk up and down the gallery and you’ll notice a low murmur – the sound of the air movement created as you pass underneath.

Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt

There is much to love about Mass MoCA. The Sol LeWitt collection is comprehensive and colorful, including information on how the galleries were constructed. There is much to leave you unsettled, confused and uncomfortable. I don’t know how it’s possible to make someone feel claustrophobic in a space as open and large as these galleries, but somehow Mass MoCA does it.

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Mass MoCA’s success lies in its comprehensiveness. Every room, every walkway, every last vestige of the manufacturing complex it once was is cultivated in a way that impacts and impresses.


We dined primarily in North Adams, a small on-the-rebound town at the northeastern end of the Berkshires. The Italian restaurant recommended by Porches staff was adequate, but had a limited menu. Nearby Public made us much happier. My husband drooled over the craft beer offerings from tiny New York and upper Midwest breweries. I sipped on a Hemingway, a variation of the classic daiquiri, served with fresh squeezed lime in a martini glass. I had spent the early weeks of summer in search of a good rum drink. This was it.

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Driving into North Adam and the Berkshires region is very disorienting. Winding roads and switchbacks challenge your sense of direction. Rolling hills quickly arch into steep mountainsides that threaten to suck your car into the abyss. Abandoned and ramshackle motor inns line the roadways, devoid of hope of every being rehabilitated. The whole place seems like it’s been forgotten, and for many it probably has.

Yet the payoff on this drive is grand. A scary curve next to a dingy mobile home twists into an expansive vista with views of the entire valley. Wind turbines line the ridges, turning slowly, reminding busy city folks to slow down too.


A drive to the top of Mt Greylock revealed great views in this a harsh and blustery place. It has been centuries since settlers first stood on this peak, but the Berkshires still feels like a place of pioneers. It’s hard to scratch out a living, but it seems to have so much promise.

Will Write for Food

How a love of food and a past gig led to this business story assignment

Fresh, local produce at Monadnock Food Co-op

Fresh, local produce at Monadnock Food Co-op


As the City Hall reporter at the New Hampshire Union Leader, I would often write news features about the residents’ various efforts to improve the city, from forming neighborhood watches to opening a farmers market. One of my features was about the Manchester Food Co-Op and their monthly potluck dinners to recruit new members. The group had only a few hundred members then, far from their 1,000 member goal before opening a retail store. I didn’t give that co-op much thought until years later, when I was roaming the aisles of the Monadnock Food Co-Op on a recent visit to New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region. If Keene could open a successful co-op, then Manchester must surely be close. And what other communities are talking about open similar cooperative grocery stores? You’ll find the answer in the story below.

The latest food co-op to open in NH

The latest food co-op to open in NH

A hunger for local food

While it may seem counter to New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” mentality, the cooperative business model is becoming a popular way for local communities to provide an alternative to the traditional supermarket.

Over the past five years, there has been a surge of interest in cooperative grocery stores as consumer interest in organic and locally sourced foods has grown.

Since 2009, food co-op stores opened in Littleton and Keene, and the Manchester Food Co-op is currently searching for a downtown location for a new grocery. Great River Co-op in Walpole is raising funds with the hope of opening a store in 2015, and Berlin, Gorham and Brookline have had discussions about launching a co-op in their communities.

To read more, click through to the full story in New Hampshire Business Review.

About BLH Writing Solutions


You are busy. You’re staff is busy. When it comes to creative and strategic writing that captures customers’ attention, you and your team don’t always have the resources to give these tasks the time they deserve.

That’s where I come in.

Are you trying to drive more traffic to your site with SEO-friendly blog posts? Do you need a travel writer to write a FOB piece about inns in Maine? Or maybe someone to write a compelling profile about the company CEO? I have 10 years of writing experience in journalism and marketing. I can objectively cover a breaking news story, write in the voice of your magazine, put together a press release that will catch an editor’s eye and write web copy aimed directly at the customers you want to attract.

Why struggle writing the content you need when you can have a professional do it? Please take a look at some of the information and links I’ve provided below or contact me for a digital portfolio at gardnerstate@gmail.com.


When it comes to writing in the world of marketing, tone and messaging are just as important as proper spelling and grammar. Beth has worked with a number of marketing firms writing press releases, report summaries, special publications and other copy. She understands that different projects require different writing styles and is able to cater her writing to fit the client’s needs.

Press Releases

During Beth’s 10 years as a daily news reporter, she saw plenty of press releases. She knows what works, what will get an editor’s attention and what lands the release in the trash. Beth has written press releases for dozens of companies in a wide variety of fields, always bringing a journalist’s eye to the project. Let her write your next release, or edit your releases before you send them out to maximize their impact. You can see a sample of her work here.


In today’s competitive media landscape, it’s important to gear the words on your website or blog toward web readers, not print readers. With seven years of blogging and web writing experience, Beth knows how to spruce up your blog or website to attract finicky web users. She also understands how to integrate SEO into your web copy in a clean and subtle way, helping boost your site in the search results.

Website copy

Redesigning a website isn’t just about changing the look. What the website says should be just as important. Beth can work with your marketing or web design company to create cohesive and well-written web copy for your clients. Beth has also contributed to redesign team meetings with both client and company to ensure the branding, tone and mission are cohesive throughout the entire website. You can review my writing for Skillings & Sons, Inc. here.


Part creative writing, part marketing and part SEO, blogging is one of the easiest ways companies can reach new clients. But in the busy day-to-day of running a business, blogging often falls by the wayside. Beth is a professional writer and blogger who can manage this task for your employees, providing well-written, interesting and search engine optimized content. You can view a sample at Stay Work Play, where Beth is a featured blogger. You can also view my blogging and travel writing skills at The Quechee Club blog here.


Beth has been writing news and feature articles since she graduated from Emerson College with a master’s degree in Writing, Literature and Publishing. While covering daily news, her focus was politics, government and courts, but she’s also written many profiles and general interest news articles, as well. Beth’s experience has been both in newspapers and in online publishing.

Here are two examples from her work at the New Hampshire Union Leader:



And an example of her recent work for the Associated Press:


And For UNH Today:



Beth has experience editing news, business and creative writing for a variety of clients. Whether it’s proofreading your thesis or editing an annual report, Beth has the style guide knowledge and experience to get your project done right and on deadline.

Other Writing

Beth has written for magazines and other publications under her own byline and as a ghost writer. If you would like to learn more about her feature writing, travel writing and ghost writing, please email her at gardnerstate@gmail.com.