Category Archives: news

500 Favourite Words: I’m part of a cool, new chapbook and word cloud project

Those are a few words I like to say.




Everyone has a few favorite words, but how many of us share the same word choices?‘s

Dan Waber is setting out to find just that with his 500 Favourite Words chapbook and word cloud series. And, I am so excited to be a part of it.

So far the line features over a half dozen mini chapbooks, each filled with the creative contributor’s 500 favorite words.

500 Favourite Words word cloud

A screen shot of the growing word cloud from

The pocket-sized 500 Favourite Words chapbooks sell for just $2.00 each and are available here (and also 100-word snippets of each available title.) That’s less than a penny per fun word!

Bringing this series together, is a world cloud. This cloud encompasses all of the 500 words all in one spot, much like you see in a tag cloud on a blog. This visual representation gives a picture on the most popular words in the series overall. So far, I am not the only one who has the word discombobulate on the list. Or fart. And, jazz appears on the most, although it was not on my list.

My list is random. No real order. Some words that appear next to each other may rhyme or fit in the same category or have the same root. It just happened that way. Some were coincidences (<– that’s a word on my list!) and others were a clear stream of though, such as when I wrote cheese and then proceeded to write Muenster. These 500 words made the list for various reasons. Some are fun to say. Some I use a lot in my own writing. Some I like the meaning. Others, I just like how they sound.

And, in doing this, I noticed my own little trends in words. I like words that start with ‘c’ sounds (clever, crisp, kumquat) and words that have v’s (fizz, buzz, rendezvous) and q’s (quirky, kumquat) in them. I like words that have historic (parchment) or natural, organic meaning (igneous, metamorphosis) to them. I like words with lots of syllables (diabolical, participle, onomatopoeia) And, a lot of words I like also have cars with the same name (Element, Escapade, oh, and Rendezvous).

When I heard about Dan’s project, I jumped at submitting my top words. And, as I was compiling my list, at first I struggled with choosing the words I like best, but soon found myself crossing of words to replace them with “better” words. And even now that my list is complete, my chapbook done, I am rediscovering words that I love and would be worthy of a Volume II!

I also love the word cloud feature. It’s no doubt creative, unique types would be drawn to this project, so seeing so many common favorite words is just fascinating. We’ll all so unique and different, yet attracted to the sounds or meanings of the same words.

To learn more about Dan’s 500 Favourite Words project and hist other projects (and, to support the project by picking up a chapbook or two, visit Other NEPA folks who are a part of this are poet Jim Warner and Andrea Talarico (no relation although she’d be an awesome cousin!) of Anthology Books.


Two Pubs: Wilkes Magazine & interviewed in Keystone Edge

Posted these two on my writing blog as separate posts, but figured I’d post them here as well:

I am super excited to share this publishing credit! I contributed an article to the Summer 2010 Wilkes magazine on the various ways social media is being used across the Wilkes University campus. From PR students using these newer mediums for their real-world clients to nature podcasts, students, professors and staff are going social. Read the store online here by downloading a PDF.

Wilkes Magazine Summer 2010 Going Social Donna Talarico

A few weeks ago at work I received a call from freelance writer Sara Hodon. She was working on a piece on technology companies for Keystone Edge, an online publication dedicated to the new economy of Pennsylvania. Sara’s piece was about Internet marketing. Her article is very comprehensive and includes quotes from me, as well as some other PA-based tech firms. Additionally, photographer Aimee Dilger took some fantastic photos around Solid Cactus.

This article, “Search No More: PA Companies Lead Online Marketing Revolution” is a true testament to the work we do at Solid Cactus as well as to the success of online marketing.

Solid Cactus Donna Talarico Keystone Edge Article

Screen shot of the Keystone Edge site, where we were the "cover" story.

A Barrom Brawl: Digital Jukeboxes vs. CD Jukeboxes

Touch Tunes Digital JukeboxGone are the days where you can say, “I love that bar. It’s got a great jukebox.” Now, most bars have the same freaking jukebox.

There’s an award or two hanging above the “jukebox” of my favorite bar. That’s right. Hops & Barleys won Best Jukebox in NEPA in the Weekender’s Readers Choice Awards a time or two. Or more. But, I originally put jukebox in quotes here because the jukebox that won those awards is no longer there. I miss the old, REAL, jukebox. It’s replacement is not very cool At all. Here are reasons why I don’t like digital jukeboxes as much as the old ones that played CDs. Hops joined the digital jukebox bandwagon and I still love the place, but I long for old one.

Ah, nostalgia.

I remember going to Hops for the first time, and loving the jukebox. In fact, when I turned 21 and started going out to bars, I almost enjoyed seeing the selection of songs as much as the beers on tap. A bar’s jukebox in a way defined the bar, created its typical atmosphere, drew a certain crowd. The jukebox at Hops had the token Bon Jovi. It even had a standards variety CD that had Happy Birthday and the Star Spangled Banner. I knew my jukebox picks by heart:

  • Tom Petty’s “Don’t Do Me Like That” (from Greatest Hits) was 2006.

  • CCR’s “Down on the Corner” (from Chronicle) was 2808.

For those reasons and more, I wish bars still kept their own jukeboxes where they selected the songs/albums from the vending company from which they rented the machine. Sure, digital jukeboxes save a little room and cost less to make/ship/store/maintain, but I think there are more negative aspects of digital jukeboxes.

cd jukebox

I miss these. Dearly.

Reasons why I don’t care too much for digital jukeboxes:

1. No full albums

You may at first say, “Wow! Digital jukeboxes are great. You can search for ANYTHING!” Yes, you can. Mostly. However, even on an album full of hits, like the White album, two or three songs will show up. If you want a deep cut, you pay more. No. This doesn’t work for me. First of all, album cuts never really got airplay. So, being able to experience them opens you up to new songs. If you don’t even KNOW what other songs are there other than the hits, you would NEVER know to search for them. So, in a real jukebox, you may flip to a CD and see the whole list. Maybe one time, you’ll stray from the norm and play something from the album you didn’t know, or forgot about. With the digital jukeboxes, you get to choose from a few songs when you touch CD cover on the screen. Not cool.

2. Play next? No. Wait your turn, jerk!

The reason I am writing this post today is because I almost cried last night. I felt like I was on a Fox News TV debate (only I was the only head talking) as I proclaimed my distaste for the Touch Tunes digital jukebox at Hops. It was my graduation and I was celebrating. I arrived at 8:00 p.m. and the bar was not packed at all. I put $5 in. I think that got me 18-20 songs. I started with Tom Petty’s “Don’t Do Me Like That” and ended with Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” In the middle, Joe and I picked songs from Violent Femmes, Bon Jovi, O.A.R, Gin Blossoms, John Mellencamp and others. But, the starting and ending with a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers song was my little trick so I knew when my songs began and ended. I’ve been doing that 10 years, no matter where I go. (Because coincidentally, nearly every single jukebox I have encountered always had Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits.)

And that leads me to the worst button known to mankind (next to that big, red detonation button on a nuclear bomb) – PLAY NEXT. In the four hours we were at Hops, we heard two of my songs. TWO.

People continually hit PLAY NEXT. I spent $5. I should be able to hear my songs. Why should someone else’s song get played before mine? I think that money-making tactic is a little unfair. If the beer line is long at a concert, I never shout, “Hey! I’ll pay you $1 extra – $11 total – for this Miller Lite if you serve me NEXT!”

We are taught since nursery school to wait in line for our turn. Old jukeboxes played songs in a row. None of this PLAY NEXT option nonsense. I left at midnight, still wanting to stay to hear my songs. It was not to get my $5 worth. It was because it was a special night and I wanted to create my own little soundtrack. All the impatient play nexters won.

3. No spontaneity & a need for ginko biloba. No more randomness.

Everyone has their few favorite songs and artists. But, when faced with making jukebox decisions with digital jukeboxes, you must know exactly what you are looking for. Sure, if I want to hear Tom Petty, I can hit the “P” button and scroll through the albums and songs. However, what if I am not sure what I want to hear? I have to make mental notes of all the people I like and search for them. It is very hard to just FIND something at random because to look through the entire jukebox would mean scrolling through an entire freaking alphabet. How time consuming!

In the old days, like me, I had my fave songs memorized, but I enjoyed flipping through the pages and seeing what the jukebox had to offer. So often, I would accidentally stumble upon an artist I liked but always forgot about. Case in point, I love “Fat Bottom Girls” from Queen, but I always forget about Queen, so I never hit “Q” on the digital jukebox. However, if I am casually flipping through a real jukebox, I may see it and say, “Oh wow! Queen! I forgot.”

There is no element of surprise. No hidden nuggets. No spontaneity. Digital jukeboxes have nothing on the oldies. People always say “browse” the web. It’s a term, yeah, but it’s not true. People really “search” the web. Unless you know exactly where you want to go and directly type in the address or use a bookmark, you search the web. This is the same thing for digital jukeboxes. You can’t just randomly run into a cool sale item on a clearance rack… nope. You need to look for something specifically. Ugh.

4. Super Search does not mean you can hear ANYTHING you want

I won’t name names, but there are a few NEPA bars that program their Touch Tunes digital jukeboxes to exclude certain genres. For example, one bar in a “bad” neighborhood blocked rap. Another classier bar blocked hair metal. So, even though at its heart it seems as if the Super Search function opens bar patrons to a world of music, it doesn’t always work that way. In fact, this does in a way make it similar to the real jukeboxes where the albums are what is there, and that’s that – the owner can control what CDs are in a real jukebox, just as a bar owner can choose to exclude a song or an entire genre in his own playlist on his digital jukebox. I do happen to like this feature, however I list this here as a negative because people have the misconception that you can find anything. Seriously. Do a search at some bars and you will find a very popular band may not show up at all. That could crush or frustrate users who are under the illusion they can choose any song.

These are four reasons I don’t like digital jukeboxes. I could seriously go on, but I think I’ve said enough. I get that they make more money for the bar because they are based on some great sales techniques. But, let’s not forget that places that have bars probably make most of their money from food and beverages — however, it’s the great atmosphere that keeps people also coming back. It truly makes me sad that four hours can go by and I don’t hear more than two of my songs. I don’t find the same joy in picking my songs because I have to search for songs and then always end up playing the same ones because under the pressure I can’t always remember all the bands that I have ever liked. I much prefer to scroll through and pick the best songs from a set selection in a real jukebox.

You know what NEPA bar still has a good jukebox? Dugan’s in Luzerne. I know a few wonderful people go there specifically for the jukebox. It is a reflection on the owner and on the crowd. It’s great little place with good food, good beer selection, and even though I said it, I’ll say it again – a good jukebox.

Other Hops and Barley jukebox memories to show you how much that old machine meant to me:

1999- I met a past long-term boyfriend at the jukebox. I mean, it ended up not working, but there were years of memories and that’s where we met.

2001- An old review I wrote of Jessica Andrews, Who I Am CD, where I worked in hanging out at Hops and the jukebox.

2003 – I reviewed Hops on a then-new local review site, Barmesier. My review mentioned the killer jukebox.

2007 – An interview with Doug Cosmo Clifford, CCR drummer, where I pay tribute to the old Hops jukebox.

An Eight-Week Course in Tom Petty History: The Start of the Superhighway Tour — A Review

Was I in Cleveland the past hour? (No.) Oh, okay. But it sure felt like I just came back from a trip in rock-n-roll history. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers history, that is.

What’s the deal with the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ Superhighway Tour and Live Anthology? Here’s my experience from Day One , a mini-review of the content:

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Live Anthology -

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Live Anthology -

This morning at about 10:01 I purchased my ticket to the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Superhighway Tour. I wasn’t sure how it worked with the downloads and digital playing of tracks, so I waited until I got home from work to log in for the first time.

Wow. I am completely impressed. This is an incredibly creative way to promote the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Live Anthology. I am almost jealous that I didn’t think of it. I mean, not that I work in the record industry, but man, takes me back to my radio days. This is just an incredible idea. Kudos to Warner Brothers or whoever in Tom Petty’s camp came up with this creative concept.

I seriously look forward to the next eight weeks, where unique content and unheard tracks are delivered to me two tracks per week. Look forward? Wait. What kinda expression of excitement is that? I mean, I AM FREAKIN’ STOKED.

So, the deal is: You can buy the ticket to access the online content. A total of 24 advance tracks are made available, two per week over the next eight weeks leading up to the November 24, 2009 release of The Live Anthology Deluxe Box Set. On the 28th, the final 24 tracks are also made available, totaling 48 tracks.

I’m not stopping at the digital and I hope no Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers fan does. I describe what you get on the tour below, but real quick…

On the 24th the tangible stuff – do you remember what tangible music is?- is available. The Live Anthology Deluxe Box Set includes an incredible amount of music (Superhighway Tour ticker holders get a hefty discount!). According to –and directly pasted from — as of 09/29/09 (in case it changes on us for some reason):

  • The definitive live collection. 62 tracks on 5 CDs recorded live in concert from 1978 – 2007.
  • Blu-ray AUDIO disc of all 62 tracks in both stereo and surround sound. High-resolution 96K 24-bit audio with 256 times more resolution than a CD.
  • One DVD of “400 Days”, a previously unreleased documentary film by director Martyn Atkins, made during the 1995 Wildflowers tour and recording sessions.
  • One DVD of previously unreleased New Years Eve 1978 Santa Monica, CA concert.
  • 12” vinyl of a re-mastered 1976 Official Live Bootleg album.
  • Deluxe book with liner notes offering personal perspectives on the band and their music by Tom Petty, Warren Zanes, Bill Flanagan, Robert Hilburn, Joel Selvin, Austin Scaggs, and Phil Sutcliffe.
  • Reproduction “Litho” of Shepard Fairey Cover Art (12″ x 12″ on high quality stock)
  • Reproduction of the 1997 twenty night Fillmore stand concert poster (8″ x 12″ on high quality stock)
  • Assorted authentic vintage backstage satin passes.
  • SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS OPTION: There is also a Live Anthology Vinyl Deluxe Box Set which has seven albums and over 51 live tracks from 1980-2007 plus a 12×12, 24-page color book of liner notes.

    Finally, folks can also purchase a four-CD set.


    Just took a screen shot of my welcome page after I logged into the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Superhighway Tour (Image (c) Donna Talarico)

    Just took a screen shot of my welcome page after I logged into the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Superhighway Tour (Image (c) Donna Talarico)

    The “ticket” to the tour was $24.98 and I purchased it through as soon as they were made available. I simply created an account, paid and Viola! Later when I logged in, I downloaded the first two tracks, which are also able to be played from the site. They are playing right now, in fact.

    The site: The layout and design of the Tom Petty Superhighway Tour site is uber-cool. The parchment feel of the site gives it that nostalgic touch- kind of like the tan old paper becomes. The site is laced with bits of red and images of old concert tickets, press clippings, posters, and the Damn the Torpedoes cover in the background- wonderful design.

    Navigation of is easy,  very user-friendly. The sections are clear: new tracks, news on the album, photos, merchandise, etc. All very pleasing to the eye. The enlarged images allow users to scan through each image within the enlarged view, rather than open and close, and open and close.

    Hard Promises from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

    Hard Promises from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

    The goodies: After logging in, the welcome screen greeted with the new tracks of the week. Basically, the Superhighway Tour follows a calendar spanning the past 30 years. Each week the tracks are from live performances from a concert. This week, one of the tracks is “Nightwatchman” from a show at The Forum in Los Angeles on June 28, 1981. “Nightwatchman” was from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ album Hard Promises.

    More goodies: When you click on the page for an individual track, you are also given awesome material — and this is the kind of stuff I live for since I love media, memorabilia, and memories- that pertain to that particular show. You are given an overview of the concert (for example the Forum show is actually part of a three-night run), a set-list from that night, reviews, band commentary on the song and the concert, and more.

    I don’t want to give away all the surprises (although I am sure other bloggers will) because I want you to buy this digital treasure chest and see for yourself! But, there are articles, concert reviews, photos, and more. Oh, yeah. I didn’t even mention that each week there is new merchandise. This week it’s a vintage t-shirt from 1981. I can quickly see my bank account draining.

    User-generated content: I work in eCommerce so I know how important it is becoming to let customers, and in this case also fans, take ownership and play a role in the experience. Virtually every bit of media/information available on the Tom Petty Superhighway Tour allows for user comments. There is also the ability to upload fan photos. There is a forum as well.

    This isn’t even a tour.

    It’s an eight-week course in Tom Petty history.

    (I just coined that during an edit and had to change the headline.) I look forward to paying attention to Tom Petty History every week and indulging in the music and enjoying the nostalgia of a band that had an incredible 31+ years so far — who knows what is ahead. Watching the Runnin’ Down a Dream documentary last week was awesome, coincidental prep for this adventure.

    This is the ULTIMATE collection for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers fans. It’s the band, throughout the decades with tons and tons of extras- as Tom Petty said in his welcome message, “We’re gonna be sending you mountains of stuff over the Super Internet Global Highway.”

    Buy the ticket today. Enjoy what I am enjoying. I am sure I will write more about this down the line, but wanted to get the word out about this today since it’s brand new!

    Twitter Up a Storm: A simple photo leads to “front” page news in Wilkes-Barre – Scranton newsapp

    This is a blog post about a cool Twitter thingy that happened Friday evening. This would be a perfect example to use in a class or workshop on social media on how news can travel fast… of course this is not as cool as what happened with the Hudson Plane Crash and my client Janis Krums who took the first picture of the crash… (read about his cool story, here in the NY Daily News and also an article I wrote about Twitter and Janis, here.)

    Some of my favorite cohorts and I were relaxing in the dorm before getting ready for the Wilkes University Creative Writing banquet/graduation when the thunder clouds rolled in. The wind started to blow. We ran from one side of the Ten East South Street Apartments to the other, checking out the view on either side of the building. The clouds were incredible. I took a picture with my iPhone and Twitpic‘d it right away, as did my friend Jon. I took a bunch more with my regular camera as well.

    Storm Twit Pic Wilkes-Barre

    A few moments later,I get a direct message from a fellow NEPA tweeter who works for Times-Shamrock (publisher of The Scranton Times, Citizen’s Voice, among others) asking for permission to use the picture. Of course I agreed.

    Picture 5

    Meanwhile, people were retweeting my picture. The pics of the storm were spreading as fast as the storm itself. The news organizations Twitter accounts, as well as people I follow were sending the picture around. Picture 6

    Then, while at the Wilkes banquet, I checked Twitter through my Tweetie app and saw the the Scranton Times website had posted its story or the wicked weather. An early version just had my picture, then they later updated the story with reports on the damage. There is another really cool picture someone else submitted of an uprooted tree.

    Donna Talarico storm picture Scranton Times Twitter

    This is a testament to how news being tweeted as it happens, as well as gathering photos and eye-witness accounts to help research the story– and then for more in-depth stories- users can later check-out the news outlets websites, publications and broadcasts. I just this was cool to share. And yes… it stopped storming before we headed to campus so our hair and outfits were all good. To read the whole story in the Scranton Times, go here. The only thing that would have been cooler is if this happened BEFORE my panel on “Social Media for the Anti-Social Writer.”

    I own the second week in January!

    A few posts ago I wrote about the Bylines 2008 weekly planner my short essay was chosen for. I just receieved my copy in the mail this week! I am stoked.!! You can see my entry below. (You can click to enlarge it to read the entry.)

    I was bummed a little bit since that week is already over, however it was the week I was at Wilkes for my creative writing residency, so it was acutally perfect! The week I spent with my writer friends and mentors is on the other page of an essay about writing! I love it!

    If anyone is interested, you can learn more about this planner for writers, visit I am really impressed- it’s a very cool book with some neat features for writers.

    Norman Mailer & Wilkes University

    The front pages of both local papers featured a tribute to the life of the great Norman Mailer. I also think it is appropriate because today is Veteran’s Day, too and Norman Mailer is a veteran. My creative writing classmate, Joe Cetta was quoted in this one:

    Mailer connected to Wilkes through creative writing program
    by Heidi Ruckno, The Citizen’s Voice (11.11.07)

    A close friendship with Wilkes University professor Dr. J. Michael Lennon gave Norman Mailer the opportunity to get well acquainted with Wilkes University.

    Lennon, Mailer’s literary executor and biographer, and Dr. Bonnie Culver co-founded the university’s Masters of Creative Writing program in 2004. When they asked Mailer to be on the advisory board, the author accepted the invitation.Lennon and Mailer had been friends for more than 30 years.

    The two collaborated on Mailer’s last book, “On God: An Uncommon Conversation.”Mailer was a great friend to the Wilkes community and to Culver personally, she said. He even convinced her a bachelor’s degree was not a necessary requirement for admission into the creative writing masters program.So far, three students without bachelor’s degrees received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, Culver said.

    “That’s because of Norman,” she said.

    Mailer always believed a writer’s level of formal education had little to do with his or her ability, but his involvement with Wilkes stemmed far beyond that small detail.Mailer visited the university several times as a guest speaker, delivering the keynote address at the inaugural Pennsylvania Writer’s Conference in June 2004. He also started the Norris Church Mailer scholarship fund in honor of his sixth wife, and routinely invited Wilkes students into his Provincetown, Mass. home.

    Scranton resident Joe Cetta, 28, a graduate of the creative writing program, visited Mailer’s home during a Wilkes University trip. Mailer was not one to protect trade secrets, Cetta said. He was always willing to share some pointers with aspiring writers.Mailer told Cetta it was best to write now and edit later. The author felt it was easier than censoring before the pen hit the paper.Cetta was grateful for the advice, even though he was never a Mailer fan. Like many others, Cetta had some difficulty with some of the author’s views.

    The author had unpopular opinions about feminism and fought to get a convicted killer released from prison.Mailer was brilliant because of the controversy, Culver said. He was never afraid to stretch the boundaries of what is acceptable.“He was never shy about trying something that was going to stretch our imaginations, and that’s the mark of a truly great artist,” she said.