Category Archives: social media

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.

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Presenting this week at May’s Cocktails & Connections Event: Blogging for Business

cocktails and connections logo

Cocktails and Connections is a monthly mixer for NEPA professionals.

A few months ago, Catherine Shafer of CDS Creative invited me to present on blogging for business at May’s Cocktails & Connections. Cocktails and Connections is a monthly networking event held at the Woodlands. Professionals can get together to relax, network and learn. Pretty cool concept.

May’s event is slated for this Tuesday, the 25th and runs from 6:00-8:00 – my presentation is at 6:30 and will last less than an hour.

My blogging for business presentation will cover topics such as:

  • Why every business needs to have a blog
  • How to set up a blog
  • What you should and shouldn’t blog about
  • How to promote a blog
  • Blogging best practices

The event has a Facebook page. For information or to RSVP, you can visit the Cocktails and Connections page here.


Social Media Workshop Next Month at Wilkes University

I love my alma mater, Wilkes University. So much so, that I am now part of the communications studies faculty as an adjunct professor. My first class, Social Media & PR, starts in a few weeks. I’ve also become active with our alumni association as a member of the communications committee. The Wilkes alumni office has been putting together some really great programs for recent alumni, a mixture of social events and workshops.

They invited me and Stephen Moyer, another Wilkes graduate that I also met at Tweet Up, to lead a social media workshop this February. I am very excited to be a part of this. The event is not limited to Wilkes alums, either; it’s open to the public.

Here is the awesome flier that Bridget designed:

social media workshop at wilkes university


Moments of Wit & Wisdom – Or, funny stuff from Facebook

I like to think that I can be witty and clever. I love play on words and stuff, so sometimes, I just try to make the most of a status update or tweet. Here’s one I made about two minutes ago. As soon as I hit send, I realized how dirty it sounded.

And, here’s another one-liner that made me laugh. Of course, you may have to read the news story to understand why I wrote what I wrote. Basically, two young high school teachers were caught topless together in a classroom:

This was just amusing. This was after three straight days of eating cheese as a snack.

Dear Who Ever Made Cheese You Complete Me

And, I am so glad that my friends think I am funny. Feels good to laugh, be laughed at, be laughed with.

I don’t really know the point of this post except to show how much fun engaging with other on Facebook is. It’s seriously way more then, “Just ate dinner.” Come on folks! It’s about staying in touch and being social and having meaningful interactions with great people you may not get to see all the time.


Talented People I Know: Kaylie Jones, Novelist & Memoirist

Kaylie Jones's Lies My Mother Never Told Me is getting rave reviews

Kaylie Jones's Lies My Mother Never Told Me is getting rave reviews

For my second Talented People I Know post, I’m going to introduce you to novelist Kaylie Jones, who I’ve come to know through the Wilkes University MFA in creative writing program. She’s one of our fantastic faculty members, along with my two great mentors throughout the program, first Beverly Donofrio and then Becky Bradway. Kaylie, who primarily works with fiction students, has been a wonderful mentor to some of my friends in the program. The wonderful thing about the Wilkes program is that everyone learns from one another, so although I did not work one-on-one with Kaylie, I’ve definitely learned from her.

(Fun little sidebar: Actually, to be a little more specific, Kaylie and I really connected outside of Wilkes University on Twitter. We were having fun talking there and I casually mentioned that, because of my day job and interest in social media, I had pitched an idea for a workshop during residency on how writers can use Twitter and Facebook. Turns out her husband, Kevin works in the Internet marketing realm. She called the Wilkes program director, Bonnie and pretty much got the ball rolling on my proposed class. In June 2009, Kevin and I presented “Social Media for the Anti-Social Writer” which got many, many more Wilkes faculty and students on board with social media!)

Over the years, Kaylie has released several novels including A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries which was also turned into a movie of the same name. Speaking of daughter, she’s the daughter of famous novelist James Jones (From Here to Eternity). She teaches in a few different creative writing programs, including Wilkes and chairs the James Jones First Novel competition.

Kaylie’s new memoir, Lies My Mother Never Told Me, was released last month; but, I was lucky enough to over the past two years hear excerpts during her whole writing and publishing process at nightly readings during residencies. The book is so familiar now to the entire Wilkes writing community. It’s just truly amazing to be part of a writing community full of such support for one another, and while Kaylie is getting a lot of wonderful media attention right now, she’s forever promoting the works and honors of her friends, students, and peers, too. She’s just kind and generous like that.

kaylie_jones_donna_talarico_brooklyn_09_09

Me with Kaylie Jones after her launch party in Brooklyn.

A whole slew of the Wilkes people went to Kaylie’s book launch in Brooklyn a few weeks ago, and many students have been following her along the book reading route around New York and Pennsylvania. Her next reading is tomorrow at Anthology in Scranton, so that’s why I am writing this post: she’s top of mind. That, and I’m halfway through the memoir.

The press Kaylie has been getting for Lies My Mother Never Told Me is impressive. Publisher’s Weekly. New York Times. Washington Post. CNN. Lots of other larger city papers, too like Pittsburgh, Columbus, Palm Beach, etc. And, I even suggested a story to my features editor at the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, where Mary-Therese Biebel did a wonderful interview with her. The Wilkes-Barre area media has embraced Kaylie, actually. Here’s a link to her interview on WVIA-FM‘s (the local NPR affiliate) ArtScene, a daily arts program. She gives great kudos to Wilkes. While we’re linking to Erica Funke’s interviews, here’s one from another Talented People I Know, Jim Warner.

I will let this great video from Better tell you more about Kaylie’s history and about her new memoir:

Check out the memoir if you can. It’s fantastic! And better yet, if you can see her read, go.


What is the big deal about Facebook pages & pictures when it comes to employment? Really. What’s the big deal?

All opinions here represent me and me alone.

I hope this blog post sparks a debate. I do. I love creating conversation. I know you have an opinion on this, so please share. Onto business…

I hate seeing people I care about fear for their jobs.

What do employers think people do in their spare time? And since when is having a social life wrong?

I remember being a kid, hanging out at the adult table and seeing my family members and their adult friends drinking beer. I knew it was adult stuff. I wasn’t influenced negatively.

Me with a prop in the Sam Adams museum. This was an educational experience (history, industry, chemistry, agriculture, marketing, etc), as well as taste-testing. So, is a line crossed here, I mean, if I was a teacher?

Me with a prop in the Sam Adams museum. This was an educational experience (history, industry, chemistry, agriculture, marketing, etc), as well as taste-testing. So, is a line crossed here, I mean, if I was a teacher?

When there is educational measures about the dangers of drunk driving and alcoholism in place (which there is, just like for drug abuse and unprotected sex) children know (or should know) that underage drinking is wrong. And let me tell you something. Underage drinking has been going on for a tad longer than the Internet. Am I wrong? Heck, many adults still don’t pay attention to the laws and dangers involved in drunk driving and alcohol abuse.

So why, then, are our school districts so adamant about teachers not having Facebook pages? I have many friends who are teachers, guidance counselors, coaches and general college employees. For the most part they all have very active social lives and most live in constant fear that a picture of them with a drink in hand will show up online one day. I am pretty careful about what I post online out of total respect, but it still blows my mind that higher ups in education are so against this. First of all, profiles can be set to private. If students are going to look for Ms. Talarico, they aren’t going to find her. They will see she has a profile, but that’s about it. Think of it this way. Someone may know where I live, but they don’t know what is inside. If I let someone in my house, only then will they see the pictures on my wall and be able to peruse through decades worth of photo albums in my office.

What is the point of shielding children from seeing an adult doing something perfectly legal? For real! Like I said above, some of my earliest memories are adults with alcohol,  mostly because I grew up the child of entertainers. So we know that underage drinking is wrong. That also means that drinking after 21 is legal. Why, then, do we also hide that legal people are drinking? Why aren’t children asking, “Then Mommy, who DOES drink?” Think about it. Why are school districts so afraid? The argument, “It’s not professional” is completely lame. I want a better explanation. If someone can provide a better explanation, maybe I can be swayed. But simply, “It’s just not professional” is, in my book, an argument with no substance.

Well, this debate is coming from the girl who had the best Halloween costumer EVER at age nine.

Well, this debate is coming from the girl who had the best Halloween costumer EVER at age nine.

Besides, I never thought my teachers were perfect. Why must we paint them that way? I knew that most of the adults around me drank at family functions- whether a holiday, a picnic, a family reunion, a birthday or some other event. Some of those people were educators. So if the teachers I know drink, doesn’t that mean that other teachers may drink? Of course it does. They are humans just like anyone else, and while many adults abstain from alcohol, others don’t– regardless of what their day job is. They are of legal age and can drink a beer just like they can smoke a cigarette. And people are going to know about it whether they have a Facebook page or not.

I am not saying that these pictures should be rampantly widespread, but I can’t understand the harm if someone sees a picture of their teacher with a Miller Lite in their hand. I do not think that it would discount their teaching abilities in any way, shape, or form. I think the pros of having a Facebook page way outweigh the negative. And besides, like I said before, profiles can be private, and let’s not forget that we control everything about our pages. You don’t have to put pictures up. You can prevent others from tagging you in pictures. You don’t have to fill in any information if you don’t want to.

I would not lose respect for my teacher if I saw him or her drink. In fact, when you get into graduate school, it’s pretty darn common to have a brew with your professor. I understand that in grad school you are a grown up, but I am just trying to illustrate that professional people do partake occasionally in an adult beverage, together or alone.

What about on New Year’s Eve where a toast is customary? What about on a wedding day, where a toast is customary? Do you take those pictures out of a wedding album when you show your students your big day? What if you are a parent, but also a teacher? What if you are friends with a teacher and your children play together? Do you not have wine together when they are over for fear that the other kid will say, “I was at Kimmie’s house and her mommy- Ms. Talarico- had a beer.” It’s not a picture, but it’s the same effect. One kid saw it, and word can spread. What happens if a teacher is seen by a student at the grocery store buying a six pack? What happens if a student lives on your block and they are walking the dog past your porch while you and buddies are having a beer? Isn’t that the same thing as seeing a picture? Which again– you can hide a picture online and you don’t even HAVE to post a picture online. But you can’t hide in real life. And why should you, anyway?

PROFESSIONAL JOBS, TOO

It’s not just education. Studies show that employers are starting to pay attention to Facebook profiles. And, as this chart I pasted here from eMarketer shows, sometimes people aren’t hired because of a picture containing alcohol.

chartHRpicsI’ve worked in many industries, including the beverage industry where I promoted Bud Light and if I wasn’t seen with beer, there would be a problem. In general, when people come in from out of town for job interviews or people from a corporate office come for visits to an office, it’s likely that people will go out to dinner and have drinks. When people are at conventions or entertaining clients, people are drinking. “Can I buy you a drink?” is just common, professional courtesy in many situations. Company parties and picnics often have bars. Now getting out of control would be an issue, but I’m not talking about that– that’s completely different.

Why then, are some people so infuriated by pictures of others with alcohol? I don’t blame people for being afraid that they would lose a job, or lose the chance at an opportunity.

It’s that fear I have a problem with. Why is that fear there? Why is society painting a picture that it’s wrong to be social?

Personally? I have placed pictures of me at happy hours and other social occasions online. Why? Because it shows that I am a real person who likes to have fun. I am serious in my work and serious in my schooling and because I work so hard, I deserve to have fun. While in the past the majority of my pictures online seem to be at parties and such, some may assume that going out is all I do. However, it’s obviously not true. In fact, I have thousands of pictures on my computer and frankly I only post ones that I find entertaining so, oftentimes, that ends up being goofy pictures in social situations. I mean, how many pictures of the Gettysburg battle fields or fall foliage do people want to see on Facebook.

But more importantly, I am not hiding who I am. I am not afraid of who I am. If I were to ever look for employment again and someone were to judge my employability based on a photo of me at a Sam Adams tour posing with a picture of Brick Red Ale, then that’s their loss. Seriously. Why would we judge someone on a picture or two? Behind that picture is a woman with varied career experience, a solid GPA in all my college, countless publications, and more. I think that’s pretty lame for employers to base decisions solely on that. Fortunately I work in a field where we praise social media and all that it can do. But I am still smart about it. I am pretty liberal in what I share online, but I also know where to draw the line.

Finally, this is an out-there analogy, but think about celebrities. While my personal view is that parents (sometimes), teachers, and coaches should be the main role models for children, children seem to want to be like the actors and musicians and singers they see on TV. The covers of all those trashy tabloids are littered with pictures of celebs looking completely trashed. And guess what. They still get movie roles and record deals. They are still adored by millions. Granted when there is addiction involved, work and respect may be lost, but in general a party picture doesn’t hurt them one bit.

Had to show one more angle of this creative costume that won me Most Original, thanks to my clever, handy mom. Today, would this costume be child abuse? What have we become? Come on, really.

Had to show one more angle of this creative costume that won me Most Original, thanks to my clever, handy mom. Today, would this costume be child abuse? What have we become? Come on, really.

I can’t say that I would want to ever work for an organization that governed what I did outside of work. I don’t think I’d ever want to work for the government, or in general, for a conservative company. Blah. Ugh. No disrespect to anyone that does. The money and benefits are wonderful, but I just hold so true to being an individual that I know I would not do well in that type of environment, and it’s better for me to know that beforehand.

I hope that after reading this people aren’t assuming I am some alcoholic. I’m clearly not. I just can’t see the harm in being in a picture holding a beer. I simply can’t. Maybe I am too liberal. Maybe growing up in the entertainment industry and later working in media has made my tolerance for things like this higher. But I am glad I fall to this side of the fence. Things are much happier over here.

UPDATE: March 21, 2012

Three years after I wrote this post an Associated Press article appeared on Yahoo! Finance called “Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords”. This infuriated me and I wanted to write a response to it. Then I remembered that I covered this topic here, at Daily Dose o’ Donna (which sadly is not active any longer), three years ago. My opinions on this matter of Facebook being used as a hiring decision have not changed; in fact, I’ve only gotten more passionate about my feelings.

At the time of this post I worked for an eCommerce developer. Today, I work in higher education in a similar capacity — social media, web content and the like. I have started to be more careful and deliberate about what I put online because my career took me to a new industry–I’ve even went back and removed some things (and please don’t call me a hypocrite–I’m not!). Despite my tighter rein, I am still showing the real me and I am still having fun; that’s no secret. I feel that the benefits of social media outweigh the negatives and, further, that the negatives are completely controllable by the individual. Common sense, people. Common sense.

Here’s a screen shot of a Facebook post I made today. I forgot that when I read a Yahoo! News story that it appears on my Facebook timeline, so a debate started on my page. See that? Now people know what I am reading. If I choose to not let people know what I am reading I can simply turn it off. In fact, I”ll go do that right now.

facebook screen shot discussuing employers and hiring using facebook

What do you think of all this? It’s still an issue after all these years. Read the comments from three years ago and then share your own. Have your views changed over time? Let me know!


Honest Thoughts from a Creative Slacker: Opening My Idea Box with the World (AKA My State of the Union Address)

I’m a creative person. But, I have a flaw that many creative people have. My flaw is thinking of ideas, getting excited about them, jotting them down, and then immediately getting another idea to focus on, and so the circle begins again.

OPENING THE BOX

As you can see, I was always kinda corny from the tagline of my box. Uh, actually... that I gave my box a tagline scares me.

As you can see, I was always kinda corny from the tagline of my box. Uh, actually... that I gave my box a tagline scares me.

The other day, I came across my “Idea Box.” It’s an old Mudd shoebox filled with shreds of my “light bulb moments.”

I was cleaning out a massive cabinet filled with way too many things I no longer need and the things I do need and want, were a scattered disarray. I was making good time with my office cleaning so I grabbed a fresh Sam Adams and took a trip down memory lane.

The contents of this box are incredibly varied. There are many types of paper: loose leaf. spiral. yellow legal pad. steno pad. There are ripped-off placemats. Napkins. Business cards. Smaller notebooks. Envelopes. Really– anything that could be a writing surface.

There are ideas in this box on Froggy 101 letterhead that still have (717) as the zip code of Northeast PA. I didn’t write down those ideas on that notepad when it was an old notepad. I wrote down those ideas when it was new, before (570) existed. Yeah. Wow.

Inside this idea box are many ideas:

  • Greeting cards (one that actually got published by Oatmeal Studios in 2000… I guess I never took the original idea out of the box!)
  • T-shirt sayings – many of these!
  • Movie title or book title ideas. I’ve always been clever with names. Often, I think of a title and a very loose premise. But from the vast array of ideas here, it’s obvious evidence of my above-mentioned flaw. I have more ideas than time and sometimes know-how.
  • Side note to above: One of those movie title ideas I had was Swing Vote. Yep, jotted down I am guessing at some point during my fierce Young Democrats days, inspired by an election night party (which was about a year of awesome times– just got busy).  I can’t even remember what my original plot idea was, but the title is what I jotted down. And, it was a title of another movie this year! Too funny. Guess at least the idea had a ring to it!
  • Lines I Never Said. Sometimes I think of something cruel to say. Or funny. Or just inappropriate for the particular place I am at or the people I am with. However, I think to myself, “Well, I can’t *really* say that. But, it’d be really funny if I was writing a book one day about a guy who has this girlfriend, and then I can make him use this line…” Basically, all the things I thought were well-crafted witty responses that I never uttered out loud for one reason or another. I want to work them into dialogue of characters who *can* say them somehow someday.
  • Lines I Said that More People Should Hear. I say some interesting things. I like wordplay. Sometimes I say something that I think is funny and then no one laughs and I am sure I’ve failed, but just as I think that, the people laugh. Yeah. Sometimes what I say takes a second to get. At any rate, there are some funny lines I’ve said that have generated laughter. Many I lost… fizzled into the air at barrooms and office spaces. But I managed to collect a few gems, and some are in this box. Now, I make a more valiant effort to keep a better log, now that I use a moleskine. (One example– Donna to Doug, Halloween 1999 at Hops & Barleys: “I wanted to dress up as you for Halloween, but Party City was out of asshole suits.”)
  • Scribbles of Inventions. I am not the best artist. I think that’s why I am so hesitant to share ideas that require construction. But, I did scribble down ideas I had for nifty little gag gifts and gadgets.
  • Songs. I found four songs. I have no musical talent, so maybe they are just called poems. But, I was at country radio at the time so I was all into country songs, story songs to be more specific. One song/poem I wrote in 1999 is called “Riding Shotgun” about a girl who is one of the guys (yeah, my life story but the rest of the song isn’t) but the guy finally asks her to sit up front. The song is about that summer. Fast forward to last year, Taylor Swift releases a song, not called that, but “riding shotgun” that’s part of the chorus. Again, at least I had a catchy idea. That someone else had a similar idea and it took off makes me happy that at least my ideas COULD go somewhere.
  • Restaurant Ideas. I have four ideas for theme restaurants. One, I even bought decor for on eBay because I was so certain I’d create a business plan one day and wanted to sack up some goodies just incase. But now I think I will write stories around the ideas since I have no resources to actually become a restaurateur and plus I hate cleaning.
  • Random Thoughts. A lot of times I just had thoughts that I knew I wanted to remember. Ponders about my life. Questions about the world around me. I jotted these ideas down with intentions of writing an article about them or in the case of thoughts about me, an essay.
  • Letters. I found a letter to someone I broke up with explaining why I really broke up with him (I made an excuse that I liked someone else which was a terrible lie, but thought it made more sense than saying I wanted time alone). Obviously, he never got the letter and I forgot that I wrote it. But feelings in that letter, dated in 2001, still hold true today. Eight years later, I still feel the same way I felt in that letter– that I needed and wanted more. And it needed to start from within. I think rereading this letter shows me how far I HAVEN’T come creatively since then. Didn’t connect that dot until I am writing this blog post this very second, but there is so much I still want and need to do and I think that’s why I am still happily single.

OLD IDEAS MEET NEW IDEAS

A peek inside the box. Tons of scribble and inspiration, some I forget my train of thought at the moment. A lesson now is to write the date, where I was, and fully explain my thoughts so I can remember better later.

A peek inside the box. Tons of scribble and inspiration, some I forget my train of thought at the moment. A lesson now is to write the date, where I was, and fully explain my thoughts so I can remember better later.

The past two years as most readers know, I’ve been working on my MA in creative writing and now the MFA. I feel accomplished that I finished my first book-length manuscript. Looking back, I know I didn’t do the best I could have in my creative life. As my idea box shows, I’ve had ideas for decades. The only thing that is holding me back is time.  I know that with support and discipline I CAN create anything I want and completing the MA taught me that. But what about everything else before and after the program? Since the last idea was put in this specific box, I’ve had troves of new ideas, now in moleskines or random places. I put all the “new” random ones inside this old box and have a stack of my notebooks by the box.

I need to do something with the ideas in this box. The worthwhile ones. What good are they doing in there? Area codes are changing as we speak. What I am waiting for? WHAT?

I need to make some serious changes in my life. Nothing I do is per se wrong, it’s how and when I do it. I need, need, need to get myself a schedule. I see people way busier than I accomplishing a lot more. I am a procrastinator and a time waster and I know it. It’s my other flaw. I am great at thinking of things but horrible at getting them done. My professional career is different- not talking about that. I have always excelled in that and always (hope) I will. It’s the things I do for myself that I can’t manage to carve time for.

I ask myself why I can’t do things as much as I should. Sometimes I answer with, “Because it’ll be our little secret. No one will know if you really nap until 2pm. No one else will know that you wrote a blog post instead of the short story idea you had. No one else knows you are doing all those quizzes on Facebook instead of revising that chapter. They may know what 80s rock song is most like your life, but they don’t know what you were SUPPOSED to be doing instead of that quiz.”

procrastinationI don’t know if I have ADD or something that prevents me from focusing. And who cares. I’ve never talked to my doctor about it,  but probably won’t because I am sure its habitual. Sometimes I do wonder if it’s something greater, but usually I think my lack of focus goes back to me having to many ideas, too many things I want to do, and then not doing anything because I don’t know where to start.

At first, I wanted to focus on a healthy life style – get up early walk (and hope that can turn into running). But now, I think I want to get my creative energy up to a new level. I think once that’s up there and I am happy, the rest of me will change and become more motivated to get the rest of me in shape.

I want my body’s creative energy to match my mental creative energy.

If my hands could go as fast as my brain, I know I’d get more done.

I wake up every day wanting to change my habits.

And every day, I hit snooze until the last moment possible.

I come home from work every day wanting to change my habits.

And every day, I get sidetracked…

..by a magazine, social media (I love it and am the first to admit I do it too much), looking up band bios on the new artist I heard on Pandora which leads to buying stuff on iTunes… and then, I get tired and go to sleep.

And then I wake up… and the cycle begins again.

(gosh.. coming up for air here… didn’t think this post would be so long, but this shows how much really has been on my mind as of late, and this was meant to be a check-list of what I want to do, and it turned into a whole backstory… but that’s okay, writing it out is making it more real…)

THE PLAN FOR CHANGE – and it’s just that, a plan. I am making no great claim that I will be able to accomplish this. But, I welcome help, support, feedback, and ass-kicking from anyone who knows me. Someone once told me (and he was quoting a great motivational speaker) that the key to success is writing down your goals. I take that a step further by sharing these goals. Some may think its too personal to share these goals and self-revelations, but not me. Here’s why:

  • The people that care can read this and know what I am feeling and help.
  • The people I don’t know who may struggle like I do, may be inspired.
  • Being honest and sharing thoughts helps others, it truly does. We’re all human, and it helps to be reminded.
  • Finally, sharing these goals holds me accountable for them.

Lately, thanks to a guy I blogged about the other week that I’ve known for some time, I’ve been attending a lot of local art events at Paper Kite Press. Meeting new people and being exposed to all this creativity has really inspired me again. The creative writing program of course inspired me, too. But this adds to it. This is something, somewhere local where I am seeing all different things that people are creating and sharing- art, music, knowledge, poetry, theater, and more. People have so much to share and it made me realize how little I have to share – of course I have ideas and insight to share, but here I mean “physically share.” Sure, I’ve done A LOT of feature writing and have bins of articles that I am super proud of. But, I am talking the creative stuff, the stuff for me. Short stories, essays, and such.

Today, I made a list of things that I want to do in myself to improve my creativity. Some are easy, some take more effort. Some I will start today, some may be good ideas that may take me a while. But, this is what I came up with:

1. Hand-write something each morning or night. I want to journal more. I realized I miss pencils. As silly as that seems, I do really miss writing with a pencil. There’s just something different. The pressure applied to the lead can be a measure of the emotion I put into the writing. Was it hard? Was it light? It’s something beyond the content of the words that shows how I felt when I was writing. Pencil writing looks gritty sometimes, too and I like it. I saw a new book out from I think Chronicle Books about the art of handwriting. I notice my own penmanship getting sloppy. So, handwriting each day will accomplish many things, including helping me get feelings out and de-stress. This may be a way for me to get back into my dream journal, too.

2. Call one person a day for meaningful conversation.

I am told very often by people that I am one of the most social people they know. I love to talk to people. I love to meet new people. I love being part of conversation. But something very bad is happening to me. I love email. I love Twitter. I love Facebook. I love texting. Boy, do I love texting. All have their roles in communication and I encourage the use of all of them. But they are no replacement for talking to someone. Easier said than done. It makes me sad to know that I don’t take calls, for no reason other than– well, damn. There’s not even a way to explain it. Have I become AFRAID of the phone? I talk fine in conversation in person, and frequently converse online. But I will let a call go to voicemail and then text that person. I am ashamed. So, I am committing to talking on the phone more. I would like to reach out to old friends and family members that I hardly speak to. I think calling people and talking in person will be inspiring. It may not directly be related to creativity, but for me, I know hearing voices I don’t hear often will be refreshing. An LOL can never replace a real but of laughter shared between friends. Talking on the phone with people will help me begin to be a more active person again. A better person. A better friend.

3. Listen to some kind of new music each day.

I am already doing this thanks to Pandora. I will just continue this. I do not know if I am different (well, I am), but I am a very visual-thinking person. When I hear a song, I think in movie montage format. I get all sorts of images that go to the beat of a song. A few months ago, I made a mix of songs that reminded me of my childhood and teenage years to help inspire the memoir. When songs would come on, I’d close my eyes and picture me doing something with some friends and then, like magic, a little detail would pop out. Something so small like my friend Dewayne with a Tarheels hat on. I was able to go back and add more detail to my memoir because of almost a hypnotic memory. New music does this, too. I can’t explain it, but it just makes me think of faces, places, even ones I’ve never seen before. Which means that I just created something.

4. Attend one arts-infused event a week.

I have been loving going to Paper Kite. I know there is more in our area that I have not been exposed to yet. I have to also realize it’s okay to do these things alone. In fact, doing them alone may even be better. I think my social-ness sometimes makes my life too fast to keep up with. Spending some quiet time to myself to be inspired and just think will do me good. I want to start paying attention more to the paper for these events and attend them in groups or by myself. Either way, notebook in tow. Phone off.

5. Find a class to take.

I think visually. Yet, I’ve never created anything visual. Maybe I have some untapped talent? I would like to find a class or clinic to take to try something new. Painting, pottery, drawing… something like that. Start with one class, and when its over, find something else. This again will also give me discipline to create something.

6. Find a local writers group.

I have awesome classmates and colleagues from the Wilkes program and we meet as much as we can. But I think I also need to find something regular that is close by. I will start to look out for one, or form one. Some people I know from Wilkes have been trying to start a local group and I should follow up on that.

7. Turn off the Internet. Sometimes.

When I am writing I need to make a better effort to not open the Internet browser. I work in the industry and it’s my job and my passion- I always have loved it. In 1995, my friend Jenn and I were featured in the Pocono Record as teenagers of the future when the Internet was just starting to become an everyday thing (we were selected because we had a column in the school paper called “Nothing But Net” where we reviewed five websites a week). However, my other passion is writing and creating. From reading this, you know I am easily distracted. Having the world in the next tab away is a hard thing for me to refuse. But, I need to keep Word, and only Word open while I work. I need to find that balance. It’s acutally becoming destrucive.

8. Read and write every day. I don’t. I am only partially ashamed to admit that. I know many other writers who get in slumps. My slump has lasted too long. I have two shelves with books that look pretty sitting there, but they aren’t being read. I need to read every day so that I can get through these. I need to write every day as well, hopefully on a story or two so I can have a new, complete work to share and none of this, “I have an idea and write two pages” nonsense. I need to COMPLETE something. But even if the writing for that one day is just that hand-written piece I mentioned above, that’s okay. It’s a start to being more productive.

9. Give back. I mean this in person and virtually. Creativity is good for the individual as an outlet, but it’s much better when its shared. Aside from sharing the creative work, sharing the process also helps. I am pretty active in the social networking realm. I read a lot of writer, agent, and editor blogs. I comment sometimes but mostly absorb knowledge. I am going to start to be more active in those online communities to share things that I have learned along the way, or when someone inspired me on one of those blogs, I am going to comment to them that they helped me. That gratitude goes a long way. I am going to write more book reviews and am going to blog more about the people I meet along the way and what they contributed to be and to the world. Finally, I want to be more active in the local scene. I did my first public reading in April. It’s been four months since. I need to do that more. A lot more.

To sum up this novel-length post:

I want to come up with an action plan so that my professional life, social life, and writing life can live in harmony and implement these changes to produce more work and build a better, more active life surrounded by creativity and inspiration.