Category Archives: Talented People I Know

Talented People I Know #3 – Ashley Ambirge – Writer, Designer, Blogger, Awesome

When I returned to Wilkes to finish my BA, I was older than most people in my class (although there were a few people in the communication studies departments also in their late 20s). That said, I never saw many of my fellow students so much outside of class and that said, therefore not many close friendships formed the way that they had been my first time at Wilkes as a traditional freshman. BUT– I met some amazingly talented people and love following the successes and journeys of my fellow communication majors. One spunky young lady in particular is Ashley Ambirge. Had we been closer in age, or even just spent more time together, I am convinced we’d be like peas in a pod. She is, in a way, who I desire to be.

Ashley Ambirge is one of the talented people I am lucky to know. | Photo Courtesy

Ashley Ambirge is one of the talented people I am lucky to know | Photo Courtesy of

We just had a quick correspondence on Facebook, just an hour ago. She commented that she liked my haircut, and I take that as gospel from her because she is quite the fashionista. I wrote her back to ask how her grad school was going. She replied, and shared with me her new blog, The Middle Finger Project. It’s a blog about lifestyle design. I haven’t made a Talented People I Know post in a month or so, so I immediately started this post to spread some love for Ashley and her blog.

Ashley’s Middle Finger Project is all about living life the way you want to lead it. Being non-traditional. Non-conformist. Living for the now. Being a bit impulsive. Doing only what makes you happy. These are all things that I believe in, and I actually teared up reading her About this Project page because it’s just so amazing to see a beautiful, talented woman living her life the way she wants. Her unique and optimistic outlook on life is very similar to mine, except for one small difference – she took that leap of faith and is DOING it! After reading her blog post, I cannot help but think that maybe I should be doing more. I can’t say I haven’t thought about it. The tagline of her blog is – Rejecting the Status Quo and Rebelling Against Mediocrity.

She’s well-traveled, well-dressed, and well on her way to big things. Meet Ashley. Here’s a snippet from her Who’s Behind This page:

I found this fascinating quote today:

As excited as I am to implement these objectives, I’m also a firm believer that the journey is equally important (if not more so) as the destination.  A lot of my impulsivity is rooted in that particular belief, and I make decisions largely based on what I feel will add the most value to my life both immediately and in the long-term, in line with the goals I’ve outlined above.  If that means doing things in an unconventional matter, then so be it.  For me, life is an adventure to be lived, an experience to be had, and one that should not, by any means, be disrupted by mediocrity and, Who’s Behind It

You should read the whole article.


Imagine Tattoo a Popular Search Term it Seems

I don’t have Google Analytics on my blog because I don’t host my own WordPress blog. But, from the stats that WP has, recently there has been hundreds of hits to my blog post for my imagine tattoo. Am I some kind of trend setter? Haha. I thought I was being original, but I guess lots of other people want this awesome, inspirational word tattooed on them as well. Also, wrist tattoo is a huge word being searched. Just an observation.

Here’s some of the words people have used to find my blog: imagine tattoo, imagine tattoos, tattoo quotes, wrist tattoos, wrist tattoos writing, one word tattoos, tattoo on wrist, wrist word tattoos, word on wrist tattoo, “imagine” tatttoo, imagine tatoo [sic], girl wrist tattoo, letter tattoo on wrist, inner wrist tattoo, tattoo wrist writing, wrist tattoo quotes, wrist tattoo ideas, and more. That’s just the past 30 days. Hope my tattoo and blog post about it helps others find what they are looking for!

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.


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.

Talented People I Know: Matt Hinton & Jim Warner – A Poet and a Playwright

“Talented People I Know” is a new recurring feature on my blog, Daily Dose o Donna. I am lucky enough to have been acquainted with lots of creative, artistic, and talented folks in Northeast PA (or, grown in NEPA that are now elsewhere). I wanted to use my blog as a way in introduce others to the talents and accomplishments of these incredible boys and girls. Some blog posts may be about someone’s talent in general, while others may be to preview an event or release of a work of art. Either way, this is my way to help get the word out that good things, creative things, are happening right around us or,  that good things started here. This is the first feature, but these will all be tagged ‘Talented People I Know’ so you can search on the Tag Cloud to the right to find more.

Jim Warner Vinyl Night

Jim Warner could get lost in his music collection, for real. Photo courtesy of Times Leader/Photo by Clark Van Orden

The first installment of Talented People I Know features a pair of best buds: Jim Warner & Matthew Hinton. Since I usually always see them as a pair, I thought it was appropriate to write about them together. Another reason I chose to feature them in the same post is because they were both featured, back to back, in the Times Leader this week. It was pure coincidence, but was pretty cool. Each of their articles also feature pictures of their vinyl collections. Just thought that was uber cool and kind of poetic that they appeared in the local paper in two consecutive days.

Jim Warner. Jim and I go way back, to 1996 I believe. We went to Wilkes undergrad together, although he was a few years ahead. He’s now the assistant director of the creative writing MA/MFA program, where I am a student. He’s also the business manager for Etruscan Press. Finally, Jim Warner is a brilliant poet and entertainer. You can witness that for yourself at any open mic night he’s reading at- or has organized or hosted. His collection of poetry, Too Bad Its Poetry, is available from Paper Kite Press. His second book will be out this spring. Esteemed poet Toi Derricotte had this to say about Jim’s book: “The amazing poem “east/west” is a must read. Warner successfully weaves–or more aptly fuses–references to music, spirituality, psychology, pop culture and literature as he explores themes of exile and identity. In these electric poems we journey with him as he both searches for and invents a new home–this one made of language.”

Jim will host the poetry slam at the AWP conference in Denver. Going back to the Times Leader article. Jim was featured in The Guide, the TL’s pull-out entertainment section, in an article promoting a new Vinyl Night event at Paper Kite Studio in Edwardsville. The first one is Tuesday, August 11 at 7pm. You can read the article, “Vinyl Night Leaves Music Junkies Spinning” by Mike McGinely, here. Please note the Times Leader archives its news stories online after seven days, so this link may take you to an abstract. This little blurb on my blog is of course just a small tribute to all the Jim does.

Graphic from Times Leader Article, courtesy of Times Leader. Photos in story by Don Carey & Pete G. Wilcox.

Graphic from Times Leader Article, courtesy of Times Leader. Photos in story by Don Carey & Pete G. Wilcox.

Matt Hinton. Matt and I are in the MFA program at Wilkes together and the  moment I saw that my friend made these unique lighting fixtures from old musical instruments, I knew there was a story in it. The world just had to know about his amazing work!

I pitched the story to the Times Leader for their At Home section, which runs each Saturday. The story ran today and it’s beautiful! There’s nothing like seeing the layout and photos in the paper. Good stuff. What I think was also cool, and that I am very proud of, is that this feature story got the teaser in the front page of the paper! The upper right, above the masthead, has a great graphic that gives a peek at the story and a great closeup shot of the saxophone lamp.

We talked about how his hobby started, the types of lamps he has made already, and what he’d like to make in the future. We talked a little about his teaching, his theater background and his play, The Quiet Cowboy — and his other domestic, artistic creations like a pot rack made from a shopping cart. That’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

Matt, of course, was a great interview because he’s fun, interesting and entertaining. This was a fun story to write and I just love how the Times Leader laid out the story. I read it online first thing this morning, but it looks so nice in print. If anyone has any old brass or woodwind instruments they’d like to part with, Matt can turn them into something really cool… The Times Leader unfortunately archives their stories after seven days, but here is the link anyway. I will see if I can get permission to reprint the article on my blog as well.

So, that’s the first installment of “Talented People I Know.” I am lucky to know Matt and Jim, and to call them friends. If you love poetry and plays, these are two guys you need to put on your radar. If you don’t think you enjoy poetry or plays, this duo will change your mind.