Category Archives: writing

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

Those are a few words I like to say.

Discombobulate.

Fiddle.

Goop.

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

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 ChapbookPublisher.com. 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.

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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.


Tornado Warning for Wilkes-Barre Brings Back OK Memories

Today is an odd weather day in Northeast PA. We have a tornado watch. That doesn’t happen too often. Sure, we get hail and damaging winds. But I believe the last time we had a really devastating tornado in Wilkes-Barre ish areas was in 1998 at Lake Carey. At any rate, I had one of my end of the world dreams last night. We were leaving town quickly and by the time the bus we were on got out of town, I overheard someone saying the town was gone. In my dream, I had to pee so I told someone that I was glad I didn’t stop to pee after all or else I may not have made it. (I don’t know what the end of the world came from in my dream.) So, like you may also experience, when you have to pee in your dream, sometimes you wake up and have to pee, too. So, I woke up. I grabbed my iPhone to see what time it was. It felt early. I have no windows in my bedroom, so it’s a dark dungeon and I never know what time it is. Oversleeping is a result. A welcome result. My iPhone though was as dark as my room. Died overnight. (Like all those people in my dream.) I plugged it in and ran downstairs to pee. The clock on the stove told me it was just after 11. I took a few swigs of apple juice from the jug and when I got back upstairs to return to bed, I saw my phone also got some juice. And several old texts from earlier in the morning popped up. They were from the weather channel.

Tornado Watch for Wilkes-Barre.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Luzerne County.

Shit, I thought. Is my dream coming true? I lay back down,heart still racing a bit from having a movie-like Armageddon dream (it wasn’t a nightmare – it was more like a movie) but maybe racing because fear of dying in a tornado in the waking world was setting in.

I lived in Oklahoma for three years and that’s when I first really learned about tornadoes. In my memoir, I wrote a chapter about aclimating to Tulsa. Here’s a small excerpt of that chapter. To bring you up to speed, this is almost halfway through the book – the first part is about growing up in the Poconos. Here, I was 13, it was the Spring of 1992 and I had just moved to Tulsa — this was my third school that year.

Excerpt:

One of the first things I learned in my new school is that we may have made a tiny mistake in moving to Tulsa. I am not sure if my mom knew how much she was endangering our lives by bringing us to Oklahoma.

tulsa tornado
This is an image from the most deadly tornado in Tulsa. I also lived there for that, 1993 or 1994 I think. It destroyed a huge truckstop when it came up I-44. Image credit from bogoboo.com

I knew what tornadoes were: I’d seen the Wizard of Oz many times. But, I never thought I’d have to prepare for one. Since it was spring, which everyone in Tulsa called Tornado Season, we had tornado drills to practice how we’d survive if high, spiral-shaped winds hit Nimitz Middle School. Back in Pennsylvania, we only had fire drills, so this was quite scary. When the tornado drill bell sounded, we proceeded to the interior hallways and sat Indian-style facing the lockers. Being by the interior walls was safer, we were told. There were no windows, so we’d be protected from glass shards. We put our arms behind our necks and placed our heads down in our laps. This would shield us from the debris. After the first tornado drill, when we were back in the classroom, we were issued an informational packet with all sorts of safety tips and preparation techniques from an educational program Channel 8 News put together called Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide. Travis was a local meteorologist, so I trusted his judgment and studied his guide as if it were material for an exam.

But, I wasn’t at school the first time a tornado threatened my new city.

One Thursday in mid-May, Joe, Theresa, Michelle, Dan, and I were planning on going to the movies, New Jack City I think.   It was raining and I was getting petrified. I knew that rain in the heat could cause a thunderstorm and that thunder and lightening could bring a tornado. Our television had been on all day and, on the little ticker beneath the show, there was a tornado watch for Tulsa County. A watch, according to Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide, meant there was a possibility a tornado could form. But, a little later in the day, that watch transformed into a warning, which meant there were actually tornadoes on the ground. There was no way I was going outside.

“I am not going!” I yelled to Joe, even though going to the movies was one of my favorite things to do. Not much could tear me away from the prospect of Reese’s Pieces and hot, drizzly butter, but dying in a tornado did the trick.

He just laughed at me and continued watching TV. I called my mom at work. The mall management was instructing all employees and shoppers to head to the mall’s tornado shelter but, yet, she assured me everything would be fine; it was just a precaution. I’d be safe at the movies. My aunts and Dan had gathered at our apartment for the family outing. They saw I was freaking out.

“What’s the matter with you, Gutt?” asked Dan. He’d nicknamed Theresa and I “Butt and Gutt.” He even drew stick figures to represent this duo. Mine had a bubble in the front; Theresa’s bubble was in the back. I hated it.

“Don’t you watch TV? There’s a freakin’ tornado,” I cried from the hallway, the interior hallway.

“Well, a huge movie theater is safer than this place,” he said.

I didn’t care. I did what Travis Meyers said to do when severe weather struck. I pulled my twin foam mattress into my bathroom and told my family I was climbing in what was dubbed the safest place in the house, the bathtub. A video we watched in school showed totally destroyed houses with toilets and tubs still standing admist the debris.

“Oh, Jesus Fucking Christ, Donna. Stop your happy horseshit. Let’s go,” Joe said.

“We’re gonna die. Don’t you care?” I said getting into the tub. “Oh, I forgot my radio.”

I got out of the tub and went across the hall to my bedroom to grab my AM/FM alarm clock, which had batteries inside as a back up. This way, I would be aware of all the destruction and find out when it was safe to come out of the tub.

“I can’t believe you’re gonna miss the movie,” yelled Theresa. I was leaving her alone with all adults. She liked being with the adults anyway; she always sat at the adult table on holidays while the boys and I had more fun at the kids’ table. “You’re such a wuss.”

Wuss, I thought. I had the guide, in black and white, right here. Meteorological professionals don’t call it a tornado warning for no reason. There was a serious threat. She asked me one last time if I was really going to sit in the bathtub while they went to enjoy a movie.

“Yes. I told you guys. I’m staying here. You guys are crazy.”

She left the bathroom and I heard the front door slam. I could hear thunder and rain. I read and reread Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide in the bathtub until I became bored. The weather had calmed down. I put the mattress back on my bed. I plugged back in my alarm clock. I survived my first tornado. I waited for my family to come back from the movie theater, secretly wishing Joe got caught up in the winds like the cows in Wizard of Oz. But, the tornado had passed our part of Tulsa — this time. In fact, the Tulsa World the next day called it an F0 tornado, only causing some tree branches to fall.


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.


When did days grow wings? They fly by!

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger.

The worst kind.

It’s be better to blog about what I had for lunch than to not blog at all.

I’ve been crazy busy.

Work is always busy, but the last month of 2009 was crunch time for completing my MFA. My final project was the redesign of Etruscan Press’s website, as well as developing a social media guide to to distribute to its authors. Then, in January, I started to teach a class at Wilkes, one that I also designed – Public Relations & Social Media. It was been a fun time and has taken up a lot of my time with lesson planning, grading, and the like. I am also reading and researching a lot more. Then, since I’ve completed the MFA, I started to freelance a little more. So, I finally got a lull, but I filled it right back up. There were goals I previously blogged about, and I have not done much with those. Sadly.

I have some cool projects I’ve been neglecting, and I am looking for ways to better organize my time to work on them – social-media-for-writers.com is one, querying my memoir is another. I have another video blogging project which I’ve kept unassociated with my real name, so that needs some updating. And then, there’s the list of 27 story ideas (short stories and books) I have hanging around…Oh, and after two years of single life, I’m in this thing called love so, while I still am home more than I was last year, now there someone who visits me and distracts me from blogging. 🙂

But mostly, I have Idea ADD. And I need to get it under control. Any suggestions? I’m tapped out.

I’ve been keeping lists of random things that I’ve wanted to be full blog posts, but never got around to blogging about them. There are tons. I should just find those few lists and write them all and preschedule them and play catch up.

Speaking of random thoughts…

Morbid thought – as I made farafalle alfredo this evening, my smoke detector went off. Not because I don’t know how to boil water (and I hadn’t even started the cheese sauce yet), but because of the steam from the boiling pot. See, my kitchen does not have an exhaust fan and it is chilly so the windows are closed. This made me realize that I am sleeping deeper thanks to a new remedy for my sleep disorder. I was wondering if the pharmaceutical company that makes what I take tests for decibel level needed to wake while the drug is in full effect. It’s a CNS medication. I live alone. If there were a fire, would I hear it? Yeah. Morbid to think about that, but I am a creative writer and have an imagination, so sometimes I think these stories in my head may sound silly in real life, but would make for a great CSI plot!


Don’t Leave 2009 Behind! Do it Again in 2010!

Ah, New Year’s Eve.

I woke up this morning from a dream about work. It happens a lot, really. But in this one, my dream guy was our company co-founder, Scott Sanfilippo. He announced over the office loud speaker we could leave at noon, but first we all had to write a year-end “Best of” blog post. I texted my friend immediately to tell her about this dream. She texted back, asking if I was going into work because the roads were bad from an unexpected morning snow fall. Wow, I thought. Maybe my leaving at noon dream will come true.

As I remained in bed, hitting snooze two or three more times (or, 18-27 minutes), I thought about what I would write about if I had to, by noon, write about the Best of 2009. Then I realized something.

If something was the Best of 2009, why would I not want to also carry that into 2010 instead of making resolutions for all new things? This morning, I wrote a blog post on my company’s blog with this same title, but geared more toward the eCommerce business owner. I encouraged people to take an inventory of what worked well for their business in 2009 and continue to keep those practices up in the New Year.

All day, though, I thought how I could apply this hybrid resolution into my own New Year.

I did a lot of things right in 2009. I started a lot of great, new things that I must continue in 2010. Things like this:

  • Starting to attend more local creative and arts-oriented events, where I also met a lot of new, inspiring people, many of whom I can now call friends
  • Started my MFA in creative writing, which is just about finished
  • Started journaling and always keeping a Moleskine with me to jot down story ideas or ideas for dialogue that come from personal experiences and random observations
  • I started a new medication for a sleeping disorder I have
  • I reunited with some family members I have not seen in over a decade
  • I have attempted to get back in touch with other relatives that I don’t see often by sending hand-written cards that express I missed them (this was not successful; however, there’s still this year…)
  • Started doing speaking engagements on social media and writing/public relations – and was hired to teach this Spring at Wilkes
  • Started a few new blogs – www.social-media-for-writers.com and another one related to the sleep disorder I have and both have received some nice response from the people they serve
  • I can’t believe I am even sharing this in this blog, but I’ll end this bulleted list with one other thing I started — and, it’s still new, so I don’t want to jinx myself — but, I finally let someone in after almost two years of not dating and it’s pretty awesome so far. But, I don’t think I would have achieved all I did this year had I not been alone.

So, with all of those things, both personal and professional, public and private, I don’t feel I should focus on starting a bunch of new things in 2010, and rather, really hone in on this stuff that has a good start. There’s a great quote, I think from Wil Rogers, that goes like this: Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

I’ve been on the right track for so long, but I was in great danger of getting run over. It was as if I was that damsel in distress in the silent films, the one that’s tied to the tracks, in fact. It’s time to be my own heroine and get going. I made some great progress and have some great ideas — now I must focus on the doing. What I’ve started in the later part of 2009 needs to continue stronger into 2010.

However, there are some things that I want to achieve this year:

  • Find an agent for my memoir.
  • Start an after-work routine so that I don’t just go home and slump over the computer. This may be the gym, but it’s not a resolution to lose weight or get in shape. It’s more of a solution to my problem of being in a slump at home. Going to a gym or going for a walk or going to a Zumba class will energize me and clear my mind and get me in the mindset to be creative when I get home.
  • Focus on getting closer with my family.
  • Instead of work on ten ideas at once, I want to choose one new book project and start a new manuscript — and get serious about it. I need to be done with my writing ADD.
  • Clean out my storage shed and get my clutter down to an amount that will fit in my apartment. That will also require some cool new organzation of my closets and basement. But, I will feel so great to finally get rid of junk. This may need to wait for Spring because the flea markets and yard sales don’t go over too well in PA in the winter and there’s too much stuff to toss; I want to sell it.
  • Start writing short pieces to submit to literary or consumer magazines.
  • Try to land more teaching or speaking engagements.
  • Cut down on drinking and going to bars. This will help accomplish what I just said because it will be better use of my time, both at night and the next morning.

Quality vs. Quantity

That’s it. I am not making unrealistic goals. I am not putting numbers out there. I am making more of an effort to improve the quality of my life, and that is just measured by smiles, feeling good about myself, and not feeling stressed.

That’s a bit of my outlook for the New Year. It’s not about wiping out 2009 and starting over. It’s about keeping up with what you are doing right all along and making tweaks here and there.

Happy New Year, everyone.


Some Random Thoughts -Rocky Horror, Tom Petty, Dive Bars & More Things that and in I-N-G

My last two posts were poems. I never really write poems, but since I wrote a few, I decided to share them. Funny thing is that I pre-scheduled the second one three days in advance thinking that I’d write another post in between. I didn’t expect them to be back-to-back, haha.

Some random thoughts from this past week or so:

BAKING: Last week, my friend Jeff brought me pumpkin cookies. I ate one while he was here and held back. After he left, after a weekend of a haunted hayride and a scary movie, I ate the entire tub of cookies in one sitting. It was only six, but still. They were delicious. I instantly looked for a recipe, and found one from Cooks.com. A week passed, but I made them tonight. Yummy! The second batch turned out better than the first- I took them out at 15 minutes. They are more soft and moist. I technically made one batch, but I had to bake one pan at a time because I only had one baking pan, haha. I have more pumpkin, so I will make more, but I got tired.

Soft Pumpkin Cookie Recipe

I baked soft pumpkin cookies while drinking Harvest Moon by Blue Moon

READING: I finished LIES MY MOTHER TOLD ME by Kaylie Jones. It was fabulous. One line from one of the later chapters really, really resonated with me. Don’t want to say which one it is, because it’s too personal for this blog. But, I guarantee you that if you read this memoir, something will stick with you, too. I just started a new book last night, YEAR OF WONDERS, a book about the plague in 1666.  I like it so far. Was hard to adjust from Kaylie’s conversational style to the more formal English that people in 1666 speak, but I like the main character a lot. This is the first book of fiction I am reading in over two years. It’s been all memoir since I started the Wilkes program. I think I did read Animal Farm and some Stephen King in the middle somewhere, but pretty much, all memoir. Wonderful memoir, may I add.

WATCHING: Rocky Horror Picture Show, put on at Music Box Dinner Theater in Swoyersville, was tons of fun. I went with a new friend I made through attending events at Paper Kite Press and had a blast. The cast was great. Very, very enjoyable. Another friend of mine heard I was going, so she went also and had a great time. What a fun night!

DRINKING: A new dive bar. I went to a new bar, Full Moon Cafe, in Larksville on Friday and had fun. I love finding hole in the wall places. It was quite the eventful evening, too. And in fact, I just wrote a nine-page essay about the night. Long story short: I complained all night about my hair being in a ponytail. When we got to Full Moon and I said it again to an older woman I knew through a previous job, she whipped my hair tie out, fluffed my hair, then proceeded to give me smokey, sexy eyes. Yes. An impromptu make-over at a dive bar. One of the funniest things ever. Here’s a picture for your viewing pleasure in case you don’t believe me. Love nights that I can write nine pages about. A cute boy helps, too.

Donna Talarico Gets Made Over at Full Moon Cafe in Larksville

If strange things happen when there is a full moon out, imagine what happens when you are INSIDE the Full Moon. (Wow. Did I just write them a helluva tag line or what?”

LISTENING: Tom Petty Live Anthology Superhighway Tour is going well (I blog about Tom Petty music a lot). Think I am on Week #4 and I am just enjoying it to the fullest. Every week, two new songs and lots of memorabilia like newspaper clippings, set lists, studio papers, and more. Fun, fun, fun. Best $25 I spent in a while. Can’t wait until the physical set comes out on November 24. Things have been so busy for me lately that I actually forgot to check the last two weeks, so tonight, I am enjoying four new live songs! As I write this, I am listening to “Breakdown” as it was recorded live on June 30, 1981 in LA – sounds so young! What a freakin’ jam session this was, too. They break”Down” into Hit the Road Jack. Wow, just a killer performance of “Breakdown.”  The crowd sings along in a lot of it, and it makes me wonder who was at that concert, and where they are now.  I love the commentary about these songs and shows that the band gives through the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Superhighway Tour.

SLEEPING: Sleep has been going better. Still hit snooze two hours before I wake up, but I am in my bed before 11:00 p.m. every night. I stop drinking caffiene after 12 or 1 – usually my last coffee around 11 and my last soda with my lunch. If I need the fizz, I go for a Root Beer. Before bed, I’ve been journaling to get my mind to stop racing, then that gives time for my peppermint melatonin tea from Alvita a chance to get to get to a good temperature, then I have been reading (while my white noise machine playes) until I fall asleep. I’ve been getting a lot more sleep and feeling better during the day. The only part of the equation that still makes no sense is the waking. Amazing, still, how I hit can still hit snooze for two hours.

PLANNING: I’m doing a talk at Wilkes next week for my former mentor and friend, Jane, and the student-run PR agency and am very, very excited.

WONDERING: And, I woke up this morning, as shown below, with one sock on and one sock off. This has been going on for years. Last week, my friend Jeff stayed over and I showed him in the morning how the same thing– one sock off. We had watched Paranormal Activity, so he said, “Maybe a demon is taking your sock?” Hm. Here’s my blog post from over a year ago about this…

one sock

99% of the nights I sleep with socks on, I wake up with the left sock off. Have no idea why. Do you believe in the sock monster?

And, that’s it. Just some random stuff I’ve been up to.