Tag Archives: wilkes

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 TheMiddleFingerProject.org

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

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 routine.themiddlefingerproject.org, Who’s Behind It

You should read the whole article.


Wilkes Homecoming 2009 was great! Reliving old memories with my old roommate

“No one believes me when I tell stories about college that involved you,” said Tanner.

“That’s why I am writing a memoir,” I responded. “Life with me is always a little more outrageous.”

We giggled as we walked back to campus from Ralston field, the same route we walked form our old dorm, Evans Hall to go to Amnesia, the then 18 and over dance club. As we told stories on the walk back, she held hands with he fiance. And, since I had free hands, I took pictures and talked with my hands (the 1/4 Italian in my went directly to my story-telling handicap) as I told outrageous stories from the past ten years that she hadn’t heard. (The ones I hope will make up my second book of non-fiction: a collection of essays.)

Tanner and me in front of our old college apartment in Wilkes-Barre. We lived there together a few years. I had left Wilkes but still lived there. After she graduated, I lived there another year with another college buddy. This apartment was where most of our crazy stories happened.

Tanner and me in front of our old college apartment in Wilkes-Barre. We took a walk back on Homecoming Weekend. We lived there together a few years. I had left Wilkes but still lived there. After she graduated, I lived there another year with another college buddy. This apartment was where most of our crazy stories happened.

But, I was happy to confirm to her fiance that we really did do the Hokey Pokey with Faith Hill in 1998 in Keenan’s after a show at the Kirby Center. Although, she reminded me of a few details I forgot like I wanted Faith and her band to do the chicken dance, but none of them heard of it. I always thought it was the Hokey Pokey they didn’t know. (I also don’t think anyone believes me or my friend Jenn G. that we danced onstage at the Kirby with Davey Jones and got to me the Monkees backstage after – that was in 1996. Unfortunately, since we were both on stage, there are no pictures. Anyone at that show??)

“Do you still have the pictures,” she asked.

“Of course I do,” I replied. “I have to look for them, but it’s funny you brought that up. I blogged about it the other month.” (Turns out, it was actually in January – read about our hokey pokey with Faith Hill here.) Mental note to self: go hunt through pics. Not sure if they are in the storage shed or here.

It was a blast to talk to Tanner again and just have all these memories come out. I stay in touch with here on Facebook and e-mail, but until you talk and laugh in person, it’s not the same.

Some other things that she brought up that I had long forgotten was our perpetual leak… we had this one area in the long hallway of our apartment that just always leaked water, almost like a horror movie would have a hotel corridor that would leak blood. She reminded me of the time I went back to a boys dorm after a party but didn’t know where I was and called her for help getting home.

Tanner, Bonnie and I at Ralston Field on Homecoming Weekend, 2009

Tanner, Bonnie and I at Ralston Field on Homecoming Weekend, 2009

Perhaps the funniest memory was of Charlie and her friend Joe. Charlie was a homeless man (who many speculated really had money and lived on the streets because he didn’t want to pay taxes or something like that) and was very well-known in Wilkes-Barre. He had psoriasis and was always bundled up, but his outer layer was always a worn in, tan coat and he also wore a furry brown hat. He was nice when you talked to him. Well, Charlie took up residence in the foyer of my building. Some guys who lived downstairs would give him food and sometimes let him shower. Sometimes I would leave food, too, although, , my roomies didn’t know. It was like feeding a stray and having them always come back.

So one time, Tanner’s friend Joe put a wire hanger on the end of a broom and used it to fish for Charlie’s bag – we were on the second floor. Joe was successful. We looked through his bag and we pretended we were detectives. I recorded everything on an audio tape as Joe cataloged the items. We used the contraption to replace the bag where we found it. Then, Charlie started to cough and Joe said, “He needs a doctor! Quick, get me my lab coat.” I ran to my room and brought Joe back a white robe which would have made a fine substitute to a lab coat except for the lace ruffles on the ends of the sleeves. For some reason, Tanner had a chef’s hat. So, Joe went down to Charlie in my robe and Tanner’s chef’s hat and woke Charlie up and discussed the cough. It was very funny.

I can’t believe I forgot that. But, after Tanner told the story it all came back to me and now I can see Joe, well over 6-feet tall wearing my robe. I laughed so hard I cried. It’s nice to have memories that make your stomach hurt with laughter. Nothing like a tear rolling down your cheek from a great memory. Going back to the line I started this blog with, it just makes me feel pretty cool that I am part of people’s favorite stories to tell.

Overall, homecoming was a blast. I say it on this blog so much that I love Wilkes, so I didn’t want to get too mushy in this post. Instead, this one’s for you, Tanner! Great memories. Was glad to laugh with you so much on Saturday!

Now off to find that Faith Hill picture.

Update: A few hours later after writing this post, I found the album these pics were in. Surprised I never scanned these in yet. This is from February 2008 at the Faith Hill concert at the Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, which the radio station I worked for, Froggy 101, sponsored. This was right after “This Kiss” came out when she really hit big. This was the last show on her tour, hence the big after-party. Always trying to be silly and get the crowd involved, I requested some silly kid songs and Faith Hill and her band joined in.

The memorable night (yep, Faith still remembers this night from what my buddies tell me) where I had the DJ play the Hokey Pokey at the post-show after party. Faith Hill and her band did the Hokey Pokey with me, my co-workers, my old roomie, and some fans.

The memorable night (yep, Faith still remembers this night from what my buddies tell me) where I had the DJ play the Hokey Pokey at the post-show after party. Faith Hill and her band did the Hokey Pokey with me, my co-workers, my old roomie, and some fans.

On Cover of October Happenings Magazine for Wilkes: The Back to School Issue

The October 2009 cover of Happenings Magazine. Cover photo by Rob Lettieri

The October 2009 cover of Happenings Magazine. Cover photo by Rob Lettieri

Some cool news. Happenings Magazine of PA each year does a Back to School issue, featuring college students on the cover. This year, the focus of the story was on alumni of the local colleges in Eastern PA for the cover story, “Brain Gain.” I was selected by Wilkes to be featured. Before Labor Day eight other local alums participated in a fun photo shoot at Miller’s Orchard in Clarks Summit.

There were alums from Wilkes University, King’s College (which happened to be Scott Carey, one of my colleagues at Solid Cactus), Misericordia University, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, Johnson College, Career Technology Center of Scranton, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (not a local school perse, but student did all rotations locally), East Stroudsburg University, and University of Scranton. The University of Scranton student is kind of a double-feature because she’s also part of the first class at Commonwealth Medical College, which is another cool highlight.

The photo shoot was a lot of fun. So many bright minds in varied career paths from medical to technical to creative. The nine of us posed all over the farm: on tractors, in corn fields, in the mud with pigs (I’m serious!), in kiddie rides, on a hayride, and more. Did I mention we got to take a hayride? The folks from happenings, Erika and Lisa, were a lot of fun and the photographer they hired, Rob Lettieri was also extremely cool. The folks from Miller’s Orchard were also very accommodating for Erika and Lisa, from driving the tractor to helping us find locations to take pictures.

I told the photographer that this was perfect for me since I'm corny. Then, I told my "Why don't you tell secrets on a farm joke." Oh, an I made sure Malachai was not in the corn first.... Photo by Rob Lettieri

I told the photographer that this setting was perfect for me since I'm corny. Then, I told my "Why don't you tell secrets on a farm joke." Oh, an I made sure Isaac and 'he who walks behind the rows' was not in the corn first.... Photo by Rob Lettieri

The magazine looks great. Happenings has always been a very visually appealing publication. The cover story, Brain Gain: Meet Talented Grads Staying in NEPA, had a small profile on each featured student as well as side bar stories on careers in the area, profiles on each school featured, financial aid, cheap and free things college students (and anyone) in NEPA can do, and more. Great issue. Happenings also did a profile on Miller’s Orchard in Clarks Summit, which is getting ready for its busy season. Miller’s Orchard has a great store. I left with pumpkin spice instant cappuccino mix, homemade apple sauce, homemade apple butter, and all-natural peanut butter. The two apple products were made at Miller’s, from Miller’s apples.

To read the full issues, pick one up locally. They are all over and there is so much in this issue about all the fall happenings. If you aren’t local or can’t wait to read it after I’ve raved about the issue, you can read it online here. The website I will admit is a little hard to navigate, so click on the read online banner, but you can also follow the linked text I have here. You need a program to read PDFs and will view sections at a time. The Back to School cover story is all pretty much within the first PDF.

There were so many fun pictures available so they created a page on the site that shows the behind the scenes pictures, too. Check these out…

On a side note, I was surprised that only nine colleges/post-secondary schools sent alums. (NOTE: My previous employer, Allied Medical Technical Institute didn’t send anyone from either of their two campuses. When I worked there, I tried so hard to push the value of PR and later, social media. But I was never in a position to make it happen and my ideas were pretty much laughed at… Guess they still didn’t learn the value because this issue is a great example of schools beaming with pride for their alumni.)

Screen shot of my bio... please read the rest of the magazine at the link provided. (c) Happenings Magazine

Screen shot of my bio... please read the rest of the magazine at the link provided. (c) Happenings Magazine

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.

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.”

Gushy Tweets: A week of live tweeting from Wilkes University residency

Sometimes I feel as if I should have a separate blog for all the Wilkes Creative Writing Program stuff I blog about, but then again, this blog is about me, and Wilkes is definitely a huge part of me.  So, before I delve into several blog post ideas inspired by residency, I’ll start with the Twitter stuff.

A month or so before residency began, I pitched a craft class on social media for writers to our program director.  I work in it for a living at Solid Cactus, and know that writers can benefit from social media– and that’s it’s still relatively new and unexplored by most in my program.  As it turns out, the husband of a Wilkes creative writing faculty (and novelist/memoirist) Kaylie Jones is a social media expert.  He and I presented “Social Media for the Anti-Social Writer” on Monday afternoon.  The class was for the upper-level MA and then the MFA students, as well as open to faculty and alumni.  It was a great session, but one hour was far too short to discuss all the Facebook and Twitter can do to help a writer not just promote work, but more importantly, engage and share within the community.

Before the session, me and a few others were tweeting using the hashtag #wilkes, but after the session, everyone using Twitter and then the newbies to Twitter started to use it as well.  If you were to do a search on Twitter for #wilkes, you will find some great tweets and retweets about the program and week-long residency.

Here are some of my faves:

lucianacelestne Sad that the #Wilkes residency is over. Back to the real world…hoping to keep the high for as long as I can.

KaylieJones I’m home from the #wilkes mfa residency. I had a wonderful time and love all my students.

Jonathan_Rocks On the way home from #Wilkes residency. Always bittersweet…

donnatalarico Residency = over. Donna = sad. #wilkes

sarahtv3 And just like that, it was over. Awesome residency. #wilkes

Jonathan_Rocks RT @donnatalarico: So yeah. I said this before, but decision to join #wilkes Creative Writing program = best decision in my life. Ever.

Jonathan_Rocks RT: Congrats to my amazing classmate @rfellinger and mentee of @kayliejones for winning the Hiscox award!! #wilkes Congrats, man!!

TomBorthwick The good life at #Wilkes. After-Party w/William Kennedy and a ton of fabulous writers!

lucianacelestne Just got back from rocking it out with the #Wilkes crew at Burt and Urby’s. Amazed at how fast the res is going by.

donnatalarico Closing down Bart & Urby’s w/ #wilkes peeps- my last jukebox song is “hotel California” bc it’s symbolic bc I can never lv Wilkes since 96

JackieNash Great morning -Woke up still inspired by readings last nite #Wilkes brilliant-Happy I’m part of this tribe. Phenom job Kaylie

James_McCabe If Twitter were a martial art, I’d be a yellow belt. Cheers to @donnatalrico & @kevinheisler. Getting all geared up for film night.

I found myself tweeting at all  hours of the day- either after a thought-provoking class, or even on a night out on the town… we were there in person together, but Twitter helped us creative writers share that enthusiasm through another medium.

I started this new blog, www.social-media-for-writers.com too soon, as I haven’t had time to keep up with it because of the MFA program, but I am going to start blogging more actively there as well because it needs to be done.