Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Kudos to Ashley Ambirge and her ebook!

One of my coolest classmates ever, Miss Ashley Ambirge just released an ebook, Become a Costa Rican in 30-Minutes Flat.

And, I must add she did a fantastic job on the website for the book- she's got all the e-book and online marketing elements there!

Oh-- and the music. Okay. Where's my passport.

Congrats, Ash!!! You are super talented and your fun personality shines through with your title, logo and look and feel of the book and site. Go girl! Good luck.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Wilkes book featured in the Citizen's Voice Today

Donna Talarico knows Wilkes University.

Having chosen the school three times — first as a freshman, nearly a decade later to finish her undergraduate work, and now getting a master’s this fall — Talarico was an ideal candidate to ink a book aimed at giving incoming students the skinny. Though college guidebooks abound at bookstores, most don’t give the information students desire: What are the most popular classes? Are freshmen pressured to pledge fraternities or sororities? How are the surrounding neighborhoods? Does the student body have much diversity? And most important, how many females are available for each male?

--Brian Jarvis, CV- July 30, 2007

-Picture by Warren Ruda, CV

Sunday, July 29, 2007

You can now subscribe to this blog!

Some folks have asked how to subscribe to my blog. I wasn't sure either, so I found this service BotoBlog. Click above on that button and you can subscribe to me, as well as any other blog that you like!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

NEPA's Trash Can

Okay. My blogs are almost always positive. So, that means I am allowed one blog to talk about something I often try to ignore and shrug off. A former classmate of mine, Miss A often spoke of, and currently blogs of, the trashy people in Northeast PA.

The disclaimer is that I love it here-- there is more beautiful places and people here than not. However, my Friday and Saturday morning was filled with evidence of the local trash and it made me sick.

1) I went out Friday after work with a few co-workers-- I went to a newer bar called Big Ugly's. Nice place- friendly staff, good beer and excellent cheese fries. At any rate, since I was in town and Dave was at home, he asked me to stop at Wal-Mart for something. I HATE Wal-Mart. I hate the Walton family and the company and how they treat their employees.

NEVER go to Wal-Mart on a Friday night around 9:30. It was a freaking zoo. There were the hoochie mommas who get dressed up to go to Wal-Mart and then the dredges of society. I saw a trashy couple making out in the customer service desk line. HELLO? I don't want to get into name calling and stuff, but ugh. It was a sight to see. I avoid Wal-Mart at all costs, and this made me recall why. Enough said. just use your imagination.

(Realted Post About Hoochies: Hospital Hoochies & Vertigo)

2) So, I got home from my Wal-Mart excursion. That sobered me up. I didn't have much to drink at the bar anyway-- just a shot of Jager and four Lagers-- then I had two huge glasses of water with cheese fries before I drove him. Dave was dressed and ready to go out. I thought I was done for the night. So, we decided to go to bar across the street. it was as if said Wal-Mart patrons followed me there. I don't know what it was, but something drew the scum of the Earth out to this already hick bar. It was worse than usual. Some younger dude was so F'ed up he couldn't even talk and and he kept trying to get me to dance with him, despite my fiance sitting right next to me. There was the girl who just turned 21 who kept taking off her shirt to reveal her cami whenever a dude looked at her, and who ended the night hanging on a married dude. There was the two girls who looked like they were flying high on something hard.... so many more incidences. Dave and I looked so normal and were in our own booth for a while that some guy begged us to get up and have fun because we were making him nervous-- he said we looked like we were cops. This is the type of bar where people 'dress' up in either slut-gear or wear Tweety bird shirts, Sponge Bob tanks and the men were short cut-off homemade jean shorts.

So, at the end of the night, Dave and I leave and we are getting ready to go to bed-- there is a yelling match in the parking lot- about 20 people from the bar were all outside watching-- the bartender was yelling at people to get in their cars and just go home. This is what drugs and alcohol do, kids. And what's sadder is that these are the folks that are procreating at a rapid rate. I watched this from the window and went to bed feeling very lucky.

(Related post about this bar: Drink With Me Elmo)

3) This morning, Dave and I stopped at a Turkey Hill on the way to the Lion Brewery for a tour. There was a lady paying for a gallon of ice cream at the counter with her government EBT card-- she tried three times and it wouldn't go through. The chocolate bar I was clutching was melting inside my hand, I was waiting so long. A line was forming behind me. When it finally worked, she pulled out a wad of cash and then bought lottery tickets-- this held up the line even more. You mean to tell me she couldn't have spent $2.99 out of that cash on the freakin' ice cream so the line could just proceed??

I used to feel sorry for people. But people like this-- no, I don't When they spend the government money to help them-- but with any cash they get, they WASTE it at these scum bars and on unnecessary things. You know what, if you earn your money-- have fun with it. Do what you want, waste it. That's what it's all about. You work hard for your money-- I say, do what you want. Life is short and you can't take it with you. But-- when people waste money they DO NOT have or have very little of, I don't feel sorry for them.

It's not just NEPA- it's everywhere. It's just what I saw that made me finally want to address my feelings on this.

I've known people who were in binds and needed help, sure! But when they get back on their feet, they get off any assistance. I believe in the system-- just not the rampant abuse of it. The things I witnessed in these few hours are a testament to this. Get a job! Do something with your life! Improve your self esteem so you don't think you have to go to the bar every night and hook up with a married man. Improve your self image by not wearing a Tweety Bird shirt to the bar.

Ah-- I vented. My next post will be shiny and happy, I promise.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cool site where you can win prizes

I was just cruising through the blogging community and came across a pretty cool blog from someone with a similar name to mine, LaDonna. At any rate, I followed a link from a button on her site that said, "Win with me on Blingo."

I was curious. I like to win prizes. I buy raffles every time I get a chance. I love Chinese auctions. I guess in those "how many X-things are in the jar" contests. You get the idea.

Blingo is run by Publisher's Clearing House-- it's a search engine powered by Google-- each time you search you have a chance to win a prize-- movie tickets, iTunes gift certificates, etc. And, every time someone you refer wins, you win the same prize. It's a pretty cool site- I joined. Hopefully I won't be blasted with Spam, but I don't think they do that. I added that same button to the right over there, at the top of my nav bar. Check it out!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

3:00 Reboot, NPR and Other Things

Hi All! Haven't blogged in a few days, so here are some random updates and thoughts.

Every day just around 3:00 p.m. by computer at work goes nuts and I have to reboot. It is usually around this time that I realize that I, myself could also use a reboot. So, 3:00-ish has officially been designated as my rebooting period. I restart my computer and then go to the break room to grab a (hopefully sugar-free) Red Bull.

While I am in the subject of work, I love my new job and company. What cool people! I get to talk to some cool folks around the nation all day long!

SUPPORT NPR- Summer Pledge Drive
I renewed my membership to WVIA-FM yesterday afternoon. I cannot tell you how much I love NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Fresh Air, and additionally my local station's evening programming by George Graham. While I like classic rock and some contemporary rock and country, I've been growing tired of the same-old, same-old, so I listen to George Graham whenever I can-- I am not that into jazz, which is the first part of his show. But later in the evening he features music you don't hear anywhere else-- world music, folk, blues, local stuff-- just some really, really great stuff. I won't knock commerical radio because I worked in it for a long time, but man-- is this good shit!! There is something very special about public radion.

Regarding the news programming- I subscribe to the paper and read various things online each day and I watch the local news a few times per week. But nothing digs as deep and spends more time on individual stories than NPR. I feel smarter and more informed since I began listening daily about six months ago. It's good, good stuff. I learn so much! My particular favorite feature is a year-long reporting featuring NPR is doing with National Geographic on climate change-- they are traveling the globe interviewing people that are affected... And-- Fresh Air--- Terri Gross does some amazing interview with people in arts and entertainment, or newsmakers everyday from 6:00-7:00-- so many interesting things.

I encourage everyone local to donate to WVIA, or if you are not local, to NPR directly-- I am sure your local NPR station is also in the middle of their pledge drive.

On a personal note, there have been some things on my mind lately. I have been wrestling internally with some things... mainly one choice. If you've been keeping up with my blog, you are probably noticing that I am thrilled about the MA in creative writing and my rejuvenation with writing in general. This is something I need to do, and devote my full-attention to, minus my time at my job. There have been lots of new beginnings for me this summer with a new job and this master's program. All that said, I am not going to get into personal details here, but you can read between the lines I am sure.....

I am on the waiting list for an apartment in downtown Wilkes-Barre. I need to be closer to my job and I need some time alone to writer. I am happy. That's what matters right now.

Life is good. I am enjoying a rather strong White Russian (I couldn't find a shot glass to measure the Absolut. Oops!) I made a committment with some classmates to have 100 pages of a novel done by January-- gonna hop over and try to get started on that!

I started an Amazon.com store selling dream journals, dream dictionaries, sleep aids, etc. Visit it at http://www.thedreamdrawer.com/.

That is a link to one of my archived articles at Associated Content.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Inner Makeover & Campfire fest

Kind of a double post here. The first thing: I wrote an article about an inner make-over I gave myself. Please check it out at my Associated Content page.


Sometimes writing is therapeutic, and this was one of those times.

Second-- Saturday, Dave and I had our first party since we've been at our house. I love to entertain and am so happy we had a nice turn out. The weather was beautiful, the beer was cold and the food was fantastic!! Thanks to everyone who came. We did have some no-shows which led to A LOT of leftovers!

Here are some pics from the par-tay. Mark your calendars for next year- the second weekend in July for Campfire Fest '08. We want it bigger and we want people to camp out!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My Adventurous Lunch

No. It wasn't as adventurous as the time Myles and I walked to the new Mexican place in downtown Wilkes-Barre through the ghetto and a shoplifter running with perfume bottles falling out of her shirt ran between us, the manager (who I ended up knowing) running behind asking which way she went... that was an adventure. I wanted to chase her, but my friend Myles said no, let's just go back to campus. That day, he began calling me Adventurous Donna.

Today's adventure was just trying something new: SUSHI.

I did it. I ate rate fish. And I liked it. I will probably hit up Wegman's again. Maybe tomorrow. I always wanted to try it, just never did. I had a veggie roll that last time I went for Japanese-- it appeared as if I was eating sushi, yet aha! There was no raw fish. That was just a few weeks ago. My boss goes for sushi for lunch quite often. Today, on a whim, I joined him and just jumped in.

I tried the hot tuna roll, as he suggested was a non-fishy tasting kind. He showed me how to prepare it-- drizzle soy sauce over each piece, then with the wide part of our chopsticks put a small dab of wasabi on each piece, then top it with ginger. Then, pick each one up one at a time and put the whole thing in your mouth to get all the flavor at once.

I knew if I thought about it too much, I'd hesitate. And if I hesitated, I'd have given him mine to take home and I'd have just drank my soda. Instead, I just dug in. And boy and I glad I did. It tasted creamy. The flavors of rice, seaweed, ginger, wasabi, soy sauce and the spicy tuna collided in my mouth-- it was wonderful.

I told Chris that next time I go for Japanese I don't have to run for the Hibachi grill side-- I have options!! And I don't have to pretend I am eating sushi by opting for the veggie roll. (Althought that kicks ass, too). I told him that I went skydiving a few years ago-- and I wasn't afraid to do that, but here, I was afraid to put fresh, raw tuna in my mouth. Go figure.

My New Palate

My taste in food has changed since I was a youngster. I was never cultured at home. My mom's cooking was amazing, but it was too American. Sometimes I would eat other types of food at friend's houses-- but was usually to scared to try anything. Like ordering just white rice at a Chinese place or chicken fingers at Red Lobster.

But after I went to college, I just was open to almost everything. Then, I took a Food & Culture class as a sociology elective and learned so much about food-- ever since then, I've been open to trying really anything. And I am SOOO glad. I don't know why I was so afraid. I love Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Mediterranean... and there is so much more I need to try!! I just don't live in an area that has these places available. So, when I travel, I hit up the ethinic places.

I think for school lunches, kids should be exposed to foods from other cultures-- different spices and blends because many do not get that at home. That's why kids menues only have chicken fingers, hot dogs and grilled cheese. Then those kids turn into picky adults and miss out on all sorts of great things!

So, having sushi for lunch now has me lobbying to change the national school lunch program.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My New Book is out!! A Wilkes University College Guide

Happy Tuesday! I was greeted with some good news today and I want to pass it along. There is now a new guide to Wilkes University! (Joey Rahimi was one of the editors-- they give credit to them, too.)

The book is published by CollegeProwler.com. This company has a VERY cool history in itself-- it was born from a college class project at Carnegie Mellon. ( www.collegeprowler.com) The company has published over 250 student-written guides that give the 'real deal' on colleges.

I'm thrilled to the gills!! It took about a year for them to put it out after I submitted it. A BIG HUGE thanks to Nora Jurasits and Stephanie DeBalko who served as the 'bounce-back' team, and are also credited in the book. They helped fact check.

The one thing that held up the process was all the edits-- as we all know, Wilkes and Wilkes-Barre changed so much just in the past year that I had to add a lot of new things to the book and change many things-- the Barons became the Yankees, we got a downtown theater, Barnes & Noble, a pool hall, a Bart & Urby's, Eienstien's and so, so much more. In a way, I am glad the book came out later that way we filled it with more cool stuff.

The way the book is set up:

It's divided into about 15 sections-- food, guys & gals, social life, academics, nightlife, security, etc. I begin each section with an editorial and the the rest is 3-5 pages of student quotes about each topic. I also wrote an introduction and closing statement. Each category is given a grade, which I had no say in, as they wanted it more objective (we all know how much I love Wilkes and Wilkes-Barre!)-- so they looked at what I wrote, as well as the student quotes and gave it a grade. Wilkes fared pretty well in everything, except parking!

The book also has a directory of clubs, restaurants, hotels, transportation and more...

Final Thoughts:
I just like subheads. I don't know why. At any rate, this is a far cry from a novel-- it's more like a compilation like "Kids, Have You Seen My Backpack." But it's one more publishing credit and one more way to get on Amazon.com. I am just thrilled to give back to Wilkes in this way, as they have given me so much the past ten years!

Fellow Bloggers/Writers: Check This Out- Pay Per Post- make money on your blog

Hey everyone!

I just wanted to pass along a cool paying blogging site that I found. It's called Pay Per Post at http://www.payperpost.com./ Basically, the deal is that you sign up (your blog must be at least 90 days old, and you must have so many posts)-- then once your blog is approved, you can blog about companies, products, etc. And the best part-- they pay you!

I have not been a member very long-- I've been waiting my 90-day mark as a blogger. But I'll tell you, I am super excited to begin. There are opportunities available ranging from $5 to $10 right on up to $200. Of course for those bigger ones, your blog may have to meet special criteria. I've seen calls for blog posts for vacations, hotels, lasik surgery, and more. There is sure to be something for everyone.

There are also contests, games and a community where you can meet other bloggers. I blog about myself a lot, so it will be refreshing to add other content to this blog!

One other cool thing is that instead of getting paid, you can send your earnings to different charities. So, if you are doing this for the extra money, that's awesome-- but from time to time you can blog for charity, too. The site seems extremely professional and service-oriented. So, if you are interested, you can click on the button below to learn more.

Plus, you can learn all about blog marketing -- as the more people that read your blog, the more money you can earn from it!!

Wilkes Launches M.F.A in Creative Writing

YES! We were hearing about the M.F.A in creative writing-- and Wilkes just got approved for it. So, all of us in the MA program who wish to teach creative writing someday can now get the PhD-equivalent in the arts, the Master of Fine Arts. This is such awesome news and will add so much to our program. Congrats, Wilkes!!

For the whole story, click here:


Friday, July 6, 2007

Happy 4th of July

I heard rumors that there was a beach house in Kingston. A place where the parties were real. (Even though PA is landlocked.) Davey and I attended the beach house par-tay for the 4th. Despite the on and off again showers, it rocked.

John, Nikki and I left the party for a little while and went to Kirby Park. We got there just in time to hear the 1812 Overture and to see the kick-ass fireworks.

Thanks Tiffany, Amy and Amanda for the hospitality. We had a great time.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Creative Writing: Part III-- Pics from Angie

All of us 501-er's owe Angie Eckhart big time for capturing some memories of our final night together. She snapped and shared some pics from our Friday night banquet and after-party @ Keenan's. There are just a few of the pics! Thanks, Angie!!

This is Carol, Jon Rocks, Anna, Ryan, Mike Suppa and Angie. I had a blast with these guys. We went out for Mediterranean several times and have some great 'study' groups!

Three of my new favorite boys!! Remember these faces- Rocks, Suppa and Ryan will be famous one day! They had me in hysterics most of the week.

A few more of my new pals- Kim, my roomie Nicole, me, Mary and Russ! Awesome folks!

Can you tell this was from the after party? Anna wrapped Mike Suppa's head in her scarf. Too funny.

As Jonny Rocks, our Philly boy displays, all writers need a moleskine. He had his at all times. He was either collecting dirt on us, or material for a screenplay... or both!

I went around the bar and did one of my famous bar napkin jokes-- everyone was hysterical as you can see from this picture of Mike falling on the ground, me about to fall on the ground and my other new favorite guy, Scott-- only his elbow made the picture! What was the joke? That's top secret. I want YOU to fall for it one day, too. (Samara from islands of Washington state is on the left...)

I saved this pic for last because of the uncanny nature. The first night we had a mixer with the 'older' students (those who were graduating) and one of them was poet Craig Czury. He looks like my dad, dresses like my dad, has a demeanor like my dad-- and lives in the same town as my dad. And he is adopted.... needless to say, he and I had a connection that week. He's awesome. Also, he's artsy and free-spirited like my dad. I told him about my dad's book shop, so I hope Craig stops by and they can become pals. (My buddy Tim McLoughlin, who is already published is in the background.)

And for those looking to join a writing community- visit www.wilkes.edu/creativewriting.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Creative Writing: Part II-- never give up!

Mr. Joe Cetta, a graduate posted some pics on his MySpace from our After Party. And that's capitilized for a reason.. Hello! Total proper noun there! Thanks, Joe for sharing and for being so kind and insightful to us newbies! Oh. P.S. I borrowed one. --->


So, I was really thinking about how happy I am that I stood up for my choice in leaving my job. For those that don't know "The Man" (as I collectively call corporate America) wasn't gonna let me take off the last Friday of the residency. I don't think anyone with heart and soul would let The Man stand in the way of their dreams. Unhappy with other 'goings-ons' at the place, I decided that because they didn't see the value in letting me take off one measly day and missing a mandatory training, I gave my two weeks notice.

What did I get in return for staying true to my heart, you ask?

1) A kick-ass new job @ Solid Cactus
2) 40+ new writing friends who understand the creative life!
3) Some great new writing mentors
4) A few people who I think will be close friends for life
5) Tons o' fun & lots 'o memories and jokes
6) 3 credits toward my master's
7) Motivation and energy

8) Ideas

And to think I would have traded eight hours of corporate training for all that! I made the right choice and I absolutely can't wait to continue on with this program. I seriously think this will change my life. Screw The Man. Let's write. Someone is smiling down on me....
Random Story from My Archives: Cedar's Grape Leaves (A review)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

501: Memories, Motivation and More @ Wilkes' Creative Writing Residency

When I woke up in my own bed this morning, it took me a little while to adjust. I didn't have to be in Breiseth 106 at 9 a.m. That's right. My first eight-day creative writing residency at Wilkes is over (ENG 501). I'm home- counting down the days until January when I will see my new friends again.

I've always enjoyed learning. But, there is something so special about this MA residency program. You don't just have classmates here. You meet people who will be friends and mentors for life. The learning situation is set up so personal bonds are formed... we spent eight days living, eating, learning, writing, breathing and sleeping together. Since I am so close, I came home the first two nights-- I knew I had to stay to get the whole experience. So, I decided to dorm. My roommate Nicole, an 8th grade teacher from the Lehigh Valley and I bonded right away. I also had a few people I hung out with more than others, but overall, I did get a chance to talk to every one of the 36 of us. Everyone is so great. We were all different ages-- 21 to 60 from all over the country.

I have never been so motivated to write. Not to put anyone in my personal and professional life's support aside-- but being in a community of writers is so different. There is a certain air about a creative person-- and when you shack up 30+ of them together for more than a week, a lot of fun and energy ensues. FINALLY! People with the same goals. In somewhat of a drunken Donna rant, I talked about how cool it is for so many people of the same personality to be together-- yet we are still so different in our ideas, our appearences, etc. What I said was that we're same same up here and in here, pointing to my head and my heart, respectively. So, amongst us- we're different but our goals are the same.

We didn't get to talk to the students who were further along than us too much- but when we did, it was nothing but inspiring. The residency ended with a kick-ass party on Friday night. The program rented out a bar for us for the whole night-- Keenan's in Wilkes-Barre. I was among those who closed down the bar. (I got to show off the SCHOOL BUS drink!! ) And then, the camraderie continued until 4am-ish-- no one seemed to want the week to end! Also, I've been to Bart & Urby's in Wilkes-Barre more this week than I have since it opened. Love that place and am glad I got more acquainted with it. Our MA cohort claimed it as 'our' bar!

John Rocks- my new screenwriter pal- said it best during our closing exercise, "Today, I go back to being misunderstood." That's so true. Creative people ARE often misunderstood. Now I am part of a group that understands me.

Here is what I wrote during our closing statement exercise on the last day of class, which I read aloud in class-- kind of misty eyed:

Those aren't times- they are room numbers; where memories were made.

I lived on a diet of cafeteria food and then an occasional trip to Pete's where I dined on grape leaves and hummus.

This week I was fueled by laughter, sexual innuendo and Yager. (Or was that Lager? Or both?)

When I cried last night during the graduating duo's song, I meant it. Our group already has an unbelivable connection, but I want these bonds to continue. I can't wait to see everyone here become successful.

It's an awesome feeling to be a part of this community of writers. No doubt some lifelong friends and mentors will come out of this.

We talked a lot about the element of craft this week, but character is the element that most defines our group. I love you guys!

I had a lot more to say than that, but we only had a few minutes to write something. So- now we work on our portfolios for the next few weeks. Then in late July, we begin our Foundations classes, which we do online. Then, in January we have the second residency. Then, the next year we spend with our mentors working on our manuscripts.

REGRETS: My camera died and I didn't even have time to get batteries. I posted a few pics here from Tuesday night. I wish I had more. Some other people are going to send me pics soon- the ones I posted here are the ones I had. They are me and my new pal Scott, my roomie Nicole and Matt & Joe.

Here are some people in the program- faculty-wise who are very accomplished. We were able to hear their most recent works at readings every night of the week:

Sarah Pritchard- She wrote a novel called Crackpots and read from it. It was HYSTERICAL. I can't wait to order it. I soooo enjoyed talking to her.
Kaylie Jones: http://kayliejones.com/ (Her father is James Jones, who wrote From Here to Eternity)
Philip Brady: He is the co-founder of Estruscan Press which is now housed at Wilkes. He read part of his new book, To Prove My Blood, a memoir about emmigration. The excerpt he read was pretty darn funny.
Norris Church Mailer: She is the wife of famed writer Norman Mailer. She published her first book, Windchill Summer at age 50. She read from her second book, a sequel to the first. (Cheap Diamonds). (Norman is on the advisory board to the program and the Mailer family gives a scholarship to one Wilkes MA in Creative Writing student each year....)

There are more-- to be honest, I am getting lazy of googling everyone! Haha. Can you tell I was impressed and had a great eight days?!