March Book to Live By

“Wild, Beautiful and Free” by Sophfronia Scott

#1 in African American Historical Fiction on Amazon

This stunning work of fiction by award-winning author and Women on Fire member, Sophfronia Scott tells the story of Jeanette, a mixed race, escaped slave as she searches for purpose, love, and her place in the Civil War-era world. An instant BEST SELLER!

February Book to Live By

“More Thank a Bag” by Cindy Monroe

Debbie’s friend, Cindy Monroe founded Thirty-One Gifts in 2003, in the basement of her Chattanooga, TN home. It grew to be one of the largest direct sales companies of the last 20 years. In “More Than a Bag” (edited by our own Kacy Cook), Cindy shares the story of her journey and gives readers front row seats to the bumps and wins that make Thirty-One Gifts a huge success!


January’s Book to Live By

“The Little Mo Effect” by Pier Boutin, M.D.

High in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, walking is key to survival. With untreated club feet, a child faces a dismal future. Despite Little Mo’s struggles to walk, his magnetic charm captivated Women on Fire member, Dr. Boutin, an orthopedic surgeon.

Bringing him to the United States for treatment changed his life – and hers.


June’s Book To Live By

Life’s lessons are those intense pieces of knowledge we gather from experience. We learn from these nuggets and deem them to be valuable wisdom that can guide us.

But have you considered that you may also be lugging around damaging lessons you need to unlearn?

A compelling new memoir by one of Women on Fire’s most beloved wise women shares how we can twist mistakes and misfortune into destructive beliefs and behaviors. We know Mary La, formerly Mary Landberg, as an author, artist, and retired hospice nurse.

Her latest book takes us through a harrowing yet heartening journey of healing. I am so proud to announce that our June Book To Live By is Mary’s brave, powerful, and incomparable story:

The Great Unlearning by Mary La

The Great Unlearning by Mary La

Each chapter is accompanied by one of Mary’s “concept portraits,” stunning fine-art photographs of herself depicting the emotional core of the story’s theme. Like her artwork, her words capture searing details on every hard-hitting page.

The book is told in three sections: Remembering, Unlearning, and Transcendence. In Remembering, Mary reveals a chaotic childhood of neglect, abuse, abandonment, and poverty that led to risky, self-defeating behavior as she sought to belong in a world that refused to see her. Even as she showed herself to be an exemplary student and athlete, Mary struggled alone to get by.

As a teen, drug and alcohol abuse blurred her moral sensibilities, and she began a pattern of saying yes when she would have been far better served by saying no. Over time, the “lessons” grew darker and more dangerous, bringing feelings of self-loathing, guilt, and shame.

In Unlearning, Mary tells how panic attacks and crippling physical pain finally led her to seek the support of 30 practitioners from every imaginable healing tradition in the world, from Western medicine to Eastern philosophy. Some startling results brought profound self-discovery.

Mary La photo

She also shares her history with a circle of wise, caring women who helped her learn to love every piece of herself.

As Mary reaches Transcendence, she is able to find the love and belonging she always craved. But these came with a deep understanding that her suffering, too, had great value. It is the key to her remarkable career as a hospice nurse.

The Great Unlearning is a beautiful book that reads like a novel as Mary writes with unflinching vulnerability and brutal honesty in revealing her long-hoarded secrets. But her account is by no means a pity party. Rather, it is a victory march, as Mary reclaims her rightful joy. In fact, she was recently married, and we send her our love and congratulations!

I’ve rarely, if ever, read such an impressive, raw, soul-baring memoir. This breathtaking journey of healing leaves us with hope and inspiration that we, too, can leave behind a traumatic past and find true peace.

I give it my highest recommendation.

With love and peace for your beautiful heart,


Debbie Signature

May’s Book To Live By

If you are still waiting for life to return to the “normal” of yesterday, welcome to the world of tomorrow.

The headlines are disconcerting: “How to Prepare for a Future of Work in Flux.” “The Future of Work in the Digital Age.” “Work from Home Is Here to Stay.”

Technologies have been advancing for decades to allow us to work from home — or anywhere — pushed along by social and environmental issues. But the pandemic lockdown has locked the new normal into place.

How are you managing the transformation?

Maybe you have the latest ring light and the perfect backdrop, but have you updated your communication skills and professional etiquette?

Are you having difficulty getting and keeping attention in those Zoom meetings? Do you project confidence and competence while approaching clients online?

To help you get up to speed, our May Book To Live By is:

The New Hello: What to Say, What to Do in the New World of Work by Tracy Hooper


Tracy Hooper is a former TV news anchor, a professional speaker, and the founder of The Confidence Project, which teaches how to embody confidence, increase your professional presence, and advance your career.

She would seem to be a natural for navigating the new work environments.

But like so many of us, Tracy didn’t know if her business could survive the avalanche of change. She was accustomed to face-to-face counseling and in-person workshops. She, too, felt a rising panic in the rapidly shifting terrain.

Her clients inundated her with problems they had never faced before: How can I keep myself and my team from working 24/7 since we’re at home? How do we keep our company culture alive? How do I network remotely?

Tracy looks at the challenges of adapting to the new technical and personal disruptions, but also stresses that the fundamentals of connection and competence remain.

She sees a need for greater self-awareness, re-examining even such basics as our vocabulary and body language.

With compassion and honesty, Tracy Hooper shows us how to present ourselves in the new world while maintaining the old-fashioned principles of grace, civility, and leadership.

The New Hello offers practical tools, tips, and examples to guide you today and in the future.


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P.S. Because I learn nearly all I know from awesome women, finding out about this book was no exception.

My amazing friend Kelly Mooney, founder of Equipt Women, shared it with me. I serve on the advisory board of Equipt Women.

If you’re in the first 10 years of your career and searching for a lift in your professional life with a community of inspiring women, check out Equipt Women.

April’s Book To Live By

Everyone has a story.

That’s the first thing Nancy Slonim Aronie tells you. And she believes you must share it.

You are about to have a writing class from one of the most respected and revered teachers in the business. This is a woman who has spent nearly half a century helping others find the magic that comes from telling their story.

Nancy is the founder of the Chilmark Writing Workshop on Martha’s Vineyard. She has taught at Kripalu, Omega, Esalen, and Harvard. She has been a newspaper columnist and an NPR contributor.

She is also one of the great allies in my beloved Wise Women circle, and she is a long-time friend and mentor to Women on Fire.

I am so happy and honored to announce that our April Book To Live By is:

Memoir as Medicine: The Healing Power of Writing Your Messy, Imperfect, Unruly (but Gorgeously Yours) Life Story by Nancy Slonim Aronie


Nancy’s first book, Writing from the Heart, is a classic in the field. This one, hot off the presses, looks specifically at the memoir. As the title implies, Nancy believes that writing your story can be a balm — for the writer and the reader.

A big part of Nancy’s story began when her nine-month-old son, Dan, was diagnosed with diabetes. Twenty-two years later, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Nancy and her husband cared for Dan through his illness during the last 16 years of his life.

For guidance, she did lots of reading, but she never found the book she most needed to read. So she eventually wrote it, leading the way to a powerful healing. She believes with all her heart the same can happen for you, no matter the source of your pain.

A writer must do more than instruct; she must also inspire. Nancy lays out the path and processes of storytelling. She demonstrates where to look and how to listen. She helps you discover the necessary humor and humility, the gratitude and grace to enhance the telling.

She guides you on how to search out the details, telling you what to avoid and what not to avoid. There are lots of writing prompts, tips, and examples from her own writing as well as from other masters of the craft.

Nancy always supports and protects the writer to enable the courage to come through. This book gives you the capacity to trust yourself and your readers as you leave your comfort zone to do the soul work of writing.

Nancy Slonim Aronie is a pathfinder, and Memoir as Medicine will help you find your way and perhaps change your life in the process.

To learn more about Nancy and the Chilmark Writing Workshop, including a special class this fall for Women on Fire members, visit


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March’s Book To Live By

Do you believe in the power of prayer?

Whether or not you do at this moment, a new book will open your heart to the quiet promise of its dynamic possibility.

For decades, Agapi Stassinopoulos has been a dear friend to me and to our circle. She was the guest of honor at the very first Women on Fire Tea in 2004.

She has inspired us ever since with her insights into how we work and live and ways to add joy to our daily journey.

I am so pleased to announce that our March Book To Live By is:

Speaking with Spirit: 52 Prayers to Guide, Inspire, and Uplift You by Agapi Stassinopoulos


The book begins with Agapi’s own story of building a relationship with spirit and how, in often miraculous ways, it has changed her life. With loving kindness, she honors that essence in all of us.

Prayer, she says, is an ongoing conversation with something larger than yourself, regardless of your beliefs or religious affiliations. In a nondenominational approach, she teaches us to tap into that inner guidance, which is always there.

Agapi shares considerations to take as you open your heart and quiet your mind to experience the wisdom within you. In moving but straightforward language, she offers 52 prayers for common life challenges, divided into living, creating, becoming, overcoming, loving, and transforming.

These heartfelt prayers are simply examples of words to use until you can find your own. They offer comfort and inspiration as you discover the tender connection within to make desired changes in your life.

Speaking with Spirit will warm and empower you.

With love,

Debbie Signature


February’s Book To Live By

Only months after giving birth to a beautiful, healthy, 9½-pound girl, Maryanne O’Hara began to sense there was something wrong.

At age two, baby Caitlin was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic, progressive disease with a path that is unpredictable. Maryanne and her husband were told: “She could live a long life, or she could die by Christmas.”

They learned to live in the moment. “Life had never been so uncertain nor so precious,” Maryanne writes in her extraordinary memoir of love and loss.

It is an honor to announce that our February Women on Fire Book To Live By is:

Little Matches: A Memoir of Grief and Light by Maryanne O’Hara

202202_BTLB_Little Matches

We know from the beginning that Maryanne lost her only child when she was 33. Still, as we too grow to love and admire Caitlin, we are filled with hope and gripped by the twists of fate she faces. The story is raw yet inviting and comforting.

Caitlin’s voice is clear and honest throughout. It is expressed through journal entries, emails, blog posts, and cherished memories. A small sampling of her wisdom: “Being kind and true feels like the most important thing in life.” “When I feel myself flailing, grasping, panicking with pain or hurt, I get a notion in my head, always, and remember that there is courage.”

Maryanne gives us the story as an inspiration for us to contemplate “what might really matter at the end of our temporary, beautiful lives.”

The book is so much more than a medical history. Maryanne shares with us what she learned while trying to understand life, death, and beyond. She describes the multiple synchronicities and glimpses of the unexplainable that touched her life through her willingness to live with vulnerability, courage, and appreciation.

Maryanne O’Hara is also the author of the award-winning novel Cascade, a Reiki master, and a certified end-of-life doula. You can learn more about her at

Little Matches is compelling and lovely in every way. It will stay with you.

With love,

Debbie Signature


January’s Book To Live By

As you map your journey through 2022, keep in mind that a clear, uncomplicated path is easiest to follow. And the best companions along the way are those who share it with kindness and understanding.

To illustrate this wisdom and inspire you as you set out into the new year, I have a recommendation that is sure to put a bounce in your step. It is a pleasure to announce that our January Women on Fire Book To Live By is:

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy


Published in October 2019 by a beloved British illustrator, the book quickly became the uplifting support needed and welcomed by millions as troubled days hit around the world.

Don’t be fooled by the format. It looks like a child’s picture book, but there is no age limit on the pure joy and profound insights offered on every page.

The spirit of the book has been compared with such inspirational classics as The Tao of Pooh and The Giving Tree.

Simplicity is its magical essence. The fable opens with a quiet “hello,” as a lonely child opens himself to creatures he meets as he strolls the countryside.

The unlikely friendships he makes show the value of vulnerability. Questions from innocence are met with gentle, probing wisdom told in the universal language of the heart.

Mackesy brings intimacy by replacing type with his own handwriting to accompany his expressive line drawings and soft watercolor paintings.

“The truth is everyone is winging it,” he tells us. “So I say spread your wings and follow your dreams.” I couldn’t agree more.

For its inspiration and good cheer, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is invaluable in these transformational times. It makes a great gift for people of all ages.

With love,

Debbie Signature


December’s Book To Live By

As he approached his 80th birthday, Parker Palmer had a startling revelation: He liked being old.

A decade earlier he had realized “The Dylan Thomas poem I loved when I was young — ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ — no longer speaks to me.”

Instead of fighting aging, he sought to collaborate with it. Writing was a vehicle for doing that, and it allowed him to share the view with others along the path.

For this month’s podcast, it was my honor to speak with Parker, the renowned teacher, writer, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. And I am delighted to announce that our December Book To Live By is:

On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity & Getting Old by Parker J. Palmer


In this, his 10th book, Parker celebrates the perspectives and insights he has gained from the vantage point of aging. He writes as he lives — with humor, curiosity, compassion, and a willingness to embrace the challenges and paradoxes of life.

With his extraordinary storytelling skills, he shows us what it is like to age gracefully. “[I]t is because of the diminishments of age, not in spite of them,” he writes, “that I often find myself in awe as I stand on the brink of everything.”

Parker tells us that “Old is just another word for nothing left to lose, a time of life to take bigger risks,” adding a key ingredient: “on behalf of the common good.” His passion for justice and peace for all always shines through.

The book is filled with messages honoring spirit, sharing hope, and finding courage in an often broken, dysfunctional world.

He extols the virtues of intergenerational relationships and illustrates the essence of the “true self.” He shares his experiences as a community organizer and tells of his deep and lasting spiritual fellowship with Thomas Merton.

In the final chapter, he open-heartedly approaches the brink with us, reflecting on how to face death by being more fully present in life.

As a bonus, Carrie Newcomer, the singer-songwriter-poet-essayist and long-time friend and partner to Parker, has written three songs based on themes in the book. They are available for free at

In this season of giving, On the Brink of Everything is a delightful and generous gift to us all.

Wishing you peace and joy over the holidays and throughout the new year,

Debbie Signature