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 chilmarkwritingworkshop.com.


Debbie Signature


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

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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 maryanneohara.com.

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 NewcomerPalmer.com/home.

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


November’s Book To Live By

“I’ve always wanted to write, but… [fill in the blank].”

Nancy Aronie has heard countless such regrets. But she took to heart the underlying message: People really want to write. She made it her life’s mission to help them do that.

For this month’s podcast, I was thrilled to talk with Nancy, who is a beloved teacher, the founder of the Chilmark Writing Workshop on Martha’s Vineyard, and a treasured member of our Women on Fire circle.

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

Writing from the Heart: Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice by Nancy Slonim Aronie.

Published in 1998, Writing from the Heart has become a classic of the genre. Generations of would-be writers have learned to navigate their own writer’s blocks from her hard-earned wisdom.

Although Nancy felt from childhood that she was a writer, it took years and tears for her to find her best fit. With warmth, candor, and humor, she tells stories of those struggles and triumphs.

In the process, she demonstrates how exploring your own stories can put you on a path of healing from past losses, disappointments, and other emotional pain. Her methods provide security and acceptance to ease you over the bumps.

After a rude awakening to the unkindness of others, she began offering her students a safe place to build their skills and confidence. People flocked to her classes in such places as the Omega Institute and Kripalu as well as her own workshop.

With Writing from the Heart, Nancy Aronie encourages you to release fear and self-doubt and take the risk of writing from your heart. To keep you moving forward, she suggests inspired and inspiring writing prompts to unleash your creativity and help you find your voice.

I have learned so much from this amazing guidebook, and I know you will, too. I recommend it with all my heart.

SPECIAL INVITATION: If you want to put your desires to write into action, please mark your calendar for October 3-6, 2022. You’re invited to join us on Martha’s Vineyard for a special Women on Fire edition of Nancy’s writing workshop. Seating will be limited! Please contact Daren@womenonfire.com for more information.

Here’s to your writing adventures,

Debbie Signature

P.S. Every day at Women on Fire, we offer expert advice, useful strategies, and woman-to-woman support. If you are not yet a member, please consider joining us today!

September’s Book To Live By

The first tower was struck at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001. It was a day that forever changed America.

The nation continues to deal with the widespread aftermath, and we spend each September 11 in solemn commemoration. This year marks the 20th anniversary.

In 2001, Andrea Raynor volunteered her services and became chaplain at the morgue at Ground Zero. As she expresses it, the job was “shouldering the responsibility of standing in for a wounded and grieving nation.”

We are so blessed to have Andie as a member of our Women on Fire circle. She is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and former hospice chaplain. She continues to minister to those who survive the unthinkable as a spiritual and bereavement counselor.

Andie is also a brilliant author.

It is with pride and admiration that I share as our September Book To Live By:

Reflections of Grace: Finding Hope at Ground Zero by Andrea Raynor.


In 2009, Andie compiled a collection of essays titled The Voice That Calls You Home: Inspiration for Life’s Journeys. In it, she shares the wisdom and compassion she has gained from her experiences, including her own battle with cancer.

She reminds us that even our darkest days are a space to find beauty, courage, hope, and forgiveness.

This year, the chapters relating to September 11 are being republished as Reflections of Grace: Finding Hope at Ground Zero. The book features a gorgeous and heartfelt new introduction by Andie.

Because of the anniversary, there are an even larger number of projects this year re-examining the momentous event. Those seeking new perspectives include Spike Lee, the American film director and screenwriter. He has created a four-part series for HBO called NYC Epicenters: 9/11 —> 2021½. We see Andie in the third part with more from the interview to come in the final episode, which will be broadcast on Saturday, September 11.

Reflections of Grace and Andie’s other books — Incognito: Lost and Found at Harvard Divinity School; A Light on the Corner: Discovering the Sacred in the Everyday; The Alphabet of Grief: Words to Help in Times of Sorrow — are available on Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.

I highly recommend all these wise and beautiful books. And I congratulate our Women on Fire sister for her amazing accomplishments.

To our shared and cherished memories,

Debbie Signature

P.S. Every day at Women on Fire, we offer expert advice, useful strategies, and woman-to-woman support. If you are not yet a member, please consider joining us today!

August’s Book To Live By

Did you ever have a childhood dream come true?

Was the path getting there smooth or filled with frustration, fear, and doubt. Did you ever want to give up?

I am inspired when women have a dream, especially when they’re young and find a way to fulfill it. I recently read a book by a woman who got to see a lifelong dream unroll before her, even as she had to defeat waves of worry and dread.

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

She Made Me Laugh: Mother Teresa and the Call to Holiness by Stephanie Emmons (*paid link).


As a sixth grader, Stephanie saw a film featuring Mother Teresa among the poor, ill, and dying in India. She instantly felt a pull to the work and a desire to visit India and meet Mother Teresa. Over the years, she volunteered in a hospital, a program for children with terminal diseases, and homeless shelters in her hometown of Ottawa.

Then, in her mid-20s, out of the blue, she received an opportunity to accompany another young woman who shared her dream on a six-week trip to India.

The two young women found their way to Calcutta and the “old, plain, tired-looking, grey concrete, low-rise building” that was the home of the international headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity.

To their surprise and delight, they were soon welcomed by an impish Mother Teresa herself. Stephanie’s admiration only grew as she found the “living saint” to be “simple, funny, intense. And perfectly ordinary.”

With humility, Stephanie writes of her unease and frustrations as she was at first overwhelmed by the heat, overcrowding, smells, noise, filth, and despair until she was able to see through to the kindnesses, beauty, and unexpected friendships.

Beyond her experiences in India, Stephanie also shares the shock and disquiet she felt years later when she learned that Mother Teresa had spent decades in great spiritual pain, even doubting the existence of God.

As a detailed travel journal and spiritual reflection, She Made Me Laugh is refreshing in reminding us that, even when our prayers are answered, it can take patience and courage to appreciate the gift.

To your dreams coming true,

With love,

Debbie Signature

P.S. Every day at Women on Fire, we offer expert advice, useful strategies, and woman-to-woman support. If you are not yet a member, please consider joining us today!


*As an Amazon Associate, Women on Fire earns from qualifying purchases.

May’s Book To Live By

What would your life look like today if you paid more attention to your needs and worried less about pleasing other people?

For our May podcast, I interviewed Terri Cole, a psychotherapist whose specialty is helping people to create boundaries for their health and well-being.

She has coached women of all ages and occupations, and she knows that strong boundaries are the keys to healthy personal and professional relationships and an extraordinary life.

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

Boundary Boss: The Essential Guide to Talk True, Be Seen and (Finally) Live Free by Terri Cole (*paid link).


The book begins with a 10-point Boundary Boss Bill of Rights, which, if followed, is a roadmap to dignity, respect, and empowerment.

Terri defines a boundary boss as a woman who understands herself, speaks her truth, transforms behavioral blocks, and is committed to her own growth.

She opens our eyes to the cultural stereotypes that women have long accepted that convince us to sacrifice our priorities to the comfort and desires of others.

Creating boundaries requires a set of skills you were likely never taught — because those who raised you also didn’t learn them. Terri teaches them with clarity and insight.

Terri takes us through an excavation of the “basement” of our minds, where fears and doubts lurk. She exposes myths about boundaries, provides scripts for a range of difficult conversations, and outlines practical actions that ensure your needs are met.

In the Boundary Boss (*paid link), Terri leads us to a healing and authenticity that can bring greater self-fulfillment.

To creating robust boundaries,

With love,

Debbie Signature

P.S. Every day at Women on Fire, we offer expert advice, useful strategies, and woman-to-woman support. If you are not yet a member, please consider joining us today!


*As an Amazon Associate, Women on Fire earns from qualifying purchases.

April’s Book To Live By

Spring is a time of reawakening. A time we can see the world through fresh eyes.

For the April podcast, I interviewed Sophfronia Scott on the release of her sixth and latest book. In powerful explorations, she tells of her own spiritual reawakening through a virtual mentorship with Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and influential contemplative thinker who died in 1968.

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

The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton by Sophfronia Scott (*paid link).

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After hearing a passage from one of Merton’s books that struck a chord in her, Sophfronia began studying his writing in earnest, particularly his journals.

She found herself thinking of him often as she grappled with spiritual and social issues in her own life and writing. She referred to him as the monk who follows her around.

In this lovely and profound book, Sophfronia offers us the same opportunity for insight and spiritual growth by sharing her imagined conversations with Merton.

She steps into the role of mentor, showing us — using Merton’s words as a springboard — how she approaches such weighty issues as ambition and notions of success, racism and social justice, prayer and death.

She brings us into the modern world with engaging and relatable examples from her own life. Her musings open the way to cultivating self-awareness and a deeper attention to the world around us. They can aid in releasing our own creativity and compassion.

With the Seeker and the Monk (*paid link), Sophfronia Scott becomes our companion and guide along the path to peace, hope, and faith.

With love,

Debbie Signature

P.S. Every day at Women on Fire, we offer expert advice, useful strategies, and woman-to-woman support. If you are not yet a member, please consider joining us today!


*As an Amazon Associate, Women on Fire earns from qualifying purchases.