February’s Book To Live By

I’ve got to learn from the greats / Earn my right to be living / With every breath that I take / Every heartbeat / I want to get there / I want to be one / One who is touched by the sun

— From the song “Touched by the Sun” by Carly Simon

Carly Simon, the legendary singer-songwriter, brings beauty into the world. And nobody does it better.

I recently had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Carly in her cozy living room on Martha’s Vineyard talking about her life and work.

She is, as always, creative and busy. In addition to an upcoming tribute concert, “The Music of Carly Simon,” at Carnegie Hall in March, she recently released a remastered single and has an acclaimed new memoir on best-seller lists.

We spoke at length about her beautiful book, and I am excited to announce that our February Book To Live By is:

Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie by Carly Simon (*paid link).

Touched by the Sun is the sequel to her 2015 autobiography, Boys in the Trees. Carly offers more stories about her private world and the men she has shared it with, her illustrious career in music, and a social life hobnobbing in the stratosphere.

It is a New York Times best-seller and one of People magazine’s Top 10 books of 2019.

In particular, it chronicles her decade-long friendship with a woman considered to be one of the iconic figures of the 20th century, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The title comes from a song Carly wrote for and about Jackie, released in 1994, the year Jackie died.

Touched by the Sun is told in a conversational tone that draws you into intimate moments. The details are sometimes poignant, frequently funny, but always candid.

When speaking of herself, Carly acknowledges her own vulnerability and self-doubt. She often boldly shows herself in an unflattering light. But her stories of Jackie shine with love and pure admiration. They are respectful of Jackie’s privacy, yet illuminate her warmth, keen intelligence, and humanity.

Throughout their relationship, Jackie was more than a trusted friend. Professionally, she was Carly’s editor for her children’s books published with Doubleday in the 1980s and ’90s. Privately, she acted as Carly’s mentor, advocate, and Greek chorus all rolled into one.

In this loving tribute, Carly shares favorite moments together, cherished conversations and letters, and even a few pranks carried out by the former first lady. The reminiscences reveal in Jackie a spirit that longed to be as free as what she recognized in Carly.

Carly’s writing is open-hearted and, yes, lyrical. In Touched by the Sun *, you will discover a love song, a time capsule, and a very good story.

The book is available from Amazon and in bookstores everywhere. And if — somehow — you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to check out Carly’s nearly three dozen albums. They are sure to uplift, move and delight you. I can’t imagine my life without them!


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

How to find “your music” ~11 ways to step out of the box

Do you ever feel stale and stuck?  And, wonder how to shake things up?  Do you sometimes wish you could just hit a re-set button to get going again?

Late last fall I was feeling stagnant about my creativity and set a goal to do something “out of the box.”

I had no idea exactly what that would be.

Until …

I received an email about a creativity workshop for singer-songwriters in Nashville, led by one of my all-time favorite musicians Beth Nielsen Chapman.

I’d seen Beth perform in person more than a decade ago after her album Sand & Water had midwifed me through some major grief in my life. She also co-wrote Faith Hill’s delightful #1 hit “This Kiss.”

A workshop and a chance to work with Beth?

Where do I sign up?!

Only one problem – I cannot carry a tune or play a single note on any instrument.  Not even sort of.

In fact, of all the intelligences a human being can have, musical talent is at the bottom of my abilities list! I’m a writer, not a singer or songwriter.

No problem, said Lydia Hutchinson, Beth’s joyful, encouraging workshop organizer when I inquired about my attending.

“You’d be perfect for Beth’s workshop,” she said. “Beth’s focus is on “the creative flow” — trying to be open enough for creativity to come through us, in whatever form it takes.”

So I packed my bags and headed to Nashville to get my creative juices flowing.

Well, not so fast.  As the date to the workshop got closer, I kept thinking of excuses to cancel:

  • I’m too busy.
  • The weather’s too cold and icy.
  • I’m going to embarrass my talent-less self because everyone else attending appears to be an accomplished singer-songwriter.
  • Will the workshop participants resent me because I have no musical talent and am taking up a space better used for a musician or a real singer-songwriter?
  • I can’t dedicate that many days of my schedule to something “un-work-related.”
  • What if they make me sing?

Geez, my fears had a million excuses to keep me at home, safe and stuck.

I’m glad my higher self took over. She’s the one who knows that once I commit to something, cancellation is rarely an option!

She also is the one who holds out hope that maybe this was just the “out of the box” experience I needed.

When I finally arrived in Nashville for the workshop, it was cold and icy.

But from the moment I slid through the door into Lydia’s warm and cozy Nashville home I knew I was in the right place.

Lydia and Beth welcomed my 19 singer-songwriter colleagues and me with a delicious home-cooked meal complete with Beth’s made-from-scratch trifle!

In the glow of a fire roaring in Lydia’s living room, I felt immediately enveloped by my brand-new friends and supported for whatever was to come.

Then, for four nights and three days, I sat in the midst of the most generous flow of love, inspiration, talent and creativity – and yes, I even learned to sing!

I will never be Carly Simon.

With my talented and wonderful teacher and friend Beth Nielsen Chapman

But with Beth’s coaching, encouragement and accompaniment – “if you have a good speaking voice, you can sing!” – I took a leap of faith and sang a few lines from  “You’re So Vain.” In front of everyone.  I didn’t faint — and they didn’t boo!

RCA Studio B on Music Row in Nashville — Elvis’s piano

In between songs, we worked with talented guest speakers and even took a surprise field trip to Elvis’s (and many other stars’) hit-making recording home — RCA Studio B.

So many famous songs you love were recorded there including Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” The electricity of what had come before me in that studio flowed right through me.

Throughout the workshop, Beth taught, coached, played, sang, led by example, and shared her deeply touching life experiences and creative wisdom, which landed on me like fairy dust:

  • “The only muscle you need to develop is the one to show up.”
  • “Your creativity is always flowing to you. The door to your creativity is always locked from the inside.”
  • “If you can express your experience as honestly and authentically as possible… people will be riveted to your story.
  • “Love and respect the resistance that comes from “showing up” but don’t let it drive the car …it shouldn’t even have a driver’s license!”
  • “Comparing yourself to another person is a huge way to hit a wall!”
  • “Have faith, work hard and do not let yourself collapse.”

With hit songwriter Mike Reid — teacher extraordinaire

Beth’s dear friend and guest facilitator Mike Reid, famous for penning the song so beautifully sung by Bonnie Raitt: “I Can’t Make You Love Me If You Don’t” shared his creativity advice, too:

  • “Always write what you mean. What are you trying to say? When you know that you are almost critic-proof.”
  • “Ask yourself: What is wanting to be beautifully said from your heart?
  • “Be good to yourself. A good way to take care of yourself is in your work.”
  • “Read aloud all your work.”
  • “Write (sing, paint, dance) that part of you that you just want to love.”

In the end, doing the unexpected – or even the thing I feared – opened a door into a  ballroom of creativity.  I had stood in the flow of something new and valuable — and found my own new ways of looking at life.

Colors seem more vivid; sentences have rhymes; and words sing like songs.

Just as graciously as our workshop began, our final evening ended with a pizza party and a private concert by Beth and her troop of well-known, talented and successful singer-songwriters Mike Reid, Jonatha Brooke and Keb Mo’.

Beth and Keb Mo’

In less than a week, I had gone from the mountain top of my discomfort to feeling as though … I’ve got this! My creative juices are flowing again.

Through the kindness, inspiration, strategies, safety and support of this amazing teacher, her friends and my fellow students, I returned home refreshed, renewed, reinvigorated, and with a learning that after all these years — I just might even be able to sing. 🙂

What has become stale or routine in your life? Maybe it’s your daily schedule or a skill or hobby you mastered a while ago and could use some updating.

What single action, large or small, could you take to step out of your box and exercise a new muscle that you didn’t even know you had?

What is it that you would like to be “on fire” about that is perhaps only a tiny spark right now?

Whatever it is, I’m living proof — you can do it!


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P.S. If you’re not yet an official member of Women on Fire, you are invited to join our monthly membership program where you’ll receive the interview with maternity-wear pioneer and entrepreneur Liz Lange in your March membership package.

P.P.S. As of today, ONLY 12 SEATS remain for the  2015 Annual Women on Fire Retreat: Step Into Your Dreams~ And Fly!  I invite you to join us in downtown Chicago this Spring, April 23-25, 2015 for an amazing weekend dedicated to inspiring, supporting and recharging YOU!  This event will sell out soon so I encourage you to register today!

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And, that’s the way it is…with love to Walter Cronkite

Martha’s Vineyard, MA — Although I’d heard from friends who love and know Walter well that he has been failing this past year and would not be returning to the Vineyard this summer, I’m still incredibly sad to hear he’s died at age 92.

I was 8 when President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.  The two strongest memories I have of being comforted on that dark and terrifying day were these:
•    Being sent home from school early, my mother rushing to greet me and wrapping me in her arms.
•    Hanging on every word that Walter Cronkite reported and believing that life would be OK and we’d be safe because Walter seemed in charge.

Later, as a journalist, I came to appreciate Walter’s fine reporting and his values.  There’s a very moving exhibit at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston that I would watch over and over and marvel at the tape of Walter emotionally delivering the fateful news to the country that day.

Even though I’d been a journalist and press secretary and had met most of the news media’s “big feet,” as the most famous journalists are called, I never saw or met Walter in person until we moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 2001, where he, too, has a home.

Quirky I know, but I love living here and sharing my name and number in the same phone book with Walter.  I never did, of course, but yes, here’s his address and phone number and apparently you could just call him up…or head over to his home on the harbor for a little visit!


One day, my husband Rob spied “America’s most trusted man” a few tables over at the Planeview, our favorite little airport restaurant.  He was with his son and later a grandson appeared.  Walter hugged him and focused his attention on the young man in just the way you might guess Walter would adore his grandson!

Through the years, I saw Walter on the Vineyard most often at charity events or the airport.  He was by then in his late 80s, warm, friendly and gracious to all who approached him.  He joked and teased in a kind and light-hearted way. He was somewhat frail and definitely hard-of-hearing, but you couldn’t miss his booming voice, which remained strong and unmistakeable even after he’d turned 90.

On another day at the airport, my mother was worried because her flight was delayed by fog.  We urged her to settle into “island mode” and just relax and people-watch.  You never know who you might see in the tiny Martha’s Vineyard airport.  No sooner had we spoken when Walter appeared and stood chatting with a friend two feet in front of my mother!  She got a ringside view of this man who was kind and curious, as interested in you as you were in him.


Joanna Simon at a dinner party on Martha's Vineyard in 2007

My heart goes out to Joanna Simon, Carly and Peter Simon’s sister, who was Walter’s significant other the past few years.  They became a couple after both of their long-time spouses had died. It was inspiring to know their love story and to see a couple in their later years so sweetly adoring of each other.

To me, Walter Cronkite was as much royalty in this country as the Kennedy family. I will miss his presence on this island and in this world.  The inspiring words of Shakespeare come to mind as I say goodbye and thank you to Uncle Walter for being such a good soul, outstanding role model and exuberant force in our world:

“Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”