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).

202104_BTLB_SeekerandMonk __SophfroniaScott

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.

She’s a Woman On Fire! Meet Sophfronia Scott

Welcome back to our ongoing series to introduce you to each other!

She’s a Woman on Fire! member and we want you to know her. Please say hello to…

Sophfronia Scott

Sandy Hook, Connecticut

WOF member: #00040

Member since:  October 2011

Please tell us about YOU, your family, your work, what you are “on fire” about, etc

Many of our members know me as the publisher of Women on Fire Media, an imprint Debbie Phillips created with the vision of producing a whole series of Women on Fire books as well as future media by and inspired by Women on Fire.

It’s been wonderful to have this focus on the industry side with projects I love while I also pursue my own creative writing. I’m on fire about my writing because I’ve put it off for so long, allowing it to play second fiddle to the business I have coaching entrepreneurs to write and publish books.

I’m studying for a dual masters degree (in creative writing, fiction and nonfiction) at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. This past year my short stories and essays have appeared in Sleet MagazineNewYorkTimes.comNuméro CinqMid-American ReviewO, The Oprah MagazineGently Read Literature, and are upcoming in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers and the Saranac Review.

My husband, Darryl Gregory, is a middle school band director as well as a talented singer-songwriter. We are both grateful to have our joyous son Tain, age 8 and a half.

How did you originally connect to Women on Fire?  

I used to be in a large mastermind group and one of our meetings featured mentors who worked with us in smaller groups. Rob Berkley, Debbie’s amazing husband, was one of those mentors. We only spoke for a few minutes but I felt this connection with him, as though we were long-lost family. He went home and told Debbie about me and she invited me to a Women on Fire tea party in April 2009.

The last book you read that you would recommend to other Women on Fire?

Right now I’m absolutely enthralled by the book I won in the drawing at the Women on Fire members’ LIVE CHAT in January: Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work! by Tama Kieves. This has been my journey these past two years, to be inspired and unstoppable, and I feel as though Tama understands all the secret whisperings of my heart.

She knows inspiration requires work, but she also knows a certain amount of that work includes taking a break and making room for the magic to come in. Finding that combination has always been difficult for me because I’m all about working hard, but Tama is making me more confident in trusting my intuition.

What is your proudest accomplishment in the past 12 months? 

Completing the draft of my second novel, The Affairs of Midnight.

If you had an unexpected free day (a “found” day), how would you spend it?    

I would spend it reading, in meditation, and writing letters to friends. Last year I spent six months in an amazing correspondence where I wrote to a friend 2-3 times a month. Some of those letters inspired stories and essays I wrote later because the conversations we were having concerning creativity and spirituality were just that deep and rewarding. I’m still discovering more as I consider those conversations over and over again. There are days when I think I’d really benefit from spending time in a convent or a monastery.

Name another Women on Fire who has inspired you, and why?

M.E. Jones of Harrisville, Michigan, a co-author in the first Women on Fire book, because she wasn’t afraid to leave behind a life others told her she should be grateful to have. She boldly went after the life—and love—she really wanted.

If you had the opportunity to teach a child one strategy that would help to guide her life, what would that be?

I would guide a child, as I’m hopefully doing with my son, towards having a spiritual life. Most children, I believe, are already connected to source. They just need to have someone confirming for them what they feel is real and they can rely on that connection when life goes awry.

What is something that we might be surprised to learn about you?

When I was about 13, I became a certified “Beatlemaniac” even though the band no longer existed and Beatlemania was long gone. I soaked up so much of their history I sometimes forget I know it. Today, for instance, I walked through a room where I heard a man say, “Hello! Goodbye! Wasn’t that a song?” Without hesitation I said, “Yes, by the Beatles, the Magical Mystery Tour album, 1967” and kept on walking.

Name three women who have influenced your life, and what you’ve learned from each.

Wanda. When I met her she was in her 70s and I had just turned 30. She oversaw the garden behind the building where my husband and I bought our first apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I’d been waiting to learn how to garden my whole life and she was sorely in need of a willing assistant. She taught me everything from how to make compost to planting bulbs to pruning bushes. Every time I put my hands in the earth I think of Wanda.

Earline, my cousin. She’s about 30 years my senior and we met as adults after my father died. She lives in California and once, when I visited her there, I asked her why she lived so far away. She said, “Oh, honey, I moved out here in 1965 after my husband shot me.” She took her children, left an abusive relationship and got as far away as she could. Earline taught me that strength and bravery run in our bloodlines. If she could do what she did, I can do anything.

Pastor Kathleen Adams-Shepherd, our rector at Trinity Episcopal Church. She’s my shining example of faith in action as she brings all of herself—her intelligence, her heart, her strength—to bear as she guides our community. She’s also a tremendous writer and creates smart, inspirational sermons meant to help us practice faith in our everyday lives. If I were a spiritual leader, I’d want to be like Pastor Kathie.

 Who cheers you on?

Darryl, Tain, and Debbie Phillips!

 When you reflect on your life so far, what is the first word or two that comes to your mind?

“Love” and “Fear.” The pivotal moments of my life have all involved a confrontation of one or the other or both together. The lessons I’ve learned have been pretty much the same: the more I love, the less I fear. And the less I fear, the more I love.

More about Sophfronia ScottWhen Sophfronia published her first novel, All I Need To Get By, with St. Martin’s Press in 2004, one prominent reviewer referred to her as potentially “one of the best writers of her generation.”

Online you can read Sophfronia’s short story, “The Night Viera Kissed Her,” in the Fall 2012 issue of Sleetmagazine.com and an essay about her father, “White Shirts,” in the September 2012 issue of numercinqmagazine.com.

She blogs at www.Sophfronia.com.
Compiled by Women on Fire Senior Writer Becky Adams


Coming up in a future She’s A Woman on Fire! …

Who in our community felt excluded from being able to buy sophisticated, contemporary, well-fitting clothes in a plus-size? And 14 months later, while working a full-time job, launched a brand-new clothing line “for the majority of women” who wear sizes 12-24?  We’ll share the life and dreams of this inspiring Woman on Fire member in our next edition of She’s A Woman on Fire!

Not yet a monthly member? You are welcome to join our inspiring membership program and keep inspiration, strategies and support by your side all month long.  For information and to register, go here!

Best-ever Women on Fire Retreat!!

My heart is full.

What an amazing, inspiring weekend with women from 22 states and Canada at our annual Women on Fire Retreat held this year in Chicago!

The fabulous women who attended the Retreat! (Photos by Heather Stone)

Next week I’ll say more about what it was like to be in the energy of all these dynamic, creative, supportive women who are making a difference in the world.

But right now, those of us on the East Coast are preparing for the effects of Hurricane Sandy, and I am sending love and hope for everyone’s safety.

Meanwhile, please join us in a few Women on Fire moments from the weekend! More pictures next week.

Chicago host and Woman on Fire Debi Lilly cheering!

The wise and talented Sophfronia Scott, publisher of the next Women on Fire book, shared our plans for inviting co-authors to participate. Very exciting!

Kim Davis, Dana Frost, Nancy Neal and Cindy Clendenin listen intently to Margo Frazier sharing what she is “on fire” about in her life!

Blue Women Group? Not exactly! Dreaming Big was this year’s Retreat theme.  Everyone received a blue-gel mask to promote relaxation, better sleep, good dreams!

My sweet mother Mary Lue Phillips attended her first-ever Women on Fire Retreat. Here she is, happy in the moment with Laura Benton, Meredith Schoenberger and Arlene Alexander.

Enjoying the Retreat with my best friend Jan Allen, a coach and life strategist, who moderated a panel on Career Leaps and Changes and also discussed on her experience giving a TEDx talk. (Photo by Jamie Eslinger)

Yoga teacher and trainer Laurel Hodory led us to discover techniques for becoming centered and grounded.

To everyone who participated in this powerful, engaging, life-changing Retreat, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Safe travels home.  And stay tuned for next year’s Retreat date and city!

If you haven’t attended a Women on Fire event, I hope you will soon. No better way to fill your cup:-)

Celebrating Your Dreams

Hello from New York City!

I’m here celebrating another fabulous Women on Fire tea.  Participants came from as far away as Colorado, Connecticut and New Jersey to meet each other and share their joys, dreams, struggles and triumphs.

Women On Fire Tea NYC September 14, 2012
Women on Fire tea at Lady Mendl’s in New York City! Front row: Melissa Lerner, Michelle Whittaker, Lisa Parker, Lisa Clair, Trudy DuJardin. Back row: Shannon McCaffery, Holly Getty, Christine Medvedev, Wendy DeSimone, me!, Kelly Hurley, Linda Yellin, Dawn Halkuff, Sophfronia Scott, RoseMarie Terenzio and Terri Cole. (Photo by Rob Berkley)

If you’ve not yet been to a Women on Fire tea, please don’t think you have to “have it all together” or even be “on fire” to attend.

In fact, coming to a tea is often just the “spark” you need to regain your spirit and feel supported while you meet other women, all in various stages of life and love and work.

At the teas, there is magic in other women’s stories and a collective wisdom in sharing resources and supporting each other no matter what you are going through.

When I started Women on Fire in 2003 I had an inkling the “rising tide” of women coming together, inspiring and supporting each other would “lift all boats.”

I just had no idea of how powerful it would be to help us move toward our dreams and our best selves.

And, that brings me to my favorite moment of the month — celebrating in today’s SPARK! the recent dreams, goals, successes and accomplishments of women in our community.

These are the women you meet when you attend a Women on Fire event — whether at a tea, in a coaching group, on the monthly Live Chat for members or at our annual retreat.

Please keep us posted on your latest news.  And, congratulations to these Women on Fire for your exciting steps toward your deepest desires!

Jan Allen speaking at the 2011 Women on Fire Retreat (Photo by Nancy Lambert)

Jan Allen of Columbus, Ohio will be featured at TEDx Columbus 2012 on October 5 sharing her signature talk — Retiring Retirement: A Personal Upgrade to the Bonus Decades.

Among many talents, Jan is an expert in helping others navigate through life’s many transitions. As she approached her 60th birthday and realized she had lived longer than she has time left, she plunged into despair.

And, then she set out to identify a new life stage that takes advantage of the depth and breadth of life’s experiences and transforms the “retirement” years into anything but!  Her TEDx talk also will be available on video.

Jan is a member of Women on Fire’s leadership team and leads the Women on Fire coaching group in Columbus. You can find out more about her here.

Nellie Partow of New York City is gaining recognition for her exquisite fashion line and was recently featured in the New York Times Magazine and named by Harper’s Bazaar as the new name in minimalism.  Check out her website.

Saks Fifth Avenue will soon showcase her designs in exclusive trunk shows nationwide.  Go to Nellie’s Facebook page and “like” it and you will to be kept up-to-date on the cities and dates where Nellie will appear.

(I’m wearing one of Nellie’s fabulous dresses in the tea party photo above!)

Pat Snyder of Columbus, has received her Master of Applied Positive Psychology degree from University of Pennsylvania.  A lawyer, Pat was in the first women’s coaching group Jan Allen and I led in 1996 called Live The Life You Want.

Now an author and coach herself, Pat is using her talent and expertise to help other lawyers launch their dreams.  Her business is called I Can Fly, LLC and her site is www.LawyerCoachPatSnyder.com

Kim Dettmer of Berea, Ohio was very busy over the summer. She finished a rough draft to write and illustrate her children’s book called Moments to Savor. A mom of two, she also has accepted a new role as the Executive Director of a local non-profit.

Donna Kim Brand of West Palm Beach, Florida has completed her book The Force of Creative Collaboration. Check out her website at www.donnakimbrand.com.

Margo Frazier of Spring, Texas, is moving on up. She was promoted to Supervisor of Operations at Sheldon Independent school district in Houston.


Congratulations to our resident book coach! Here I am with Sophfronia at last week’s New York tea.

Sophfronia Scott of Sandy Hook, Connecticut will be featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul Inspiration for Writers published in May 2013. She recently spent time with Amy Newmark, owner and publisher of the Chicken Soup empire.  The founder of Done For You Writing, Sophfronia has been a writer in the Chicken Soup series in the past.

Wendy Taucher of New York City and Martha’s Vineyard is the founder of Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater. Among her projects, she is currently  co-producing the All For One festival at the Cherry Lane Theater in New York City.  The next performance is at 2PM Saturday, September 22.  Check out www.cherrylanetheatre.org for details.

A must-see for a Woman on Fire!

Roxanne Dupler Crocco of Columbus, Ohio realized her dream to sing before an audience when she performed at the Park Street Tavern’s Jazz Jam. Congratulations and what a way to rock it, Roxanne!

Keep your dreams going, everyone.  And, please keep us posted on what you are up to!

Thriving on routine

Do you sometimes struggle to stay consistent?  To keep focused and stay the course?  I sure do.

With distractions at every turn, I am much more comfortable going with the flow and inviting — and even chasing after — something new and different!

I equate routine with being bored and that scares the daylights out of me! But I’ve come to realize I need a fair amount of regular, consistent activity — a routine — to get things done.

I am settled back on Martha’s Vineyard after a winter in Florida and travels these past weeks to Paris, New York and Columbus.  I’m out of my routine and in search of the right footing to accomplish the many dreams I have.

In my first hour home, I slipped into our backyard to see if our 10-year-old rock sculpture had kept her balance through the winter. Yup, she sure did!

And, after five months away, our Wilber immediately crawled back into his hammock (courtesy of Woman on Fire Holly Getty!) and resumed his own routine on Martha’s Vineyard.

It made me laugh to consider that even inanimate objects and animals stay the course better than I do sometimes!

Woman on Fire Sophfronia Scott and I were recently talking about another kind of routine — the struggles of the “sandwich generation” — men and women simultaneously caring for kids and elderly parents or relatives.

She recommended the book of a friend of hers Elizabeth Cohen called The Family on Beartown Road.

In it, Elizabeth describes having a baby at age 40 and taking in her 80-year-old father with dementia to live with her and her husband.  Well, he was her husband — until the baby turned one and he decided it was all too much for him and he left.

At that point, the only routine the author could count on for herself was a slice of time when Grandpa and the baby were asleep, and she would write her awarenesses of the two ends of life’s spectrum and her heartbreak.

“I am discovering that babies and old men have a lot in common. Both thrive on routine,” she wrote.

It was her own routine of writing that resulted in her inspiring and insightful book. I took note.

And, it was her routine of writing 15 minutes a day that led author Martha Beck, whose hands were immobilized by an auto-immune disorder, to a major accomplishment.

Undaunted, she rubberbanded her fingers together, stuck a pencil between them, and routinely wrote until she finished her award-winning book Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth and Everyday Magic.

I took note.

And, I have decided there is nothing boring about consistent, forward motion that eventually gets you to your goal, your dream, your success.

As skeletons are to our bodies, routines — consistent, regular, ongoing actions and practices — are the backbones to our success.

Now, I can hardly wait for Monday morning. Back to the routines I know work for me!

I’d love to hear what routines work for you?

And, before I go, congratulations to Woman on Fire Julie Quackenbush of Columbus, Ohio for winning the gorgeous KiraGrace yoga jacket, courtesy of Kira Karmazin. Julie looks sharp in it at a Michael McDonald Concert!

Thank you for being a part of this amazing, supportive and caring community.