She’s a Woman on Fire! Meet Sherrerd Hartness

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… 

Sherrerd Hartness is a Woman on Fire-

Sherrerd Hartness

Greenville, S.C.

WOF member: #00257

Member since:  December 20, 2013

Please tell us about YOU, your family and your work. What you are “on fire” about? 

I am the mother of two fantastic sons who are now grown up and out on their own. Since 1988, I have worked for myself in interior design. Juggling children and trying to work whenever I could took a lot of time and energy. Now I am ready to grow my business, invest in myself and conquer my fears.

I am on fire about expanding my business. In addition to that, I have a coffee table book I want to create. Part of the proceeds will benefit Habitat for Humanity, so stay tuned!

Also, my friend and Woman on Fire Nancy Neal’s husband, Tom, has asked me to raise $300,000 for a documentary he is co-producing on James Jamerson, the legendary bass player who was on more recordings than the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Beach Boys combined. I bet all of you can hum the bass line to “My Girl” right now! I have never done anything like this before, but the more I learn, the more fired up I am. Bring it on!

How did you originally connect to Women on Fire?

Last summer, I had the most fantastic intern, Emily Neal, who is the daughter of Nancy Neal, and granddaughter of Marge Snyder, a co-author in Women on Fire, Volume 2. Emily had interned during the summer of 2012 for Women on Fire, and she kept talking about Debbie Phillips and Meredith Schoenberger when she was working for me.

I went on Amazon and bought Women on Fire, Volume 1, and then signed up for the newsletter. A few months later, I became a member. When I read about the retreat, I thought, “I may not know anyone, but I’m going to attend. I’m sure I will find some people I like.” And, boy did I! Now I would use the words like and love!

What’s your favorite component of the Women on Fire membership?

What do I like best about Women on Fire? My answer is EVERYTHING! The support is pretty mind-blowing!

What is your favorite part of the day?

I love to start my day early, at 6:00 to 6:30 a.m., with a cup of coffee and quiet time in my reading room. My black-and-white kitty, Mowgli, usually spends this time with me, which I think is super sweet.

I light a candle and often put on headphones and listen to a guided imagery or a meditation. Sometimes, I use a Hemi-Sync CD. The Uplift Meditation by John Selby is also a favorite of mine. I have been saying the beautiful prayer that Kristine Carlson shared during her interview with Debbie Phillips: “Divine love, play me as an instrument in your finely tuned orchestra of life.”

I also love late afternoon and dusk when the world is slowing down again.

What was the last book you read that you would recommend to other Women on Fire?

Incognito by Andrea Raynor and First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung (I am about halfway through). I am also wild about all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books.

What is the one thing you’re most proud of?

I am most proud of my two wonderful, kind and fun sons. I am also proud of myself.

It has taken me more than 50 years to realize and own that most people who have experienced what I have in my life — the murder of my sister; the loss of my older brother to AIDS; the dysfunctional, cruel and neglectful home life I grew up in; and an abusive marriage — would end up bitter and angry. I still believe in my fellow human beings, and even though there have been decades filled with dark days, I remain optimistic most of the time.

The counselor who encouraged me to stand up for myself during my divorce told me that I am a Miracle. A psychologist who helped me deal with the heartbreaking events in my family told me the same thing. And the staff psychiatrist at the hospital where I took my mother before she died told me, “It is amazing you are the person you are.” My friends have been telling me this for a long time. And finally, I am starting to realize the truth in these words.

Share a special Women-on-Fire moment or experience.

The retreat in Naples, Fla., as well as phone conversations with my new friends were special. I’m excited that Woman on Fire Andrea Raynor spoke at my 113-year-old book club. I’m sure this list will grow and grow!

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

That’s easy—EVERYBODY! When I think about Debbie’s dream to form Women on Fire, and that it has become a reality, it really knocks my socks off!

What’s your big dream?

My big dream has two parts: On the business side, I want to expand and do more vacation homes and sell my upcoming coffee table book. Personally, I want to meet a wonderful, genuine, kind, brilliant and fun man who will see me for who I am and not be afraid of the hard things that have happened in my life.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced? How did you overcome it?

Most of my life has been extreme with challenges, and it has been very fear-based. The biggest challenges have been the murder of my little sister, the death of my brother, a household where we were scared to do anything wrong when we were growing up, and an abusive and destructive marriage.

How did I overcome all this? Believe me, there have been plenty of times when I wanted to just give up —to go to sleep and not wake up. My journey has been lots of little steps forward and sometimes many steps backward, and then finally getting stronger and learning, little by little, to stand up for myself.

Since the Women on Fire retreat, I am telling my story, a little at a time. I believe and know that things are now changing in me and for me.

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

I am going to quote Woman on Fire Terri Cole here because her answer resonated so much with me: “Be mindful that, most of the time, fear is just a feeling. Use fear to inform your decisions rather than to dominate them.” I sure wish I had learned this in grammar school.

If you had an unexpected free day, how would you spend it?

I would go on a long trail ride on a really nice horse. I grew up riding and still love it! Sitting outside and reading would be pretty sweet too!

What is your favorite city in the world?

New York!

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

I took off my junior year of college and traveled as a cast member in the Up With People show. My cast traveled more than 90,000 miles that year and toured the western United States and Florida, Canada, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Mexico.

I lived with more than 80 host families and stayed in houses ranging from a shack with a dirt floor in Panama City to the home of the CEO of a large international company. I stayed in an orphanage on an Indian Reservation in British Columbia and a house on the plains of Wyoming where the wind whipped through the cracks in the exterior boards.

My cast mates were from many U.S. states and about 16 foreign countries. What an education and what an organization!

I love to throw a football, and I have a pretty good spiral! Usually, you can find a football in the trunk of my car in case one of my friends’ sons will throw with me. Once I got a porter from a hotel in Charleston to throw with me out in the street. It was a blast!

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

My godmother, Rick Ravenel, in Charleston, S.C., and Susan Boyd, my second mother, in Columbia, S.C., have shown me unconditional love and support. They are AWESOME. I wish you all could know them.

Who cheers you on?

My Women on Fire sisters cheer me on, as well as the women I mentioned above. My wonderful counselor, Marla Libby, has been invaluable, for sure! I call counseling “Life 101,” and I think everyone should be required to take it!

What is your go-to self-care strategy?

It is a composite of various things: long walks, swimming laps, eating lots of fresh veggies and fruits, quiet time to go within, and sleep. Being with friends for something fun is important to me too, and I am working on incorporating more fun into my life.

When you reflect on your life so far, what are the first words that comes to your mind?

Fear be gone! My time is NOW!

More about Sherrerd Hartness…

Sherrerd, who has a B.A. in studio art from Converse College, established Sherrerd Hartness Interiors in Greenville, S.C., in 1988. She creates beautiful and livable spaces using inspiration from nature, and strives in every design to protect the world by focusing on both home and environment.

Sherrerd has begun to share the story of her sister’s murder in 1977, including the additional trauma of the high-profile execution of the murderers. She believes that there is more to a person’s life than the way they died and seeks to celebrate her sister’s life. She also hopes that, by sharing her experiences, she can support and encourage others who might feel lost and overcome by their circumstances.

She has spent much the last few years caring for the needs of her elderly parents. She volunteers with the Junior League of Greenville, S.C..

You are welcome to say hello to her at Visit her website,, which was designed by Woman on Fire Emily Neal.

She’s a Woman on Fire! features are compiled by senior writer Becky Adams. 

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One host + two co-authors + amazing Women on Fire book party!

It was such great fun couple weeks ago, celebrating Women on Fire Volume 2 in Chicago.


Take a peek at the event by pressing play!

*View more videos of the event here!

As a party planner, I couldn’t wait to “bring to life” the beautiful visual theme of Women on Fire.  It was exhilarating dreaming up the look and feel of the book signing party – from color palette to creating fiery florals, cocktails, savory and sweet menu items – we’re talking fun from start to finish.


Of course, nothing is can compare to the inspiration of our dear, fabulous, fine fellow Women on Fire.  The room was going to glow just from their sheer presence, as well as all the friends and family joining to cheer our local authors Leah Hamilton and Linda Neff onward and upward.  The party, the library at A Perfect Event, every room needed to raise itself up to the greet each guest with a warm, fiery embrace.


First up – creating the visual color palette.  Women on Fire means warm, jewel tones from yellow to orange to red – which are easy to incorporate into party details from flowers, cocktail napkins, and paper décor like menu cards.


Second – flowers!  Everyone loves a pop of fresh floral, especially in the winter doldrums.   Tulips are a low cost, fast and easy flower to buy in bunches from your florist or even right in the grocery aisle.   I love ombre design – arranging florals from pale color to rich intensity hues – so we clustered stems from yellow to orange to red inside the vase.


Third – menu.  This is the fun part.  Guests absolutely love to see and taste something new, unique, and tied to the theme.  A cocktail tied to the book title, Women on Fire, was in order.  Local Koval Distillery (fun fact, the first distillery in Chicago since the prohibition – and grain to bottle artisans, at that) is always my go to for whiskey cocktails.  “Whiskey on Fire” is fast and easy to whip up at home.  I am here to tell you, guests are still talking about how delicious these were – a week later.


For any cocktail party a combination of savory and sweet bites rounds out the perfect menu.  For an On Fire party menu we needed hot, grilled skewers, bien sur.  From beef to chicken, shrimp to veg, skewers are so easy to prepare in advance, cover in spiced all natural dressings (use them as marinades) right from grocery produce aisle, and grill or bake just before guests arrive.


Serve them ontop tasty, healthy salads like lentils, wild rice, cabbage slaws to add in more delicious, nutritious vegetables and grains.  I love to buy lentils, black beans, shredded carrots, cabbage, broccoli wokly right in the produce department, and instantly mash them up with bottled organic healthy choice dressings like Garlic Expressions (right from Toledo, Ohio, where my family lives, and carried in groceries coast to coast).


Time for dessert!  Parties need a sweet ending, and we instantly thought of fired up smores on skewers.  Marshmallows, wooden skewers, and a quick broil in the oven create an instant hit with guests.  Drizzle with some melted dark chocolate, crush a few graham crackers as garnish – and you’ve reinvented a childhood favorite.  For a healthier choice, skewer fresh strawberries, broil quickly, and drizzle with balsamic syrup (a thicker balsamic than vinegar, available in grocery aisle).


Set the Table  – I love to create a visual feast on the buffet – and rolling a colorful The hit of the night, were perhaps the inspired Women on Fire quotes, printed, cut and layered on colorful papers with washi tape accents, then frames, and placed throughout the party ontop mirrors with votive candles.

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Inspiration Frames- FOR PURCHASE ($15.00)contact

They came, they saw, they “fired” and nibbled.  Bought books, cheered, snapped selfies, instagramed.






It was a cherished, perfect night, filled with fire and finery.

Here’s to a 2014, that’s on fire.


Whiskey on Fire Cocktail

1 bottle Koval Whiskey (can use your local favorite whiskey)

1 jar dried Cinnamon sticks

1 bottle organic spiced Apple Cider

1 6 pack Ginger Beer (not alcoholic, but full of fresh ground ginger)

1 pack Simple and Crisp Orange Slices (can use fresh sliced oranges)

1 jar dried whole Anise

Open whiskey, and add 3-4 cinnamon sticks.  Cap, and let infuse for at least 24 hours.

Before guests arrive, pour into large drinking jar or pitchers 1/3 whiskey, 1/3 cider and 1/3 ginger beer.  Float cinnamon sticks and a few orange slices ontop mixture for garnish.

To serve, fill glasses with ice, top with Whiskey on Fire, and garnish with floating orange slice and anise “star”.

Debi Lilly, A Perfect Event, Women on Fire member

Photography by: Bethany Fritz/Maypole Studios

Food by: Pure Kitchen Catering

Whiskey by: Koval Distillery

Florals by: A Perfect Event

Video By: Jordan Lindley




Announcing our co-authors!

Sophfronia Scott and I were thrilled a couple of months ago to reveal plans for Women on Fire Book 2!

And, today, Sophfronia, our publisher, and Kacy Cook, our editor, and I are ecstatic to announce the names of the co-authors who have been selected to write our second book.

Our first book — Women on Fire: 20 Inspiring Women Share Their Life Secrets (and Save You Years of Struggle!) won the 2010 Indie Excellence Award for best compilation book in the country! And, I am tremendously grateful to the wonderful co-authors of that book for helping to make it such a success.

And, there’s no doubt in my mind that our next book will be equally engaging and powerful and provide you the inspiring stories you’ve come to love and learn from.

Before I reveal the co-authors who have been chosen, I want to thank … YOU!

We were overwhelmed by your interest and response. Many of you submitted proposals to be part of the book, passed along our invitation to friends and family, expressed interest to participate in future books, and cheered us on by telling us how eager you are for another WOF book!

Thank you so much.

In fact, there were so many worthy co-authors under consideration that WOF Book 3 is no longer just a gleam in our eyes. 🙂

We appreciate you coming along on this next book adventure with us — and I look forward to the day you will hold our newest offering in your hands and celebrate with us!

Please join me in congratulating our newest co-authors:

Jan Allen, Columbus, OH

Lisa Arundale, Boca Grande, FL

Marilyn Brown, Columbus, OH

Kim Davis, Fort Washington, MD

Nicole Friedler Brisson, Edgartown, MA

Sarah Elizabeth Greer, New York, NY

Leah Hamilton, Chicago, IL

Laurel Hodory, Columbus, OH

Beth Kloesener, Saginaw, MI

Susan Kruger, Lake Orion, MI

Jenifer Madson, Erie, CO

Linda Neff, Shorewood, WI

Mary Kay Purdy, Columbus, OH

Kay Raypholtz, Pioneer, OH

Carrie Saba, Westerville, OH

Tricia Simpson, Dublin, OH

Marge Snyder, Greenville, SC

Maria Verroye, Driftwood, TX

Heike Vogel, New York, NY

Mary Carran Webster, Chagrin Falls, OH

Michelle Whittaker, Arlington, VA

We look forward to sharing highlights as the book evolves. Thank you again for your awesome support and enthusiasm!

Downsized 4 X

It’s Sunday.  And, I have a confession.

I haven’t gotten out of my jammies yet today. (Wearing my favorite ones that Woman on Fire Rosemary Nickel sent me from PajamaGram!)  Oh, does this feel good – and ever-so-slightly naughty;-)

Rob left before dawn today for Mara Glazer’s Social Media seminar in Baltimore.  Wilber and I are home alone.  And, because he lies around himself and naps all day, I think he loved having a pal to do nothing with.

I ate when I wanted; skipped making the bed and unloading the dishwasher; yakked on the phone to Shannon McCaffery and to my mom; read Rolling Stone and World Pulse magazines; brewed a pot of hazelnut coffee (which Rob doesn’t like because it makes our house all smelly); and even drank a diet Coke, which I rarely, rarely do anymore.

In short, a Heavenly day of nothingness and everything-I-love-ness.

Hope you get the same chance every once in a while. I’d love to hear on our blog what you do when you have time to do absolutely nothing!

Today’s SPARK! is a strategy for what to do when you are faced with a major transition.   I am borrowing from the wisdom of Women on Fire book co-author Shannon McCaffery.

You see Shannon was laid off from jobs in the corporate world FOUR times in nine years before she found her true passion and became an entrepreneur.

She is uniquely well-qualified to talk about what an upheaval it is to unexpectedly lose your job!  

(Although you may have a hint your job is on the line, it’s still a shock when it happens.  You need a strategy to work through the loss and regain your balance.  This holds true even if you didn’t like your job.)

The results from the recent Women on Fire survey revealed that a large number of you are going through a major transition and that many of you have experienced job loss, whether of your own choice or not.

When I was compiling the Women on Fire book, I invited Shannon to share her experience of repeated job loss. I was inspired to see how she coped through some very tough times and how well it all turned out for her.  She wrote an excellent, strategy-filled chapter called “Breaking Loose From Corporate America” – 7 Secrets To Being Let Go From Your Job.

In Shannon’s words, here are her seven secrets to surviving a major transition:

1)   Surround yourself with support – “This was a lifesaver for me: having a coach, therapist, friends, family and my dogs. It was incredibly helpful to know I wasn’t alone.”

2)   Tame your mind – “My mind was my worst enemy. I took up the practice of meditation and learned how to calm and quiet my mind.”

3)   Take yourself on vacation – “Taking myself to Peru and experiencing Machu Picchu with a group of spiritually inclined people was just what my workaholic soul needed to open up to my life.”

4)   Feel your fear; it’s OK – “I was so scared about not knowing how I was going to pull through. I faced my fear and created a mantra that I repeated 40-50 times a day: ‘I will find the perfect home and perfect job for me and my dogs by Nov. 1.’” (And, she did!)

5)   Reach out to experts – “I can’t say enough about having a coach, a therapist and any other specialist you need to see your way through a transition. Yet, it’s not enough just to have them in your life, but it’s about picking up the phone and asking them for help.”

6)   Indulge in self-soothing – “There are many things you can do to make yourself smile, laugh and feel good inside. From aromatherapy (candles, incense, soaps) to baths, body lotions, flowers and ice cream.”

7)   Comfort your body – “Your body keeps a lot (bound up) during major transitions and change. You need to take extra good care of it with rest, exercise and a massage…or two or three.”

Today Shannon is happy, healthy and successful in her life and work in her own business.  She’s gone from being down-sized to “right sized!”

As The Marketing Implementer, she helps other entrepreneurs successfully launch their products and services into the world.

For more details about Shannon’s experience, you can read her entire chapter in the Women on Fire book.  She also has an excellent, free monthly newsletter of marketing tips that I highly recommend.

Do you have your own experiences of going through a transition? Please share by going to the blog.

Well, that’s it for today.  I love having you here.

And, by the time you read this, I might…I’m just saying I might…have taken a shower.  On the other hand, Wilber hasn’t meowed a complaint.  So maybe I won’t:-)

We’ve Got Mail!

After a very fun visit, we just packed up our niece Margaret, 13 and nephew Sam, 7 and put them on a plane — along with ALL of their Easter candy — to return home to St. Louis.

(I hope the people sitting next to them on the plane — and their mother picking them up — will forgive us!)

Your SPARK! this week is a personal letter written to me that I have permission to share with you.  The letter reveals what happens when we  embrace our gifts and take action.  The result is feeling alive and passionate, which is one of the 20 aspirations and principles to becoming a Woman on Fire.

Before we get to the letter, I want to congratulate the co-authors of the book Women on Fire: 20 Inspiring Women Share Their Life Secrets (and Save You Years of Struggle!) who opened their hearts and shared their dreams, struggles and pain — and strategies for success to benefit other women.

And, now I want to celebrate Nina Donath of Huntsville, Alabama who so clearly, beautifully, boldly is transforming herself into a Woman on Fire!

Hi Debbie,
A year ago or so, a dear friend told me about you and Women on Fire. She gave me your book in which you wrote a very nice personal message to me in the front.

I first put the book in my stack to read. I finally started it, got a few stories in and laid it down for some reason.

I decided if I was going to pick it up again, I really needed to “study” it, write notes and learn what these amazing women have in common that made them Women on Fire, and to discern some “secrets” that could make me one, too.

And so I did pick the book back up and wrote notes about each story in my journal. I learned that many of the women are where they are today not only through hard work and persistence, but a dream and belief in themselves. Some of the stories are more relatable to me than others but I enjoyed each and every one of them.

As for me, I have worked in a technical field for the last 25 years, which has not been very fulfilling. I have struggled through the years to figure out what I could add to truly feel passionate about my life.

Your book and an unrelated event that happened recently have caused me to no longer struggle.

For years I wanted to apply to be a Huntsville Times (Alabama) community columnist and never did (lack of confidence). Last November the day before the contest deadline for 2010 columnists, I decided I didn’t want one more year to pass by without trying, so I threw together the two required submission entries and hand-carried them to the Huntsville Times office the next day.

Out of 78 entries, I was chosen as one of five columnists, and my column is published the 4th Sunday of every month. This is probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me!

I have always loved to write and have probably 50 journals I’ve written since I was 14. I have also written poetry and some short fiction. I never thought of writing as something I could do for a living or do successfully at all. Writing the column has given me energy and a passion and happiness I have not had for a long time, as well as a confidence in myself and my writing abilities.

Your book made me realize that anything is possible if you have a dream. I would like to eventually do freelance projects, both in my technical field and writing assignments — independent of where I happen to be living at the time. I especially would like to write travel-related stories and work on a novel. Now, I really believe I can attain that dream!

Thank you for your book and your energy and passion to help others. I hope to meet you one day and especially to attend a tea party.

God Bless 🙂

Nina Donath

Congratulations to you, inspiring Nina!

(And thank you to Nina’s dear friend — and mine — Mary Remer who started this lovely chain of transformation by giving Nina the book.)

When I began Women On Fire® in 2003 and then several years later invited the co-authors of the book to talk about their lives and struggles, one of the goals was to provide a forum of positive connection, inspiration, strategies and support for women to live the lives they dream of.  It almost always involves taking action on a gift or talent of yours.

When you read Nina’s letter what goes through your mind?

Good for her? Excitement? Fear? Wow, it’s time for me to get going? I’m inspired, but I don’t know what to do next?

The key is to notice your thought, whatever it is, and use the information to move toward what you want.  Your weekly SPARK! and our gatherings, book, CDs and DVD are all designed to help you get there.

So, what are you thinking now?

What’s one thing you don’t want another year to pass you by on?

Let me know in the comments section below.  I love reading what you have to say… and until I get to see you in person!