top of page


Knowledge awaits! 
Register for tickets today

Deserts to Mountaintops book event featuring authors Lonna Whiting, Ruth Hetland and Sue Muraida

This book chronicles 22 women's voices and their unique journey from the desert of self-abandonment to the mountaintop of self-love. Each chapter focuses on one woman’s specific story.

White and Green Christmas Greeting Facebook Cover.png

Time & Location








One Book, One ND book event with chapter authors Lonna Whiting, Ruth Hetland and Sue Muraida

One Book One North Dakota is a statewide book club that features best-selling authors in a 60-minute webinar. Attendees are encouraged to participate in a Q&A with the author.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

4-5 pm CST

Deserts to Mountaintops is the inaugural anthology from Soul Speak, Press slated for publication in January 2023. DTMT chronicles 22 women's voices and their unique journey from the desert of self-abandonment to the mountaintop of self-love. Each chapter focuses on one woman’s specific story that recounts how she has reestablished a relationship with her intuition, reconnected with her truest self and experienced the hard-won joy of reclaiming her VOICE. The inspiration for this collection of essays, stems from the lead author, Jessica Buchanan's, own self-abandonment experience in 2011. Even though her intuition was screaming at her not to go on a project mission for her NGO in Southern Somalia , she ignored what she knew was true and went anyway. The result of silencing her truth, changed the trajectory of her life, and nearly killed her. She spent 93 days living in the deserts of Somalia at the hands of land pirates who held her hostage for a 45-million-dollar ransom demand. She was starved, beaten and abused until by order of President Obama, SEAL Team VI parachuted into the desert on a moonless night, and rescued her. While Jessica's story is wild, her experience and practice of self-abandonment is NOT unique, and in the last ten years of her healing journey, she has learned so much about herself as she has climbed the mountain back to self-love. Throughout the chapters of DTMT, readers will connect with these women's experiences as they cover themes such as overcoming abuse, alcoholism, toxic workplaces, single motherhood, mental health and suicide- just to name a few. These women have struggled to make their voices heard- and reclaimed them in a powerful way.

Chapter authors:

Author Lonna Whiting is a writer, editor, communications consultant and owner of, a content agency. Since 2012, she's been helping her mother navigate early-onset dementia and shares their experience in essays and on social media to help raise awareness. Her latest work, an essay titled "Dining at the Dementia Cafe," is forthcoming in the anthology "Deserts to Mountaintops," curated by NY Times Bestselling Author and "We Should Talk About That" podcast co-host Jessica Buchanan. 

Chapter title: "Dining at the Dementia Cafe"

Author Ruth Hetland grew up on a small dairy farm near Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, seventh in a family of eight children. She, her husband, and their daughter now live in Fargo, North Dakota and also enjoy spending time at their lake home near Battle Lake, Minnesota. Ruth has spent over two decades working in the software industry, in roles spanning the full software development life cycle but primarily focused in product and project management. 

Chapter title: "Nothing Really Happened"

Author Sue Muraida is a writer, speaker, and pursuer of abundant life. Over the past 30 years, she has worked as a medical photographer, photojournalist, leadership trainer, writer, and teacher. She has written for several publications including the Casper Journal, The Small Group Network, Christianity Today, and The New York Times. Sue has published two books, Change For a Penny and The Silent Sound of Darkness (as Sue Skalicky), and co-authored the anthology Deserts To Mountaintops: Our Collective Journey To (Re)Claiming Our Voice (as Sue Muraida). Sue’s full memoir Going Back For Me (Soul Speak Press) will be available September 2023. She is currently program director for Humanities North Dakota.  

Chapter title: "Becoming Me"

Moderator Jessica Buchanan - Teacher, Author, Humanitarian, Speaker, Survivor

On October 25, 2011, while on a routine field mission in Somalia, working as the Education Advisor for her non-governmental organization, Jessica was abducted at gunpoint and held for ransom by a group of Somali pirates for 93 days. Forced to live outdoors in deplorable conditions, starved, and terrorized by more than two dozen gangsters, Jessica’s health steadily deteriorated until, by order of President Obama, she was rescued by the elite SEAL Team VI on January 25, 2012. Jessica’s ordeal is detailed in her New York Times bestselling book, Impossible Odds: The Kidnapping of Jessica Buchanan and Her Dramatic Rescue by SEAL Team Six.

Jessica has been named one of the ‘150 Women Who will Shake the World’ by Newsweek, and her story was the most highly viewed 60 Minutes episode to air, to date. Jessica is a highly sought after inspirational speaker and her TEDx Pearl Street talk, ‘Change is Your Proof of Life’ has been the foundation for which she travels the world, inspiring audiences to access their resilience by identifying their own autonomy and chance in the middle of their own life-changing event.

Jessica is the lead author of her second book, Deserts to Mountaintops: Our Collective Journey to (re)Claiming our Voice. This anthology is a collection of memoirs from Jessica and 21 other amazing women who have experienced hardship and are journeying from the desert of survival back to finding themselves. Three of those women are featured on this One Book One ND event. 

One Book, One ND events are sponsored by the Paris Family Foundation and Prairie Public 

HND Value Statement

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this {article, book, exhibition, film, program, database, report, Web resource}, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Humanities North Dakota. However, in an increasingly polarized world, we at Humanities North Dakota believe that being open-minded is necessary to thinking critically and rationally. Therefore, our programs and classes reflect our own open-mindedness in the inquiry, seeking, and acquiring of scholars to speak at our events and teach classes for our Public University. To that end, we encourage our participants to join us in stepping outside our comfort zones and considering other perspectives and ideas by being open-minded while attending HND events featuring scholars who hold a variety of opinions, some being opposite of our own held beliefs.

Humanities North Dakota classes and events are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities

bottom of page