We had the good fortune of connecting with Yesenia Rodriguez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Yesenia, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
My endeavor as a self-published author began almost a year ago. It started as an idea, something to mark off my bucket list at the start of the pandemic, and that idea has continued to develop since then. It has always been a dream of mine to write a children’s picture book. I knew that writing a book could have a positive impact on those around me, mainly my daughter. As I continued to research what it takes to self-publish a picture book, I considered selling my book while making a young audience aware of the messages in my story. I thought it could have a positive impact on readers while introducing them to characters that are not widely represented. I realize that writing my story has given me a sort of platform to encourage others to write their stories and more. I began doing virtual classroom visits for various age groups across the country. One message that I love to hone in is the importance of reading. I tell the students to continue to read whether it is to become a writer, grow their awareness of new subjects, inspire creativity, or to find a voice. It is extremely important for kids to build a love of reading at an early age. I found that I now have many opportunities to nurture that love in others. I have found a purpose in becoming a literacy advocate. I also like to remind my young audience not to doubt themselves. If they have a story to tell, they should tell it. I encourage them to write that story. Simply get their thoughts down on paper without overthinking it. I tell them, “Don’t worry about it being good enough. Simply get your ideas out and then you can go through and edit your writing later.” The important thing is that they get those thoughts out and give them life. It is extremely satisfying to hear from teachers after I have done a classroom visit and they tell me that some students have written their own books. Before I released my book, I had the chance to sell face masks during the pandemic with my Lani Rae character on them. All the proceeds went to Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC). This was a gratifying effort to accomplish during the tough time of the lockdown. I am certain several people who start a business look forward to a day when they can contribute to other organizations. Having the ability to do this immediately was amazing. It is important to me that my story helps children’s hospitals, even in this small way, because my book touches on the difficult topic of childhood cancer. My debut book is about hair donation. There are several students I speak to who are familiar with this concept, but still there are some who are not. It is one of the greatest joys of mine when I see kids inspired to donate their own hair. I have received pictures from parents who share that their child has donated their hair after reading my book. That alone has motivated me to continue to do what I am doing. As a cosmetologist, I also plan to host charity events for hair donations. We postponed some plans because of salon closures during the pandemic, but I am confident we will soon run a charity event. I live in the city of Jurupa Valley, where more than half of the population are Spanish speakers. Therefore, it was important to me I have my book available in Spanish. I have donated both English and Spanish books to little free libraries that are set up around the city, besides local school libraries. I aspire to not just sell books but to create a community of readers and storytellers.

What should our readers know about your business?
My business is that of a self-published author. However, along the way I have found that I could be much more than that. In just this short time that I have created a book and put a website together, I am still surprised by the encouragement I receive. People respond to what I am doing. There are people I have never even met that show me unwavering support, and that is an amazing feeling. I am an author and I wrote one book, but I have received thank-you notes from students telling me how excited they are to create a book of their own after I visited their classroom. If I can inspire even a few kids to tell their story or to love reading, then I have done my job, and that excites me.   Of course, there are many challenges that come with starting any business. My greatest challenge is ignorance. I have done nothing like this before, and I do not have anyone close to me I can go to for advice. Everything I am doing is from scratch, and I am learning it all along the way. Still, I think it has been peaceful. My expectations have been low, so I am always happy about the minor success along the way. I have my family to thank for much of that success. The most challenging part about this process was doing a Kickstarter. I could fund my picture book by crowd funding. That aspect was a challenge because I had a goal of $8,000.00 and if I did not reach that goal then I did not receive any of the funding. There was a lot of legwork put into the crowd funding process, and my family was there with me through it all. I ended up with over $9,000.00 of funding for my picture book.   I want people to know that if I can accomplish what I have in the last year during a pandemic, so can they. I try to get that point across every time I talk to someone about doing their own project. The writing community has been very supportive and I am happy to be a part of that. I love networking and I get to do a lot of that as an author. My plan is to learn as much as I can about this business and lift others up along the way. I would love to be that person who can help someone else when they are starting from scratch and have no one to turn to for advice.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I have been in Riverside, California my entire life, so we would certainly start there. Our downtown area is beautiful, artistic, and is still growing. I would fill a day with food and spas. The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa is a historical landmark with lots to do. We could have Sunday brunch or breakfast at the Mission Inn Restaurant and sit outside on the Spanish Patio. I could spend all day at Kelly’s Spa just lounging by the pool, and a full body massage is a must. We could enjoy the fresh pressed juices or champagne at the spa, but I always love to stroll across the street and enjoy a chai tea latte from Molino’s Coffee. For lunch we would enjoy food poolside at the Mission Inn or sushi from the California Lounge. Other places I would take a friend to eat in the same area are Simple Simon’s Bakery Bistro for a sandwich and pastries, Casey’s Cupcakes, or ProAbition for a variety of food and drinks. We would have to stop by the Downtown Apothecary for some nice bath scrubs and gifts. For great Mexican food we can head right down the street to Taco Station or Tio’s Tacos. My list could go on and on with places to eat and relax. Let’s head over to Daily Brew Coffee House off Van Buren for some of the best coffee and scones in Riverside. Since my best friend is just like me, we can do another spa day. This time we can drive over to Glen Ivy Hot Springs in Corona. This is another full day at the spa because it would take an entire day to try out all the amenities in the vast location. Club mud and The Grotto are amazing experiences at Glen Ivy. I also enjoy the outdoors and walking beautiful trails. For this we would head over to Big Bear Lake for some zip lining and an assortment of trails and scenery. To continue on the active path, we would then return to Riverside and walk Mt. Rubidoux, which is a local favorite. There is so much to do in the Inland Empire, and I am only scratching the surface.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to shout out my daughter, Leilani. She was the inspiration behind my first book and my main character is based on her. She is my “why” that keeps me going through tough times. Everything that I do is in hopes that I can leave her a legacy she can be proud of, a legacy she can cultivate.

Website: https://www.yeseniarodriguezauthor.com/#/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yesenia.rodriguez.author/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Yeseniarodriguezauthor

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srvEnVdXz9w

Image Credits
Nicole Martinez Ligia Chin

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