Some authors are called to use their passion for writing to address a huge problem and invite other people to take action. Marisol Rodriguez is one such writer, and she self-published Life After Yes: A Christian Approach to Choosing Life, Navigating Parenthood and Overcoming Poverty. Joining Alicia Dunams, she shares how she raises awareness on supporting under-resourced women going through pregnancy. Marisol talks about how he inspired a reader to help her publish through a publisher and how she walks the talk by co-founding RENEW Life Center.
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Life After Yes With Marisol Rodriguez
I am super excited about my next guest who is a Bestseller in a Weekend alumni. She has a book out that we’re going to be talking about in this episode. It’s a powerful subject called Life After Yes: A Christian Approach to Choosing Life, Navigating Parenthood, and Overcoming Poverty. I want to introduce you to Marisol. She has served in the pregnancy resource center ministry for many years. Her years of experience serving women facing unplanned pregnancies led her to see the many needs and obstacles women in poverty face. Burdened by the struggles that confront these new moms, Marisol cofounded Renew Life Center in 2013 to fill the gap that exists after the services offered at a pregnancy center.
Marisol, you are here to fill the gap. I want to welcome you here on the show.
Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
I like to start this show by asking the following question. Why did you write a book?
It may not be an answer you get very often. I wrote a book because a lot of people told me to. I never set out and dreamed of being an author, but I kept repeatedly hearing people tell me that I should write about this. What they wanted me to write about was the idea of filling in a gap for women who have faced unplanned pregnancies. I come from the Christian pro-life community where we encourage women to choose life, but we have to go beyond encouraging them to choose life. We have to help them with life after they lose it. That was the gap that I felt was missing. Serving in that type of ministry for so many years, I saw that problem.
I went around talking to people about the idea of helping women after their choices were made, helping them for the long-term with this thing called life and parenting. On top of that, we understand that people who visit a pregnancy resource center do that because they’re in poverty. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be seeking free services. They would go to a private doctor. We know they’re already starting from a disadvantaged position. People kept telling me, “You should write about that.” After five years of people telling me I should write about that, I thought I should write about that. I was then introduced to Bestseller in a Weekend.
I hear a lot from authors that they’re told to write a book. It’s a calling. We talk about this a lot that you’re just a vehicle. We are a container for a bigger purpose. These people were pouring into you saying they saw something that you have that gets to be out in the world.
I didn’t see it but they did. I’m grateful for all of those folks who encouraged me and prodded me. I’m grateful to my friend who introduced me to Bestseller in a Weekend because I would have no idea how to write a book.
Let’s start with that because that’s great. We’re going to talk about the content of the book and the service that you create in this world. I want to talk about the book writing process. People told you to write a book for five years, and then you enroll in Bestseller in a Weekend. Tell us a little bit about that process.
When I decided that I did want to write a book, I called my friend and said to her, “I think I have to write a book. I don’t know where to begin with that.” She’s like, “I got you. I’m going to introduce you to my friend, Alicia, and her Bestseller in a Weekend.” The next thing I knew, I was signed up for it. From someone who never dreamed of writing a book, I feel like I was thrown into the deep end of the pool.
It was such a great process because it made this big scary unknown more manageable. It honed it in a little bit for me. Just because people tell you to write a book doesn’t mean you know what should be in the book. By going through the Bestseller in a Weekend process, the questions you had developed and answered them, and gave the book shape and form, which I didn’t have before that. I was like, “I got to write a book. What’s in it?” That helped.
Just because people tell you to write a book don’t mean you know what should be in the book.
You wrote your draft book manuscript over a weekend. After the weekend, how many words or pages have you got?
I don’t remember the word count but I was below the word count you wanted us to reach. It was at 17,000 words or something like that but I was pretty close. That alone amazed me that I got that far. What I want to add is that I did end up going through Bestseller in a Weekend a second time. You have this thing for alumni that you can attend a second time.
It’s on the website now, so it’s on-demand. I had people attend 1, 2 or 3 times to get a refreshment.
I recommend that because the first time was overwhelming because it was my first experience trying to write a book. It helped me a lot. I got the 17,000-word count. I was still low. When I went through it the second time, it was much better because I already had a little bit of experience. Some of the fear was gone. I knew more about what to expect. The second time was the charm. That’s when the book took form and became a real book.
You attended the Bestseller in a Weekend twice, and the book still needed more work. It took a couple of more months because during the Bestseller in a Weekend, you get your draft of the manuscript, and you want to add interviews, research and editing. Tell us how long after you took that Bestseller in a Weekend a second time to when you got your book out?
It was about six months.
That’s what I’m thinking. It was six-plus months in terms of getting your book cover design because we supported you throughout the entire journey.
It wasn’t just getting the manuscript. It was the book design, editing and layout. It was everything. April 27th, 2022, is the first anniversary of the day it was launched. I intentionally picked April 27th because I said, “Let’s do the show on the anniversary of the one year.”
Your book has been out for a year now. I know you have some exciting news and it’s still being formulated. How has the response been to your book so far? First of all, you have an organization and a nonprofit that supports under-resourced women going through their pregnancies. You have fundraisers and people in the church community, but it sounds like people liked your book that someone did what?
It has been amazing. The book is on Amazon. I’m in New Jersey, and there have been people who have purchased my book from North Carolina, Florida, California and even Chicago. I’ve received donations from that.
Let’s talk about using your book as a way to fundraise as a nonprofit because I’ve worked with a few nonprofits.
People read the background of why this developed. My many years of experience in that field had me explaining why there is a gap and that there is a gap. A lot of people don’t even think about that. They’re like, “Women choose life and they’re happily ever after.” Maybe and maybe not because there are a lot of obstacles and stuff. It helped the Christian community open their eyes to where they can serve more. We were serving well in an area but we needed to serve more. We needed to have a longer approach to those women and men that we serve in that area.
We believe that life is precious. I believe that to be true, but it’s precious in the woman out of the womb as well. We have to focus on what happens when that precious life is born. How we can support that mother? Christian people read that and it connects to them. They know that to be true. It turns into support for us. Releasing the book has been helpful in getting different people to read the book. One of those readers that read my book enjoyed it so much that he sent it to his daughter in Michigan who works for a Christian book publisher. She read the book and reached back out to her dad. She said, “This is the best written self-published book I’ve ever seen.”
I love that. I know that when she reads through it, she’s like, “Wow.” What else did she say?
She said the layout was beautiful, professional and perfect. The cover and editing were awesome. She said, “I see a lot of self-published books but I’ve never seen one of this quality.” She loved the content and told her father to get in touch with me and see if I was interested in having it traditionally published through a publisher. I said, “Yes.”
We’re going through the process now of writing a book proposal and submitting it to go through her editorial team. It’s halfway there. We’re halfway to a contract. I’m praying that will go forth. It’s something that I didn’t even attempt to do myself. A reader thought so much of it that he sent it to his daughter.
That shows the power of a book because you have been doing this work for decades. You are committed to your service to under-resourced women and the work that you do. I want to acknowledge you for that. You then write it in a book because you see a problem. That’s what’s important for spiritual leaders.
When you see a problem, it’s not to just see it. It’s to see it and say, “I have a solution to it. I need to expose it. I need to enroll more people.” It’s taking on a life of its own. People are reading the book. Now it’s being exposed to a Christian publisher, and your word is getting out there. It’s something I’ve been saying for decades myself. When you write a book, you start a movement and change the world. That’s what you’re doing.
Early in this process when we were going through Bestseller in a Weekend and talking, you called me a thought leader. I was like, “I’m a thought leader?” It was funny because I am a thought leader but I needed you to tell me that. That’s what I’m doing. I’m pushing a thought forward. That’s important. It’s been such a blessing. I don’t know what I would have done without you and Bestseller in a Weekend. I don’t know that this book would exist but it’s very important. Whatever happens from here forward, I’m eternally grateful to you and your team for the support they gave me.
I got goosebumps listening to you because I think about the seed planted in you that you’ve watered and nurtured. Now when you blow the little dandelions, the seeds go out, and the seeds are being planted in other people. They are raising awareness, donating and hearing something that they might not have heard because their particular bias or experience in life is not that way. It’s like, “It’s a simple decision for women to make.”
Do not to let fear stop you. If there’s something in your heart that you feel you’ve been called to do step out in faith, do it.
You have shown through your work that it’s not so simple. You’re giving perspective to people who maybe didn’t see that. That’s the beauty of that. You’re doing something about it. There are problems in this world. We can just watch them or do something about them. That’s what you did. I acknowledge you for that. I see this as a seed that’s going to continue to blossom into an oak tree.
Thank you. That’s my logo.
I love that. That’s powerful.
I still want to tell you that I have gotten speaking engagements from this, unsolicited. We’re in April of 2022, and I’ve already been booked for five different speaking events without advertising for that. It made me think, “Maybe I should create a speakers website,” because I’m getting requests for that without even soliciting them. I’m in the process of creating MarisolRodriguez.com to be able to promote my availability to speak at Christian-type events where they will be concerned about the topic of poverty or pro-life topics or whatever. The book has taken a life of its own and produced so many benefits.
Use this as a coaching moment. Make sure you get yourself on video so you can have a video of yourself speaking so they’ll hire you and buy the book in bulk. That’s fantastic. Congratulations on those five speaking gigs. That’s awesome. Let’s jump in. I love that you shared about Bestseller in a Weekend experience of writing a book and its being in consideration for a Christian publisher.
I want to talk a little bit about some of the life lessons that you can share from your book. I want to get into the content of the book here that you feel could benefit our audience, which is a mainstream audience. They are people who are interested in authors, writing books, and the subject matter. What are some of the things that you learned in writing your book that would benefit the audience at home?
One of the lessons of writing the book was that when I would hear people in the past saying that everyone could be an author or everyone has a story to tell, it was like, “Maybe.” I could truly say, “Yes, it is true. I feel like I’m the poster child for writing a book. I believe I’m the least likely person to do so. I didn’t feel I had the skillset or anything to do so and I did. The results have been awesome. One of my life lessons has been if you have something in your heart you want to tell, do it and tell it. I recommend joining Bestseller in a Weekend to do that but do it. If it’s inside there, it’s worth telling.
One of the main lessons I wanted to give through my book is to give people a different perspective. A lot of upper and middle-class folks don’t understand the struggle of being in poverty. It’s so easy to be judgmental like, “Do the right thing.” It’s good. I recommend that but we have to see what it costs.
There’s a cost associated with doing the right thing for some women. Is that a cost we’re willing to share with them? Is that a burden we’re willing to share with them? It is. Most people would want to do that. They just don’t know. If you’ve never experienced poverty or hardship, you may know that it exists in an abstract way, but you don’t understand the hardship.
It was interesting. I’m in consideration to do leadership training for nonprofit healthcare. They interviewed me. When I was looking on the website, it’s nonprofit. They’re dealing with under-resourced community members. It said that they work with WIC, Women, Infants and Children program. I had a full-circle moment because many years ago when I was pregnant with Isabelle, I didn’t have health insurance, and I was a part of WIC.
Even though I was working, I was working freelance for a technology company. They didn’t offer me health benefits and I didn’t have health benefits. That’s a very unfortunate situation to be in. I was also a tender heart age. I was in an unsustainable marriage. It was a tough time. I’m like, “This is such an awesome place to be.” I have that perspective because I was a beneficiary of Women, Infants and Children, which is for under-resourced women.
To be able to come full circle and be asked to be a trainer for this type of organization, I shared my story with them. They were like, “That’s what we want to hear. That’s a great story.” It’s perspective. Even though that’s not my case now, I had that experience in my life. We don’t truly know things until we experience them. That’s why writing a book is so important because it opens people’s eyes. This is something that you may not have experienced, but what does it look like to have empathy? What does it look like to have compassion for someone? Not to walk in your shoes because it’s not possible. You can’t walk in other people’s shoes, but you can see or I could be committed to understanding what that looks like.
I was raised by a single mother in poverty. That was my experience from the perspective of a child. I know the struggle of being a child in poverty with a single mother and her stress, trauma and all of that. It is written from experience myself. You mentioned having compassion. What I want to challenge the reader of my book is to have compassion turned into action and say, “Now I see the struggle. I want to do something about it.”
It’s not just feeling the compassion. It’s to turn that into action because that’s where you impact lives. We know there are great social programs out there like WIC, TANIF and food stamps. I could throw out a bunch of social programs but they are not enough. People think, “She’ll live on welfare. She’ll be okay. The baby will be okay.” They won’t. They are still living in abject poverty. They’re just surviving. Our tagline for our nonprofit is, “Moving families from surviving to thriving,” because we don’t want them to just survive. That’s not good enough.
I believe it’s not good enough for Christians to say that it’s good enough for people to just survive. I don’t think that’s what God has called us to. He called us to help people have abundant lives. That means spiritually abundant, but also physically and financially abundant. As a Christian woman who believes in the sanctity of life, I would like to see every woman who chooses life for her and her children flourish and grow into big, strong, mighty oaks. That’s why it’s my logo. That’s what I think we should be looking toward as a pro-life community. It’s not just looking for families to choose life but to look at families choosing life and now having a thriving life. That’s abundant life.
Everyone, you can go to Amazon.com and purchase Life After Yes: A Christian Approach to Choosing Life, Navigating Parenthood, and Overcoming Poverty. Marisol, we’re going to go into the lightning round. I’m going to ask you some questions and you’re going to say the first thing that comes to your mind. What is your legacy?
My legacy is Renew Life Center, my nonprofit.
What’s your favorite book?
I’m not going to say Life After Yes. Is it okay to say that?
You can say it, and we’re going to have a lot of information on how people can purchase that, or you can share another book.
No one is meant to do everything alone. Every person should get some support, step through fear, and just keep on moving.
I have favorite books but I’m going to put out there a book called Generous Justice by Tim Keller.
Who is your favorite author?
That’s a tough one. I have quite a few authors. Because I’m into the poverty thing and faith-based things, I’m going to go back to Tim Keller who wrote Generous Justice. He puts out a lot of great thought-provoking material.
I’ll have to check that out. What are you writing next?
I don’t know but you’ll be the first to know.
You have access to Bestseller in a Weekend, so we’re using that.
We’re using Bestseller in a Weekend. Part of me thinks about having almost a compilation of stories of women and what they’ve had to overcome. It’s stories that need to be heard for people to understand. It’s great for me to tell other people’s stories when other folks are sharing their experiences. That’s important too. That is something I’ve thought about.
That’s a great compilation book to give all the women in your chapter. It would be a multi-author chapter book. That way, they can have a sense of ownership and do a big book signing. It could be a fundraising activity. That’s a good seed for an idea. I like that. We’ll see how it grows. Where can people find out more about you, your book, and Renew Life Center?
We have a website RenewLifeCenterNJ.org. There’s a page there for the book as well. You can see and learn about the book there. I am in the process of creating MarisolRodriguez.com, which will be a website that will feature the book and my availability for speaking at events. That’s coming up.
Let’s make sure that Marisol Rodriguez is up by the time this episode is published.
Give me a deadline. When does it air? Let me know.
Run with the wind. I can’t separate the coach from being the hosts. My daughter is tired of me. She’s like, “Stop coaching me.” I love challenging people to the next level. That’s who I am.
I appreciate it. Thank you.
You can go to Amazon.com or your local bookstore and purchase Life After Yes: A Christian Approach to Choosing Life, Navigating Parenthood, and Overcoming Poverty. Marisol, I would love for you to leave with our audience at home some sage words of advice, something you want to share off your chest, whether it’s about the book writing process, your book or life in general. We would love to know.
I would like to tell them not to let fear stop them. If there’s something in your heart that you feel you’ve been called to do, step out in faith and do it. There’s a saying that says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.” There you go. When I was ready, Alicia Dunams came. My book exists. If it’s in your heart, step out in faith and do it. The people and the context you need are going to come to you. We’re not meant to do everything alone. At least for me, it requires a team of support and I got that. People should step through fear and keep moving.
You heard it from Marisol. Step through fear and keep it moving. Thank you, everyone, for reading this episode of the show. Until next time. Be well.
- Life After Yes: A Christian Approach to Choosing Life, Navigating Parenthood, and Overcoming Poverty
- Generous Justice
About Marisol Rodriguez
Marisol has served in pregnancy resource center ministry for over 20 years. Her years of experience in serving women facing unplanned pregnancies led her to see the many needs and obstacles women in poverty faced. Burdened by the struggles that confronted these new moms, Marisol co-founded RENEW Life Center in 2013 to fill the gap that exists after the services offered at a pregnancy center end.