We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Debbie Gonzalez a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Debbie, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Let’s jump to the end – what do you want to be remembered for?
How will I be remembered? What difference did I make? Many of us wonder about legacy. Throughout my career, I strived to demonstrate integrity and fairness. As a social worker in leadership roles, it mattered that my actions matched my words. I believed in modeling expectations.
For me, it’s important to show up authentically in all facets of my life.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
Born of Puerto Rican parents, the youngest of five, raised in New York City; I learned early the importance of family, and the fiery spirit required to navigate the world. Through my parents’ sacrifices, I completed my education which ultimately reached a Masters in Social Work.
Many of my experiences throughout my career were in school settings. I served families from early childhood through college. My greatest joy were the smiles, especially when I had met a family in crisis. Social work affords you access to vulnerable situations. When you authentically show care and respect, even difficult situations can end with a teary smile.
Unfortunately, the systems that surround schools and social services are filled with toxic cultures and relentless policies that take a toll. As a leader, I had the opportunity to influence program management, and assist emerging leaders in their growth. Burnout is too common. Through Debbie Gonzalez Coaching LLC, I assist emerging and experienced leaders to strive for balance and seek more joy.
For a number of years, I participated in a read aloud program offered by my workplace. Over the course of an academic year, I met monthly with the same children to read the book selected by the school. Those days filled me with tremendous joy. For a class period, we enjoyed a good story with laughter and silly voices. Reading to them inspired me to write my own book. I wanted to give back the joy I received. Thus, Cooper Book Series was born.
Cooper is my fur baby who is loved a lot. His antics make me smile and warm my heart. Our books are based on real experiences from the fictional perspective of Cooper, a beautiful black dog. Our most recent book introduces Abuela, my mami, to the series. In A Visit with Cooper, we are reminded of the pleasures of spending time together with those we love. I am grateful that I had the chance to share the story with Mami before she left us.
I am most proud of the impact I made. On days of doubt, I pull out the cards and notes I received throughout the years and remind myself of the contributions that mattered to people. It is difficult to describe how meaningful those notes are without sounding cheesy. Those who know me, know that my emotion is sincere.
When it’s all said and done, I made my parents and family proud. While my parents are no longer with us, their love and presence remains.
Is there a particular goal or mission driving your creative journey?
When I first published my debut book, I yearned to see my name on the cover. That’s it. I dreamed small. However, as I had the opportunity to present to children at different venues, it became clear that my being a Latina mattered. I remembered the mom who traveled to meet me at an event. She turned to her daughter and told her how she too could be an author.
Statistics in publishing for children’s books show a lack of diverse characters and authors. Fueled with the passion to make a difference, I am more intentional of sharing my cultural background in my books. While my stories are based on my real experiences with my fur baby, and I am of Puerto Rican descent, it’s too subtle. In my newest book, we add Abuela and sprinkle a bit of Spanish. I updated my bio to make sure I convey my background for my community to be seen.
Can you share a story from your journey that illustrates your resilience?
I fantasized about writing a book but lacked the exposure to guide me on what to do. A colleague introduced self-publishing to me. The timing fit. After many years at a job, the role ended, I entered into a new phase of my career, and it offered time to explore my creativity.
After decades in the workforce as a social worker, I honed transferrable skills which I applied to learning about self-publishing. I researched my options, developed a plan, and executed it. Successfully publishing my debut book, A Walk with Cooper, provided me an avenue of new possibilities.
Once I wrote one book, my confidence grew to write more. I published A Game with Cooper in April 2020. Even before publishing, I started to write the next book, A Visit with Cooper which included my mami. Her pride and happiness propelled me. Sadly, she passed away before I finished it.
Writing helped me heal. When I lost my job, it gave me a new purpose. When my mami died, it allowed me to process my grief. My resilience stems from a foundation embedded by my. mother and her strength, family that shows up, and faith.
A Visit with Cooper releases September 9, 2022 in time for Grandparents’ Day weekend, a tribute to Cooper’s Abuela.
- Website: https://debbiegonzalezauthor.com
- Instagram: https://Instagram.com/cooperloopstories
- Facebook: https://debbiegonzalezauthor.com
- Linkedin: https://LinkedIn.com/in/debbie_gonzalez_coaching