Through the blinding lights, a sea of faces stared back at Elisha Fernández from the audience seats. Being one of two children in a room of 700 adults was intimidating and knowing she had to speak in front of them all was overwhelming.
Her younger sister, Elyssa, in a matching magenta jacket, looked at her with eyes that seemed to say “We can do this.” Hand in hand, the two walked out onto the stage and introduced their very own book.
Seven years later, Elisha is a junior at BYU studying editing and publishing from Fort Worth, Texas. Elisha entered her program with a published book already under her belt.
“Writing is probably one of my biggest passions. I love writing nonfiction, fiction, stories, poetry, all the things,” Elisha said.
Elisha comes from a creative family and is the oldest of four girls. She is very close with her younger sister and co-author Elyssa.
“What I really admire about Elisha is that once she sets her mind to something, she stops at nothing to accomplish it,” Elyssa said. “She has an amazing creative mind, so she finds solutions to whatever problems or setbacks are in her way.”
Unfortunately, Elisha faced some of these problems and setbacks at a young age. When Elisha was in elementary and middle school, she faced harsh bullying. Elisha comes from a Hispanic single-parent family, and attended a predominantly white private school, which meant she became a target for harassment.
“That was a really hard experience,” Elisha said. “It was a very lonely, difficult time for me.”
Instead of letting that harassment bring her down, Elisha was able to use her love of writing to help others through similar bullying experiences. With the help of Elyssa and their mom, Elisha wrote and published “I Love Me: Self-Esteem in Seven Easy Steps,” a book for kids who deal with bullying.
Throughout the experience of writing the book, Elisha was able to learn a lot about herself. She said she learned about issues bullying causes and how being a victim of bullying can lead to self-harm, suicide, and drug use.
“It was really concerning to me, and I wanted to do something about it. So my sister and I decided we wanted to write this book together and talk about my experiences with being bullied,” Elisha said.
Elayna Fernández, Elisha’s mom, described the process and how difficult it was for Elisha to have to relive those moments throughout the writing process. Elisha and Elyssa kept the book lighthearted, not only because it was targeted to children, but also because these experiences were still very raw.
“I think it was a very vulnerable situation for her,” Elayna said. “At the same time, that didn’t stop her from her goal, because she was focused on the fact that there are so many kids that don’t have the support that she’s had.”
Elisha emphasized “I Love Me” focuses not only on the reality of bullying, but also on cultivating positive values in one’s life and discovering and loving oneself as a person . It also discusses how doing so can help individuals overcome those negative experiences. According to the book, focusing on these values provides the opportunity to be a good example.
“What my sister and I are dedicated to doing is helping kids and teens love themselves. Be the best they can be and help impact the community around them in a positive way,” Elisha said.
One of the people who inspired Elisha to write was her mom. Elayna has published ten bestselling books, created life-transforming coaching programs, and runs the self-help blog The Positive MOM.
“Since my mom has always involved us in her business, it was really natural for us to transition into owning our business together, and writing our book together, because we had already seen it being done,” Elyssa said.
Through her blog, Elayna has put forward many painful parts of her life. Elisha said she strives to follow her example by bringing in her own difficult life experiences and hopes to be as authentic as possible with her audience.
“I drew a lot of inspiration from my mom, especially because something that I always strive to do is be really authentic and vulnerable with my writing,” Elisha said.
However, vulnerability, especially in a public sphere, did not come naturally for Elisha.
“I’ve always had a hard time opening up with people. And when you write something and publish it, that’s where it’s gonna stay forever,” Elisha said. “You know, the internet isn’t forgiving and isn’t forgetful.”
Elisha said when it is difficult to be vulnerable, she always tries to remember the reason she does it is for the people who can identify with those painful stories and find themselves within them. She hopes that they can get the support they need through her sharing her experiences.
Elisha said hopes to influence her community and those around her by sharing her story and helping those who are going through difficult times.
“Above all, I’m just really passionate about life in general, finding ways to use my passions to help other people,” Elisha said. “I hope I’ll be able to show people that you know, no matter how difficult your life has been, you can always overcome those challenges and you can always make something for yourself.”