Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas come from different places. In the case of ONE CRAZY SUMMER, my ideas came from my childhood memories, a lot of research and a lot of imagination I remember the Black Panthers and how we were both fascinated by them but also a bit afraid of them. It made me wonder, what would it be like for a kid who attended their breakfast programs and attended their rallies? I spend time each morning daydreaming to let my imagination come alive and then I write about the things I’ve thought about.
What inspired you to write this story?
I wrote ONE CRAZY SUMMER because I grew up in the same period that the story takes place. My memories are still vivid and I kept a diary from the late sixties, which I still have. Children were a big part of the Black Panther Movement. At that time there were no books about the roles children played in the movement so I thought I should write a story that focused on children. I was also in awe of the women in the movement, like Angela Davis, Elaine Brown, Kathleen Cleaver and many more. They were strong and intelligent women who fought racism and sexism mainly through their words.
Can you come to my school?
Thank you for inviting me to your school. I don’t travel a lot because airplanes make me nervous. A big clue was the way I described flying in the chapter titled “Cassius Clay Clouds.” But these days my schedule gets busier and busier so I’m not able to meet all of my readers in person.
Which of your characters is most like you?
There are small pieces of me sprinkled into my characters, but so far, none of them are autobiographical.
Are the characters based on real people?
Delphine is based on a lot of my friends who were the oldest sibling and had many responsibilities. Even my own sister, Rosalind inspires this character. Cecile is both creative and hard, like my own mother, Miss Essie. Luckily, my mother encouraged me to be creative and to tell stories.
Are the events real in your One Crazy Summer?
The story itself is a work of fiction. I’ve made it up with the help of a few real events.There were many Black Panther rallies in Oakland and many took place in the same park that I use in the story, DeFremery Park.There was a young Black Panther named Bobby Hutton who was killed by the police when he tried to surrender. The adventures of Delphine, Vonetta and Fern are all made up for your reading enjoyment.
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy knitting, dancing and boxing! My mother taught me how to knit when I was eight years old. I knitted with my eyes closed for my second grade “show and tell.” When I graduated from college, I gave myself a year to study dance and audition to be a dancer for Broadway musicals. My father gave my sister, brother and I a pair of boxing gloves and I’ve kept up with my jabs, hooks and crosses.
What are your favorite foods?
My favorite foods are fried catfish, peanut butter and jelly with sweet relish, black beans, and anything with melted cheese. These days I eat a lot of green veggies!
Where does the “Garcia” in your name come from?
I was once married to Peter Garcia. We are no longer married but we're still family and the best of friends.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Write a little bit every day. I began by writing 500 words a day, but I think 25-100 words a day, every day will help a beginning writer gain confidence and a flow of thoughts and writing. Read widely! Be adventurous with your reading. Nothing helps writing like having the sound of good writing in your mind’s ear. Try new things. New foods. Visit new places. Then write about your experiences.