“Prose is what happens when a writer shows up to the page
with the courage to be vulnerable, the willingness to be honest,
and a desire to uplift and enlighten the reader.” Glodean Champion
OPA: What is this novel about and why is it importance?
GC: This is a coming of age story about a 12-year-old Black girl who is struggling with her sexuality amidst a community fighting for equality. It is important because as bi-sexual Black woman who has more courage than most, my coming out wasn’t really a coming out. I just showed up with a “girlfriend” one day and acted as if it was the most normal thing in the world. My family was a little taken aback, but not shocked because of who I am. The other thing is I’ve never struggled with anything other than my weight. So, when I thought about all the other LGBTQ people of color, I knew it wasn’t as easy for them. I wanted to give them a voice and show people that homosexuality is not a “choice.” Having to witness a child trying to sort it out who hasn’t been molested or traumatized to make her “choose” to be with the same sex makes people think differently. That’s why I also made sure nothing about her story was stereotypical. She has both parents. They have money, but the father chooses to live in Watts because that’s where he comes from. And, her community is close knit and everyone looks out for each other.
OPA: How did the title come about?
I titled it Salmon Croquettes because my mother (now deceased) used to make salmon croquettes on Fridays and I loved them! She’s gone now and I thought the best way to honor her memory would be to name the book after something that makes me think of her. Then when I thought about the fact that my mother tried to teach me how to cook and I preferred poking holes in the tablecloth and taking things apart (like the radio and toaster) it made it easy to weave that into the storyline.
OPA: How long have you been working on this novel, and explain the journey, the highs and lows, and finally the triumph to completion?
I started working on the novel in 2008. It was actually my thesis for grad school. It evolved a LOT over the years it took me to complete it. Seven years, in fact. I finished the first draft on December 31, 2015. During that time, Zayla (my main character) kept me writing. On those days when I didn’t know where to take the story I would get an idea while cooking or sometimes in my sleep. It never failed; when I took action on those ideas the words poured out of me, seamlessly. I can’t say that I knew how the story was going to evolve. I wrote out an outline, but wound up writing something altogether different. I guess the best way to say this is, “I trusted the writing process and wrote what came to me in the moment.” In fact, there’s a character, Miss Millie, whom I didn’t even know existed until I was writing her into the scene! She literally just showed up and I went with it. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the book and I never edited any part of it. The way I wrote it the first time is the way it remained.
OPA: Why would this novel appeal to others? Do you have a specific audience in mind?
It’s both YA and historical fiction. I didn’t have an audience in mind, initially. I wanted it to be for “everyone.” But, to see how YAs would respond to it I did a book club with Willard Middle School in Berkeley, CA to test it out. There was a group of 14 girls, most white, and they loved it. What was most important was that it resonated with all of them. Several of them made references to the connection they see between George Floyd and one of the scenes in the book.
OPA: As a writer living under Covid 19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, how have these two very different social realities impacted you, your writing?
I don’t think it’s made much of a difference, however, releasing the book during this times was perfect because it’s so relevant.
OPA: What are you working on now, or what will be your next project?
I have four books in my head. The sequel to Salmon Croquettes, and three books about finding my birth family. One will be fiction (based on a true story) about my birth mother and adoptive mother. I’ll be exploring how things might have been if their lives (as women) paralleled each other and how my birth mother’s life encountered ours on the streets of Los Angeles without us knowing. It’s a love story. A mother’s love, which is what I’m going to call it. “A Mother’s Love.” Then there’s the memoir/leadership book I’m going to write about my life with my adoptive mother, who raised me with intentionality and can be equated to the epitome of a true leader/servant leader. It’s a telling of the foundation that shaped me into the woman I am today. Then there’s the book I want to write about my birth father. I might call this one, “Ain’t I a Man?” or “Ain’t I Man Enough?” (still sorting that out). Anyway, it’s an exploration of what it
looks like and how it may feel to a Black man when his child is taken away without his knowledge or input (fiction also based on a true story). And, lastly, a photojournalism style book, that I’m calling, “Pura Vida: A Black Woman’s Journey to Self-Love.” This will be a combination of travel pics, selfies, and journal entries that end with lessons learned or observations of life and love.
OPA: What is your writing process?
I come up with the idea then I show up to the page with one specific topic/idea to work on. And I write until it feels complete. It might be a scene or a chapter, but whatever it is I trust my instinct to know when it’s done.
OPA: What are your aspirations as a writer?
To get to a point where 50% of my income comes from my writing. Whether it’s in books, blogs, or articles. I have finally accepted that I have a voice that should be heard because my stories could change the world! It’s one of the goals I’ve set for myself that I won’t be able to achieve until I grown into the person who can. That person shows up to the page and, when the work is finished, has the courage to put it out into the world without any hesitation and a ton of confidence!
OPA: Share a secret that we should know about you the writer-person –quirks/ideocracies.
I have this pen thing that’s kinda crazy. It’s two fold. I have fine point pens that I like to write with at times and medium point pens that I like to write with too. If I’m on “fine point” mode, then I will ONLY write with that type of pen. It’s a specific pen, too. Not just any fine point pen. I use the “Uniball Signo DX 0.38” with black ink. When I’m in medium point mode there are two types of pens I go to. Here’s the crazy part…one is a pen I got from the Embassy Suites when I was conducting a training class. They gave me almost 20 of them. I’m down to 4. The other is a pen I got from my last job and I just found them on Vista print (so, that’s good cause when the Embassy Suites pens are gone I have back up)! That’s all kinda crazy, right? LoL!
Excerpt form Salmon Croquettes:
When Dee-Dee tired of the sprinklers, she came up on the porch, dripping water everywhere, and flopped down next to me. We watched the water go back and forth across the grass awhile. I searched for an excuse to leave, because as fascinated as I was, I was equally uncomfortable. Dee-Dee appeared to be completely comfortable in her skin, as if it was an extravagant evening gown designed by God Himself. She was one hundred percent girl. Polished fingernails and toenails. Matching swimsuit and sunshades. I was rough and tumble. My skin felt like a three-piece polyester suit four sizes too small – designer unknown.
Basically, I didn’t care how I looked coming out of the house. I hated fingernail polish. Matching clothes. And anything frilly or ruffled. My experience with the girls in The Circle proved that “rough and tumble” and “girlie girls” didn’t blend well. It probably didn’t help that I took pleasure in decapitating dolls and breaking up tea sets. Momma said I did it out of meanness because I was jealous. Except I wasn’t jealous. I just hated pretending to be a girlie girl when I had much more fun climbing trees and playing stickball.
All of sudden, as if she could hear inside my head, Dee-Dee turned to me and said, “We can’t be friends if you play with Barbie dolls or have dress-up tea parties.”
I grinned. “I hate Barbie dolls and I hate playing pretend even more.”
We became fast friends.
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