Fourteen-year-old Maggie Shatterly just wants to fit in–whether at school, in her artistic circle of friends, or at the dance studio. Her life is awkward enough without an ancient African queen showing up to teach everyone a lesson about living one’s life with freedom, abandonment, and joy. Queen Mamadou, hailing from a 15th Century West African kingdom, taught her unwitting students to gyrate their hips and to drum up a new life.
This young adult comedy began as an idea for a short story. However, the narrative keeps developing so I think I’m writing my 6th novel–and my first official young adult (possibly middle grade) novel. My fifth novel, Enter 5-D has crossover appeal. I never thought I would take this path since I was firmly entrench in writing sexy romantic comedies, but the world’s children call to me now.
Introduction to Lately, Queen Mamadou
She despised visiting the dance shop, located in a derelict part of town near the port and the Mission. Maggie’s mother, an artist-at-heart, enjoyed exploring the seedier side of towns. She told Maggie that artists thrive on diversity but did this mean that Maggie Shatterly should have to waded through litter, broken beer bottles, and stepped around people with shattered lives? She had hoped not.
On this particular day, rain poured from the midwinter skies, tumbled down the sides of build and then formed streams on the sidewalks and the streets. The only reason Maggie ventured outside at all with her mother was to buy the pieces for her costume. They had waited until the last minute as usual since the recital was that night. Maggie would have felt a case of nerves except that she placed her focused on her giraffe costume.
Her dance instructor Darcy created choreography based on Noah’s Ark. But Maggie wondered if Noah had giraffes on the Ark. She didn’t remember any giraffes mentioned in Noah’s Ark back when she took Bible classes. Of course, she didn’t remember much of anything from those days when she lived in Arcadia, back when her parents were still married.
Now, she shuffled between California and Washington, often flying alone on Alaska Air. Her friends at school envied her since often she spent the winter in sunny California while her friends in Bellingham shivered in the damp and breezy dance studio. One time, her father Ted, took her to Hawaii for Christmas. Maggie felt at odds among palm trees swaying in a breeze and a local Native playing “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” on a ukulele. And this was before ukuleles began trending outside of Hawaii. She recalled one Native Hawaiian woman, quite large, and decked in a flowered mumu playing “All I want for Christmas is my Red Mumu,” fashioned after the famous song about the two front teeth.
End of excerpt
Copyright Patricia Herlevi, 2017-18