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PW #216: Middle Grade Contemporary #ownvoices: ME AND MY DRUM

Wednesday, 1 November 2017  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Names: Gail D. Villanueva and Isabelle Adrid

Mentee Name: Nadine Johnson


Category: Middle Grade

Genre: Contemporary #ownvoices

Word Count: 39,000 words


Twelve-year-old Mika’s life turns upside-down after her mother’s very public schizophrenic breakdown. As she prepares for the all-boys drum corps auditions, Mika must learn a new rhythm—one without Mom and with a father she barely knows, one with beats of forgiveness, healing, and hope.


My tummy rumbles as I think about the melt-in-your-mouth ribs Mommy promised for dinner. I hope she’s not too tired to go to the restaurant. She was frantic this morning because she overslept, but I’m not surprised she woke up late. I went to the bathroom around three o’clock last night and her lights were on. I have no idea why she was still awake. Maybe she’ll tell me while we’re in ribs heaven.

For now, I’m stuck on rib-less earth, waiting for Shelly. I stand hidden in the spot where my dark skin blends with the shade of the oak tree. The school buses drive off and most of the walkers scramble down the hill. Shelly is probably still at her locker chatting with somebody. I threaten to leave her everyday, but she and I know that I won’t.

Shelly finally comes outside with her bright smile and long braids swinging behind. The hot sun beams off her full, brown cheeks. “Ready, Mika!” she says, pulling her backpack tight against her back.

“You bet.” I shift my bag on my shoulders. “Ready…set…go!”

We race down the steep hill that leads away from the school. My stick legs labor to keep up, but my laughing isn’t helping. Racing to the old brick house is always the best part of my week—even if I lose.

“Smoked you again, girlfriend,” Shelly teases.

“That soda bottle tripped me up!” I say, breathing like I ran a marathon.

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