A CHAIR OF EVERY COLOR Query:
A young ballerina crippled by anxiety finds healing in the world of competitive Irish dancing.
Florencia del Lago’s immigrant parents raised her to be a go-getter, an over achiever. So of course everyone was thrilled when she landed the part of Clara in The Nutcracker. But on opening night, Florencia suffered an anxiety attack and couldn’t perform. Now, eight months later, Florencia’s anxiety rules her life. Her only consolation is that she still has her best friend in the whole world—Selena.
For her twelfth birthday, Florencia agrees to a shopping trip to the mall with Selena and a group of girls. When Selena is caught shoplifting and blames Florencia for it, Florencia’s world comes crashing down.
Betrayed, friendless, and heartbroken, Florencia sees an Irish dance competition. The music ignites a determination buried deep inside. She enrolls in lessons and finds she’s actually pretty good at this Irish dance thing—especially for a Latina with not a drop of Irish blood. She’s so good, she might even have a chance to make it to the Irish Dance World Cup.
Plagued by her anxiety, her jealous ex-best friend, and the memory of the fateful Nutcracker, Florencia sets out to conquer her self-doubt. With the help of an Instagram celebrity, a boy fighting for the Irish Dance World Championship, a rescued cat with a crooked neck, and a pen-pal who lives in a rest home, Florencia will fight to vanquish her fears, forgive her enemy, and, hopefully, believe in friendship again.
A Chair of Every Color, a middle grade novel, is finished at 57,000 words. I’m a member of SCBWI and a contributor of the Utah Children’s Writers blog. My two daughters are Irish dancers and, like me, children of many cultures.
Thanks for your time and consideration.
Yamile Saied Méndez
I was once a star. A shooting star. Una estrella fugaz, like Mamá said in Spanish. I was bright and beautiful and high, high in the sky.
Like all shooting stars, I fell down. To reality. When I landed, well, I was just a piece of rock. Tiny, bumpy, unimportant.
When I was practicing to be Clara in the Nutcracker, I loved the promise of the spotlight, the sound of clapping hands, the thrill of pushing myself just a little more to make a perfect arabesque or pirouette.
The spotlight, the clapping, the pushing myself must have been a little too much. I didn't last three minutes on the stage that opening night eight months ago, that terrible December 20th.
I froze. Forgot my steps. Failed everyone.
I fell so fast, no one had time to make a wish. Not even me. I didn’t even dare dream that I’d dance again, that I’d ever step on a stage.
These days I didn't wish for much.
When Mamá asked me whatever I wanted for my twelfth birthday, I didn’t think twice.
All I wanted, all I thought I could handle, was a late-night with my best friend, Selena. She’d saved the night and the Nutcracker. She made a perfect Clara.
My friend, a movie, pizza and ice-cream, and me. At home.
Simple as that.
When she heard me, Mamá choked on her chamomile tea. She gasped as if I had asked for a pony and the moon.