Ash Parsons for “A Chemical Distance” (Available for publication)

The PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship of $5,000 is offered annually to an author of children’s or young-adult fiction. It has been developed to help writers whose work is of high literary caliber and is designed to assist a writer at a crucial moment in his or her career to complete a book-length work-in-progress.

From the Judges’ Citation

Stories of grief in children’s literature aren’t necessarily a new thing. But Ash Parson’s “A Chemical Distance” explores loss and trauma in a fresh format, bouncing between prose and script in a way that keeps the reader engaged, while creating a framework in which we explicitly and implicitly get a sense of the protagonist, Justice Withern. Justice is doing his best to deal with the fact that the one year anniversary of the tragic car accident that left him with a brain injury, and took the life of his best friend, is approaching. But as long as nothing impedes his medication, his therapy, and his ability to disconnect from reality by mentally viewing his life through the lens of a movie, he’ll be fine. The only problem with that is… he’s in high school. Brimming with heartbreak and humor, a palpable voice and a creativity rarely shown when tackling such a weighted plot line, “A Chemical Distance” somehow makes the darkest of darknesses shine bright.”

2016 Judges

Emily Arnold McCully graduated from Brown and earned a Masters in Art History at Columbia. She has published two adult novels and an O’Henry Best Short Story, and been a children’s book author/illustrator since the 60s. Her wordless Picnic won a Christopher Award, Mirette On the High Wire a Caldecott medal, and The Escape of Oney Judge a Jane Addams Award. Her Y/A biography of Ida M Tarbell was a finalist for the YALSA Award.


Katherine Paterson is the author of 16 novels for children and young people. She has twice won both the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award. For the body of her work she is the recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the NSK Neustadt Award, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal. In 2000 the Library of Congress named her a Living Legend. Her latest book, published in October 2014, is Stories of My Life.


Jason Reynolds is crazy. About stories. After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, he moved to Brooklyn, New York. Jason Reynolds is the author of critically acclaimed When I Was the Greatest, for which he was the recipient of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent, Boy in the Black Suit, and All American Boys, cowritten with Brendan Kiely. You can find his ramblings at


Past Winners

Graham McNamee, Lori Aurelia Williams, Franny Billingsley, Deborah Wiles, Amanda Jenkins, Barbara Shoup, Diane Les Becquets, Theresa Nelson, Carol Lynch Williams, Pat Schmatz, Lucy Frank, Sarah Dooley, Amy Goldman Koss, Linda Oatman High and Stephanie Kuehn.

Click here for additional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.