Day 27: Paula Chase

Paula Chase and Varian Johnson co-founded The Brown Bookshelf. They’re the reason why we’re here. They invited us to join them in the mission to raise awareness of under-the-radar Black authors and illustrators and salute veteran ones. Look at what they created. We’ve been doing this for 17 years.

Paula is brilliant, hard-working and giving. She’s full of innovative ideas and marketing acumen which she brings to our team. Her nine novels span span upper middle-grade to young adult. Exploring themes including friendship, resilience, family and fitting in, Paula’s books stir the love of reading, foster understanding, empower kids to overcome struggles and nurture their creative spirits. Recipient of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) Konigsberg Award in 2021 for her advocacy, she’s a fierce champion for inclusion and equity too. We thank her for her vision, leadership and big heart.

About Paula

Paula is the co-founder of the award-winning blog, The Brown Bookshelf. A longtime Inclusion Jedi and advocate for diversifying the type of fiction featuring Black characters that’s highlighted among educators, librarians and parents, she’s presented and blogged about the need to expand the focus beyond children’s literature that centers the pain of the Black experience.

Chase is the author of nine children’s books. So Done (Greenwillow/HarperCollins), her critically acclaimed middle grade debut, was named a 2018 Kirkus Reviews Best Book. So Done and its companions, Dough Boys and Turning Point blazed the trail for books that tackle tough and sometimes taboo topics for younger readers.

Journey to Publication

The pandemic did quite a number on my creativity. At the start, it was an escape to write and focus on putting joy into the world through literature. But eventually, it became harder to clear my head enough to create the way I once did. From day one, I’ve maintained a successful and demanding day job career while writing novels, presenting on panels and helping to manage The Brown Bookshelf. But I’ve finally reached a crossroads where doing all those things aren’t possible.

I’m currently under contract with Wednesday’s Books for a three-part YA series. It’s my panny (pandemic) book and delivering it has had all the struggles. My editor, Sara, has been wonderfully patient. She values the type of stories I put into the world, so with her continued patience and as I learn to show myself grace, there will be another Paula Chase novel in the world soon.

Backstory of So Done

Some years back, I had taken a step back from The Brown Bookshelf. Once again, life was lifeing and trying to successfully navigate writing, the BBS and my day job weren’t meant to be.  My youngest daughter, who was about 12 at the time, was already an aspiring Ballerina and logistics for her training took up a lot of time. I remember driving home from work and thinking – you know, you’ve had your time, maybe it’s simply time to focus on her Art.

I was trying to give myself permission to give up on writing. I’d written a five-book series which was more than some authors, who had been writing the same length of time, had managed. I could claim mission accomplished.

Except, the thought that this was really it made me profoundly sad.  I let the thought sink in and released myself from the gnawing need to get back to children’s literature. A few months later, my agent and I had a random meeting. There were no new books in the works, we just hadn’t connected in awhile.  We met with two packagers who told me that my YA series felt MG to them. That my voice was better suited to younger readers, even though some of the content I covered leaned on the older teen side.  So Done was born of that conversation. Not the story itself, but giving myself permission to write books for those readers not yet ready for YA but ot seeing themselves in MG.  I never looked back. Upper MG needs to be an official and permanent subset of MG books. People need to stop saying they don’t exist. They do and have for some time now.

Being a member of The Brown Bookshelf

Quite simply, they’re family. Never have I ever been in a group so selfless. Every second that we put into amplifying Black creatives and advocating for ourselves, was time taken away from writing and illustrating books.  And yet we all gladly did it, year after year. It’s a special bond we share, a commitment to paying it forward and honoring those whose shoulders we stood on, that I’m certain won’t be repeated in my life. The legacy of this group isn’t the archive of creatives we amplified but the spirit of selflessness that permeated our decisions. Determined to do Good is the BBS family tagline.

Follow her 

Instagram – @thatpaulachase

FaceBook –

X – @ThatMGBookChick

Learn more about Paula’s incredible work at her website

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