A short interview wherein my guest, one of my favorite authors, answers three questions about the writing life.
What’s your Go-To source when you need inspiration?
I always look to family stories and the natural world when I need inspiration in regard to writing. Other inspiration comes in the form of poetry. I begin every writing session, be it fiction, non-fiction, or poetry with a poem. I often choose a poem randomly to center myself in language before I begin.
Do you create elaborate outlines for your books? If so, can you explain the process (briefly)? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants? If so, do you have any tricks you use to keep yourself from crashing?
I don’t create outlines, elaborate or otherwise. I believe in what Eudora Welty said in that writing a novel is like walking through the forest with a lantern. I write a bit and a certain part of the forest is illuminated by what I’ve written, then I write more and learn more about the world I am creating until the entire forest is filled with light and shadow. After I get a draft completed, then I’ll go back in and sometimes make a list, not an outline persay, but a list, sometimes lots and lots of lists and begin the real work of revision.
In what genres have you written, and which one of them gives you the most satisfaction?
I have written in a variety of genres–poetry, fiction, nonfiction–but as far as fiction goes, I have not experimented with genre. I love mystery and science fiction film but I have yet to tackle any sort of otherworldliness or a genre novel on my own.
About the Author
Crystal Wilkinson is the national award-winning author of Perfect Black (winner of a 2022 NAACP Image Award), The Birds of Opulence (winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence), Water Street and Blackberries, Blackberries. Nominated for both the Orange Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, she has received recognition from Yaddo, Hedgebrook, The Mary Anderson Center for the Arts, The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and is a recipient of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Literature. Her short stories, poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including most recently in the The Atlantic, Kenyon Review, Oxford American, Story, and Agni. Her most recent novel, a lyrical exploration of love and loss, The Birds of Opulence centers on several generations of women in a bucolic southern black township as they live with and sometimes surrender to madness.
Crystal identifies as a southern, feminist fiction writer, and grew up in the hills of Kentucky. She currently teaches at the University of Kentucky where she is Professor of English in the MFA in Creative Writing Program and Associate Chair of the English Department. She is a 2020 USA Artist Fellowship Recipient, a 2021 O. Henry Prize winner and makes her home in Lexington, KY. Crystal is a fellow of the Academy of American Poets was named the Poet Laureate for Kentucky in 2021. Her culinary memoir, Praisesongs for the Kitchen Ghosts is forthcoming from Clarkson/Potter Penguin Random House in 2023.
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