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University Press of Kentucky launches imprint with editor Crystal Wilkinson to celebrate stories of the Black experience

By Jackie Wilson 

photo of a professor
Crystal Wilkinson

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 30, 2023)  University Press of Kentucky announces the publishing imprint Screen Door Press, which will be edited by Crystal Wilkinson, professor of English in the University of Kentucky's College of Arts and Sciences. 

Dedicated to discovering exceptional, and varied voices within Black literary traditions, the imprint will include short stories, novellas and novels across a broad range of categories. The goal of Screen Door Press is to publish thought-provoking books that feature relatable characters, strong narratives and beautiful language to champion diverse views from the Black diaspora.

"In the past few years more books have been published by people of color but there is still a significant gap in the industry and so many talented Black authors get missed in the big machine of publishing,” Wilkinson said. “It is often the case that all Black writing (even if it is written well) is not valued by mainstream publishers. It is my hope that this imprint is able to make a significant impact on helping bridge that gap for Black writers.”

Each year, up to two outstanding submissions will be selected for publication. Submissions will go through the University Press of Kentucky’s publication process, including peer review, editorial board approval, copy editing, production and marketing. Call for submissions will open Feb. 1, 2024, and close March 15, 2024. The first imprint titles will be published in Spring 2025. Sponsored in partnership with the Thomas D. Clark Foundation, the imprint will award $5,000 to each of the two authors whose work has been selected.

“Doors were opened for me by other writers who thought my work was artful and had value for readers,” Wilkinson said. “I am giddy with excitement at the notion of publishing two new books of fiction a year."

Wilkinson, a recent fellowship recipient of the Academy of American Poets, is the author of "Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts," a culinary memoir; "Perfect Black," a collection of poems; and three works of fiction — "The Birds of Opulence," "Water Street" and "Blackberries, Blackberries." She is the recipient of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Poetry, an O. Henry Prize, a USA Artists Fellowship, and an Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence. 

She has received recognition from the Yaddo Foundation, Hedgebrook, The Vermont Studio Center for the Arts, The Hermitage Foundation and others. Her short stories, poems and essays have appeared in journals and anthologies including most recently in The Atlantic, The Kenyon Review, STORY, Agni Literary Journal, Emergence, Oxford American and Southern Cultures. She was Poet Laureate of Kentucky from 2021 to 2023. Wilkinson teaches creative writing UK,  where she is a Bush-Holbrook Endowed Professor.

Wilkinson is also co-editor of the University Press of Kentucky series Appalachian Futures: Black, Native, and Queer Voices. Poems from Wilkinson’s most recent book, "Perfect Black," were featured in season 1, episode 3 of the Hulu documentary and travel show "Searching for Soul Food."

The University Press of Kentucky is the statewide nonprofit scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Serving all Kentucky state-sponsored institutions of higher learning as well as seven private colleges and Kentucky’s two major historical societies, it was organized in 1969 as successor to the University of Kentucky Press. The press is dedicated to the publication of academic books of high scholarly merit as well as significant books about the history and culture of Kentucky, the Ohio Valley region, the Upper South and Appalachia.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.