Matthew Krauss, News Writer • firstname.lastname@example.org
On November 9-10, Emory & Henry held its 36th Literary festival to celebrate the works of Crystal Wilkinson, an Appalachian writer who grew up in the mountains. The annual festival chooses one Appalachian writers to highlight each year.
The secondary theme of the festival was the systemic issues of poor mental health services in Appalachia.
This tied in with Wilkinson’s work which features many characters that face various mental health issues.
Stone Mountain health services brought two guest speakers, both psychologists involved with the program, who explained how the organization works to eliminate barriers that have prevented Appalachians from gaining access to mental health care.
Wilkinson is not just a writer but also owns the independent bookstore Wild Figs in Lexington, Kentucky and teaches as adjunct at Berea College.
She describes the store as her “child” because it “takes up a lot of time and money but occasionally gives love back.”
The store has a café on the side which helps bring in extra money.
Unlike many other bookstores which now sell nonliterary merchandise, the store tries to restrict itself mainly to books and socks because Wilkinson explains, “Everyone seems to love our socks with curse words.”
Wild Figs bookstore is more than just a place to buy books; it is designed to bring people together and has acted as a meeting place for Black Lives Matter, Drag Queen Groups and host workshops for aspiring writers.
Wilkinson spoke in one panel about her store offering a haven for two teenagers trying to avoid going home to their house plagued with domestic violence.
Poet Marianne Worthington, lifelong friend of Wilkinson presented background info on Wilkinson’s three books, Water Street, Birds of Opulence and the short story collection Blackberries. Blackberries reflected her life events.
Wilkinson finds interest in exploring the stories present everywhere and her writings are intended to explore how the stories we tell shape us.
Wilkinson was just one of a few presenters at the festival that shared papers which examined the literary merits present in Wilkinson’s writings and all the presenters have English careers at the universities where they work.
However much Wilkinson invests in her writing career she says she always puts family first and uses her stories as a way to examine family relationships particularly between mothers and daughters.