Ekphrastic Writing Workshop with Crystal Wilkinson
The Studio Museum in Harlem
Thursday, December 14, 2017

Kweli Journal is excited to partner with The Studio Museum in Harlem to present an ekphrastic writing workshop with award-winning author and professor Crystal Wilkinson.

This generative, cross-genre workshop invites writers of fiction and non-fiction to source visual inspiration from works in Fictions, a survey of recent work by nineteen emerging artists of African descent who live and work across the United States. Often creating parallel or alternate narratives that complicate fact, fiction and memory, the diverse artistic practices and sources of inspiration represented by each artist will serve as a point of departure for professionally-instructed, focused creative writing.

Toni Morrison often speaks about the influence of visual art on her work. "When I think of influences I think of painters. In ‘Song,’ for instance, I was working on a scene where Milkman is in a small Southern town‐he is anxious, feeling lost, out of place‐and I literally‐picked a painting by Edvard Munch that I had seen in Oslo, ‘Spring Evening on Karl Johan Street’ I think it was, which I feel conveyed the atmosphere I wanted. In paintings I can see scenes that connect with words for me, and I think it helps me get the visual, visceral response I want.”

Workshop students will tour the Fictions exhibition before the writing workshop begins. 

Please note that the workshop is limited to 12 students. Seats will fill quickly. Register early by sending an email to RSVP@kwelijournal.org. Payment secures your seat. Scroll to bottom of this page for PayPal option.  


Crystal Wilkinson is author of The Birds of Opulence, winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, Blackberries, Blackberries, winner of the Chaffin Award of Appalachian Literature, and Water Street, which was a finalist for both the UK’s Orange Prize for Fiction and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. A founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, she serves as Appalachian Writer-in-Residence at Berea College and teaches in Spalding University’s low residency MFA in Writing Program. She and her partner, the poet and artist Ronald Davis, own Wild Fig Books and Coffee in Lexington, Kentucky. 

In the new foreword to Blackberries, Blackberries by Crystal Wilkinson, Nikky Finney writes: "Seventeen years have passed since we were mesmerized and knocked off our feet by the new short-story writer from Indian Creek, Kentucky. The humor, sorrow, and unforgettable characters of Crystal Wilkinson’s first collection are now her perpetual gift to us who know that honest human portraits, written by tender determined virtuoso writers, have always been a country’s true mirror of its real history. I am thrilled to see Blackberries, Blackberries born again to a new generation.”


Nikky Finney has been a faculty member at Cave Canem summer workshop for African American poets; a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, a particular place for poets of color in Appalachia; poet and professor for twenty-three years at the University of Kentucky; and visiting professor at Berea and Smith Colleges. She won the PEN American Open Book Award in 1996 and the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award for the Arts in South Carolina in 2016. She edited Black Poets Lean South, a Cave Canem anthology (2007) authored On Wings Made of Gauze (1985), Rice (1995), Heartwood (1997), The World Is Round (2003), and Head Off & Split, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry. 

Registration Fee

Cover photograph by nikky finney