Writers on Writing: The Art of the Short Story

By Maurice A. Lee | Go to book overview

Harvesting Blackberries, Blackberries:
A Black Woman's Publishing Tale

Crystal E. Wilkinson

I was 14 years old in 1976, the first time I remember being published. The book was a romantic teenage story that I bound myself with my grandmother's Singer sewing machine—a book of 14 pages with one crooked seam along the red line that snaked down the left side of the blue-lined paper. My block lettering was large and leaning and I carefully placed on the cover “MY DREAM COME TRUE by Crystal Elaine Wilkinson.”

There was only one hand-stitched, hand-lettered copy, and I was never concerned with selling it. Never concerned about reaching my audience.

What I remember most about these stories is not their substance but the process of writing them and how closely I garnered them once completed. How good it felt to run my fingers over the words I had made and how important it was to me to have them all together, one page on top of the other as a bound volume.

My grandmother guarded this first work of mine. She watched me from behind the screen door, my body cradled in the overgrown roots of a poplar tree, going about writing like killing snakes. Her call for me to come to supper fell on deaf ears. She found me down by the creek or out by the edge of the woods at dusk in a scribbling fury. She respected my shut doors and witnessed my silence while I worked on that first book.

I don't know, perhaps my grandmother knew those words would be important to me one day, or maybe it was important to her to save the musings of the would-be writer granddaughter she had nurtured. When she died in

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