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New Kentucky publishing imprint is focused on promoting Black authors

This screenshot shows the logo of Screen Door Press.
Screenshot
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University Press of Kentucky
Screen Door Press aims to fill gaps in the publishing industry Black authors

New University Press of Kentucky publishing imprint Screen Door Press aims to publish the works of Black writers.

Former Kentucky poet laureate, writer and University of Kentucky professor Crystal Wilkinson is the editor at Screen Door Press.

She said the imprint is the culmination of a lot of conversations and her continued work toward uplifting underrepresented authors.

“As a writer who's sort of gone through the ropes of university publishing and small press publishing and even larger house publishing, I think it's important to continue to foster Black voices the way that my voice was fostered as I was an emerging writer,” Wilkinson said.

Screen Door Press will focus on publishing works of fiction—specifically short stories, novels and novellas—across genres.

“I think that the key goal will be literary fiction,” Wilkinson said. “But I'm certainly interested in otherworldly things.”

For Wilkinson, the most important part of submissions is well-conceived works.

“Good, quality writing, of course, no matter what the genre is, but I'm also a person who advocates strong narratives, great, engaging relatable characters and beautiful language,” she said. “And something that's surprising and different.”

For would-be Screen Door Press authors, Wilkinson said she always recommends books be at 90%.

“And by that I mean that it should be 90% toward perfection, as clean as you can get it,” she said. “No typos, no grammatical errors, you really should have really worked hard on it by the time you send it out to be considered for publication.”

Wilkinson said writing is a community. Authors rely on one another to help critique and sharpen each other's works. She sees her role as editor to mentor other Black creatives, particularly in a field that could be tougher for them to navigate.

“In the past few years, I think a lot more books have been published by people of color, but there is still a significant gap in the industry,” Wilkinson said. “I think it's been often the case that writing by African American authors have sort of fallen through the cracks and it's not been valued by mainstream publishers.”

A 2020 article by “The New York Times” found 95% of English-language fiction books published between 1950 and 2018 were written by white authors.

That figure doesn’t reflect the lack of Black people in high-ranking positions within publishing houses which also contributes to the deficit of Black writers with published works.

Wilkinson said she hopes the imprint can begin to fill some of those gaps and showcase Kentucky as a safe space for Black creativity.

“We want to celebrate African American voices across a broad range of categories,” she said.

Screen Door Press will open a nationwide call for submissions from February to mid-March. Two works will be chosen for publication with the aim of a 2025 release and authors will receive an initial $5,000 for their work.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.