Chowan University Presents a Virtual Ceremony of The Twenty-Sixth Annual Mary Frances Hobson Lecture & Prize Conferral

Join us Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. as Chowan University confers the 2020 Mary Frances Hobson Prize on award winning author, Crystal Wilkinson, after which she will deliver the Hobson Lecture.  This is  a virtual event.  
For more information about the Hobson Conferral and Lecture, contact Nancy Cox in the Office of the Provost at 1-252-398-6211 or

You may read Ms. Wilkinson’s biography below:

Born in Ohio in 1962, Crystal Wilkinson was reared from infancy by her grandparents on their farm in the hills of rural Kentucky, a place which provided deep nourishment for her imagination and creativity.  She earned her B.A. in journalism from Eastern Kentucky University and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Spaulding University. 

She has received wide recognition for her talent.  Most recently, the award-winning author of a novel, short story collections, poems, and essays, Wilkinson was named a 2020 USA Fellow by the United States Artists, a prestigious group which recognizes artists who make significant and vital contributions to the nation’s “creative ecosystem.”  She said, “I tell my creative writing students all the time that we are the truth keepers of our time.  That is our duty as artists—to reflect both how the world is and how we want it to be.  Without the artist we are lost—-devoid of hope and the capacity to dream a new way of understanding and living.  What we do is absolutely life-giving.  So many lives have been saved by art.”

Blackberries, Blackberries, Wilkinson’s first short story collection, won many awards including the 2002 Paul and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Literature and Today’s Librarian magazine’s Best Debut Fiction award in 2001.   Her second collection of short stories, Water Street, also garnered many honors including earning a spot as a longlist finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction and shortlist finalist for The Hurst-Wright Legacy Award.  Wilkinson won the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence for her first novel, The Birds of Opulence. The novel has additionally won the 2017 Judy Gaines Young Book Award, the 2016 Weatherford Award for Appalachian Fiction, and the Appalachian Book of the Year in Fiction for 2016.  Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her writing appears in many esteemed publications including Oxford American and Southern Cultures.  Looking forward, Wilkinson will have a new book, Perfect Black, published in summer 2021. 

Wilkinson has received the Sally Bingham Award from the Kentucky Foundation for Women for her “promotion of activism and feminist artist expression.”  Additionally, Wilkinson has been recognized with awards and fellowships from The Yaddo Foundation, The Vermont Studio Center for the Arts, The Kentucky Foundation for Women, The Kentucky Arts Council among others. 

Photo credit: Anastasia Pottinger of Rogue Studios

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