How I Made This Book 2023

A peek into the journey to publication for 9 Washington University authors

Kathryn Davis
Hurst Writer in Residence and Professor of the Practice, Department of English

Aurelia, Aurélia: A Memoir (Graywolf Press, 2022)

Aurelia, Aurélia began as a craft book for Graywolf’s “Art Of” series — it was to be titled “The Art of Transition,” several chapters having appeared in slightly different form in a variety of journals. When I wrote the chapter “Aurelia, Aurélia” I realized I wasn’t writing a craft book, but a memoir. Luckily, Graywolf concurred.


Todd Decker
Paul Tietjens Professor of Music, American Culture Studies, and Film and Media Studies, Department of Music, Affiliate Professor, Performing Arts Department

Astaire by Numbers: Time & the Straight White Male Dancer (Oxford University Press, 2022)

Fellowship: Sabbatical leave

Funding: Visiting International Chair at Labex Arts-H2H (a humanities center at Université Paris VIII) 

Research sites: New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, UCLA Special Collections, USC Cinematic Arts Library, Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Los Angeles) 

Number of years: Seven (on and off) 

This book began with an invitation to join an international and interdisciplinary team of film scholars working on the Hollywood studio-era musical. We gathered five times over three years for conferences in Paris and the core of the book emerged from the papers I presented at each of these meetings. The digital humanities approach I use in the book involved learning an entirely new methodology that complemented my typical reliance on archival research (as found in my first book on Fred Astaire from 2011). Similarly, I read widely in masculinity and whiteness studies to approach Astaire from a further fresh angle. 

El Hadji Samba Amadou Diallo 
Lecturer, Department of African and African American Studies

Sciences et confréries soufies au Sénégal: Approches nouvelles de la violence et de la démocratie (Brill, 2022)

Research sites: Interviews in Dakar, Tivaouane and St. Louis (Senegal) in 2012 and 2017; personal newspapers; Sufi conferences and festivities on audiocassettes and DVD owned by the author. Olin Library at Washington University in St. Louis. 

Number of years: 10 years 

This book emerged from an article I wrote about the first political regime change (2000–12) in Senegal, country where Islam plays an important role in stabilizing the society. The more I developed the article, the more voluminous it became. I thought it was more appropriate to continue the work by observing the succeeding and current regime, to better understand relationships between religious guides, the Islamic civil society, citizens/disciples, and politicians/state officials toward consolidating that model democracy. In 2020, the article turned into a complete book manuscript. Briefly said, the urgency to divulgate knowledge about the Tijāniyya—the most widespread Sufi order in Africa—and its role in democratic politics in Senegal, pushed my decision to pursue the project to its completion.

Danielle Dutton
Associate Professor, Department of English

A Picture Held Us Captive (Image Text Ithaca Press, 2022)

A Picture Held Us Captive started as a talk at a conference, then it morphed into a course, then it became a book. Initially, I was asked to speak about my relationship to ekphrasis as a fiction writer (since it tends to be talked about in terms of poetry). A few years later, I was invited to teach a course in the Image Text Ithaca MFA program, at which point I went back to the talk and used it to help me build the class. Eventually, the people who run Image Text Ithaca asked me to write something based on the class for their publication series. Together we worked on adding images (some based on slides that had accompanied the initial talk), and then their designer turned it into this gorgeous physical object, printed in Venice during the pandemic.

Carl Phillips 
Professor of English, Department of English

Then the War and Selected Poems, 2007-2020 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022)

I’ve never been able to make a book of poems per se: rather, I write individual poems here and there, and at a certain point it feels like I’ve reached the end of something. By then I usually have about 40 or so poems, and from that I usually find there are 30-33 that are truly the best. At that point I try to sort out what they have in common, what arcs they’re tracing out, as I look for an arrangement that feels right. Once I find it, I’ve got the book. But I couldn’t have written the book if I’d been consciously working toward a book.


Christina Ramos 
Assistant Professor of History, Department of History

Bedlam in the New World: A Mexican Madhouse in the Age of Enlightenment (University of North Carolina Press, 2022)

Fellowships: Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship; José Amor y Vázquez Fellowship (John Carter Brown Library); David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Dissertation Completion Fellowship; Frederick Sheldon Traveling Fellowship (Harvard University)

Funding: Multiple grants from the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies; Mellon Summer Institute in Spanish Paleography; Hiebert fund (History of Science, Harvard) 

Research sites: Archives and libraries in Mexico City, Madrid, and Seville; John Carter Brown Library in Providence RI

Number of years: I began archival research in 2011—11 years, yikes! 

My most exciting archival find was a bundle of sketches (some of pornographic content) penned by a patient who fell afoul of the Inquisition. One of the drawings became the cover for my book. 

Paul Steinbeck 
Associate Professor of Music, Department of Music

Sound Experiments: The Music of the AACM (University of Chicago Press, 2022)

Fellowships: The Center for the Humanities awarded me a Summer Research Seed Grant, which enabled me to start the book project by digging into various Chicago archives.

Funding: When the manuscript was complete, the Department of Music awarded me a subvention that covered some of the book's production costs.

Research sites: WUSTL's Gaylord Music Library, five Chicago archives (Center for Black Music Research, Chicago Historical Society, Chicago Jazz Archive, University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library), as well as concert stages in Chicago, New York, and St. Louis.

Number of years: The writing took four years, but I've been immersed in the music that is the book's subject for more than two decades.


Lynne Tatlock
Hortense and Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities. Chair, Germanic Languages and Literatures Director, Comparative Literature Director of Graduate Studies, Germanic Languages and Literatures Director of Graduate Studies, Comparative Literature

Jane Eyre in German Lands: The Import of Romance, 1848-1918 (Bloomsbury, 2022)

Fellowships: A yearlong leave from A&S and a generous research fund

Research sites: Humanities Digital Workshop, WashU; my basement in front of my computer; Chicago (U of Chicago); libraries in Germany located in Cologne, Göttingen, and Berlin

For me, the digital resources of Hathitrust, Google books, and other digitized databases were important for gaining access to historical materials. Additionally, I spent a great deal of time searching antiquarian bookshops online for copies of the translations, adaptations and imitations. Because much of this reading was popular or at least in popular editions or juvenile literature, the works were not necessarily collected by research libraries, and they are certainly not available in one place. As a result of these searches and purchases, I probably have one of the best collections of Jane Eyre in German in the world (aside from a North American bookseller who specializes in Jane Eyre). I plan eventually to donate my collection to Special Collections.

Number of years: I first thought of ca. 2013. I began in earnest ca. 2014 and finished the first draft (only possible to complete because of a year’s leave) in May 2020. The process of submitting to publishers, responding to reader reports, proofreading, etc. until final publication lasted just over a year and a half. I balanced the work on the book with heavy university demands on my time and other projects; again, the yearlong leave made possible the focus I needed to finish.

Miguel A. Valerio
Assistant Professor of Spanish, Departments of Romance Languages and Literature 

Sovereign Joy: Afro-Mexican Kings and Queens, 1539-1640 (Cambridge University Press, 2022)

Paleography Institute, Mellon Foundation
Summer Fellowship, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, Ohio State University
Summer Fellowship, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Ohio State University 
Summer Fellowship, Center for Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Ohio State University 
Summer Fellowship, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Ohio State University 
Presidential Fellowship, Ohio State University
Short-Term Fellowship, Huntington Library, San Mariano, Calif.
Career Enhancement Fellowship, Institute for Citizens and Scholars 
Short-Term Fellowship, Renaissance Society of America 

Research sites
Mexico City, Mexico; Seville, Spain; Salvador, Brazil; Lisbon, Portugal; Los Angeles, California

Number of years: 7

Working on this book was a joyous journey of discovery and connecting with my denied roots. The sources, some more than others, presented productive challenges that fueled my thinking throughout.