It is rare for a professor to have more than one book contract at once. Jessica Wilson, assistant professor of English, has four.
“It’s crazy because it was years of getting rejections,” Wilson said. “Students should keep in mind it took a lot of work and editing to get where I am now. Now all my books are being accepted at once, but it was years in the progress.”
Wilson will be working on the books this year. Her first contract is an extension of her dissertation that examines Flannery O’Connor and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s works. It is called “Giving the Devil His Due.”
The second one, called “The Search for Influence,” is about Walker Percy and Dostoevsky. It is an influence study about writers, based on Dostoevsky’s works. Wilson was inspired to write this piece based on discoveries she made in Percy’s archive.
An author approached Wilson to write her third contracted book, which is “A Companion Guide to
Walker Percy’s Novels,” and is written for the average reader or students rather than academic professionals.
There is also a fourth piece under contract that Wilson will not start until this fall. It is called “Producing a First Edition of O’Connor’s Unpublished Novels.” O’Connor, an esteemed American writer from the mid-20th century, died at age 39, leaving several works unpublished.
While the first of Wilson’s books is due in November of this year, the other books do not yet have finalized dates because they are still works in progress. Wilson submitted book proposals for two of these books. They then went through peer review, were accepted and will be published.
However, she was approached by others to write her books “A Companion Guide to Walker Percy’s Novels” and “Producing a First Edition of O’Connor’s Unpublished Novels.” The editor at
Louisiana State University approached Wilson to produce Percy’s book. For the O’Connor book, she asked for consent from the O’Connor Estate after one of O’Connor’s friends, Bill Session, recommended Wilson write this book, and the estate assented.
Wilson’s book contracts are not a secret. Brad Gambill, head of the English department, says her reputation is quickly spreading to other schools in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.
“These upcoming publications will help to secure her status as one of the premiere Christian scholars within the discipline of literature and creative writing,” Gambill said.
“Dr. Wilson is wise beyond her years and has twice the energy of the average mortal,” he said. “She’s very focused and creative.”
Stratman seconded Gambill’s comments about Wilson.
“She is a wonderful addition to this department,” he said. “I am increasingly impressed by her and her dedication. She cares a lot about her students and helping them succeed.”
Wilson offered advice to aspiring writers: “Fail miserably,” she quoted from a passage by Lorrie Moore.
“Don’t be afraid of trial and error,” Wilson said. “Too often, writers think the first thing they write must be as good as their literary heroes. Be okay with failure. Learn to accept it. Don’t live according to anyone else’s timeline.”