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Truths, Lies, and Histories of Nashville


As a lead-up to Nashville’s 250th anniversary in 2029, Vanderbilt University Press is proposing an ambitious new series designed to bridge the gap between what scholars and historians know about the city and what the public thinks it knows.

We want the stories that have never been told, the truths behind the oft-told tales, the things that keep us in love with the city, and the parts of the past that have broken our hearts, with a priority on traditionally underrepresented perspectives and untold stories.

The series will consist of 25 small volumes, between 10,000–20,000 words apiece, priced at $14.95, with subjects ranging across Nashville’s whole history. Two or three books will be released each year with a goal of having all 25 books available in 2029.


There will be three reading periods for proposals:

  • September–October 2019: We will be looking for ten proposals to cover Nashville’s first 100 years and to stoke the first three years of the series.
  • September–October 2022: We will be looking for ten proposals to cover 1879–1979.
  • September–October 2025: We will be looking for five proposals to bring us through the present day.


Because our ambition is to open up Nashville’s history to its communities, each book will consist of three parts:

  • Open with a good story, expertly told. It could be a little-known true story that needs to be brought to light or a well-known legend that could use some debunking. Either way, it must be entertaining. The reading of these books should be fun, not a chore.
  • Follow up with historical data, actual facts, and any appropriate cultural knowledge that backs up or complicates the story. This is the section for digging in to get at the truth.
  • Tell readers why this story matters and why they should care. Provide context.

Submission Guidelines

Proposal requirements:

  • A concise description of the proposed book (one to two pages)
  • Three reasons why this topic should be included in the series
  • A description of what’s been published on the topic and how your project would differ
  • Your full contact details and a 200-word professional biography (you can send your resume or CV, if you have it)
  • A published sample of your writing
  • The amount of time it will take you to complete your manuscript
  • A description of any potential images or other supplemental materials

Submit your proposal in a single document to betsy.phillips@vanderbilt.edu. You can also address any questions you have to that address.


FAQ

Do I have to choose a historical person to write about?
No, you can choose an incident or a location. It just needs to be entertaining and pertain to Nashville and the time period of the reading period we’re in.


I want to do the Bell Witch.
That’s not Nashville, unless you want to write about the old legend that she haunted the streetcars, in which case, you need to wait for that reading period.


How many Civil War books will be in the series?
Nashville during the Civil War has been pretty well documented, so any Civil War–era proposal is going to have to make a strong case for this being an overlooked incident or a new perspective.


I’m a scholar and/or a grad student and I’d love to do this, but I really need to be spending my time on peer-reviewed work.
This will be peer reviewed.


Wait. I’m not a scholar and/or a grad student. Can I still submit a proposal? Will I be peer reviewed? Does it hurt?
Yes! We’d love to hear from everyone with a good story and a historical bent. Your finished manuscript will be peer reviewed, but we’ll make sure the process is relatively painless.


How soon will I know if my proposal has been accepted?
We’ll try to let authors know whether we’re interested in moving forward with their proposals in the month after the end of the reading period.