The room was packed; a celebration was underway. Students settled into seats, shuffling books and backpacks, while a buzz built inside room 175 of the Art and Journalism Building.

Everyone eagerly anticipated the kickoff of the university’s 12th annual In Print Festival of Books, a two-day event sponsored by the Department of English. As people waited, they flipped through hot-off-the-press copies of The Broken Plate. The literary magazine is produced by the department’s English 489, an immersive class. Mark Neely, an English professor, teaches the class and provides the students with an experience in literary editing and publishing in a collaborative setting.

“One of the most important skills students learn while working on The Broken Plate is how to work together as part of a team,” said Neely, who is the editor of the magazine.

Three students stand at a table with a display of their books.

Natali Cavanagh, a junior creative writing major, promotes the 2017 issue of The Broken Plate to In Print Festival attendees, as senior Drew Miles oversees its distribution.

“I’ve known about The Broken Plate since my freshman year,” said junior Natali Cavanagh. After switching to a creative writing major as a sophomore, Cavanagh attended In Print for the first time. “That’s really where I fell in love with the magazine.”

The Broken Plate takes submissions from writers and artists of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and art from around the world, a distinction that’s earned it an international reputation. But it’s also an opportunity for Ball State students to be published.

The Broken Plate was our first continuing immersive learning project, and it helps our students develop professional skills in publishing, social media and design,” said Adam Beach, chair of the English department.

Traditionally, the magazine makes its grand debut at the In Print Festival, which is an opportunity for Ball State to welcome debut authors and an editor or publisher to campus. During the festival, the authors participate in readings, discussions and classroom visits. Excerpts of their work, as well as a Q&A with each festival guest, are also published in The Broken Plate.

“The authors share practical advice, like how students can get their work into print and how to make a living as a writer,” Beach said.

At this year’s festival, held March 15-16, one of the featured artists was Iliana Rocha, who read excerpts of her poetry collection, Karankawa. Three of her works and an interview conducted by student Levi Todd, one of The Broken Plate’s poetry editors, were included in the magazine.

An author stands at a podium and reads from her book.

Poet Iliana Rocha reads an excerpt from her first published collection, Karankawa. Excerpts from the collection were selected for inclusion in The Broken Plate.

Understanding the publication process

For Julia Parobek, a senior English major from Munster, Indiana, taking the two-semester English 489 provided her with her first taste of editing someone else’s work.

Like Todd, she dove in quickly to the task. Together, the pair served as two of The Broken Plate’s four poetry editors, selecting and editing the 16 poems included in this year’s issue.

“Getting to see other people’s work, something they are really passionate about … and being able to help them get farther along with it was really satisfying,” Parobek said.

Senior Ashya Thomas, a member of the magazine’s social media editing team and creative writing major, said her experience with The Broken Plate introduced her to just how detail-oriented publishing can be.

She was surprised at how many edits were required to works selected for the issue and found that the phrase “Look at this one more time” became the norm.

Beach said the skills students like Parobek, Thomas and Todd glean from working on The Broken Plate complement what they’re learning in the department’s other creative writing classes.

Not to mention the way putting a magazine together is the ultimate resume builder, even a potential gateway to a future career.

“We want students to continue to pursue their creative dreams and to develop as artists and writers, even as we help them prepare for and imagine futures in professional work that will sustain them.”

For Parobek, this particular immersive learning experience solidified her aspiration to work in publishing.

“Being involved with an important project like this and seeing it brought to life was so enjoyable. I had the greatest time in this class and would absolutely do this kind of work for a living.”