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The Flor-Ala

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Students gain publishing experience through class

Lilly Clark
UNA professor Jason McCall teaches students in his publishing class.

University of North Alabama English professor Jason McCall’s publishing class is in its final stages of production, planning to release their first publication in the coming days. 

The class was started by McCall after he saw other colleges and universities implementing similar programs. 

“When I would talk to friends and colleagues who are in creative writing, a lot of them had students who were able to work on a literary press or have an internship with a book publishing company, and these students had helped produce books that look just as professional as a book that might come out from Penguin or Simon and Schuster,” said McCall. “Working at UNA for as long as I have, I feel like we’ve got students who can compete with any group of students in the country. For the last couple of years, I’ve been jealous because I’ve had friends who have been able to find these great opportunities for students. If their students get to have these great opportunities, I want our students to have these opportunities.” 

Not only is the class an amazing experience for students, but it is also an opportunity for experiential learning, which the university advocates heavily for in order to provide students with experience in their future career fields. 

These factors led to McCall creating the class. At the end of the class, the students will have published an e-book as an Open Educational Resource through the UNA Collier Library. McCall reached out to authors, hoping to find one who would be interested in working with UNA students. 

“I reached out to a couple of authors who I knew were really interested in open access and who are interested in art and writing as more of a community exercise instead of as a strictly commercial exercise,” McCall said. “Eventually I found the author that we’re publishing, Alina Stefanescu, and luckily she had a book that was ready to be published. She’s published books in many different genres, and she’s won many different awards. She’s someone who doesn’t need us to help publish her book at all. She was really interested in using this project as an example of how publishing can work as a community exercise. It’s been great to work with an author like her who is really interested in community and working with students.”

The class is in its pilot semester, which means that McCall and his students have had to figure out many aspects of publishing for the first time. One of these key aspects is the class schedule and environment. 

McCall split the class into two sections. The first half of the semester was focused on giving students the core information about publishing, using a textbook to discuss what people in different roles within a publishing team are supposed to accomplish. After the students became more familiar with the process and completed some practice assignments, the students picked the roles they wished to fulfill and began the hands-on publishing process. 

“I can stand at the front of the class and tell them what to do, but students want experience in how publishing works,” said McCall. “I just wanted them to see how different groups talk to each other. The design team can’t go and make a cover without any consideration of marketing. Marketing can’t go out and put out messaging without considering how that messaging is going to line up with the editing and layout of the book. For a lot of students, a book can be thought of as this lonely, one-person process, but there are lots of people between the author and the book that you see on the shelf.”

The three teams – marketing, copy editing and design – work together through liaisons, with each team having multiple liaisons between teams and one manager. 

Mark Smith, a design-marketing liaison, originally thought that the class would include students publishing their own works, so he was shocked to find out that they would be publishing an actual author. 

“We are publishing the work of a previously published author who has won numerous awards, which is huge,” said Smith. “The fact that this actually is a small publishing press and not just a class is great for a resume. I like that it’s not lecture-based. I appreciate how much of it centers around conversation.” 

Lauren Hammond, the design manager, heard about the class from McCall and was hesitant to join, but she has had a great experience in the class so far.

“As always, Mr. McCall was extremely encouraging towards students who wanted to try it, and I signed up,” said Hammond. “Once we were able to choose our roles, I took up the design manager position for my team. Being on the design team for this class has been very eye-opening as I have discovered what it takes to create a cover worthy of publishing. So far, our design team has created dozens of designs, not only for our cover but for our marketing as well, and being able to see the process develop from concept to reality has been so rewarding! I am very grateful to be one of the first students to experience this class and work with an esteemed author like Alina. This class has given us so much real-life experience, and it could not have been done without Mr. McCall, as he has been the biggest advocate, not only for literary publishing but for his students as well. I hope to see this class continue, and I hope to see many more student-published e-books through UNA!”

Lauren Daniel, the copy manager, has greatly enjoyed her experience in the class, allowing her to participate in experiential learning before her graduation.

“As a part of the copy editing team, I have been able to work with my group to edit Alina Stefanescu’s manuscript of My X’s,” said Daniel. “This has been so helpful to me in preparation for my graduation in May. It has certainly been a learning process, as this is the first time this course has been offered at UNA. We have had a few curve balls thrown at us because of that, but I think we have handled them well. I am so excited for our book launch!”

Anna Hood, an editing-design liaison, is thankful for the opportunity to take part in the class, as it has given her many beneficial experiences that she will carry with her into the future.

“My experience in Literary Publishing has been nothing short of exciting and beneficial,” said Hood. “Participating in the process of putting together a novel fulfilled a longing that has been with me for most of my life—knowing how to make a book—and it also helped me become more adept with one of my passions: editing. As part of the editing team, I am extremely grateful to have had encouraging, helpful, and open-minded classmates that were comfortable enough to express their ideas with me, but also listened to my voice in the conversation as well. I am overwhelmingly thankful for Professor McCall. He gave us numerous practice activities in order to properly learn how to make decisions regarding grammar, punctuation, format, word choice, et cetera. The editing team was in constant communication, explaining our own edits, being open to one another’s opinions and questions and discussing our personal research in order to make the entire process as smooth as possible. When working on the actual manuscript, I felt simultaneously challenged and comfortable. Overall, I am deeply proud of my class and the work that we completed, and I know we are all grateful for the author of My X’s, Alina Stefanescu, for trusting us with her story.”

For McCall, his favorite part of the experience has been getting to see the enthusiasm of his students as they engage with the process of publishing a book. 

“This is not an easy process,” McCall said. “For anyone who’s worked with publishing, we know that starting from a blank page and getting to the final draft is hard to do. Students trusting me has been really great, because this class wasn’t done before, but also students trusting themselves and trusting each other. Students could have taught an elective class that had been taught ten straight times or that had very clear objectives, but I told students that once we got into the hands-on part of the semester, I couldn’t give them every answer on how things were going to go. For me, the biggest thing in the class is seeing students trust themselves with confidence and seeing students trust each other.”

The class will be hosting an official launch party for the book on Monday, April 29 at 1 p.m. McCall urges those who are interested to join to hear from the author and the students who published the book.

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About the Contributors
Kelley Peters
Kelley Peters, Managing Editor
Kelley is a junior from Tupelo, Miss. who is majoring in English literature with a minor in applied linguistics. She is currently Managing Editor for The Flor-Ala. She has loved reading for as long as she can remember, which developed her love of storytelling and the English language. Her career goal is to become an English professor at a university. She was previously a volunteer writer in the Fall of 2021, became a Staff Writer in January of 2022 and moved to being News Editor in January of 2023.
Lilly Clark
Lilly Clark, Staff Photographer
Lilly Clark is a freshman from the town of Killen, Ala. She is majoring in interdisciplinary studies and hopes to pursue her dream job of video editing. She is a staff photographer.

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