Commonword’s recent intern Shauna Strathmann shares thoughts and reflections on her 10-week placement supporting our events and marketing activity.

Whenever I enter a new ‘phase’ of my life, I have a habit of consuming any and all related cultural content in an effort to shift myself into that mode. It’s often massively counterintuitive, but that didn’t stop me from watching The Devil Wears Prada (2006) the week before my internship at Commonword started. Magazine publishing, Book publishing. Potay-to, Potah-to (for legal reasons, that is a joke). Experience-wise, the film was always going to be useless, but I did have a crisis over whether I have control over my own wardrobe-related decisions.

Something I learned during this 10 week internship was just how creative the publishing industry can be – one of my reservations whenever I thought about a career down this avenue was likely similar to many writers; that they might not have room amidst corporate promotion to create anything themselves, but that couldn’t be further from the case. The diversity in the forms of promotion and reporting I was doing meant I was constantly trying something new, and receiving regular feedback, so I gradually discovered what I was good at. I even found inspiration for my own writing – a report I did in February felt more like poetry or spoken word than a journalistic piece, and it led to more creative writing than I’d been capable of in months.

Visually speaking I’m meticulous – my idea of a fun Friday night is planning an entire week’s worth of outfits around a set concept or colour palette, so something I really wanted to learn and get to grips with during this placement was social media promotion. Many of the later weeks were spent brainstorming Canva layouts – perhaps the 2023 publishing equivalent to finding the right turquoise belt to match a sugary pink tulle party dress. It’s really difficult; Tw cent MT and Trebuchet MS are just so different.

I actually did get my Anne Hathaway big event moment early on for the launch of the InDivisible anthology at Manchester Poetry Library – in the lead-up I had the pleasure of reading through an advance copy and using my critical analysis to understand the pieces as best I could, then put together a running order that made sense thematically. I then used that to photograph the book for promotional images. Actually travelling up to Manchester to see everything come together on the night (and see tiny things almost fall apart, but we had military-grade glue in the form of Artistic Director Cheryl Martin and printed out running orders) was the ‘Paris’ moment. Yet (and this applies to the whole internship experience), in huge contrast to The Devil Wears Prada, I didn’t need a lengthy makeover montage to feel like I was doing the job well. I was frankly bowled over by the amount of support with anything I needed help with, and the willingness to entrust me with important tasks. I started every Wednesday with a meeting with Radhaika, who always checked to make sure I was wholly confident in what I was doing that day, and knew that whatever work I’d be doing for Commonword, be it Canva-ing workshops promo, an audio report, or data entry (I got to read everyone’s feedback on the InDivisible launch!), it would give me a better understanding of how well I could see myself doing a similar job in the future. This would be the part in the movie in which I leave the event of the year, and toss my ringing phone into a fountain, but after getting the opportunity to work with creatives who care so deeply about elevating new and unheard voices, who have welcomed and guided me, I’m clutching that metaphorical T-Mobile Sidekick with both hands; I’ll answer the moment it rings.


Internship by numbers:

Pizza slices consumed on launch night: 3

Heavy boxes carried: 1

Heavy boxes almost dropped: 1

Hours spent font switching on Canva: 3

Logins memorised: 6

Hazelnut lattes consumed on call: 5.5

Times agonised over which emoji to end a Tweet/Instagram post with: 8

Times rushed across New York for an unpublished manuscript: (thankfully) 0

Shauna Strathmann