“Are you using-” “Canva? Yeah I am” – Thoughts from an Intern

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

Commonword alumni Sui Annukka shortlisted for the Discoveries Prize 2022

Picture of writer Sui Annuka

EDIT: On Thursday 2nd June Sui Annukka was awarded the Discoveries Prize 2022! Congratulations to Sui from everyone at Commonword/Cultureword 🎉

Commonword alumni Sui Annukka has been shortlisted for the Discoveries Prize 2022, run by The Women’s Prize Trust, Curtis Brown and Audible. It aims to find aspiring female writing talent from across the UK and Ireland. She is one of 6 authors selected from 2500 entries.

Of Sri Lankan heritage, Sui Annukka grew up in London and Colombo. She read Drama at the University of Bristol, and later studied Production Design at the National Film and Television School. She left her career in film art direction to spend more time on her writing.

Whilst living in Manchester between 2013 and 2018 Sui participated in Commonword’s Women in the Spotlight programme and had her writing, both flash fiction and poetry published by Crocus (in Shots in the Dark, Sounds Exceeding 80 Decibels and Elevator Fiction).

Sui commented on the impact of her time with Commonword:

“I absolutely loved living in Manchester. Commonword was a huge part of my Manchester experience. I was warmly welcomed into a longstanding writing community and encouraged to experiment across different media. It was such an exciting time in my life. I was writing consistently and spending a lot of time sitting in cafes, late into the night, talking about books, and theatre, and films – and writing – with the most brilliant people. I was given opportunities to perform my work and to start finding my voice. And, crucially, Commonword gave me my first experience of being edited and published in an anthology.

I regularly attended the Wednesday night Commonword crit group where I got to work with inspiring writers like Afshan D’souza Lodhi, Charlotte Maxwell, Christina Fonthes, Clare Ramsaran, Dipali Das, Hafsah Bashir, Heena Patel, Homera Cheema, Mahboobeh Rajabi, Meshach Brencher and Rebecca Zahabi amongst others.

I was mentored with unwavering commitment and dedication by the genius that is Martin De Mello; and continue to be championed by the inimitable Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi.

I have no doubt that being part of Commonword enriched me as a writer and as a human being, in ways that I can’t even begin to credit. I would not be on this longlist without them.

Congratulations to Sui from everyone at Commonword & all the best for the upcoming prize announcement!

SHORTLIST: Diversity Writing for Children Prize 2016

Shortlisted entries for the 2016 Commonword Diversity Writing for Children Prize are:

Star Burn by Magda Knight

The Ghosts and Jamal by Bridget Blankley

Jed Zed Black by Roopa Farooki

The Monster Orphanage by Rohan Agalwatta

A Very Modern Covern by Manon Olegasagarem

To read the entries, click on the titles.

The winner will be declared on the 11th of October at Chapter One Bookshop. Details to follow

For more details, please go to http://www.ihaveadream.org.uk/

Diversity Writing for Children Prize 2016: Writing for Children Masterclass

Organised by Commonword, this panel discussion is for those aspiring to write for the children’s fiction industry. Topics covered will include: how to find an agent, what publishers seek from writers in this genre, the challenges of writing diverse characters, the difficulties BAME authors face getting published within the children’s book industry and possible solutions.

Alexandra Antscherl – Penguin Random House, Executive Editor
Melvin Burgess – Award-Winning Author
Catherine Pellegrino – Marjacq Scripts Ltd, Literary Agent
Rosemarie Hudson – HopeRoad Publishing

This masterclass is part of the 4th Commonword Diversity Writing for Children Prize

Women in the Spotlight Arvon Residential

About Women in the Spotlight:
Women in the Spotlight (WITS) is a theatre development programme for women who want to write for and/or perform on the stage. This project will culminate in a group of queer women and BAME women having their short plays staged at a Manchester theatre and also them having the opportunity to confidently perform their own work within an established arts venue.