The Common staff
The Common staff and student interns

Amherst’s literary magazine can add another award to its growing list of accolades. The Common is one of nearly 40 nonprofit organizations to receive a 2017 Amazon Literary Partnership grant. The $8,000 award will support the magazine’s work in publishing and promoting diverse writers from around the world.

“We were awarded the funds because of our investment in editing and promoting writers, and in recognition of our past work and future plans publishing global writers,” says Jennifer Acker ’00, The Common’s editor-in-chief. “The grant will allow us to pay future writers and editors and also cover writers’ costs to travel to events, which we haven’t been able to do before.”

Since its debut in 2011, The Common has published more than 600 authors from 40 countries, including the 26 writers from 15 Middle Eastern countries featured in Issue No. 12, a groundbreaking collection of contemporary Arabic stories in translation. The most recent issue, No. 13, reflects a wide variety of cultural and literary influences and showcases authors and poets from around the world who, Acker says, “render politically and culturally sensitive, fraught and dramatic histories with wit, humor and gorgeous execution.”

Sarah Whelan '17 reading from The Common at a special event in the Mead Art Museum's Rotherwas Room.
Sarah Whelan ’17 reads from The Common during a special event in the Mead Art Museum's Rotherwas Room.

Every issue of The Common is heavily influenced by Amherst student interns, who carefully read and critique submissions and correspond with authors. “Having a direct link to so many authors whose work I admire is one of the best parts of the internship,” says English major Sarah Whelan ’17. “In a world that seems as hostile as ever to creativity for creativity’s sake,” she says, “being in a position to give an author a platform to share their voice is something that I have cherished.”

Nayereh Doosti ’18 similarly values the opportunity to be actively involved in reading, critiquing and publishing the magazine’s global contributors. She especially enjoys learning about and being in touch with contemporary international authors and translators, and practicing her translation skills. “Overall,” she says, “it’s been incredible to be able to get more involved with the literary scene in and beyond Amherst.”

This summer, The Common launched a new look for its website, which Acker says was designed with the magazine’s contributors in mind. “Our Arabic authors, for example, have inconsistent access to the internet,” she says, “so a well-designed, easy to navigate site that showcases their work, online and for free, is crucial to their reaching an American audience.” With hundreds of unique visits per day, the website is also helping the magazine foster a global, online audience.

To learn more about The Common and read excerpts from the current and past issues, visit www.thecommononline.org.


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For the summer 2017 issue of Amherst magazine, Acker penned a personal essay about devoting an entire issue of The Common to contemporary Arabic fiction.