(Amherst, Mass. November 2, 2023)—The award-winning, international literary journal The Common announced today that Sam Spratford ’24 will be the inaugural recipient of the David Applefield ’78 Fellowship. The fellowship, the magazine’s first endowed student internship, was established in 2022 by a group of friends and family organized by David Whitman ’78, in honor of his late classmate and roommate, who was a literary polymath, international activist, media entrepreneur, and the founder of Frank, an eclectic English-language literary magazine based in Paris.
The David Applefield ’78 Fellowship funds one student intern annually with exceptional editorial and research skills to work alongside the magazine’s other student interns and magazine staff on The Common’s editorial and promotional work. Among other responsibilities, the Applefield Fellow will research special projects, support the magazine’s podcast, and teach in the summer Young Writers Program for high school students. In addition, the Applefield Fellow will investigate and draw inspiration from Applefield’s literary archives, which are held in Frost Library and include manuscripts, correspondence, and interviews with a number of prominent writers, such as William Burroughs and Jorge Luis Borges.
During his years at Amherst, Applefield developed a love of literary experimentation, wrote poetry, edited a student literary magazine, hosted a WAMH talk radio show called “Poet’s Corner,” and served as a features editor for the The Amherst Student. His attraction to idiosyncratic literary forms and innovative writing would become the touchstones of his editorial philosophy at Frank.
Applefield had great faith that the connections fostered by writing could cultivate curiosity and tolerance and help energize a more empathetic politics. In addition to highlighting international writers in Frank, he turned toward diplomatic and humanitarian work starting in the 1990s, using his perch as a special representative for the Financial Times for sub-Saharan Africa to promote economic development in Francophone Africa, build momentum for anti-malaria efforts, and support clean energy, among other initiatives. Applefield would go on to found his own publishing house, Kiwai Media, centered around these core ideals, and in his final years, he channeled those aspirations into a run for U.S. Congress from his home state of New Jersey. Applefield died on July 8, 2020.
Sam Spratford, a new addition to The Common team, is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Amherst’s student-run newspaper, The Amherst Student, and is writing a senior thesis in the Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought department. She researched and wrote a profile on Applefield’s protean literary career as a novelist, poet, editor, and media entrepreneur that will appear in Issue 26 of The Common, which is dedicated to Applefield’s memory.
Spratford thanks the more than 50 friends, classmates, and family of David Applefield who contributed to the fellowship fund for their generosity and trust, as well as the magazine’s staff for their mentorship. “I’m grateful to be part of a lively literary community where my passion for writing and editing can flourish,” Spratford said.
On behalf of Applefield’s family and friends, David Whitman added: “We are so pleased by Sam’s appointment as the inaugural Applefield Fellow. She’s just the kind of student with a love for writing, a yen for observation, and a hunger for exploring literature that David would have loved to support — and that the Fellowship seeks to promote now and in years to come.”
About The Common
The Common is a print and digital literary journal based at Amherst College. Issues of The Common include fiction, essays, poems and images that embody a strong sense of place. Since its debut in 2011, The Common has published more than 1,600 authors from 54 countries. Pieces from The Common have been awarded the O. Henry Prize, the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Award for Emerging Writers, and have been selections and notable mentions in multiple genres in the prestigious Best American series. Each spring, The Common features a rich portfolio of Arabic fiction in translation, introducing English-language readers to new and exciting voices from across the Middle East and North Africa. The journal’s editorial vision and design have been praised in The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, Slate, The Millions, Orion Magazine, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Beyond mentoring undergraduates, The Common supports educators from high school to graduate levels through The Common in the Classroom and hosts summer writing courses for high school students via The Common Young Writers Program. Read more about the magazine’s programs here.