(April 23, 2022) Manjeet Mann has been riding on the success of her books. Her debut novel Run Rebel was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal 2021, and won the CILIP Carnegie Shadowers’ Choice Award, the UKLA Award, Diverse Book Award and Sheffield Children’s Book Award. It was also a Guardian best book of 2020. Her second novel The Crossing won the 2021 Costa Children’s Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Book Prize 2022, and the Carnegie Medal 2022. Her debut picture book Small’s Big Dream got published in March 2022.
Manjeet, an actress for close to two decades, travelled extensively all-around UK touring for her plays. Films and TV, and even a stint in radio, Manjeet has a creative surge that always shines. She is the former associate artist with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Soho Writers Lab and Kali Theatre’s Writers lab. Payback, The Other Eden, She’s the bitchy one, Flying Solo, A dangerous woman and Starting Out – all plays she wrote and acted in give you a glimpse of her repertoire.
Acting was this multi-talented artist’s first love. The Kent, England resident always wanted to be an actor. “I was in every single school play from about five years old till 18. When I left school, I studied drama at university. Then I moved to London, and got myself an acting agent, and started acting. Writing came a lot later, I always wanted to tell other people’s stories first, and bring other people’s world and words to life, rather than my own,” says Manjeet in a conversation with Global Indian.
Understanding the teenage voice
An affinity towards young adults, writing for teenagers is special for Mann. She attempts to empower young minds through her book. “My teenage self had many stories to tell. I understand the teenage voice. So, when it came to writing books, the teenage voice just came out, and what I wrote became suitable for a young audience,” she avers.
So…this happened! Thank you so much for all the support and lovely messages! It really does mean the world! Thank you @CMcCullough26 @penguinplatform the #WriteNow scheme @FelicityTrew and all the judges and shadowers @CILIPCKG . I’m so grateful. ❤️❤️❤️ #CKG21 https://t.co/Y7sZorodLj
— Manjeet Mann (insta: @manjeet_k_mann) (@ManjeetMann) June 16, 2021
She mines her life, voracious reading and observing the world for her ideas. The theme of her award-winning book, The Crossing, came from her environment, “where I’m living now is a coast, and the refugee crisis is a big talking point. That has seeped into the book.”
The inspiration of her first book, Run Rebel, is from the working-class town she grew up in, and its people.
Contemplating the year gone & the year ahead.Feeling really grateful for all the support.I often feel like a massive failure so this is just a reminder to myself that I did OK. Last year was really tricky so going into 2022 just trying to be kinder to myself. Happy New Year❤️ pic.twitter.com/UzChqKs37K
— Manjeet Mann (insta: @manjeet_k_mann) (@ManjeetMann) January 1, 2022
The writing process
Four hours of writing in short spurts with a workout to clear her mind, Manjeet is working on her next, cajoling herself to write 1,000 words a day. The award-winning author-actress is sporty, loves boxing and is a registered trainer too. Pilates, open water swimming, running long-distance , she was a personal trainer in the initial years of her career while finding a foothold in acting.
Run the World
She also runs a not-for-profit organisation, Run the World, that evolved naturally (2018), where she intermingles sports and theatre to empower women and girls who have faced hardships. The motley crew meet for sports and creative brainstorming. On the backburner due to the pandemic, she has worked with two groups – domestic abuse survivors and refugees seeking status, in all 100 women, which she hopes to begin again.
Her first group created an audio walk available on Run the World website. The second wrote poems, and narrated poetry on International Women’s Day. Her next, she hopes will be a cookbook. “It’s all about being expressive,” says Manjeet.
Love for India
The youngest of five siblings, her parents moved from a village near Jalandhar to England in the 70s. Born in England, she says, “I remember going on a big family holiday at 14. We saw our village, stayed at my dad’s house. Since then, no family holidays but have backpacked as a tourist in India – north, central and then south, and west. It was absolutely fantastic,” she says.
Fluent in Punjabi – reading and writing, she loves the cuisine. “Nothing can beat Indian food, especially Punjabi food and the diversity in local fare. I love the colours, the Indian wedding – clothes, bangles and saris. I love Bollywood movies,” she gushes, adding that Kajol is her favourite.
Brown representation mattered
Having imbibed the fabric of an Indian living in London, she has special fondness for Meera Sayal (British comedian, writer, actor), who is also from where Mann grew up – West Midlands. “For a long time in the UK, it was difficult to see brown faces on TV, stage, or books. We were not represented. It’s changing now. Growing up, I was mesmerised by her. She inspired me. I think she has inspired a lot of Asian actors and writers more than she probably knows,” says the awe-struck fan who was thrilled that she got to do a play, Behind the Beautiful Forevers with Meera at the National Theatre, and a couple of radio plays. Reminiscing the brilliant experience, she recalls how Meera was supportive, giving good reviews about Manjeet’s work, which was helpful.
Can’t have career in arts – a misconception
The author loves connecting with her muse – thus visiting schools, talking to students, she tries to dispel the myth that a career in the arts is not financially stable. “If you have to go out there, you have to be determined and self-motivated. You have to make your own luck; your own opportunities with consistent hard work,” advices Manjeet who thinks the arts for her does not feel like “work.” “You are your own boss, and you choose your own hours. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she says.
I am VERY excited about this! https://t.co/xmZQGZwz9v
— Manjeet Mann (insta: @manjeet_k_mann) (@ManjeetMann) November 24, 2021
Next book set in India
Her next book is set in India, revealing how she has consultants on her books to ensure she is writing the right thing. “Even though I’m Indian, I’m British Indian, so I am ensuring that the story I’m telling is truthful, real and appropriate,” says the British Indian author-actress who is developing two comedy dramas for TV, and will collaborate with award-winning filmmakers Poulami Basu and CJ Clarke for her next film – Bloodspeaks: Maya the Birth of a Superhero.
Just like her new book, she wants to keep information about her partner, a secret too. “All I can say, he is also a writer and always encourages me to write,” signs off Manjeet.