Editors’ Note: Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity. This article was written by Alice Ao and Maddie Loy, editors at Affinity Magazine.
Within Affinity Magazine’s amazingly talented and dedicated community of young, powerful writers, all of the writers’ unique voices and talents truly make the publication what it is today. Every month, the editorial team decides to honor one of those writers who have truly brought something fantastic to the community and the magazine.
This month, we’re putting the spotlight on Christine Shatrowsky, whose unique and in-depth articles focusing on real life and health have brought a fun and fresh perspective to the categories and publication!
Christine works with the International Youth Neuroscience Association while consistently writing articles for Affinity. Her passion for health and science definitely comes across in her writing, and every time we see an article submitted by her, we can’t wait to read what she has in store for us.
“It’s very common for me to see multiple articles submitted for review by Christine even when I’d just recently published her work! It’s absolutely crazy how hard she works and how fantastic of a writer she is,” Affinity editor Maddie Loy says.
Some of our favorites have been her articles about the contest of paper towels versus hand dryers, dying from a broken heart, and even unusual phobias (and that’s just scratching the surface of her unique articles!). We know Christine’s creativity will continue to inspire more and more favorites in the future.
We sat down with Christine to ask her about her life, passions, work ethic, and her scientific and creative mind that makes her the writer that she is!
Alice Ao: Here at Affinity, we know you as the girl who writes about health and medicine! What sparked this passion for you?
Christine Shatrowsky: Growing up, I actually wanted to be some sort of detective or private investigator because I loved solving problems, mysteries, and logical puzzles. It did take me awhile, but I discovered that my fondness for problem-solving and mysteries also applied to the medical field.
What shifted my interests more towards medicine were two factors: the show Grey’s Anatomy (not an uncommon experience, I’m sure), and my experience tearing my ACL. Grey’s Anatomy and my injury showed me that more than just family doctors and nurses comprised the medical field; rather, it was orthopedists, x-ray technicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, dermatologists, cardiologists—you get the gist.
My freshman year of high school, I enrolled in my school’s STEM program with a focus on biomedical science. The coursework and labs introduced me to the complexity of the human body, and I found it to be incredibly fascinating. From there, I started seeking out opportunities to learn more about medicine. I ended up finding my niche for neuroscience and psychology through my original research in neurogenomics as well as a behavioral health internship I completed.
AA: You’re a STEM person – what inspired your interest in writing?
CS: If I’m being honest, a lot of what sparked my passion for writing was frustration. As an underclassman in high school unfamiliar with a lot of medical jargon, I found it unnecessarily difficult to understand scientific studies.
When medical or scientific journalists covered these studies and tried putting them into layman’s terms, I found that these articles were written in a way that was unrelatable and even patronizing, especially when their subjects concerned teens. I noticed this gap in medical journalism, specifically the lack of publicized teen perspective on the health-related topics that affect teenagers the most.
I wound up coming across Affinity on social media, pretty blown away by the recognition it received as a youth-run publication. I wasn’t quite sure how I would even start to address some of the topics covered by medical journalists, or if my interest in medical journalism would fit into a magazine centered around politics and social justice, but I applied as a staff writer anyway. My passion for writing came about over time as I gained confidence and validation as a writer, and now I truly look forward to writing more articles for Affinity.
AA: What’s your writing process for Affinity like?
CS: My writing process can be a little messy. I come up with topics for future articles all the time, usually influenced by something I’ve come across in school or in the news. I keep a list of them on my phone that I’m constantly updating.
I don’t have a cut-and-dried process—sometimes, I’ll write three articles in a week, and other weeks, I won’t write any. Generally, though, I take a couple of days to decide which topic to cover in a new article and start to read up on it. I try to be as thorough as I can when I look over sources to make sure I don’t misreport or misinterpret anything. When I feel like I have a strong understanding of the topic and a general direction I’d like to take, I begin writing.
I prefer to write the original draft of the article all at once, usually at my local public library. It has a lovely study room with plenty of space (and outlets!), and I designate this area only for writing articles, which helps me get in the right mindset to write. I can only truly focus in either complete silence or while listening to a particular Spotify playlist that I’ve found (it’s called “lofi hip hop beats” by Chillhop Music).
When I’m finished composing the article, I come back to it the next day to fix any grammatical errors and improve the flow of my writing. I then submit it for review, wait for feedback from an editor, and apply any corrections that I receive. From research to the final edits, producing an article usually takes me between 5 and 8 hours.
AA: What’s your favorite part of writing for Affinity?
CS: I love learning and writing about medicine, but I have to say my favorite part of writing for Affinity is giving voice to teens in an underrepresented area of journalism and helping to destigmatize health-related topics. I really feel like I’m making an impact through Affinity.
I also really love how validating it is when an article is published and all of the time and effort put into perfecting it is recognized. I’ve grown to love putting out articles, and I’m proud to belong to a community of similarly passionate young writers.
AA: You’ve written so many articles for Affinity – which one’s your favorite?
CS: This is a tough question! If I had to pick just one, I’d say it’s “The Top 6 Apps for Mental Health.” This one was particularly fun to write and much more hands-on than my other articles, which were more research-based. To write this piece, I downloaded thirty or so mental health-related apps and took a few days to play around with them. I still use a few of them on the daily, like StressScan, which estimates your stress level, and Remente, which helps you keep track of your satisfaction in different areas of your life like relationships or productivity.
AA: What have you learned from writing for Affinity?
CS: Writing-wise, I’ve learned how to create catchy headlines and a logically consistent flow of writing to keep readers engaged. I’ve figured out how to be creative with my topics and turn something as everyday as laughter into an article. I’ve learned how to reason my way through an article on a new topic, how to make my reading less objective and more personal, something that can be difficult for a more science-oriented person to do.
On a more personal level, Affinity has taught me how to venture outside of my comfort zone and address “uncomfortable” or stigmatized topics like STDs and periods. I’ve learned how to accept when an article gets rejected, and how to embrace my interests and share them with others in an engaging way.
AA: You’ve been a writer for Affinity for over a year now! What advice do you have for new and/or young writers?
CS: Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, regardless of your passions. It took me awhile to decide to apply to Affinity, as I was worried whether my ideas would be recognized by a non-scientific publication. But I was accepted, and here I am!
AA: What other things are you involved in at your school?
CS: Most of what I’m involved in at my school is science-based, although there are a few exceptions.
I’m part of my school’s Project Lead the Way biomedical track. I lead my school’s Future Medical Professionals Club, Psi Alpha National Honor Society chapter, and Psychology and Neuroscience Club. This past year, I won the Southern Maryland Regional BrainBee (a neuroscience competition for high school students), and advanced to compete at the USA National BrainBee. I’m also a member of my school’s Envirothon, and we won our local competition and made it to the 2019 Maryland state competition.
Outside of science, I play softball on my school’s varsity team. I help tutor other students and volunteer at school events. I hold office in my school’s National Honor Society chapter and held office in my school’s Chick-fil-a Leader Academy.
AA: What are your future plans?
CS: I’m currently in the process of applying to colleges. I’m not exactly sure where I’m headed yet, but I will probably end up majoring in neuroscience and minoring in psychology or Spanish. After college, I plan to attend medical school and eventually become a neurologist or a neurosurgeon. I’d love to do neuroscience and psychology research and journalism on the side, hopefully using my experience at Affinity to guide me.
You can find Christine’s past work here.
Want to write for Affinity like Christine? Applications for staff writer positions will open up soon!
All images courtesy of Christine Shatrowsky