Over the years, Affinity Magazine has been lucky to have been home to hundreds of young teen voices from around the world. These teen voices, which bring fresh perspectives and new ideas to light, have made Affinity the bold, passionate, and always controversial publication that it is today.
We’re now highlighting some of these incredible teen voices with our Writer of the Month series. Our February Writer of the Month is Kat Falacienski! On top of balancing her studies as a high schooler in Colorado, Kat is a gun control advocate, an environmental activist, and of course, a top politics writer at Affinity. Every time we see Kat’s name in the byline, we’re ready to read an article brimming with passion and defiance. She’s written about the anti-vaxxer movement and local gun regulation among many other topics, and for the past few months, she’s been extensively covering the impeachment and the Democratic primary.
We are truly inspired by Kat’s passion for politics, activism, and inspiring change. We had the chance to sit down with Kat and discuss her story, inspiration, interests, and more.
Alice Ao: What is your background, and how has it influenced your writing?
Kat Falacienski: I grew up in Colorado, and I have every intention of staying there. Colorado has heavily influenced my knowledge of politics because it’s such a paradoxical state: we legalized marijuana, we have mail-in ballots that make voting easy, and our economy is booming.
At the same time, housing in Denver and Boulder is quickly becoming unaffordable, our public education funding has dropped below that of Mississippi, and the TABOR amendment has made raising taxes almost impossible.
We have sparkling achievements besides gaping shortcomings. Basically, Colorado has taught me that no matter how progressive a society seems, it still has problems that are worth addressing.
AA: What sparked your passion for writing?
KF: I have a mountain of ideas in my head that grows by the second, and I have little choice but to get some of it out. It’s also much easier for me to articulate myself in writing than in speech, and I have much more freedom to express myself when I’m writing than when I’m speaking. As a result, I’ve been writing for fun since I learned to read.
AA: What sparked your passion for politics?
KF: I cared about what was happening in the world from a very young age, so it was logical for me to pursue politics. I rarely liked “small talk,” preferring instead to ask my parents about libertarianism or executive orders. I also began fantasizing about voting while I was still in elementary school, as I badly wanted to have a say in all of the heavy topics I was learning about.
My passion for politics is also rooted in fear. There are so many ways that politics can go wrong, and the least I can do is write about what’s happening. One of the most important things I’ve ever learned is that politics is not just a game: my life, and the lives of others, are dictated in part by politics. Political journalism is more important now than ever.
AA: What advice do you have for new and/or young writers?
KF: Read. I know it’s difficult to read for fun in high school because you’re stressed, you have responsibilities pulling you every which way, and when you actually get to read, you may spend five minutes analyzing a simile or sentence structure because that’s what you’ve been taught to do in English class! While critical analysis is important, so too is reading to absorb. Let yourself appreciate a style of writing without rushing to critique it.
When you write, take the opportunity to do whatever you want. Since you’re not famous and you don’t have an editor or publisher watching you (yet), you can write anything and not have to worry about what others will think of it. You don’t have that freedom as a professional writer. Take some time to figure out what you want to write—and what you’re good at writing.
Lastly, if you start a long-term writing project, like a novel, stick with it until the end. When the finished product isn’t perfect (because it won’t be), that’s okay. What’s more important is that you got it done.
AA: What’s your writing process like?
KF: It depends on what I’m writing. Sometimes I spend hours, or even days, running an idea through my head before I even begin to write. My Affinity process is much quicker: I figure out what I’m focusing on, formulate a few key points, I research and take notes, and my notes become the article. The hardest part for me has been the “few key points” bit: I have a tendency to keep writing and writing with no end in sight.
AA: What’s your favorite article you’ve ever written for Affinity?
KF: I loved reading part of the Mueller report and writing this article on Russian trolls and bots on social media. It was both fascinating and alarming how the Russians had managed to fool so many people, no matter their background or party affiliation. Their operation was so successful, in fact, that they haven’t stopped—they’re already trying to influence the 2020 election.
AA: What have you learned from writing for Affinity?
KF: I have learned a great deal about both politics and the news media. What with the increased dominance of the Internet, news has increasingly become more focused on entertaining the audience. As much as I understand the value of keeping readers engaged, I try to deliver information whether it pleases people or not. I love the less flashy parts of politics, and I think it’s important that other people know about them too if they want to understand how the government affects their lives.
AA: Outside of Affinity, what else do you write?
KF: I write whatever comes to mind. I’ve written everything from an analysis of five hours of impeachment hearings to the sacred text of a fictional religion that worships frogs.
AA: What are some causes/issues that you are especially passionate about?
KF: As someone who lives on Earth, I’m passionate about climate change. I’ve gone to various climate strikes, in which there was anywhere from one person (me) to a thousand. I’m also looking to get involved with the Denver/Boulder chapter of the Sunrise Movement.
In addition, as someone who has inhabited public spaces in the United States, I’m passionate about gun control. One of my proudest moments was going to speak at a town hall with Colorado gubernatorial candidates about gun control. I turned to current governor Polis, pulled out a sheet of paper on which I’d written many of the anti-gun-control bills that he had voted for as a senator, and proceeded to list them aloud to him and the audience. The surge of gun-control activism after the Parkland shooting cemented my interest in politics.
AA: What are your future plans?
KF: I want to become an environmental scientist and work for the EPA in Region 8. Specifically, I want to study soil. (If anyone is reading this and asking themselves, “… Soil? Really?”, the role of soil in global climate change is important enough that I’m having to consciously restrain myself from writing several paragraphs about it here. It’s worth a Google).
I also want to write, for a general audience, about the environment and climate change. Scientists aren’t always skilled at communicating their ideas to people without a scientific background, which results in a gap between scientists’ knowledge and public knowledge. For good environmental policy to be made, that gap must be closed. I want to make scientific research more accessible to people, especially policymakers.
AA: Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
KF: Don’t sell yourself short. If you have a talent or a skill, own it. Don’t be shy about it.
Want to write for Affinity like Kat? Keep an eye out for applications, which will be posted soon!
You can read more of Kat’s work here.
All images courtesy of Kat Falacienski