An interview with Cadence Bambenek, a creative soul mixing her love of words and science

Cadence Bambenek is a lover of words and dystopian novels. Her experience at newspapers has lead her to current position Psychology Today. Her work can be found on her website, and, in this interview, we’ll chat about what makes her amazing.

Hussain: Cadence, let’s start from the ground up. What made you interested in writing?

CB: What made me interested in writing? Reading. I was the little girl with a book and a flashlight under the covers long after my mother instructed me to turn out the lights – for the second time. I mostly loved historical fiction and fantasy novels. Growing up, I saved every quote that spoke to me, wrote bad poetry and song lyrics and daydreamed novel ideas. Simply put, I have always loved words – so much so that writing feels akin to breathing.

Hussain: What lead you to where you are now?

CB: In third grade, a teacher nominated me to attend a young authors conference. Indeed, I was fortunate enough to have teachers encourage my writing for much of my primary education, so that’s where I think I got the notion that pursuing writing as a career was rational. By college, I also knew I enjoyed traveling and photography. That, combined with my propensity for asking a lot of questions, led me to declare a degree in Journalism.

In college, it took some time for me to get my bearings I sampled a lot of different student organizations before finally joining a student organization dedicated to entrepreneurship. Shortly after, I began writing for one of the student newspapers, The Badger Herald, as a campus news reporter. I ultimately became the vice president of Transcend engineering, meaning I was really lugged into different projects and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. And at The Badger Herald, I really enjoyed interviewing professors about their research as a campus reporter, and happily took on the position of Tech Writer for the paper. That same semester, I picked up an internship at the Wisconsin State Journal, and I think it was the combination of experiences that landed me an internship at Business Insider writing about technology last summer. It was an amazing experience writing at a national digital publication that ultimately helped me realize it wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. Last November, a former editor of mine at The Badger Herald who really enjoyed one of the science-focused stories I put together, encouraged me to apply to the NASW travel fellowship to attend the same AAAS conference she had attended a year prior. I applied to the fellowship, was accepted and discovered the world of science writing! Which brought a lot of clarification yet complication to my life.

Hussain:  What is the biggest challenge you face as a science writer right now?

CB: The greatest challenge for me right now is getting my foot in the door. I am about to start my first internship more in the realm of science writing this fall with Psychology Today, which I am excited for. I’m also hoping to try my hand at freelancing and take advantage of my time in New York.
Hussain: What is the biggest challenge facing science writers as a whole? How would you recommend others approach it?

CB: On the whole, I think that conveying to readers that science is an ongoing process and that science writers and scientists alike don’t have all of the answers. We are all, general members of the public included, part of a dialogue about the role of science and technology in our lives.

Hussain: When you’re not writing, what are some personal things do you do to become a better person?

CB: When I’m not writing, I’m probably grabbing coffee with a friend. Or reading a dystopian novel. I also enjoy when I convince myself to go on a run. It has both a therapeutic and empowering effect on me.

Hussain: We’ve talked (very briefly) about how journalism is about putting others first in a way that is selfless and humanitarian. How do you interpret and implement these kinds of motives in your work?

CB: With sources, I am always conscious to accurately represent their story. This is not Nightcrawler, I am not here to profit off of anyone else’s misfortune. I want whoever I interview to be confident in me and my skills and to convey their truth as best I can. To me, writing is so powerful because it’s the opportunity to give people words and concepts to help them understand and articulate their own life experiences.

Hussain: What newspapers and other publications are your favorite to follow and why?

CB: Because I’d like to write for magazines, I primarily focus on those. For my interests, I subscribe to WIRED and Bloomberg Businessweek and read The New Yorker to expose myself to writing unlike anything else. I also love The Atlantic, Quartz and the Science of Us section in New York Magazine. Right now, I’m also focusing on branching out and reading more niche publications.

Hussain:  Name one book everyone should read.

CB: I loved Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and also Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. One is fiction while the other is nonfiction, and the stories take place on the other side of the world from the other, but both do an amazing job exploring the cultural context of the lives of their characters. It is books like that that make you look at the world in a new way.

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