M. Sophia Newman, MPH, is a writer who has been published in The Atlantic, Religion & Politics, Vice, Vox, Tin House, Lithub, and elsewhere, and whose work often focuses on health, science, and religion.
Well before any well-meaning literary agents at cocktail parties told her it was impossible, Sophia embarked on a life filled with almost every kind of nonfiction writing. First, she wrote technical metadata for Illinois Medicaid while composing lectures for a Zen Buddhist Temple on the side (2011-2012). Then she published those lectures as personal essays around the time she embarked on a Fulbright fellowship to Bangladesh (2012-2013). There, she taught academic writing to graduate students from fourteen countries and published five global global health research studies.
After a nine-story factory called Rana Plaza collapsed atop some 3,500 workers in April 2013, she published op-eds on public health angles of the atrocity. Soon she'd parlayed this into a full-fledged career in journalism. Over the next three years (2013-2016), Sophia reported on violence in South Africa and the US with support from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, from West Africa for Beacon and Pacific Standard Magazine, and in post-earthquake Nepal via an Awesome Foundation Grant for Journalism. From February 2015 to February 2016, she also wrote a column, Health Horizons, for Next City on global health innovations.
In addition, Sophia continued to write on religion, often in a journalistic mode. In 2014, Sophia received a Shannon Fellowship from the International Thomas Merton Society at Bellarmine University to report on environmental issues and religion. She continued this work at a 2015 writer's retreat at Collegeville Institute for Cultural and Ecumenical Research, where she drafted pieces on Thomas Merton as well as liberation theology.
At Collegeville, fellow writers also encouraged her first forays into creative nonfiction. She's since made it her focus, and has been named a finalist for the AWP WC&C Scholarship Competition (2016), Rumpus' the Payton Prize (2017), and Ruminate Magazine's VanderMey Nonfiction Prize (2017), as well as Write a House (2015).
In addition to writing, Sophia holds a position in the global health field. Sophia's formal education include a bachelor's degree in cell and molecular biology (Tulane University, 2009), a master's degree in public health (University of Illinois at Chicago, 2012), and a certificate in global mental health from the Harvard Program on Refugee Trauma (2015-16). On her off time, Sophia likes to take ballet classes.