The core of Affinity Magazine’s reputation, quality and presence within the world today comes from the many outspoken teen voices and minds that are a part of it. To honor those teen voices, Affinity has chosen an individual to honor for the month of August that is one of many that make the publication so unique and close to our hearts. This month, the editors of Affinity have chosen Marielle Devereaux, who is a 19-year-old rising sophomore at Columbia College Chicago, where she studies journalism as well as graphic design and gender/sexuality studies!
Since joining our publication about two years ago, Mari has proven that she is a strong writer and that she can cover the scope of multiple categories well. No matter what she writes about, we at Affinity know it will be a good one when she submits it. And she never stops (seriously, check out this list of her articles here!), always pushing to share her voice to the world and her community.
We sat down with Mari to learn more about her life, her passion for writing and how she gets inspired.
Maddie Loy: What first sparked your passion for writing, and how do you think your background and where you grew up has influenced your writing?
Mari Devereaux: I’ve been in love with writing and storytelling for as long as I could remember. From a young age, I would write stories about animals and superheroes, and English was always my favorite subject. In high school, I began writing more poetry, and I joined the yearbook alongside my school paper. I loved how it was easier to communicate through writing in a way that wasn’t possible for me through talking. Like Alexander Hamilton, I wrote my way out of every dark time in my life; through words, I found hope and light. I have always been an avid reader as well. I like to take inspiration from words in books and articles and apply them to my own creative work and my internal processing.
It was only my senior year that I realized I wanted to be a journalist, and for me, it was the perfect merging of two things: helping people and my passion for writing.
I think part of the reason I feel called to journalism isn’t necessarily because of where I grew up or how I grew up, but the era we are all growing up and learning to survive in. I see so much power in the words and actions of young people, finally, for the first time now that they have the proper platforms to have a voice. And now with the internet, it’s possible to see all the injustice in the world. It’s something that has become increasingly hard to ignore. So I would say growing up in a time where kids are allowed and encouraged to make positive changes with their voices and activism (the Parkland kids, Malala, Mari Copeny, and anti-gun/violence activists) and recognizing the importance of using privilege and power for good, influenced me to become a journalist.
Especially in dire times, in a world where justice and the truth are under threat.
ML: When did you first start writing for Affinity, and what interested you about it?
MD: I started at Affinity during my senior year of high school. At first, I was just interested in the chance to get some practice writing articles pertaining to issues I was passionate about. I wanted some experience and work for my portfolio. But it quickly became about so much for than that.
When I first came to Affinity, I remember sitting in class, listening to an acquaintance of mine talking about how his friends were being sexually assaulted and extorted by this former Broadway voice coach. And for the first time, it hit me. It clicked on like a lightbulb in my head. I didn’t have to just sit there anymore and say “sorry” over and over again, feeling numb. For the first time, ever, I could finally do something about it. I felt the power surge in me as I ran to my computer, the words flowing out of me, ready to put an abuser, a rapist in his place and find justice for these fellow teenagers being abused. It was a turning point because I realized the power words could have, the influence, the ability to reconcile people with the consequences for their actions, and exalt people for their good deeds. I could tell the victims’ stories and tear this rich and powerful man down from his pedestal. It didn’t matter anymore that I wasn’t an adult, or that I didn’t have money and social status. I had my words and a platform.
Long story short, I was interested in the chance to speak truth and justice, challenging those in power on an international stage, which is what Affinity is, with writers and editors from around the world. I was intrigued by the fact that there was an entire magazine for teenagers, and a place where we could have a voice and have influence. A place where our words could matter for once and have real, lasting impact. I had never witnessed any publication like Affinity before, and the idea of a diverse group of Gen-Z youth having somewhere to speak out really drew me in.
ML: What’s your writing process like?
MD: Well, first, I have to find a topic that I’m very passionate about. Or else the ideas and my writing won’t flow as well. I need to be invested in the subject and feel like what I am writing about will matter to people.
Then, I aggregate a lot of different sources pertaining to that specific topic, and the context surrounding it. This means having a billion and one tabs open while I read other news articles and database entries. For me, reading up on and studying the topic I’m trying to talk about is essential. I need to be educated enough to cover it and simplify it for readers. A good rule of thumb is, if it doesn’t fully make sense to you, it won’t make sense to readers. It’s never a good idea to have an opinion on or write about something you don’t understand.
I’ve spent entire nights learning about the Russian electoral system, foreign intelligence agencies and conflicts overseas. I love researching and learning new things that I would normally have no logical reason to know. Plus it’s good to focus on places, people and subjects that don’t always concern or directly affect you. Because maybe they could concern or affect you.
During this time it’s important to acquire diverse sources from multiple sides of a subject, trying not to be too biased one way or the other. But there is a difference between being neutral and being objective. I’ll often turn to people in my life to have critical discussions about beliefs, or turn to my research where I find different viewpoints that can be used in articles calling for differing opinions or voices.
Next, I think about how to format the article; what information do readers care about, what should they know first, and how long should the article be? You don’t want to drag on forever or leave readers wanting to know more.
Lastly, I try and find content, whether it be videos, photos or tweets to engage the reader. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Overall, it usually takes me anywhere from 5-8 hours to write a standard Affinity article, most of which I do in one sitting, on my bed with my earbuds in and some calming music. Everyone knows not to mess up my flow when I’m writing, haha.
ML: You tend to publish articles in a lot of different categories, but what is your favorite category to write for and what makes it your favorite?
MD: It’s hard to say. I usually write for the main site rather than arts and culture. However, I try to switch up what I’m writing about so that I don’t get repetitive and can step outside my comfort zone and push my self.
I prefer topics that are geared towards social justice, though. At my core, I love advocacy journalism, and having my writing be for a cause; to empower people and educate them on certain topics.
Whether it’s something pertaining to the LGBT community, women’s rights or issues surrounding race, those are all close to my heart and things I feel like I need to write about to give people a voice who don’t have access to a platform. I want marginalized communities to feel empowered by and resonate with my writing.
I also don’t like to be so America-centric or see things only with a Western point of view. I try and focus on intersectional issues dealing with government, sexuality, race, economics, healthcare, politics and policies in countries across the world. Because I know there are people hurting everywhere, and there are also people doing good things in other nations.
Op-eds are also kind of fun to do once in a while. They’re very therapeutic, and they are an informed and nuanced alternative to ranting into the void. Op-eds are a way to speak your mind and take a stand on issues you care about, rather than hiding behind the neutrality that can characterize journalistic work.
ML: What’s your favorite part about writing for Affinity?
MD: The people who write to me, saying my words have made a difference in their personal lives, and that they appreciate my writing. Just knowing that what I’m doing matters and has an impact, is incredible. It’s reward enough for my work.
I’ve been contacted by a number of people thanking me for certain articles, and their validation, in turn, validates me to keep pursuing this career path.
My mentality is, if I can help just one person by informing them, changing their viewpoint or empowering them, it will all have been worth it. I just want to be a force for good, and Affinity allows me to do that
ML: Do you have a favorite article that you’ve written for Affinity?
MD: Truly, my articles are like my children- it’s hard to pick a favorite because I love them all for different reasons. But I will say I did particularly enjoy writing about incels (if only for the reactions of everyone who read it), Janelle Monae’s song Pynk (an iconic and queer must-listen, if you’re interested) and the article reviewing the best LGBT books (IMHO).
ML: Do you write anywhere outside of Affinity?
MD: Yes! Last year I was a correspondent with the Organization for World Peace and I submitted some articles to Chicago Talks. Currently, I’m writing for a local paper in my hometown for the summer.
And as for next year, I was just offered a spot on my college’s school newspaper, The Chronicle! I was lucky enough to write a few pieces for them last semester as well.
ML: Are there any other styles outside of journalism that you enjoy writing?
MD: I love writing poetry and short stories. They always help me untangle my thoughts and simplify how I’m feeling. It’s easier too, because there’s no strict formatting or objective. It’s all about tuning in to your inner monologue and letting everything come out in a creative and constructive way. It’s healing to have no boundaries in writing and what you can accomplish with it.
ML: Do you have any advice for new/young writers?
MD: Write about what you’re passionate about. Wait for things to move you, and don’t try to churn out articles just to have some content. The good news is there is so much going on in the world that it is practically impossible to run out of things to be passionate about. Focus on whatever it is that sparks your interest and drive. Whether that’s the human aspect of a story, nature, music or art.
The field of journalism, or even writing in general, can seem daunting. There are long hours, people will often hate you without knowing you or your intentions and they might accuse you of being biased or untruthful.
But at the end of the day, remember why you are doing what you do. Do you want people to feel seen? Maybe you want to feel seen. Or maybe your goal is to educate, to emote, to be a check on power, corruption and lies. Whatever it might be, do the job because you love the reason why you’re doing it. Make sure you don’t lose your purpose.
Marielle is one of just many teen writers who write to share their voice with the world through Affinity. Check out her past work here!
If you want to join the Affinity team and share your voice like Mari, apply to be a staff writer here!