Here at Affinity Magazine, we’re ringing in the new year (and the new decade!) by reflecting on what we’ve accomplished and achieved over the past year. And there’s no better way to celebrate than to honor the young voices that have shaped our magazine! We’re starting off a new year of controversial headlines and provocative opinions by spotlighting Mia Boccher as our January Writer of the Month. Mia is a longtime Affinity writer whose passion and dedication have helped elevate Affinity to where it is today.
For over two years, Mia has been an integral part of our team. She’s penned 70 stories for us, passion oozing from every word. Each story she writes is more passionate, well-written, and eye-opening than the one before. Her op-eds have made us reflect on our perceptions of our world and ourselves. (Did you know that a holy mosque had a fire on the same day that Notre Dame burned, but received significantly less media coverage? Or have you ever considered how we talk about Epstein much more often than his victims?)
Writers like Mia are exactly why we continue to work for the Affinity team. Affinity’s whole purpose is to share authentic teen perspectives, and we believe that perspectives like Mia’s must be shared with the world.
We’ve had the opportunity to share Mia’s thoughts and opinions on the world around her — now we’re sharing her personal story! We hope you enjoy reading about Mia — her hopes, dreams, influences, and aspirations — as much as we did.
Alice Ao: What is your background, and how has it influenced your writing?
Mia Boccher: I’m a 19-year-old college student majoring in Journalism and Political Science with a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality at my school, Rutgers University. I grew up raised by a single mom and as a big sister in New Jersey.
Mental illness, queerness, and politics have been consistent factors in my life and coming to Affinity, I believed that I could talk about these topics in an educational and interesting way to provide some discussion and have some articles posted that people feel a connection to. I’ve always wanted to post articles that were talking points and discuss issues I felt I had never discussed or been educated on as a young teen.
AA: You’re one of our most prolific and passionate writers! What sparked this passion for writing?
MB: I’ve always liked to write. When I was little, I had a little book with ideas of new inventions I could patent. I’d always be scribbling in it. I think recognizing the power of words has completely made me love writing. I’m an avid reader, and having this knowledge that words can create worlds and characters and arguments and emotions is beautiful to me.
The fact that my words can share people’s stories and information to provoke a conversation is one of the best feelings to me. I will always be grateful for this experience and platform to let me touch people’s lives.
AA: What’s the hardest challenge you’ve ever had to overcome?
MB: I’ve had to change the way I think about myself. As a person with mental illness who is in therapy and a support program, I’ve recognized that the only way for me to be able to function is to change the thoughts I have on taking care of myself, not putting pressure on myself, and giving up all that control to someone else. Without changing the way I think, I’m stuck in this cycle of depression and stress.
AA: Which causes and issues are you especially passionate about?
MB: I’m incredibly passionate about mental illness and disability as someone with PTSD, depression, and anxiety. I’ve been affected by mental illness with family members suffering from substance abuse, depression, and eating disorders. Being educated on this is important to me because maybe other people can get help sooner.
Another passion is the environment. As a vegetarian leaning more vegan, I recognize the effects of what I’m putting in my body and how the world is affected. Climate change scares the crap out of me and having this material on it should scare anyone.
AA: How has college shaped your perspective of life and your role as a writer?
MB: So, college has changed a lot for me. It has made me think more independently, more maturely, and more responsibly than before. I’ll be the first to admit that I was none of those things before entering Rutgers, and I’m so glad that I’ve had this metamorphosis.
As a writer, being on a college campus definitely also gives me more opportunities to learn. I attended a talk at our Hillel House as a reporter, and I ended up being flown out to Israel and Palestine for free! I would have never received that kind of opportunity elsewhere.
AA: What’s your writing process like?
MB: My writing process for Affinity begins with an idea I either saw on social media or on my phone’s news app. Then I begin researching the topic, gathering facts. During this process, I end up opening up my draft page and I start writing. Overall, it takes me four hours to write a whole article.
AA: What’s your favorite part of writing for Affinity?
MB: I love being able to publish work that I’m proud of! I’m able to write about topics that are personal to me and watch others interact with my work. It’s incredible.
AA: What’s your favorite article you’ve ever written for Affinity?
MB: My favorite article I’ve written is probably my article on human trafficking or on Kamala Harris/Pete Buttigieg. I learned so much researching these articles and I think publishing them is huge. I still talk to people about them today!
AA: What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned from writing for Affinity?
MB: I’ve gotten to learn from the super intelligent and passionate people who work with me here. I’ve had talks with writers and editors on the political page, and on our general page, I’ve seen so many posts on things occurring in our world and observations from it. This team is so well informed and well-meaning.
AA: Outside of Affinity, what else do you write?
MB: I write for my school paper, The Daily Targum. I’m a general news writer there. I also write for BRNZED Magazine, which is an online mag like Affinity. I write fiction in leather journals that I share with my friends, and I actually have a published book called Outgrowing Writing Wrongs that is available on Amazon! So, I try to write wherever I can.
AA: What other things are you involved in at your school?
MB: I’m involved in student government, being an LGBT representative there. I’m also involved in monitoring all the LGBT clubs, additionally serving Treasurer for a female-identifying LGBT club. Of course, I’m involved in the Professional Journalism Club and in Alzheimer’s Buddies, where I go visit people with Alzheimer’s once a week. I’m pretty busy, but I love going to my clubs and being connected on campus.
AA: Favorite guilty pleasure?
MB: Eating vegan food and chocolate in bed watching a movie. It can’t get better than that, honestly.
AA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
MB: The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was by a professor. Get educated. Don’t open your mouth on a topic you don’t know about. Gather the facts, then go off. I think you can see that in my writing.
AA: Now it’s your turn to give some advice! What tips do you have for new and/or young writers?
MB: Take it easy. Don’t expect to write the most beautiful article or story in one take. It takes multiple revisions, edits, even some constructive criticism before your work may be deemed coherent and finished. Take this criticism with grace and get back to writing!
AA: What advice do you have for incoming college freshmen?
MB: For incoming college freshman, breathe. Everyone is anxious coming into this new environment, everyone wants to make new friends, and everyone has no clue what they’re doing. Take the classes, clubs, and parties as they come. Expect truly nothing but get involved as much as you can, you’ll find yourself having the time of your life.
AA: Finally, what are your future plans?
MB: I plan to graduate college with a Master’s and then do some political work in New York or D.C. for a news outlet. In the future, I’d love to be a foreign correspondent, situated in places where I can speak French like Africa or Algiers.
I also aim to learn Spanish and Arabic so I can diversify. But, at the end of the day I just want to write about people whose lives are being affected by something.
You can join Mia and dozens of other teen writers by becoming a staff writer for Affinity! Applications will be posted soon.
All images are courtesy of Mia Boccher