A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Mia Brabham. Mia is currently a writer for Shondaland and serves as a board member for the James Madison University Alumni Association. I am in the student chapter for JMUAA and was lucky enough to network with the entire board of directors. Upon talking with Mia for one minute, I knew I wanted to form a connection with this particular alumni for many reasons. One: she was as excited to meet me as I was to meet her. Two: she’s a writer who is passionate about her job and I happen to be a student passionate about writing. Three: she sparked so much emotion and excitement from me that I had to follow up to learn more about writing, life, and JMU from her. So, I asked her to do an interview with me.
Mia is originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia. She knew she wanted to stay in state and she knew she wanted to study film, but she was never sure about JMU. She did some research and found out more about the SMAD program and it sounded like a great fit for her! Mia became a SMAD major with a minor in creative writing. By the end of her four years (graduated in 2016) she had fallen absolutely in love with JMU and says, “It was the best decision of my life.” She realized her love for SMAD when taking a class about critical thinking in the media taught by Alexander Leidholt, who funny enough was the exact same teacher for the exact same class I took two years ago. Mia is always thinking critically about media, stories, experiences, and anything that pops into her mind. She has always known she loved entertainment, storytelling, and writing. She specifically said, “I knew I wanted to be a writer from the moment I could read.” She spoke with me about the way writing can be so powerful and move you in certain ways. Mia says she always saw herself in characters and would make her own stories up all the time. These all contributed to her love of writing which helped to get her to where she is today.
From JMU, she had an internship with E! News, worked at Capital One Arena for Monumental Sports & Entertainment doing video editing, was a Page for NBCUniversal, and eventually ended up freelancing. She soon began producing and ended up doing on-air work as well. She was even able to interview Simone Biles! Her interview can be found at this link: https://www.monumentalsportsnetwork.com/videos/monumental-shorts-stick-it-with-simone
What connected her to Shondaland though, was her previous boss, who had reached out with an opportunity at Shondaland and Mia applied and got the job.
As far as mentors go, she says Jay Varner, a creative writing professor at JMU, is someone who she learned a lot from. Mia was also someone who did things on her own and had that inspiration since she was young. Mia gives that credit to her parents. She says they shaped her into who she was by always being so supportive and encouraging her to chase every dream she had. They are the reasons behind her mindset and the outlooks she has. She was always inspired by their stories, saying “They are warriors.” Mia also agrees that every life experience had an impact on her and the writing that pours out of her.
Personally, I wanted to hear all about what it is like working at Shondaland. Not only is it such an impressive place to land a job, but it seems like an amazing place to work, according to Mia. Her days are always different. She has three editorial meetings a week, structures her own schedule (which she loves doing), and gets to explore topics she is personally interested in. It begins with her pitching the story, then researching it and finding sources, then connecting with the sources and doing interviews, before she actually writes the story which takes about four days. Mia loves to write about entertainment, as well as lifestyle, wellness, and psychology. She wants to explore the reasons behind why people do certain things. She also gets email pitches for her to interview the creators and actors in movies and then write articles on them. She has the freedom to wander into the unknown territory of the human mind. She speaks with many psychologists and therapists when doing research for her articles. Mia says, “She gets to be curious for a living,” and I think that is something so marvelous about writers. They get to dive deep into themselves, other people, experiences, and to make that your living is a dream come true. As of right now, she says her future is with Shondaland. She has never felt like she connected with any other place like she has here. Their views and values are the same. This is the first time she isn’t thinking about “What’s next?” and sees herself there for a long time.
Among all the other wonderful things Mia has on her resume, you will also find she is an author. For seven years, beginning at JMU, she wrote down quotes, thoughts, realizations — really anything she thought of. She then compiled them in her phone calling them “Notes to self.” When Covid hit, she thought about something she always wanted to do: write a book. Mia did countless hours of research on how to self-publish and got started. She put her own twist on this book and wasn’t worried about the amount of quotes she had, but the quality and the meaning behind them. She didn’t keep every one and spent time deciding, rewording, and thinking about them more. “This book is my baby. It is a labor of love,” said Mia. “Ideas would come at me like a train.” Not only is Mia an astonishing writer, but she is also an astounding person. Mia wanted to give back with her book and did so by donating proceeds from the first week it was out to a local Virginia organization called Girls for a Change. I personally read Mia’s book and I have to say it gave me inspiration, new outlooks, and support for things occurring in my life right now. Mia’s book, Note To Self can be bought here: https://www.bymiabrabham.com/note-to-self
Mia says, “There will 1,000% be a sequel,” as she has already begun writing down new ideas. She is always collecting them and will know when the time is right for them to be compiled into another breathtaking book. Mia also plans on one day getting an agent and writing other books.
In 2016, Mia and her best friend Michael had the idea to start a podcast together. The idea didn’t come to fruition until 2020 when they kicked off their podcast, Two in the Morning. During the podcast, they talk about what questions, realizations, or things keep them up at night. For example, “Is it better to be a dreamer or a realist,” and “Is love enough?” She says it helps her to process these questions by sharing a conversation in a safe place. So far there have been two seasons, with a third one coming after a brief hiatus. The podcast can be found at https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/two-in-the-morning/id1541428840
Since I met Mia at a JMUAA Board of Directors event, I had to ask what inspired her to become a part of it. Mia was nominated because she has always been a fan of making change happen. She says, “I have a big mouth and don’t let things go.” Personally, I am the same way and it is so nice to know I am not the only one. She wanted to be part of the change at JMU and knows that she can help make that happen, especially by connecting with students such as myself to gather what needed to be worked on. As a student, I am so thankful to have Mia and other board members like her that are driven to create a better environment and experience, academically and socially, at JMU.
Lastly, I asked Mia for writing advice and life advice. For writing she said, “Always be writing,” but not in the way that you’re forcing it. Write down those ideas that are random and may not make sense. Write down the ending to the personal essay you don’t yet have a beginning for. Write down the three words that popped into your head on the subway. She says to always be observing, getting bored, and thinking. For life advice, she gave me two quotes that have shaped her life. One being from her Mom’s best friend, “You can always take a U-turn.” The other being from a colleague she met during her internship at E! News, “How different would my life be if I actually went after what I wanted?”
I am so thankful for the chance to interview such a talented, passionate, and moving person. To me, Mia is a jack of all trades and that is something I inspire to be. I left our interview (literally) shaking with excitement. I also took a lot from our interview together that I feel will continue to shape me in my future career as a student, writer, and person in the years to come.