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    I’m still hyped that I got to be a part of the #hyperbole2018! Our youth are beautiful. #donotbesilent #splitthisrock ❤️ Today I ran a workshop for the #HyperBole2018. I made myself vulnerable. We opened with “Fear in a Box” where everyone, high school and college students, anonymously wrote their fears and hopes on a piece of paper. Then they crumbled the paper or made a paper airplane to fly into the box. We went around the room and opened up the fears and hopes. One girl noticed that the hopes were internal expectations and the fears related to something or someone external to us. 🤔
I shared my fear: deportation. My workshop was on immigration and immigrant poets. I am not afraid to be the immigrant in the room. I am that girl, but it don’t come easy. I ran the workshop twice, but the first time was the harder one. I have shared my story before, and yet, I never know how my heart will cope on any given day. 💔Today I had to breathe in before saying the words “my fear is deportation” because it is a very valid fear no matter what people say: I’m praying, down with Trump, it’ll be alright. I don’t know if I will stay in my America. I hope that like the fears the youth shared such as letting people down, being alone, spiders, and jellyfish, my fear can be overcome. #callcongress #saveTPS Morning hour. 😴 At a new temporary office! The life of an immigrant poet.
#workweek #before8am
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1,000 miles: step 88

February, I like to think, ends the winter season. At the very least, it serves as a transition point, a leap forward into spring. I’m going through similar leaps forward, or leap backwards? Read on for some general Claudia updates:

On the Job Market

Art in Congress

Art gallery in tunnel toward the Capitol

I’m now a FWD.us alumna, no longer an intern. My time at FWD was incredible. I gained so much confidence and knowledge about Capitol Hill. Before FWD, I had never stepped foot in the halls of Congress. I had never shaken the hands of a senator or representative, yet alone be in a meeting room with them.

But I don’t fancy myself a pro community organizer. Instead, I’m a starving artist at age 23. I got stuck with a poet’s body in a culture that doesn’t pay artists their cultural capital.

I have no idea what happens next in my life, but here are some things that are obvious and opposites: there are bills to pay; I’m a writer.

Oh, and I have 18 months of protection from deportation in this country. Good luck to me.

All I’ve Yet to See & Hear

There’s so much of America that I want to see and because there’s a legal clock ticking, I want to go far this year.

If I started listing the things and places I haven’t seen, I might as well hide under a rock. Last year was actually my first trip to New York City. I haven’t seen a live concert. I haven’t been to any Disneylands. I haven’t traveled abroad.

I can’t afford much of my bucket list because of the starving artist situation. Fortunately, I live in gorgeous Virginia and near Washington, DC. There’s a lot of sightseeing potential here.

Anyone want to publish me?

I decided to publish my first poetry book last summer. I’ve been in the “please publish me” game for less than a year. I’ve had single poems accepted into magazines–this past week it was a series of poems in Argot magazine.

To my deep disappointment, the whole manuscript hasn’t found a home. I could be patient, in another life. My book can’t wait for long. I’m feeling very anxious because of the whole legal clock ticking.

There’s moves I could be making right now: self-publishing. That is something that’s on my mind.

Traditions

IMG_2151

Junior youth power

Over the years, DoSomething.org has partnered with Meals on Wheels to run the Love Letters Campaign. I joined the campaign in 2015, and because I love keeping traditions, sent in Valentine’s Day cards to seniors until 2017. This year the campaign didn’t open; maybe it was due to funding for the scholarship tied to the campaign. I could be wrong, but I for sure didn’t want to stop sending cards.

I got the junior youth group I help run on the weekends together. We all made Valentine’s Day cards to send to Cards for Hospitalized Kids.

#ToImmigrantsWithLove is also coming up. It’s a tradition hosted by FWD.us to send love to immigrants on Valentine’s Day. Write a physical or digital letter and share online.

Make it a Happy Valentine’s!

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Claudia Rojas is poeta. She’s also a TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holder. TPS protects individuals fleeing natural disaster and war on a temporary basis. The program has been extended for many years; no permanent solution has ever been presented. Currently, the countries of Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, and El Salvador have lost TPS and lives are at risk should Congress or America fail us. Call your member of Congress today through the FWD.us tool or find your representative’s info online. 

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1,000 miles: step 85

In  my last update, I expressed several frustrations with being a 20-something year old. Those frustrations are still relevant, but there’s been a few changes and experiences since. Read on to find out.

Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat

The online poetry retreat, normally a $279 experience, was offered to me through a scholarship. Just in time before the retreat started, I received a journal and book from Two Sylvias Press and was invited to a Facebook group. The retreat began early in October. For the following four weeks, I received writing prompts and motivational quotes in my inbox. I managed to keep up with the prompts. It was a productive season, which ended with my submitting two poems to the editors for critique.

New & Old Experiences

Sunset - blue -sky

Photo I took on a busy day, 11/21

In October, I helped judge a speech competition that was held at George Mason University. I judged something.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, Fall for the Book happens in October. Where were you? I attended my third Fall for the Book Festival because it’s tradition.

I also attended my first orchestra performance at the Kennedy Center and recommended the experience in my Simple Gems in the City of Washington, DC post. It’s a great chance to wear that fancy attire tucked in our closets.

Reading Poetry in Public Spaces

On October 21, I read a poem for a holy day, the bicentennial celebration of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith. I made a recording of the poem “How To Live” for YouTube. Then, at a Sterling protest on November 21, I read two poems about being an immigrant. This was in front of Representative Barbara Comstock’s office.

Though these experiences aren’t the same as open mics, I find them thrilling. What’s a poem if not breathed into the public? If you are interested in my poetry, The Bookends Review published one of my forms poem, a sestina. Read the poem now.

Public Resistance for Immigration Reform

As I said to a crowd of protesters in Sterling, I feel most comfortable with poetry. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve forced myself into protests. I was even interviewed for a ThinkProgress article and provided Mason Dreamers with input about the TPS situation. Public resistance means an active engagement with my community; it makes me feel empowered. Many people still don’t know about TPS. Educating people online is difficult–there are short attention spans and complicated lives.

DC protest TPS

I help hold that banner shortly after taking this picture on 10/23 #SaveTPS

If you follow me through Twitter or Instagram, you’ll find that these days, immigration doesn’t leave my mind. I have started a countdown for the days left until the Department of Homeland Security makes a decision about El Salvador’s TPS designation. By chance, this March 2018 deadline also marks the point when DACA (Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals) ends for thousands of youth. Times are rough.

I’m A Policy Intern

This month, I started an internship as policy intern with FWD.us. It was an unexpected turn of events, but it’s the space I need to be in right now. It’s a space that makes sense with the issues that make my heart heavy.

FWD.us organized a fly-in for about 100 DACAmented youth and businesses who employ these youth, so they could meet with members of Congress. I was part of that effort!

Being me at this moment / brown/ immigrant / woman isn’t easy, but I’m taking step after step anyway.

_________________________________________________

Claudia Rojas is poeta. She’s also a TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holder. TPS protects individuals fleeing natural disaster and war on a temporary basis. The program has been extended for many years; no permanent solution has ever been presented. Currently, the countries of Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan have lost their TPS designation. El Salvador, Claudia’s country of origin, has 200,000 TPS holders whose lives are at risk should Congress or America fail us. Call your member of Congress today through the FWD.us tool or find your representative’s info online. We cannot delay.

1,000 miles: step 82

work-week-Reston

Statue at Wiehle-Reston East metro

I got news! I have a summer job, and I survived my first week as an office employee.

I don’t have a briefcase. I travel light. I do have a key card, office e-mail, and a cubicle. I commute taking the bus and metro.

This Friday, through a chance accident of forgetting my stop, I experienced extreme rush hour. Let me tell you–not my cup of tea. People bumping into you. No seats left. Sighing and grumpy people.

Fridays are lovely, regardless. They will be my favorite day for weeks to come. The work I do is repetitive: data entry. There’s stacks of paper, an office keyboard and desktop, office supplies, and a scanner at my desk. There’s a line of paper boats that I’ve made over the course of the week, after I learned to expect delays with the scanner and office software.

What’s most exciting is the interactions with people.

My co-workers have all kinds of backgrounds: they are parents, single ladies, bakers, actors, writers, and so much more I’ve yet to discover. Many of them have been working together for years, or they have been at the company for decades and watched it change and grow. It’s interesting to watch their faces as they reflect on years back. As an incoming employee, it’s nice feeling to get their history.

Though this week felt exceptionally long–waking up early, coming home late–it did go by with a paradoxical and retrospective speed.

This past Tuesday, I managed to host a book chat on Twitter with Booked For Review, opening the first #B4RTalks for #31DaysOfBooks. That, too, went by quickly. If you haven’t read my young adult book reviews, visit bookedforreview.com

I also squeezed in time to make final edits to a poetry submission with a due date of today. Since meeting my fundraising campaign goal, I’ve submitted to three literary venues and anticipate many more magazines and journals. There’s a lot of competition, but I genuinely believe in my poems and because of the campaign, I know other people support my work. I’m developing a Pinterest Board for published poems and can’t wait to share in the near future.

Lotus scene

A summer scene with lotus at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

My busybody self is finally occupied.

I’ve met new people and new terms. The week ended with volunteer work with local youth, who themselves are planning volunteer work. My flower-enthusiast self is satisfied; I took my first visit to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. This weekend kicked off their festival of lotus and water lilies.

Though I’ve missed some news headings, some sleep hours, and some me-time, I couldn’t be happier.

The office job has helped me open a new chapter in my life. This chapter is headed toward opportunity.

 

 

1,000 miles: step 81

The graduation glow doesn’t last forever. The pride, though, persists. I’ve framed one or two graduation pictures, and I’m still in awe at my large, vertically shaped diploma which confers me, Claudia V. Rojas, a Bachelor of Arts in English with recognition.

Now let’s get down to business and ask the real questions. Here is a recent interview I conducted with Claudia Rojas:

What’s the best part about being a college graduate?

It’s the new sense of time. I don’t have to worry about turning in an essay any time soon. I’m not stressed about grades. I have a life outside of school. I exist!

Central Park

Central Park, a wonder

I’ve actually done more travel this summer than any previous summer combined. This June, for example, I went to New York City, for the first time ever. I spent a short weekend discovering Battery Park in lower Manhattan, where I saw the Fearless Girl statue and walking around the giant forest of Central Park. Of course, I snapped tons of picture for the Instagram feed!

I’ve explored close to home, too, places I should’ve already known if it weren’t for college and my workaholic tendencies. From visiting an old favorite, Old Town, Alexandria to a new favorite, Arlington’s Crystal City which is bursting with life all summer long. Recently, I took the Silver Line to Reston, which isn’t exactly close to me, but is one of the biggest metro projects in recent DMV history, phase one of the two part project completed in 2014. Yay, history.

What’s the worst part about graduation?

Unemployment, and the fear of long-term unemployment. As a part-time student, I was able to gain work experience while in college. I figured this would make the full-time job search easier. In some ways, it does. I can speak to my work years in cover letters. I have a better sense of what companies and work setting I like and don’t like.

Of course, I figured getting a full-time job in my field, writing and editing, would be difficult. What I didn’t anticipate is my own sense of panic. There have definitely been days where I have questioned my merit as a candidate. Job applications are similar to poetry submissions–they both send rejections your way.

In true Claudia spirit, I have kept going. One of the things that I’ve tried is freelance writing. That’s right, if you ever need a freelancer, find me and hire me on Upwork! I am always on the look for small poetry projects; that’s where my heart is at, after all.

What’s been keeping me busy?

Book sculpture at Library

A library day at my local Falls Church library

Job applications: I’ve been conducting an intense search for hiring companies and researching employee reviews with said companies. At home, at the library, or on the phone, I’ve been searching for editing and writing positions. Internship opportunities. Summer work. You should see my excel spreadsheet.

Poetry: I’ve had time to work on my poetry. In the past, I was organizing poems according to forms, because I was and am in love with forms. Now that I’m out of school (and graduate school will be a few years into the future), I can look at my poems as a whole.

I’ve decided that many are ready to be organized into a collection. Since I’ve been unemployed for over a month, I haven’t been making an income. Fortunately, there’s a lot of free writing workshops in Northern Virginia and publishing webinars. More fortunately, I gained some marketing experience when I created and succeeded with a small GoFundMe campaign. I’m currently working on final edits and submitting to literary venues and contests with reading fees.

Volunteering: I’ve become a contributor with Booked for Reviews (B4R), a blog for young readers. Check out my review for Walter Dean Myers’ Darius & Twig and Dawn Lajeunesse’s Star Catching. Can you tell that I have a soft spot for the young adult genre? Additionally, I’ve been volunteering with a junior youth program at my local library. Though I’ve stopped tutoring, I suppose kids have a way of finding me.

Anything else?

Yes! While I’ve been getting rejections from journals and magazines, I’ve also been gathering a few acceptances. Stay tuned to find out where. Next week, I also have some news, so don’t miss that.

Have a question I didn’t ask myself? Post a comment! Tweet me. Message me. I’m here.