Cynthia Via was born in Peru, raised in Queens, NY, and has travelled and lived in different cities learning how individuals are influenced by their social, historical and environmental landscape. She has a BA in Journalism and Creative Writing from Baruch College (CUNY). Her work has appeared in Hip Camp, Film Cred, Broad Street Review, and others. Her attention leans towards the outdoors, travel, film, and culture. During off hours, she goes birdwatching, reads poetry, performs improv, captures photos, and dances kind of funky.
Who am I, and what am I?
I’m a human, and second I’m a writer. Though on some days, I wish I was a tiny bird, a warbler type that loves tricking birdwatchers. Sadly, I’m stuck in my human form, sitting by a window, hoping to see a deer. Finding yourself in solitude can be rewarding, especially when the world asks you to always be moving, and occasional tripping down a flight of stairs in order to make it to work on time. Sometimes it’s hard to predict what I’ll write about, but my attention leans on nature (mostly birds), and the general theme of the outdoors. When traveling or just moving through life, I’m aware how my gender plays a role in how I'm perceived, as explored in this personal essay, Unaccompanied Girl. During the quarantine with so many restrictions, I started thinking about the transformation this moment could bring through . I've also explored my place within American culture, as an immigrant during the trump era, a millennial who lived through 9/11 and Occupy Wall Street.
Do you think your life resembles a particular movie?
I’m not going to say which movie my life resembles. I’m not doing it, because, well, it feels cheesy (though I want it to be trippy and have lots of fog). Movies are visual conversations; a simulation of life on screen, showing the current zeitgeist, some historical, societal truth, or taboos within a visual narrative. I often write reviews for films exploring hidden aspects of humanity, those posing philosophical dilemmas, or criticizing societal norms, like Moonlight, or the dystopian-horror flicks: 1 BR and The Platform. I gravitate toward movies that show personal growth in female characters, who overcome oppression like Unorthodox, Ixcanul Volcano, or trippy films that make you ponder about time and destiny: Lola Lola Run and Arrival.
What’s the point of writing until your fingers fall off?
Writing is a way to document my anxieties about the world, find meaning during difficult moments, and remember that humans will be humans. As a kid, writing was a way to understand my reality (feeling like an outcast, not knowing the culture or how to speak English, since I was a new immigrant) and create an alternate world, and see how the two merged. I kept a colorful journal, for short blurbs and captured moments. I wrote my first short story when I was in elementary school. It was about a scary ghost, living in my school, inspired by an adventure where me and a friend found an abandoned floor in our school. At the time I was reading Goosepumps and watching the TV series Wishbone, so I was craving for a detective story. Some of my favorite books through high school and college were: Number the Stars, Macbeth, Beowulf, Huckleberry Finn, Othello, What Mad Universe, Sula, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Native Son, among others. In college, I decided to become a reporter while still doing essays, creative non-fiction, and poetry. I joined my university's newspaper (The Ticker) and magazine (Dollars & Sense). I later found my voice as a poet through a college poetry club, experimenting with language and abstract poetry, through the works of Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes, William Carlos William, William Blake, T.S. Elliot, Alice Fulton, and Rae Armantrout.
How did you keep sane during quarantine?
I experimented with improv, stand-up, sketch writing, storytelling, and contact improv (dance form) to grow as a performer, and maybe torture myself. I’m mostly introverted, though on some days, I’m an extrovert, so it does feel like I’m veering off a cliff, since I don’t know what will happen (the worst thing so far is my laptop dying). Also, I made a lot of smoothies. Also, also, my sketch, The Tomato Jar, where I dressed up as a bearded dude, was picked for Moxie, a show written and performed by women, trans and non-binary comedians.
What are you reading these days?
Similar to a squirrel, my attention is all over the place, but I’m working real hard to ignore distractions like the sun, social media (blah!), and the need to bike down a long trail while listening to synth wave.
In the meantime, I’m reading The Song of the Lark (Willa Cather), H is for Hawk (Helen Macdonald), and Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy). I don’t necessarily read what’s trending, sometimes opting for authors I share a connection with, despite the year they were published. Recently, I finished reading, the graphic novel, Spinning (Tillie Walden), The Icarus Girl (Helen Oyeyemi), and Word by Word (Kory Stamper).
Any jobbies, skills?
After college, I worked as a Staff Writer for the Queens Ledger/Brooklyn Star, a news publication in New York City, where I covered community development, gentrification, education and culture. I covered South Ozone Park residents fighting against the conversion of a family shelter into a shelter for adult males. My story on whether Queens bike lanes is a need or a want was highlighted by NY1. I wrote feature stories on Brooklyn artists, the Miss New York pageant winner, and a wild foods forager in Central Park, among others. As a reporter for Media Media Global, I covered developing nations and small islands on the following topics: climate change, women’s issues, and indigenous tribes. Some of my favorite interviews happened during the 12th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, where I spoke with women tribal leaders and activists fighting for protection against violence and discrimination. As a Social Media Editor for ParksByNature Inc., I wrote articles on hiking, wildlife, nature photography, ecology, and created content for their national and state park mobile apps, and also managed their social media, including Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
In 2016, I served as an AmeriCorps Vista for NoKidHungry New Orleans. As Outreach Coordinator, I created awareness for USDA's summer meals program, provided administrative and logistical support, maintained the organization's website, created photo content, managed social media, and designed newsletters and marketing graphics. Most recently, I worked as a Research and Writing Specialist for External Affairs and as a Community Planning Liaison for Community Planning Capacity Building, Recovery Support Functions supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency's long term recovery, where I researched, wrote, and edited content to produce community profiles, news updates, and a report identifying impacts and short/long-term issues after the 2019 flooding disasters in Nebraska, and separately after the 2017 hurricane in Puerto Rico.
Taking on the role of reporter, editor, and social media coordinator for news organizations, non-profits, and government agencies, has allowed me to write and curate content for a variety of readers. I also have experience curating and shooting photographs. In the past, I participated in poetry readings, Fiction Narrative workshops in Loyola University, New Orleans, and studied Improv and Storytelling at the Magnet Theater in NYC.
- Skills: Editing, Copy Editing, Proofreading, Interviewing, Essays, Poetry, Creative Non-fiction, Fiction, Translating (Spanish), Blog Writing, News Editorial, Line Editing, Development Editing, Transcribing, Social Media, Photography, Audio & Video
- Beats: Outdoors, Films, Culture, Gender Construct, Ecology, Community Development, Climate Change, Women's Issues, Political News, Profiles, Art, History, Literature