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Embrace the Monstrous: An Interview with Nino Cipri

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Autumn

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Nino Cipri is a queer and trans/nonbinary writer, currently enrolled in the University of Kansas’s MFA in fiction. They are also a graduate of the 2014 Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Nightmare Magazine, Tor.com, Fireside Fiction, and other publications. A multidisciplinary artist, Nino has also written plays, screenplays, and radio features; performed as a dancer, actor, and puppeteer; and worked as a backstage theater tech.

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CICADA: Both Jeremy and Merion gravitate towards all things fanged, tentacled, and undead. What kind of comfort/empowerment/affirmation can be found in embracing the monstrous? 
NINO CIPRI: On a more personal level: Monster is the name I give to my depression when I’m trapped in it. I feel like a monster: inhuman, alien, horrible, radioactive, destructive. It’s not an accident that this is what I’ve heard all my life—that my queer self is monstrous, that my trans body disturbs people, that my existence is a mistake or a joke. When I’m depressed, I’m too worn down to disagree with those messages. Embracing the monstrous is how I tell myself that it’s good to live in my body, to love who I do, to feel my feelings, to find my own reasons to keep living. 

(Sidenote: the Gay Babadook memes during Pride were GIVING ME LIFE, because he’s pretty much all of the above feelings wrapped up in a pink boa and top hat.)

On a larger level: normativity kills people. I don’t mean that metaphorically. People die because the world refuses them entrance based on perceived deviance from “normal.” We are refused healthcare based on that deviance. We’re hounded out of public places through ridicule and refusal. We face violence (like all monsters inevitably do) and commit or consider suicide in higher numbers (because the world has no room for us). But “human” has a high entrance fee. Traveling from monsterhood and assimilating into humanity demands stripping out the most essential parts of yourself. 

I would rather be whole and a force to be reckoned with. I’d rather be a monster, aligned with other monsters. 

CIC: Tell us a little bit about your creative process. How does a story first take shape in your mind? What does your revision process look like? How do you break through the dreaded writer’s block?
NC: My stories often come unexpectedly, especially when I’m bored. Certain kinds of boredom are actually really helpful to my creativity, since my imagination will do pretty much anything to escape the mindless task at hand. (I’m pretty sure I started writing “A Silly Love Story” while doing laundry.) I’ve worked a lot of boring jobs, and some of my best ideas came when I was cleaning other people’s bathrooms, fixing bikes, or shelving books. Public transportation and bicycle commutes are also great times to be bored and come up with stories. 

I don’t have a single, streamlined writing process. I like knowing the beginning and ending and letting the middle work itself out on the page, but other times, I just have a single idea and free write from there. My revision process can be really lengthy; I’ve tossed out and rewritten entire drafts, then tossed out the rewrite and started again from scratch. 
I’m not sure about writer’s block. I did lose the ability to write poetry when I was seventeen and dealing with a bunch of horrible stuff in my life, but got into other forms instead. That became a pattern in my life; when I couldn’t write poetry, I wrote plays. When I couldn’t do that, I wrote fiction, or fanfiction, or essays, book reviews, angry emails, or journal entries about how miserable I felt. I think—after almost fifteen years—that I’m getting ready to write poetry again. Creativity isn’t a well that dries up; it’s a certain way of engaging with the world. The practice stays the same, even as the forms shift.

CIC: What is inspiring you most right now?
NC: 2017 has been ROUGH, not just because of politics and homegrown fascism, but because of personal losses, grad school, personal changes. My families—the biological one and the chosen one(s)—have kept me afloat. I’ve taken a lot of strength from my elders, who teach me how to fight and build even when I feel broken, and from young people, who are dreaming new futures in the face of despair. 
I’m feeling especially inspired by the prison abolition movement, particularly the activists that are based out of Chicago, and the changing face of the labor organizing and activism. These two movements are the ones that have the clearest visions of a future I want to live in. 

CIC: If you could go back in time and meet yourself when you first started writing, what advice would you give yourself?
NC: Write the stories that you want to read. Don’t listen to people who say that fanfiction is weird and a waste of time. Stop quitting your novels at 20,000 words. 

CIC: If you were a ghost or poltergeist, what would your haunting M.O. be? Rattling chains? Flickering lights? Something a little more unorthodox? 
NC: I would haunt certain politicians’ offices and let out long, loud, juicy farts during important meetings, press conferences, and speeches. 

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