MFA Student Spotlight Interview With Nen Ramirez
From Adrian, Michigan, Nen Ramirez is a third year MFA candidate here at the University of Minnesota. Their work has appeared in Gasher Journal, The Journal of Latina Critical Feminism, Split Lip Magazine, and more. Their book All Women Are Born Wailing will be published by Nomadic Press in 2023. Nen is also a founder and editor of Viscerama magazine, a Michigan based literary journal.
Inspired by all of this brilliant work, I asked Nen to answer some questions for our Student Spotlight Series.
Hannah Karau: Congratulations on your winning the Acentos Book Prize! That’s a huge achievement. Now that your hard work has paid off, can you tell me more about All Women Are Born Wailing, the book you are going to publish with Nomadic Press?
Nen Ramirez: Thank you so much! The book is mainly made up of poems I wrote as an undergrad and a few that I wrote last year. It mainly deals with the “crazy Latina” stereotype and the ways it’s fetishized and used to harm Latinx people. It includes some pop culture persona poems, some poems dealing with familial history and the murder of my cousin, and my own experiences with mental illness. It means the world to me that it was selected by Acentos Review because they were the first press to publish my poetry. Everyone at Nomadic Press has been amazing too– I’ve felt so held and heard through this whole publishing process so far. The book will be coming out in April and I could not be more grateful.
HK: I also want to ask you about Viscerama magazine. You are a co-editor, and co-founder, I believe, of this literary magazine that publishes work from Lenawee County, where you grew up. It seems like a great way to give back to your community. So how has working on it impacted your life and career going forward?
NR: Yes! My friends from high school and I started Viscerama during the spring of 2020 and it was originally just a way for us to raise money to donate to our hometown’s COVID relief fund. We’ve since expanded and now we accept work from youth across Michigan and donate all proceeds to statewide youth-centered organizations. Viscerama has been such a great way to stay connected with my friends and artistic community back home and being able to work with teens and young adults has been such an enriching experience. Supporting young writers, visual artists, and musicians is so inspiring both personally and artistically. Being an older sibling is one of the most important parts of my life and in a lot of ways, Viscerama feels like an extension of that. Also, my role as the layout editor for the magazine has influenced the way I think of the relationship between written and visual art in a huge way.
HK: As we’ve gone over, you have done some great things during your time in the MFA so far. How has our program helped you achieve your goals?
NR: One of the most valuable things that this program has given me is a community of people who believe in me and my work when I don’t. I doubt I would have submitted the manuscript for All Women Are Born Wailing if I didn’t have friends in the program cheering me on. The friendships and connections that I’ve formed in the program has definitely made me feel safe and grounded enough to explore scarier things in my work.
HK: I really appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions. So as many applicants wonder, I want to ask how busy is the life of a graduate student in an MFA? Can you tell me about your schedule and time management?
NR: This is something that I’m struggling with now more than ever! Since this is my last year in the program and I am working on my thesis, things have been very hectic and the number of energy drinks I’m slamming per day has risen drastically. But I try to make sure to remind myself that living in the world, interacting with art and artists that inspire me, and experiencing joy are also mandatory parts of the creative process and not things that I should feel guilty about.
HK: You are in your final year here, so I bet you know some of the ins and outs of the program. Can you give a piece of advice or a tip to incoming and prospective MFA candidates? For either the application process or actual program.
NR: This is going to sound really cheesy and I’m cringing as I say this, but this is genuinely what I needed to hear: remember that you’re here for you and your writing! It is super easy to get caught up in all of the noise around you, and the different hats that you have to wear as a grad student and instructor. It’s also SUPER tempting to prioritize writing things that you think your peers will like or be impressed by. You’re here to learn, yes, but you got in because of who you are as a writer, so be you.
HK: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Nen!