Trying to Float.cover image

Calling all bookworms! We’ve found what’s sure to be your favorite summer read, full of laughs and quirky stories from author Nicolaia Rips. Nicolaia’s memoir Trying to Float features her first-hand account of life growing up in New York’s Chelsea Hotel, and the eccentric tenants provide a colorful backdrop for each adventure. This coming of age collection of stories is sure to have you hooked until the very last page. Check out our interview with Nicolaia below as she shares her inspiration for Trying to Float!

Justine Magazine: Tell me how you chose the title Trying to Float.
Nicolaia Rips: We actually went through a lot of titles. I decided on this one because it references a story in the book where I almost drowned a baby. I thought it was sort of a perfect metaphor for my struggles in elementary school and middle school.

JM: What made you decide to write the book?
NR: I started writing it in 6th grade because I had all of these stories about various humiliating things that would happen to me. I would come home to my parents, and they got a little bit tired of it after a while. They told me to write it down instead of complaining. So I just had a bunch of short stories about my life. By the time I got to 8th grade, my school had a culminating project, and I decided I could save myself some work by taking these short stories and making it a small book.

JM: What inspired you to try to get the book published?
NR: I still can’t believe it! My teacher really liked it. She had me read some of my stories at graduation, and my dad and my mom were in the audience. My dad—he’s a writer—this was the first time he’d heard a lot of my stories. He was like, “Wow! She’s not a total idiot!” So he then helped me for the next year or so. We would sit in the cafes and he would help me structure my stories. Then he introduced me to his agent, and she liked it. Since then I’ve been working with her and my editors.

JM: All of the characters in your book are so colorful. Do you have a favorite?
NR: I love them all so much. That’s sort of why it’s a love story to the people in the Chelsea Hotel. I loved Artie and Stormé. Stormé was one of my favorite people.

JM: You talk about being an outsider growing up and using these stories to express your feelings. How do you think that process influenced who you are today?
NR: I think that being able to find a creative outlet has been one of the most productive, if not healing, things that I’ve done. I think it’s really important to learn how to self soothe. That’s one of the first things babies learn. Writing was definitely my way of comforting myself…and it still is.

JM: What would you say to someone trying to find that creative outlet for their feelings?
NR: I would say don’t be discouraged. Try all of the options. You might find that surprising thing that you’re good at, or even if you’re not good at it, you can work at it. With writing, I think that it can be discouraging when you think you’re not as good as your favorite writer. But all of these things take practice. It’s important to just continue to express yourself.

JM: Do you have a favorite book?
NR: My favorite book—I don’t know. I can tell you some of my favorite authors though! Oscar Wilde. I love P.G. Wodhouse. He’s one of my favorites—definitely an inspiration. I love reading. I really like reading murder mysteries. I find them oddly comforting. There’s a British writer named Christopher Fowler who I think is pretty great. He writes very eccentric crime novels.

JM: Your parents sound so creative and fun in the book. What is your favorite trait in each of your parents?
NR: I think for my mom—she’s such a free spirit. She’s just so adventurous, and she really helps me to try things outside of my comfort zone. For my dad, I think it would be his wit. He’s so wonderful.

JM: Do you have a favorite story in your memoir?
NR: I love the pool party story, which is I guess what the book is named after. I also love the Rebecca story. I think it’s sort of winding and interesting.

Nicolaia RIpsPhoto Credit: Ursula Bowling

Fast Facts with Nicolaia

Favorite Thing about NYC? How there’s so much to do. You can never do it all. There are always new things to explore.

Best coffee shop in Chelsea? Café Grumpy

What is the coolest thing in your room? A statue of Groucho Marx by my bedside

Groucho Marx. Still yes? Or no? I love him. He’s the greatest!

The best thing about Halloween in New York is still… Seeing all the creativity. Seeing everyone’s costumes and how hard they work on them. And of course the candy.

What was your most recent Halloween costume? I dressed as a clown with my best friend. We wore corsets and bloomers.