Q&A with Madison Griffiths

MADISON GRIFFITHS is a writer, artist and poet whose work has been published in VICE, SBS, Overland, Daily Life, pedestrian.tv, Catalogue Magazine, Catapult, and Going Down Swinging, amongst others. She was recently shortlisted for the Overland Fair Australia Prize 2017. Her work revolves predominantly around issues concerning women, mental illness, and race.
Her non-fiction piece ‘There Are No Wars Here’ appears in The Suburban Review #9.
‘There Are No Wars Here’ is courageous in the way explores issues of exoticism within your own family. How do you approach writing about such a personal space?


With a huge amount of apprehension, that’s for sure. I try really hard to assume another, ‘neutral’ voice—the narrator’s voice—so I still have space for personal critique. I also approached ‘There Are No Wars Here’ on the back of many conversations with my grandmother and my great aunt about their experiences married to white men, to make sure I wasn’t projecting my own vexation onto an otherwise mutual arrangement. I don’t believe I was.


Writing from such a personal space always requires tasteful precaution and surveillance. I imagine this level differs, depending on family. Most of the work I am most proud of tackles personal issues, and much of it I keep off my social media accounts, for example.


The language in this piece of writing approaches the poetic. How do you achieve such gorgeous metaphor?


I spend a lot of time looking at catalogues of photographs, actually. If I am lost for words, I scroll through internet archives and immerse myself in any indiscriminate image—be it a flower, an ocean, a hedge, a piece of furniture—and try and cast links between how it functions, and how the character in my story is functioning. I have never succeeded just locking myself into a room and writing. I need stimulation, even mundane sort of observations that feel, on first glance, totally irrelevant. I also try to approach each sentence as a stand-alone piece. It needs to read well, and be compelling in and of itself. The narrative comes second, sometimes.


What are your writing plans for 2018?


I have a lot of fun, engaging smaller projects on the go. However, I am most excited about immersing myself in a longer fiction manuscript, which I started at the end of last year. I’d like to see it finished come the end of 2018. Fingers-crossed!