Welcome scavengers to our end-of-the-world bash. Madeline Graham has been kind enough to grace us with her presence and her writing (which you can read here). Find out how the world ends not with a whimper, but an explosion, a skeet shoot, and a drive to New York.
Ashely Adams: First off, what a special treat to get three unique, surprising stories. You submitted this as a hybrid submission. Could you dive in a bit more about your approach to playing with hybridity/genre?
Madeline Graham: I’m so glad you enjoyed them! I think the best way to describe the majority of my writing would be prose poetry, though that’s a stretch sometimes. I love poetry and I love prose, but I’ve just never found myself particularly drawn to writing either. I want to mention that I have a condition that influences my cognition. As a result, my thoughts are often either racing or disjointed, and I sometimes like to put words together based more on how they sound than what they mean. Because this is such an integral part of how I think and therefore how I write, I feel like my style of hybrid writing came very naturally to me. When I write, I sit down, I get out everything I’m thinking as quickly as I can as a block of text, and then I go back and edit it later. This results in something that doesn’t quite have a genre home. I’ve tried taking what I write and turning it into either poetry or prose proper, but something about that has always seemed inauthentic to me. I’ve stopped trying to fit it all into one defined genre and just let it be what it is.
AA: Something I noticed in these stories is they all end with violent, abrupt endings. I’d love to hear more how you approached the endings of these pieces. What’s the value in the “shocking” ending?
MG: I’ve never been very good at slowing down. I’m not sure I’m capable of sitting down and thinking carefully enough to slow down before I end a piece (though I’ve been working on that, and have been writing more pieces with less sudden endings recently). I like art that crescendos and ends with an explosion, whether it’s music or writing or film. My pieces tend to be fast-paced all the way through, and I try to create a sense of urgency that speeds up the piece throughout until it comes to an abrupt stop. I want my reader to feel like they’re waiting on something that’s rapidly approaching and then end with something that almost stuns.
I also feel like my endings stem from the fact that I consider my pieces to be a sort of poetry. The closing line of a poem is so powerful and important. Sometimes I’ll even write the ending first and then work my way backwards just to ensure that it builds up to the ending just the way I want it to. I like to make sure the ending sticks in the reader’s mind because to me, it is what the rest of the piece is there to guide you toward, especially in the very short pieces that I write. I try to capture one very quick moment in time that centers around the climax.
AA: Somewhat related to the question above, these pieces are very short. I think it’s really underappreciated how hard it is to write a well-constructed piece that isn’t very long. What drew you to such a compact writing style and did you experience any challenges while writing these pieces?
MG: I enjoy writing in short bursts. Sitting down, getting my thoughts out, and leaving the piece alone for a little while is my usual process. I’d say my pieces average around 300-400 words, which is just enough to say what I want to say and be done with it. I don’t mince words, either in writing or in life. If anything, the challenge is making sure my pieces are long enough. Sometimes I’ll write something and realize I left out half of what I wanted to say. Because I put so much emphasis on the ending, sometimes I find I neglect the rest of the piece and end up with something far too short. Again, I do think that’s a part of my writing that has been changing recently. I’ve tried to focus less on the ending and more on the rest of the piece. But I just can’t move away from very short pieces. They’re what come most genuinely to me.
AA: On a sentence level, I love the way you can switch between almost stream-of-consciousness in “Pull” and those shorter, more clipped sentences like in “Apricity” (the little exchange between the doctor and the narrator is one of my favorites in this submission). Can you tell us a little bit more about how you approached these pieces more granular elements?
MG: I think the answer to this one can be best explained by my cognition. Stream-of-consciousness writing, to me, is more indicative of racing thoughts, whereas clipped sentences are more indicative of nonlinear or scattered thoughts. At the time of writing this piece, I was certainly in a poor mental state. I was finding it very difficult to focus on things, especially lines of thinking. Long sentences, or even proper sentences, felt far out of my reach. I wrote a paper for school around the same time, and that sort of disjointed, incomplete communication was evident there, too. The short, direct nature of it was more an accident that I almost didn’t notice than it was conscious.
AA: And finally…what is your favorite bone?
MG: My dad used to bring home bones for the dog, and she’d get so excited that she slipped on the floorboards while running for the door. Those are my favorite bones.