Meg Madden, Editor

Meg Madden is our Editor - she likes making lists and emailing her little heart out, which works out well since she is responsible for wrangling all the amazing interviews you usually see here. 

What do you do?

I’m a writer and editor. I work mostly as a senior policy writer in government - it’s a demanding role that I have come to love. I like the discipline policy gives me with my writing, and I get excited thinking about how legislation impacts community.

I also write for a range of online and print publications, which satisfies the creative part of my brain. I recently interviewed Siri Hustvedt for Krass Journal. She’s been a hero of mine for years, so it was a special one to put out in the world.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

Be kind, be kind and always be kind. 

One word at a time. 

And I’m a pretty emotional being, so I come back to ‘there is thunder in our hearts’ quite a bit too.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

Winning the English Prize and a few awards for my thesis in my Honours year - it taught me how valuable it is to think critically and work really bloody hard.

Being a person on the internet - feeling brave enough to put myself and my writing out in the world was a big change. I’ve met some wonderful people too.

A dedicated yoga and meditation practice has been everything. I sometimes wonder how I got through life and worked through my stuff without these moments of quiet. Yoga gives me a beautiful sense of my own body and how I move in the world. And I practice vedic meditation (TM) each morning, which is remarkable, but a whole other conversation.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

Mostly just my personal writing (or good intentions for). There's a research and writing idea about what women find beautiful in each other that my friend Lucy O’Connor and I are dreaming up. One of my goals for the year was to collaborate more, and Lucy is one of the best people I know, so it’s working out nicely.

What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?

I was named Meg Eowyn after Eowyn of Rohan from Lord of the Rings - my parents were very into Tolkein. I’ve never read the books, but she’s one hell of a namesake (skip forward to 1:40, ‘I am no man’). I like to think it says a lot about my determination as a woman.

James Turrell, National Gallery - image by Kara Town

James Turrell, National Gallery - image by Kara Town

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

Happily, yes. My family and female friends are exceptional - I am so proud of these women and what they do. Always generous with their time and brains and especially their hearts. Also, murder on the dancefloor.

Professionally, I work with some brilliant women. Offices can be a real boys-club, and I have learnt A LOT about how to make change and not countenance bullshit. Much of my policy work is in consulting and negotiating, and watching some of these women work is a masterclass.

What is your dream project?

A novel or my PhD. Maybe both.  

Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?

Just one? PJ Harvey last month, Bon Iver at the Hollywood Bowl last year, a Grace Cossington Smith exhibition in 2010 or so, Ray Lamontagne at the Beacon Theatre in New York by myself, Under Milkwood at STC in 2012, any and every time I see Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent, the recent Agnes Martin retrospective at the Guggenheim, gasping aloud and then sobbing uncontrollably in an airport lounge reading What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt ten years ago, Nick Cave at the Thebby Theatre in '98 and in Sydney last month, a room full of Cy Twombly, listening to my friend Ben's song on a crowded train in Tokyo, reading I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith from cover to cover till 3 AM when I was 15, James Turrell at dusk with some of my besties, quietly crying watching Moonlight at Dendy in Newtown a few weeks ago, Sally Gabori's canvases, a Mary Oliver poem right when I needed it, Justin Townes Earle and Joe Pug in the Lower East Side with an ex, Neko Case bringing it always and forever…  

And then, above it all, last Sunday at the opera House I heard Patti Smith. She sang a few songs, read from her books and spoke from her heart. I am still at a loss for words.  

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

LISTENING: Angel Olson, Nadia Reid, Holly Throsby, Laura Marling. I’m nothing if not consistent / moody.

READING: Female writers all the live long day. In the last few months Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton, Sheila Heti, Rebecca Solnit and Maggie Nelson have changed the way I think and write and I can’t get enough of them.

WATCHING: I’ve just binged on Catastrophe again, which I bloody love. And Please Like Me has to be about the best thing I’ve watched in years, so smart and beautiful. Mostly I just watch old episodes of Grand Designs when I’m falling asleep though.

 

Image by Elize Strydom

Image by Elize Strydom

What places are important to you?

My places all revolve around light.

The front step at my folks’ house in the Adelaide Hills gets glorious morning sun, and I love the drive up to the Hills when it’s overcast, and the bush is a special kind of dusty green. If it’s stormy and grey, then the walk across the Thames from the Tate Modern to St Pauls Cathedral, looking up at Wren's Whispering Dome. The ocean baths at Bronte when the sun is out and the water is clear as a bell, all shards of bright light on the worn rock and the glistening waves. Golden hour at my terrace in Redfern - there’s a good twenty minutes where the autumn sun hits it just right so it hums and glows. And there’s nothing like a Marrickville sunset and a good song on the drive home.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

TRUST YOURSELF.

I feel like I didn’t have much confidence or trust in myself till I hit 30, or not in any real sense. Things feel easier with each year, clearer. I’m happy in myself. I worry less. And I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. I mean, thank fuck - who’d be 20 again?  

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?

I get riled up when people refer to writing by women as ‘women’s writing’. That somehow men’s writing is considered universal, the default, and women’s stories might only be interesting to other women. Maybe a few sensitive men. It feels like when men share personal work it’s considered vulnerable and brave, while women’s stories are niche or even narcissistic. It's ridiculous.   

 

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent

What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?

I went to London on a three month holiday when I was 18 and ended up staying four years. It feels forever ago now, and I miss it a lot. I just fell in love with the history and how busy it all was. It was the days before the internet, so I listened to cassettes on my walkman and didn’t speak to my family for months at a time. I worked long hours, drank too much and spent all my spare time in public galleries. I learnt how to be by myself and got to make mistakes without anyone watching. Coming from Adelaide, which is a wonderful but very small town, this was illuminating.

How can we find our more about your work?

Words and pictures.

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?

Durga Chew-Bose.