Developing Stories, a new series from Work in Progress, invites authors to carry a disposable camera and document whatever compels them—a reading, a walk in the woods, a tour of the writer’s hometown. As Samantha Hunt says in the first installment of Developing Stories, the rapid pace of contemporary life sometimes means that “much less [is] left to the vivid imagination.” Disposable cameras deny us the instant gratification of an immediate result; we are left to anticipate what the snapshot will look like. Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark, captured little moments of her life—from a Barbie orgy to a Ouija board, to what she’s currently reading.
My daughters had no idea what the disposable camera was when I brought it home. I explained film to them and how it had been before. The way we thought of time. How having a picture of a boy you liked or a friend you missed, was enough. It didn’t have to be a good picture. Marie asked, “If we open the camera up, can we look at the pictures?” Much is lost with our new precision. Much less left to the vivid imagination. I wouldn’t know what this is a picture of, except that I took it. My daughters have a drawer of Barbies and Monster High dolls. Every time I open the drawer I feel like I’ve stumbled on a wild orgy, limbs and body parts akimbo. But you can’t really see the orgy here, and probably it is better that way because you can imagine it instead.
I had nothing to do with this. Not since a Ouija board in high school starting spelling out B-E-E-L-Z-E-B- I didn’t wait for it to finish. I ran away at the second B.
We found this dead hawk the day after the solar eclipse. Its eye had turned light blue. That same day we found an injured owl in the woods. At first it seemed such a bad sign, a dire warning. Later I thought that was a very self-centered way to think about the birds—existing to send messages to me. Rather than an omen of some approaching Armageddon, I’m going to blame the eclipse.
I don’t drink much anymore. Maybe you can tell. (Set ‘em up. Knock ‘em down.)
Garlic curing in my friend’s shed. Some chickens came in to see what was happening. Made me think of garlic chicken.
Goldfinch at the feeder. Turkey feathers on the left. When I’m not mothering or writing, it’s all birds and flowers.
These must be stars.
Marie explained Mandelbrot fractals to me. She didn’t call them that. The big fern is the same as the mama fern, is the same as the baby fern. I saw Benoit Mandelbrot speak once at Cooper Union. He was hard to understand. Marie less so.
My friend’s attack rooster picked a fight with me. From behind. As I was walking away. After I complimented his pretty yellow legs. More garlic chicken someday.
School supplies. I have a lot of children.
Visitor at my mom’s house.
Whose window is this?
What I’ve been reading and loving.
A friend told me, “You don’t have to plant every kind of flower.” I disagreed.
This one is called Love Lies Bleeding.
A young woman from the city came to visit. She asked, “Are they your turkeys?” Her question made me laugh. I’d never thought of that before, that people keep chickens, so maybe these were my turkeys. She was young and kind. I didn’t tease her. “They’re wild,” I said. And now everyday when the turkeys show up in my yard, I think of them as mine and what it means to keep something.
Samantha Hunt’s novel about Nikola Tesla, The Invention of Everything Else, was a finalist for the Orange Prize and winner of the Bard Fiction Prize. Her first novel, The Seas, earned her selection as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35. Her novel, Mr. Splitfoot, was an IndieNext Pick. The Dark Dark, her book of short stories, was published in July. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, McSweeney’s, Tin House, A Public Space, and many other publications. She lives in upstate New York.