invite the thing down

Miciah Bay Gault, Managing Editor of Hunger Mountain, was inspired by a note George Saunders wrote on one of her stories to discover what was “unique and iconic” to her. In her engaging Editor’s Note to Hunger Mountain 15, she describes Ray Bradbury’s “writing practice of word association, in which he scribbled long lists of nouns.” It was a practice he did quickly and without thinking. From Bradbury:

I leave you now at the bottom of your own stair, at half past midnight, with a pad, a pen, and a list to be made. Conjure the nouns, alert the secret self, taste the darkness. Your own THING stands waiting ‘way up there in the attic shadows. If you speak softly, and write any old word that wants to jump out of your nerves onto the page…Your Thing at the top of the stairs in your own private night…may well come down.

In Hunger Mountain 15, Miciah brilliantly invited 21 writers (Michael Martone and Paul Lisicky among them) to share their lists, their “raw bits of writing, meant to invite the Thing down.” While you’re waiting for your copy to arrive, I invite you to leave your own list in the comments below. I’ll start us off…

[Hunger Mountain 15: The Thing at the Top of the Stairs. And I haven’t even mentioned the fiction or the photography.]

22 thoughts on “invite the thing down

  1. Friday/January 7, 2011/midnight/Marlboro, VT

    the creaking, the cold, the snow, the train whistle, the tracks, the woods, the black trees, the stars, the empty space, the open suitcase, the red door, the shuttered windows, the leaving


  2. the oatmeal, the wicked, the netti pot, the public transportation system, the cup, the line at the grocery store, the poem, the management, the hemlocks, the elephant in the living room, the nest, the frayed hem, the guard rail


    • I love these, you guys! How wonderful. I’m going to try to post one of my own and I hope we get a bunch more of these. They’re so interesting. Now I’m wildly curious about the fiction you both write: shuttered windows! Open suitcases! Netti Pots!


  3. I’m going to follow Cynthia’s lead about that night….

    Friday/January 7, 2011/midnight/Marlboro, VT

    the secret kitchen, the old Frigidaire, the tea kettle, the cedar chest, the scratching, the whistling, the windows, the light switch, the antique toaster, the lock, the tile, the wooden floor, the red bedspreads, the snow, the bookshelf


  4. the wet leaves, the quiet dripping, the gentle breeze, the overall gray, the gloom, the skeletal remains, the mossy rocks, the brown stems, the hopeful green, the spotted window, the purring cat, the warm glance


  5. the creaky tree, the marble slabs, the urn, the ashes, the essence, dancing shoes, cigarettes, pink lipstick, cutty sark, playing cards, the radio, the song, Mrs. Jones, Grandmother

    Wow, that was awesome! My deceased grandmother must have wanted me to think of her today…


  6. the soles of Frye boots, an ottoman, a Gibson guitar, a Fender amplifier, more guitars under a painting of Zeus, a dog barks, a new bitch on the block, the Gibson sings electric and drowns out the barking, dogs and men and guitars howling at bitches, the song of night, a half moon screened by clouds, no stars, pewter sky.


  7. the bedroom, the moonlight, the snow, the thin glass window, the feathery ice crystals, the illuminated face, the fractured reflections, the white grey light, the bare walls, the wood framing, the cobwebs, the breath, the fingernail, the outside, the inside


  8. Day 2:

    Muffled voices, chartreuse convertible, “soy mocha,” dripping awning, electric music, buckled boots, swaying needles, steaming coffee, working wipers…


  9. Day 2: Sunday, January 16, 2011, 8:07 am

    the glare, the drawn shades, the mess, the blanket, the empty glass, the cup of tea, the candle, the list, the piles, the glasses, the books, the hunger, the messages, the computer


  10. oh Cynthia, but when you invite the thing down, you realize you are just where you started and also the reason you can’t finish. it’s too heavy. SIGH. but thank you so much for this. i am in awe of where it took me in my current manuscript, which I haven’t touched for a few weeks. immense gratitude.


  11. the opening, the confession, the breathing, the tears, the weight, the leaving, the light, the children, the sparklers, the smiles, the peace


  12. The heartbeat, the sound, the plan, the hope, the snowman, the window, the dry eye, the gray sky, the pie, the flannel pillowcase, the earthworm, the cold germ, the time, the race, the music, the space, the space between us.


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