Samantha Hunt’s new story, “Go, Team,” will appear in the March issue of The Atlantic. To mark its publication, she and Thomas Gebremedhin, an editor at the magazine, discussed over email her thematic preoccupations, the elements of a good story, and the origins of “Go, Team.” This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Thomas Gebremedhin: In “Go, Team,” a group of mothers recounts the disappearance of a woman at a soccer game. The story is set almost entirely in dialogue, with minimal dialogue attribution—it’s a dazzling gambit. The effect is that of a Greek chorus. Did you arrive at the structure or the plot first? Why does the story necessitate the form?
Samantha Hunt: Strange things happen at soccer fields. When I was a student, there was a coach who pointed to an empty hillside and asked the children, “Do you see that man?” To our eyes, there was no man. “It’s Job,” the coach said. “Job walking the Earth.” Then we all just went back to playing soccer. The fields where my daughters play now are surrounded by agriculture. This past fall, the farmer grew hemp. Every game smelled of weed! Some luckless criminal stole tons and tons of the farmer’s hemp one night, imagining a big marijuana payday that never happened. All that to say, the plot came first. I was on the sidelines at an away game. There was a forest beyond the field. It was rainy, and the woods seemed welcoming. Sidelines are a wild place where worlds collide; there are lots of emotions and so many different ways of loving our children. I didn’t walk into the woods. I started writing “Go, Team.” The rest of the story, the cluster of women’s voices, came after that as a late-night, chatty surprise package.