Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Six-Word Memoirs

It’s said that Ernest Hemingway wrote the shortest story ever:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

In 2006, the storytelling website SMITH Magazine challenged people to do the same with memoir. Now, editors Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith have compiled nearly a thousand of the best into Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.

While some resemble epitaphs (It was worth it, I think - by Annette Laitinen), most, like Hemingway, say enough in six words to evoke a full narrative arc (After Harvard, had baby with crackhead - Robin Templeton).

There are stories of vulnerability:
I was born some assembly required. - Eric Jordan
Quiet guy; please pay closer attention. - Jonathan Lesser
Can my words have footnotes, please? - Amy Harbottle

…and misfit:
Right brain working left brain job. - Dave Terry
Type A personality. Type B capability. - Keith Lang
Fact-checker by day, liar by night. - Andy Young

…of humor and joy:
Four children in four decades; whew! - Loretta Serrano
The day just kept getting better. - Jeff Cranmer

…and heat:
Brought it to a boil, often. - Mario Batali
Asked to quiet down; spoke louder. - Wendy Lee
Asked and answered, asshole, next question. - Joe Lockhart

…and cleverness:
Palindromic novels fall apart halfway through. - Chuck Clark
EDITOR. Get it? - Kate Hamill

The compilation is not only entertaining, it's inspiring. You can’t help but consider your own memoir, even while you mind-write some of these into full-length fiction.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. These are hilarious... I particularly liked the one on palindromic novels -- seems like a GREAT way to write a novel if you won't have to figure out the second half of the story :)