You’ve all heard the story, how someone challenged Ernest Hemingway to write a story in six words, and how he came back with “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
It is only fitting in this Twittering age that Smith Magazine, an online magazine devoted to storytelling in all its forms, would invite readers to contribute their own six-word memoirs to the website. They were inundated with submissions, and it was only inevitable that these would eventually be collected in book form, called Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs by Famous & Obscure Writers.
Paging through it, I discover that tequila is a recurring meme: “Which comes first: tequila or accident?” And “Tequila. Amnesia. Coincidence? I think not.” And “Full of tequila and bad ideas.”
Some memoirs are flavored with wry resignation. “Never really finished anything, except cake.” “I’m just here for the beer.” And “We were our own Springer episode.”
Some exhibit a fairly high level of self-preservation, not a trait you would expect from someone signing their real name to an Internet website: “It’s pretty high. You go first.”
Some speak to me directly: “Many risky mistakes, very few regrets.” Some don’t speak to me at all: “Not a good Christian, but trying.”
Some are poignant: “Followed rules, not dreams. Never again.” And “Born with glaucoma…fading to black…”
Some despair: “Became my mother. Please shoot me.” And some rejoice: “Afraid of everything. Did it anyway.”
Some are just plain spooky: “He knew her bruises would fade.”
And some made me laugh out loud. “Editor. Get it?” Yes.
There are of course now Six Word Memoirs for Teens (“Met online; love before first sight.”), Six Words on the Green Life (“The meek shall inherit the garbage.”), and Six Words for America (“For every bomb, build a school.”). Smith Magazine’s invitation to contribute your own six-word memoir on the magazine’s website still stands.
Myself, I recommend you buy your own copy of the first book and put it where I did: In the bathroom next to the toilet.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.