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Your Life Story,

August 16, 2017

in six words

I may have blogged about this in the past but I just came across this article again while cleaning out a box of old stuff and just had to share it. The article is called Your life story, in six words and written by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser. I don’t know which newspaper I cut it out of or the date it was published. It helped me “pause” the first time I read it and again today. Perhaps when you read it below, you will pause as well.

     Everyone has a story. That’s the tag on the masthead of SMITH, our online magazine. Yes until we asked the world to send us six-word memoirs, even we had no idea how true it was. 

We took a page from Ernest Hemingway. According to legend, he was challenged to write a novel in only six words and came up with “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” We posed the same challenge online, but we asked for true-life stories – in just half a dozen well-chosen words. 

     To launch the challenge, we posted examples from names we figured most readers would know, such as “Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert (“e see world! Me write stories!”; she naturally emailed hers in from an airport runway in Indonesia) and celebrity chef Mario Batali (he sent seven, each enlightening but none as pitch-perfect as “Brought it to a boil, often”).

     More than 15,000 (and counting) submissions later; we are continually struck by what proves possible in just six words. The shots, shot life stories keep coming in. As we try this, a quick glance reveals Emily Cambridge “wanted to write but feared failure”. With half a dozen words and a few clicks of the keyboard, she has rewritten the story of her life. 

     What’s yours?

     Ex-wife and contractor now have house. – Drew Peck

     Wasn’t born a redhead; fixed that. – Andie Grace

     Chinese immigrant loathing drama in Anaheim. – Eric Wong

     Can’t tonight, watching “Law & Order.” – Rory Evans

     Found true love, married someone else. – Bjorn Stromberg

     Fifteen years since last professional haircut. – Dave Eggers

     One tooth, one cavity, life’s cruel. – John Bettencourt

     Must remember: people, gadgets. That order. – Brian Lam

     Made a mess. Cleaned it up. – Amy Anderson

     Hockey is not just for boys. – Alexandra Duplin

     Put whole self in, shook about. – Melissa Delzio

     My second-grade teacher was right. – Janelle Brown

Well, I though it was funny. – Stephen Colbert

     Where the hell are my keys? – Brady Udall

     Dad wore leather pants in Reno. – John Falk

     Secret of life: Marry an Italian. – Nora Ephron

     Little bit Lucy, tempered by Ethel. – Tami Maus

     I think, therefore I am bald. – Dickie Widjaja

     Took scenic route, got in late. – Will Blythe

     Being a monk stunk. Better gay. – Bob Redman

     Became my mother. Please shoot me. – Cynthia Kaplan

Should not have eaten those mushrooms. – Emilie Raguso

     Was father, boys died, still sad. – Ronald Zalewski

     ABCs MTV SATs THC IRA NPR. – Jancee Dunn

     It’s pretty high. You go first. – Alan Eagle

     Me: consistently avoiding death since 1978! – Daniel Fowlkes

     New Jersey to California. Thank God. – Ayelet Waldman

     I still make coffee for two. – Zak Nelson

     It was embarrassing, so don’t ask. – Alex Lindquist

You can go to the website at http://www.smithmag.net and check out the work. Could you do this with the other arts somehow? Six notes perhaps. There is a tab for schools at the site so you can read what students have contributed.

What about you? What’s your life story, in six words? I’m going off to write mine now!

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