Editors’ Blog

SMITH Turns 5! Here’s Our Story.

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

By Larry Smith

Five years ago, on January 6, 2006, I launched SMITH Magazine with Tim Barkow, a guy I met on the first day of college. We got along well because we both liked New Wave rock and making media. We had tons of ideas; he was better at the behind-the-scenes, backend building of stuff. I was better at inspiring the troops and talking the ear off of anyone who would listen about what we were up to.

We worked on all kinds of stuff together, including, years later, launching this magazine. After years of trying to get fancy publishers behind it, or raising money from people who had it, we just did it on our own. We had no budget, staff, or business plan. What we did have was a strong belief in these six ideas:
• Everyone has a story, and everyone should have a place to tell it.
• We all have stories, but most of us aren’t asked to tell them, or made to feel that our story is interesting.
• Technology’s rapid changes meant it was and would continue to be easier for anyone and everyone to make media.
• SMITH would be a place where content would come from what we called “the chicken’s-eye view,” the perspective of the little guy making sense of the world from the ground up. We wanted to hear from the soldier not the general; the unpublished writer not the world-famous bestselling one.
• Our vibe would be inspirational, populist, forward thinking, and most of all, participatory.
• We would make, encourage, and enable better media, not simply more media.

I learned a lot of what became the core beliefs of SMITH from my grandfather, a small-town pharmacist who everyone called “Smitty,” and who knew and talked to everyone. You couldn’t walk down his beloved Atlantic City boardwalk without him running into an old pal of the past 70 years, or a new one of the past 7 days. But when you really listened, it turned out Smitty didn’t actually talk that much about himself.

What’s more, I realized that despite my job as a journalist—someone, of course, who’s supposed to ask a lot of questions—I really didn’t know the details of his story. The broad strokes, sure, but I never heard the nitty-gritty life story of this man I so admired. That was an epic fail on my part. When I asked him to tell me the story of his life, my grandfather said, “Oh, my story, who would care about that?” So I tricked him. I told him I wanted to test my new video camera—”could you just tell one story about coming over from Russia when you were three?” And then the man didn’t stop talking for hours. And so came my “aha! moment”: Everyone has a story, you just have to remember to ask.

We’ve been asking people to tell their story for five years now, and more than 100,000 of you have done so in this amazing community, as well as on SMITH Teens, sharing more than 400,000 stories, in six words and more. I’m so grateful for all of you, for my largely volunteer team, and for the publishers who have helped us put out four Six-Word Memoir books (and now a version in Japanese), two graphic novels, and this fall The Moment: An Instant Your Life Changed.

Here’s a post I wrote the day we launched, January 6, 2006, which was National Smith Day—a day I didn’t create but certainly can get behind (as can the good people of this senior center in Maryland). Below is a video talk I gave about the birth of SMITH and the wild growth of the Six-Word Memoir project (so masterfully co-piloted by Rachel Fershleiser) at a technology and innovation conference called PopTech. As Six-Word Memoirist Nick Flynn wrote, “Many hands have kept me afloat.” Those six words are indeed the story of SMITH as we begin our sixth year.

16 responses

  1. Twitter Trackbacks for SMITH Turns 5! Here’s Our Story. | Editors’ Blog [smithmag.net] on Topsy.com says:

    [...] SMITH Turns 5! Here’s Our Story. | Editors’ Blog smithmag.net/obsessions/2011/01/06/smith-turns-5-heres-what-happened/ – view page – cached Five years ago, on January 6, 2006, I launched SMITH Magazine with Tim Barkow, a guy I met on the first day of college. We got along well because we both liked [...]

  2. Joachim Frank says:

    Hi Larry,

    I left a few traces at your site — six words stuff, a moment, a little memoir.
    I always wondered if you are the same Larry Smith who did small Zine projects with me and others, back in the 80s? I remember Larry Rippel, for instance. But I can’t remember the name of the enterprise.
    I moved to NYC from Albany almost 3 years ago.

    –Joachim.

  3. Dorothy Hammed says:

    Now this is weird, all jokes aside – this is the second time today that I found this blog when searching for two totally different things. Has anyone else ever done that?

  4. Haywood Taira says:

    Substantially, this publish is really the sweetest on this notable theme. I harmonise along with your conclusions and will thirstily seem ahead in your incoming updates. Stating thanks will not likely just be ample, for that phenomenal clarity with your writing. I will right grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Admirable operate and considerably accomplishment with your enterprise dealings!  Please excuse my poor English as it’s not my very first tongue.

  5. article source says:

    It’s actually a great and useful piece of info. I’m satisfied that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  6. scholarships study abroad says:

    excellent points altogether, you just received a brand new reader. What may you suggest in regards to your publish that you made some days ago? Any sure?

  7. property law says:

    Thanks for some other informative web site. Where else could I am getting that kind of information written in such an ideal method? I have a mission that I am just now operating on, and I’ve been at the look out for such information.

  8. small home design plans says:

    Hello.This article was really remarkable, especially since I was investigating for thoughts on this issue last couple of days.

  9. detektyw wroclaw says:

    Hello there, simply became alert to your blog via Google, and found that it is really informative. I’m gonna be careful for brussels. I will appreciate for those who proceed this in future. Lots of other folks will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!|

  10. Nursery Rhyme says:

    Oh my goodness! an amazing write-up dude. A lot of thanks Even so My business is experiencing trouble with ur rss . Do not know why Struggle to sign up to it. Can there be every person finding identical rss dilemma? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

  11. Loft conversions says:

    I gotta favorite this web site it seems invaluable very helpful

  12. Wesley Flesher says:

    Thank you! Helpful stuff.|

  13. kliknij link says:

    Great post kiollsos made here. One thing I would really like to say is always that most professional career fields consider the Bachelors Degree as the entry level requirement for an online certification. Though Associate Certification are a great way to start out, completing ones Bachelors opens up many doorways to various occupations, there are numerous online Bachelor Diploma Programs available by institutions like The University of Phoenix, Intercontinental University Online and Kaplan. Another issue is that many brick and mortar institutions provide Online variants of their diplomas but usually for a substantially higher charge than the providers that specialize in online course plans.

  14. Celestine Ponce says:

    I got what you intend, regards for posting .Woh I am happy to find this website through google. “You must pray that the way be long, full of adventures and experiences.” by Constantine Peter Cavafy.

  15. Serwis komputerowy ?ód? says:

    Chyba jeden z lepszych artyku?ów w mojej opinii. Dzi?ki serdeczne i czekam z niecierpliwo?ci? niecierpliwie na wi?cej.

  16. Salon komputerowy ?ód? says:

    Bardzo interesuj?co napisany artyku?. My?l?, ?e mo?na go jeszcze troch? poszerzy?.

Leave a Reply

The name you want displayed with your comment.

Emails are not published with comments (i.e., everyone won't see it).

Your Website. This is optional.

 
SMITH Magazine

SMITH Magazine is a home for storytelling.
We believe everyone has a story, and everyone
should have a place to tell it.
We're the creators and home of the
Six-Word Memoir® project.