The Six-Word Memoir Blog

“To lights and music I dance.” Six-Word Memoirs at the Treasure Island Music Festival

Monday, October 18th, 2010

By Larry Smith

SMITH Mag and Triple Base Gallery set up a “Six-Word Wall” in the DIY Tent during San Francisco’s Treasure Island Music Festival. For two days, hundreds of festivalgoers, writing in at least three languages, shared a little bit of their lives on a wall of Six-Word Memoirs. As the day went on, the wall got bigger and bigger—and then we tore it down in order to start with a blank slate the next day.

Some of the memoirists then took their words over to one of Triple Base’s artists-in-residence-on-Treasure-Island, who created “Six-Word Rally Signs” for what was a wearable, moveable memoir effect. You can view the whole beautiful scene over at our Flickr set.

We heard a story from a couple who got together in way they weren’t quite planning (”I met him on an elevator”), while a budding hipster quoted Kerouac’s Dharma Bums with her six words (”You can’t fall off a mountain”). I both missed being a teenager and didn’t as I watched a 15-year-old girl struggle to find the words, before scribbling down the story of her life so far (”I want to start over. Ahhh!”). As is so often the case, total strangers shared the most intimate details of their lives (”Exposed to death. She saved me”; “Slept with most of my friends”) and personal philosophies (”Love it when it ends in wrestling”; “Finding that greener grass grows right here.”).

After two long and intensely fun days on Treasure Island, I stumbled over to a friend’s place to share some stories and photos from the weekend. My friend asked if we sold a lot of books; I explained we didn’t have books for sale. She asked if we got a lot of new signups to SMITH Mag; I said that while I’m sure lots of folks will head over to SMITH later, we didn’t have a computer at our booth. “So you just spent two 12-hour days sitting in a booth at a music festival because…?” Because of this: when you watch someone stand in front of a wall of Six-Word Memoirs, maybe smile, maybe get choked up, or maybe get a look on her face that says, “I can’t believe I just read that,” and then sit down with a Sharpie and piece of construction paper and start working on her own short, short life story, possibly for the first time, that wall, and the Six-Word Memoir world, gets a little bigger. After doing this project for close to four years, I’m pretty sure that when someone thinks about his or her life story, and then shares it with someone else, something very cool happens in the most personal and also the most public way. We do it because?…. We get to see words dance.

Check out more photos here.

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6 responses

  1. Eka says:

    I’m not so picky about word conuts, although perhaps it affects my success! I did get a word count-specific rejection from WW once, saying that 1400 words was awkward for their typesetting. Ultimately I think you can play 100 words either way, as they can adjust illustrations and type pretty easily–you see PF do it all the time, the way they spread some words across a line.Word conuts are really page conuts–700-1100 is one page, 1700-2000 is two page, etc.Katharine

  2. Manal says:

    no.In any event, anyone who seeks to be a pubshlied author better get used to rejection. Kristin, you’d be a good one to ease an aspiring author into this whole process (whether you decide to read or say “not a good fit for me”) when an author first queries, because you would be so nice about it.So, don’t feel bad about saying no.Darn. Shoulda checked your insurance before giving my “professional” opinion.

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