The Six-Word Memoir Blog

Work Challenge Winners #2: “What Inspires My Very Best Work”

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

By Larry Smith

As Challenge #3, Bosses: The Best Boss I Ever Had, heads toward the finish line this weekend, SMITH Magazine and Mercer are thrilled to announce the three winners of Six Words About Work Challenge #2: Inspirations: What Inspires My Best Work.

U.S. Winner—Debra Kirkley, “The five patients I’ll always remember.” Debra is a 50-year-old nurse living in Seattle, where she’s Director of Professional Practice & Development at Group Health Cooperative. Her memoir is about being inspired by those she’s cared for. “I’ve practiced nursing for thirty years in five states,” she says. “And every patient I’ve worked with has a story. But there are five I haven’t forgotten after all these years.”

“Thirty years later, I began writing their stories, intending to write a book about the difference nurses make in patient’s lives. But the theme quickly emerged: These families had shaped me far more than I had shaped them. The memoir I’m nearly finished writing, Only One of Us Has to Have Courage, won the 2010 Texas Writer’s League Manuscript Contest for narrative nonfiction.”

Debra first came to SMITH Mag after reading our first Six-Word Memoir book, Not Quite What I Was Planning. “These days, I’m addicted to the site,” she says. “Six words inevitably start a new conversation.”

Canada Winner—Geoff Saab, “Tell me I can’t. I will.” Geoff is a 37-year-old director of a small, family-run wealth management company in Ottawa, Ontario. About his Six-Word Memoir, he explains: “I tend to always question what I hear and never go down without a fight. But when I think about it deeper, I realize the words aren’t about me. The ethos is universal: everyone wants to be an underdog. Everyone wants a chance to prove themselves. Everyone wants an opportunity to beat the odds. From an early age, I can relate to being the underdog.”

Geoff, who first came to be part of the SMITH Magazine community when he read about the Six Words About Work challenge, found himself right at home on the site. “I personally love to hear people’s personal stories,” he says. “It’s one of the reasons I’m in the business that I’m in.”

UK Winner—Kay Reinhart, “The dawn’s early light. Pure gold.” Kay is an American artist, working mainly in pottery, who has been living abroad for the past 17 years. “The literal meaning of my memoir comes from the quality of the light here,” explains Kay, who first found the Six-Word Memoir project via Facebook. “It’s a huge inspiration in both my work and my life. Recently a particularly dazzling golden sky took my breath away and continues to lift my spirits toward warmth and hope. In addition, there is a patriotic reference from the U.S. national anthem—4th of July inspired—for the homesick part of me.”

Thanks to our guest judge, Anne Ruddy, president of WorldatWork, a nonprofit providing education, conferences and research focused on global human resources issues, including compensation, benefits, work-life and integrated total rewards to motivate workers.

Didn’t win? Stay in the game. We’re giving away six more iPad2s or PlayBooks. Our current challenge, “Bosses: The Best Boss I Ever Had,” continues through August 13, and our final challenge “Lessons at Work” begins on August 14. All entries also are eligible to be part of a special Six Words About Work book we’re publishing this fall. Enter as often as you like on the contest page.

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