The Six-Word Memoir Project
Legend has it that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” In November 2006, SMITH Magazine re-ignited the recountre by asking our readers for their own Six-Word Memoirs. They sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“Business school? Bah! Pop music? Hurrah”) and hilarious (“I like big butts, can’t lie”).
Since then, Six-Word Memoir project has become a global phenomenon and a bestselling book series. Six-Word Memoirs have been featured in hundreds of media outlets from NPR to The New Yorker, covered on tens of thousands of blogs, and, as of Summer 2010, can be found inside 1 million Honest Tea bottle caps.
Hundreds of thousands of people have shared their own short life story at smithmag.net, as well as in classrooms, churches, and at live Six-Word “slams” across the world. The Six-Word Memoir exemplifies the best of SMITH Magazine’s storytelling mission: populist, participatory, inspirational, and addictive. From speed dating to parlor games, to conferences and staff retreats, Six-Word Memoirs have become a powerful tool to inspire conversation around a big idea, and a simple way for individuals to break the ice.
Anticipating the microblogging explosion, SMITH originally launched Six-Word Memoirs in November 2006 as a simple online challenge asking:
“Can you tell your life story in six words?”
In a partnership with Twitter (among the company’s first outside projects), SMITH’s followers were sent one six-word story a day. Within weeks, the blogosphere was buzzing about the challenge. The rest is history…
• Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure was published on Feb. 5, 2008, making The New York Times bestseller list, and named one of Amazon’s Top 100 books of 2008.
• NPR’s 12-minute “Talk of the Nation” segment on the book was the No. 1 most e-mailed piece on all of NPR.org for three straight weeks.
• With 950 credited contributors, Not Quite What I Was Planning may be the most “crowdsourced” book in publishing history. Each contributor received a copy of the book and a promotion kit. Hundreds spread the word.
• In May 2008, Harper Perennial signed SMITH to a five-book deal, including Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak, Six-Word Memoirs by Teens (Sept. 2009), and, most recently. It All Changed in An Instant:More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure (Jan. 2010).
Everyone has a six-word story. What’s yours? We hope you’re become a part of SMITH Magazine’s Six-Word Memoir project, one which gets better and better with each contribution.