“A quest to spark the creativity of aspiring writers.” —Oprah Magazine
“Will thrill minimalists and inspire maximalists.” —Vanity Fair
Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated: Illustrated Six-Word Memoirs by Students Making Sense of the World:
Brain Pickings: “The micro-memoirs are divided into four sections — grade school, high school, college, and graduate school — and touch, with equal parts wit and disarming candor, on everything from teenagers’ internal clocks to the escapism of Alice in Wonderland.”
San Francisco Chronicle: “Smith’s selections, curated from thousands of submissions, shows how little age has to do with perspective. A 9-year-old girl from Virginia creates a Jackson Pollock-like painting accompanied by the provocative words “Two girls, both of them me.” A common theme, and a heartening one, is self-expression, suggesting that the Six-Word Memoirs project has given students a voice that they might not normally have.”
I Heart Daily: “Our love for Six-Word Memoirs is known. We weren’t sure how they’d take it to the next level, but they just did. Things Don’t Have to be Complicated: Illustrated Six-Word Memoirs by Students Making Sense of the World. We dare you not to be impressed and inspired.”
Six-Word Memoirs About Jewish Life in the News:
The Forward: “Millions of words, over thousands of years, have been written about the nature of the Jewish soul. But the most precise distillation of our people’s essence may have finally arrived in fewer characters than a tweet.”
J-Weekly: “The six-worders on Jewish Life are eeflective of Jewish life itself: They run the gamut from hilarious to deeply poignant, with stops everywhere in between.”
The Jewish Exponent: “The concept has been bandied about the Shabbat table, in synagogues and among Jewish leaders. Rabbis have used the concept in sermons, and storytelling sessions at various JCCs and synagogues have, in Smith’s words, ‘created community in new ways.’ ”
The Virginian Pilot: “Chock full of stories on faith and family, duty and identity from Jews across the world.”
Six Words About Work in the News:
• Talk of the Nation talks to SMITH editor Larry Smith about the “Six Words About Work” challenge.
• The New York Times calls “Six Words About Work” from SMITH Mag a fun, creative challenge is in order, as a diversion from the doom and gloom.”
• The UK’s Financial Times challenges its readers to take SMITH Mag’s Six-Word Work challenge.
Six-Word Memoirs on Coming Home From War with IAVA:
• PBS’ Need to Know program aired a segment on SMITH Mag & IAVA collaboration asking veterans to describe their post-war life in six words.
• AlterNet calls “Six Words on Coming Home From War, “the most poignant, evocative set since the [Six-Word Memoir] project began.”
• The Washington Post: “One of the most moving pieces [this Veterans Day]: Six-word memoirs from soldiers.”
• The National Post writes: “It’s hard to think of a more immediate glimpse into a soldier’s heart than, ‘Two tours, no injuries, thank God.’ ”
NPR’s Talk of the Nation: “Can You Tell Your Life Story in Exactly Six Word?” Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser talk to host Rebecca Roberts and take listener calls in a 17-minute segment that quickly became the most listened to and commented on all of NPR.org.
Oprah Radio’s Jean Chatzky: Jean Chatzky and Larry Smith talk about how Six-Word Memoirs are a great way to boil down the essence of your life, including your financial life.
Los Angeles Times:: “Smith Magazine’s six-word memoirs have been lodged in the literary firmament since the 2008 release of “Not Quite What I Was Planning,” a pocket-sized collection that became a bestseller.”
Entertainment Weekly: “The book includes pensive memoirs by the likes of Molly Ringwald (’Acting is not all I am’) and clever pieces by the likes of James Frey (’So would you believe me anyway?’).”
USA Today’s Pop Candy: “SMITH Magazine has a great thing going with its six-word memoir series,” writes columnist Whitney Matheson. “I can identify with Gloria Steinem’s contribution, ‘Life is one big editorial meeting.’”
KQED’s Forum with Michael Krasney: Larry and Rachel talk for an hour with SF’s legendary radio host, and take listener Six-Word Memoirs. There were so many people trying to call that the phone system brokedown! Listen to a podcast.
Wisconsin Public Radio’s At Issue with Ben Merens: Host Ben Merens, Larry Smith, and dozens of callers swap six-word memoir stories in a fast-moving hour-long show that ranges from intense to funny moment to moment.
WUWM’s Public Radio’s “The Lake Effect”: Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser talk to host Mitch Teich about storytelling in the age of Twitter, the populist nature of the six-word project, and the careful treatment some of our most famous six-word memoirists take with their own six words.
Flavorwire: The daily culture magazine has a report on SMITH Mag’s Six-Word Memoir event at the 92nd Street Y that ends with a genius comparative chart between Six-Word Memoirs and Lyrics Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.”
The Kansas City Star: Hundreds of readers contribute Six-Word Memoirs in a piece that challenges readers to write their own six word in the comments area (”Blue dot in sea of red,” “Born naked, raised Catholic, love fashion,” and “Don’t forget to lick the bowl.”).
AlterNet: Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser take a look back—in words, images, and video—through the amazing Six-Word journey, from Hemingway to SMITH to speed dating to six-word prayers. It’s all true.
Web100: Allan Hoffman talks to Larry Smith about the Six-Word Memoir phenom in an interview composed entirely of six-word sentences.
Selected press for Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak:
NPR’s Talk of the Nation: “Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser, editors of the SMITH memoir collections, talk with host Neal Conan about the process of distilling stories of falling in—and out of—love into just a few words.”
New York Times’s City Room Blog: “Summing Up Love in Six Words,” by Jenny 8. Lee.
New York Times “Well” Blog: “What’s your six-word love story?” by Tara Parker-Pope.
Newsweek: “That’s So Romantic. And So Brief.”
USA Today: “Love boiled down to just six words” by Carol Memmott
Entertainment Weekly’s “Must List”: “The new book focuses on the age-old puzzle of love and its related problems with memoirs that are clever, earnest, sad, and funny.” EW also salutes the six-word memoir form by presenting its Must List entirely in six-word entries.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Wee tales of love and loss: Lovelorn, love-struck and bitter say it in six words,” by Cecelia Goodnow
Reader’s Digest: “Can you sum up your romantic life in just six words?”
San Francisco Chronicle: “Larry Smith, Rachel Fershleiser: 6-word life” by Justin Berton
Los Angeles Times: “My favorites are those that have an ambiguity, where it’s hard to tell whether the memory is full of love or hate — or some mysterious combination,” writes “Jacket Copy” blogger Carolyn Kellogg.
New York Post: Page Six item, “Love and lust in a nutshell”
The Rocky Mountain News: “Six-word memoirs leave book lover speechless” by Patti Thorn
WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show: Rachel and Larry talk to the winners of a SMITH and WNYC.org’s six-word memoir contest in a lively and intense 28-minute segment.
WGBH’s “Greater Boston with Emily Rooney”: Straight from a cross-country flight (thank you Green Room makeup artist!), Larry and Rachel talk about what makes a good six-word love story on Boston’s public TV station.
The Star (Malaysia): “From the blissful to the brokenhearted, a story can be told in just half a dozen words, no matter how how deep your love is.”
Selected highlights of coverage of NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous & Obscure. Press release and media contact info at the bottom of the page.
TV & Radio
NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser bounce around six-word memoirs with host Neal Conan and his listeners during a lively 12-minute segment that quickly became the “most emailed” story on NPR.org.
PBS’ Need To Know: A powerful segment with interviews from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in which they share their backstories to their Six-Word Memoirs on coming home from war.
BBC’s Today Programme: Larry Smith talks to the UK’s leading morning show about why 15,000 responded to our six-word challenge, the making of the book, and why Nigel French “Lived in America, came back different.”
BBC’s The Word:
Larry Smith talks to Harriet Gilbert, host of BBC’s popular “The Word” book and lit show, about what makes a good six-word life story.
Wisconsin Public Radio’s “To the Best of Our Knowledge”: “Could six-word memoirs be the new literary trend?,” asks “Best of Our Knowledge” host Jim Fleming before a conversation about the book.
KCPW public radio (Utah): Brian Schott, host of Utah public radio’s morning show, talks to Larry Smith about the origin of the six-word memoir sensation, and why divorce, drugs, and, always, coffee, is the best fodder for stories.
Print & Web
The New Yorker: Lizzie Widdicombe’s brilliant Talk of the Town piece describes the book and launch party entirely in six-word sentences.
Time Magazine:“Like traditional Japanese poetry, the new pop-culture haiku says a lot with few words. These days digital eloquence is defined by pithiness. … In the book world, a surprise hit this year has been Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.”
Los Angeles Times: Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser pen an op-ed piece on how the six-word memoir project has inspired SMITH Mag’s vision of a storytelling world.
The New York Times Online (City Room): Jennifer 8. Lee digs into the back story of SMITH Mag and the six-word project, challenges Times readers to write with their own six-word life stories—and the comments box explodes.
Slate: “Brief writing is thriving with the publication of Not Quite What I Was Planning,” writes Michael Agger, in The Great Uncluttering: the best books, articles, and Web sites for helping you organize your life.
The Denver Post: “It’s a quick read that invites a slow reread. … The SMITH website says they were aiming for ‘everything we believe storytelling can be: accessible, funny, profound, and addictive.’ They’ve fully achieved their goal. Not Quite What I Was Planning is a perfect distraction and inspiration, and a collection that begs to be shared. Be warned, though. If you plan to lend out your copy, start out with two. Once it leaves your hands you’ll never see it again.”
Amazon.com’s Best of February: “In the bittersweet confessional style of PostSecret, hundreds (famous and otherwise) sum up their lives in less than half a haiku.” Also: Amazon’s Leah Weathersby interviews Rachel Fershleiser.
Publishers Weekly: “Makes for compulsive reading and prove arguably as insightful as any 300+ page biography. Taken as a whole, this cascade of quotes from contributors famous and unknown creates a dizzying snowball effect of perspectives and feelings. … [T]his compelling little book will have readers and their friends hunting for favorites and inventing six-word self-definitions of their own. This review in six words? Read. Enjoy. Pass it on. Repeat.”
Publishers Weekly (again): Humorist Henry Alford riffs on the six-word form by crafting his own six-word memoirs for bestselling scribes from William Shakespeare to Jessica Seinfeld.
Very Short List: “Six words. Personal stories. Infinite possibilities. These ADD autobiographies prove that brevity can be the soul not simply of wit.”
Update: VSL readers vote Not Quite What I Was Planning the most popular pick of February.
The Telegraph (London): “a fabulously appealing exercise both for writers and for readers.”
O, The Oprah Magazine: “The pithiest of life stories.”
ReadyMade Magazine: “The petite self-portraits encompass love and love, joy and sorrow—everything you’d expect from a longer book.”
New York Post: “The brilliance is in the brevity.”
Boing Boing: Boing Boing’s Mark Frauenfelder says, “I wish all tombstones came with stories like these.”
The Baltimore Sun: Sports columnist Rich Maese calls the book “a minimalist attack on the written word” and then writes six-word memoirs for dozens of sports stars.
SF Gate (SF Chronicle): “The best idea I’ve recently seen for a book.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Let’s dub this American haiku. SMITH Magazine, a popular online periodical that features personal storytelling, has turned out a compilation of hundreds of six-word memoirs by the famous and not famous… [Y]ou can read pieces in seconds or ponder the book for hours.”
NPR’s Bryant Park Project: “The editors of SMITH challenged writers to craft their own six-word memoirs, and got some interesting results. Most of them sound kinda like crosses between a personal ad and a haiku…”
Philadelphia Magazine: “A good number conjure up both a story line and a worldview. Six-word review: Buy it, keep it in bathroom.”
Time Out New York: New York City’s leading weekly took our six-word memoir concept to the streets and found New York life stories like: “Good life. Good times. Hard times.”
Galleycat:Galleycat scribe and “Internet famous, for what it’s worth” six-word memoirist Ron Hogan writes about the book’s inclusion of publishing giants Daniel Halpern (”It’s all about me, isn’t it?”) and Dan Menaker (”My memoir? You can’t be serious.”).
Metro (NYC, Philly): “Larry Smith is redefining the short story, six words at a time.”
Blackbook: “These tiny windows into people’s lives are at once addictive and illuminating, challenging and accessible.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Not Quite What I Was Planning doesn’t come out till February, but the publisher sent me an advance copy and I fell so in love with it I had to blog early.”
Philadelphia Inquirer: “Here’s a challenge to crisp prose,” writes columnist Chris Satullo says. “Write your memoir in six words. Recapitulate life in a half-dozen strokes.”
Philadelphia Inquirer lead book critic, Carlin Romano, writes: “Six words are worth 1,000 pictures. All told, they made me twitter.”
National Post (Canada): Ben Kaplan talk to Larry Smith and Rachel Feshleiser about the making of the six-word memoir book.
Follow-up: Rachel pens an op-ed in the National Post about what we’ve learned since the project began and the book took off.
The Washington Post’s Express: A feature story from free paper of the Washington Post on the success of the six-word memoir book and the founding and future of SMITH Magazine.
The Toronto Star: “Smith seems to have struck a chord in the current zeitgeist, unleashing a torrent of self-expression not unlike the one launched by Frank Warren when he began inviting people to write their secrets on the back of postcards.”
Style.com: Michael Slenske says, in six words, “Gimmicks should always be this fun.” Our response? “Not a gimmick, still love review.”
Cape Cod Times: Columnist and editor of the Cape Cod View, Debbie Forman, writes, “Some [memoirs] are quite funny, others poignant, and still others have a sharp edge.”
Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram: “A few words can distill lifetimes. We’re proving that to you here. This story’s in six-word phrases.”
Very special thanks to all the bloggers who’ve spread the love.
Events & Party Coverage
Galleycat: Ron Hogan (”Internet famous, for what that’s worth”) does a recap of the book launch party at the Housing Works with terrific photos (hey, who’s that hot blond at the top?).
The Publishing Spot: An unruly video from Jason Boog that perfectly captured the spirit of the book launch party in New York City.
Media contact for Six-Word Memoir books:
Alberto G. Rojas
Media contact for SMITH Magazine:
Agent for SMITH Magazine:
International Creative Management
1.22.08 Press Release for Not Quite What I Was Planning [pdf]
Read more coverage of SMITH Magazine and its many other projects.