Giving thanks for six this Thanksgiving.
BackstoryThanksgiving has a special place in the six-word story. Just a few days before Thanksgiving in 2006, I posted a simple prompt to the SMITH Magazine community, challenging any an all to write story of their life in exactly six words. The idea was inspired by an old Hemingway legend. As the story goes, Hemingway was once asked in a bar bet to write an entire novel in just six words. He responded with, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” At SMITH, we gave the concept a personal twist, calling it the “Six-Word Memoir.” One person would receive an iPod with the winning six words inscribed (read about that here: http://ow.ly/frey8), because in 2006 winning an iPod was kind of a big deal (and I went and bought the iPod at the Apple store). We partnered on the six-word contest with a little-known company called Twittr (no “e” back then), because the crew there was also into storytelling and believed in the power of the short form.
When I went home for Thanksgiving and told my family about the new project on SMITH something wild began to happen. Everyone around the dinner table starting coming up with their own Six-Word Memoirs, and even wrote them for each other (“This one’s for Pop-Pop,” my nephew said. ‘Memory loss. What was I saying.’”) and wrote six-word reviews of the turkey, too. The next day I had 1,000 six-worders waiting for me in my in-box, because back in our early days they were just sent to me email, which in hindsight seems pretty silly.
More than 600,000 sixes on SMITHmag.net and SMITHteens.com later, with adaptations of the form everywhere from classrooms and boardrooms, therapy groups and speed-dating sessions, Six-Word Memoirs have taken life forms beyond my wildest dreams. Above all has been the gift of this beautiful community of storytellers who made this place beat each and every day.
And for that, and all of you, I am truly thankful.