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The Moment: A Selection

“Denial”—A Moment by Kathy Ritchie (audio/video)

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

“My first thought was of Ronald Reagan. He died of Alzheimer’s disease, an incredibly long and drawn out process (from what I remembered). Could my mom have this disease? No. Absolutely not.

Around the turn of the 20th century, controversial psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud first posited the existence of denial as a human defense mechanism. For example, we deny that the reason for our poor performance on an exam was our own lack of preparation; we believe instead that the questions were unfair. We deny that lax gun control laws affect the number of fatal shootings in America; we believe instead that these shootings are unpredictable outliers, impossible to prevent. Denial is what occurs when we are trying to protect ourselves from an unsavory reality, and it is also what writer Kathy Ritchie explores in her piece from The Moment, which details her mother’s difficult diagnosis with dementia. Watch and listen to her story here.

“Birth” — a Moment by John Carnett (audio/video)

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

When I first put out the call for “Moments” on SMITH a few years ago, I kept the prompt fairly vague. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about a community of storytellers it’s that when the community starts responding to a prompt, they’ll define it in a way that the prompter often hadn’t imagined. That said, when people asked for guidance I told them this: a life-changing moment should be something quite personal and specific to your life, but conveyed in a way that connects to a universal feeling, truth or idea. “And, btw,” I told people, “please no births, Bar Mitzvahs, Sweet Sixteens or weddings”—we’ve all read plenty about those life passages by now. So it’s an irony not lost on me that one of the Moments I keep coming back to is about the thing I discouraged the most: life’s very beginning.

I met legendary Popular Science staff photographer John B. Carnett in 2006 while reporting a story on a Jetpack inventor in Cuernavaca, Mexico. We became friends, and years later as I started to put this book together I asked John to share one image and a few hundred words to reflect a moment that rocked his wild range of experiences. It’s no exaggeration to say that John has taken thousands of photographs of some of the most inventive people, places and things in the world. And yet John’s life-changing moment was about the photo he idn’t take. He narrates his story below.

“Just a Man” by Nadja Cada (audio/video)

Monday, July 9th, 2012

“I looked at her wide-eyed, took the envelope and opened it with care and caution.”

When SMITH Magazine began collecting stories for The Moment, it was important to us to represent a vast array of writers from famous and experienced to obscure and never before published. Lucky for us though, Moments don’t happen strictly to writers– everyone has the capacity to take in and be affected by events in their lives. We were especially delighted to see Moments submitted in all sorts of forms (including illustrations, comics, photographs, hand-written letters and tweets, among others) that reflected the immense diversity within the SMITH creative community.

Nadja Cada is not only a writer and The Moment contributor, but also a student in New Media at Ryerson University’s School for Visual Studies, where her instructor, Ramona Pringle, assigned students to recall a life-changing moment in multimedia form. Here, you can listen to Nadja reading her story, “Just a Man” (published in The Moment) about discovering a letter from her biological father when she was thirteen.

Nadja Cada - “Just a Man”

What’s great is that Nadja used her skills as a media artist to take her Moment tale even further. She created a piece of video art showcasing her father’s actual letter, which you can watch below.

“Hobo Beginnings” by Dale Maharidge (video)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

“None of this would have happened if we’d not hit the rails in 1982. That hobo trip dictated the course of the rest of our professional lives.”

What is somewhat magical (and also frustrating!) about the events that affect the paths of our lives is that they are impossible to predict. Sometimes we don’t even know they’ve passed until years later. When we’re young, this can be hard to imagine. Growing up, many of us are molded to believe that careful planning will guarantee achievement, success and ultimately happiness. In high school, counselors encourage extracurricular activities that will increase our chances of getting accepted into college. In college, we are expected to declare a major that will lead to the right internship, which will in turn land us that first perfect job after graduation. We are told to calculate the exact trajectories of our futures again and again.

But life doesn’t always work that way. Looking back, journalists Dale Maharidge and Michael S. Williamson never predicted that one random assignment for The Sacramento Bee would dictate the rest of their lives. When the two young men hopped on the back of a freight train for a story in the 1980s, they had no idea that this was their Moment, the event that would singularly shape both themselves and their careers. In fact, if you’d asked them back then what their life-changing Moment was they probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you—which reminds me, have you had your Moment yet? Share yours on The Moment project.

“Curtain Call” by Attila Kalamar (audio)

Monday, June 18th, 2012

“When we got to the palace our group lined up to enter the building. I found myself last in line, and as we climbed the stairs, I noticed a bathroom just inside on the left. Swiftly, I walked in alone.”

In 1989, the people of Romania overthrew Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu. For Romanians, the ousting of Ceausescu, known for his brutal and repressive regime, was a drastic change in a country that for half a century had been shut off from the Western world. Ten years earlier, however, during a cruise down the Danube River in 1979, writer Attila Kalamar discovered at the young age of 17 that he’d already had enough of his native Romania. In that moment, he decided to make his own drastic change. Listen to the story here.

The Moment in Boston & Portland, June 14-15

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

The Moment on Tour
The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous & Obscure starts in the middle of a blazing fire and ends at Disneyland. In between are 125 moving, personal pieces about opportunities, epiphanies, and calamities that had a profound impact on a single life, from famous folks like Dave Eggers and Melissa Etheridge to dozens of never-before-published writers. Our book tour continues with a reading at Brookline, Mass’s Booksmith on June 14 with eight authors from the book, and a live story show in Portland, Maine on June 15 at Space Gallery, a presentation with the nonprofit writing center The Telling Room. For a preview of both evenings, check out Kim Smith’s “Photo Finish” and Cheryl Della Pietra’s “Gonzo Girl” (that’s Cheryl and her mentor in the picture).
Plus: Larry will be talking about The Moment book and hearing about callers life-changing events on The Emily Rooney Show on Boston’s WBGH on June 14 at 11am est.

“Crying for Their Dog” by Richard Ferguson (audio)

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

“I stepped into the highway, met him head on, stomped a foot, hollered at him to scram. He stood his ground, kept barking. I kept stomping. The children kept shouting. The dog and I, we just stood there, unmoving, at that rise in the road”.

Since its release earlier this year, we’ve heard from readers across the world that The Moment is a book that people snuggle up with in bed, taking in a few “moments” a night. At the same time, one of the most unexpected pleasures is just how these stories have come alive at the events we’ve had across the country. At SMITH Magazine’s The Moment reading at Gallery at The Bootleg in Los Angeles, storyteller, musician and performance artist Richard Ferguson captivated the crowd with his reading of “Crying for Their Dog.” Here he reads it accompanied by an original score.

Christine Macdonald’s Moment— “Sunset Strip”

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Since its release earlier this year, we’ve heard from readers across the world that The Moment is a book that people snuggle up with in bed, reading a few essays a night. At the same time, one of the most unexpected pleasures is just how these stories have come alive at the events we’ve had across the country. At a truly phenomonal evening at San Francsico’s indie gem, Booksmith, a crowd of 75+ people didn’t stir as twelve Moment contributors shared their stories. Here’s Christine Macdonald reading her essay, “Sunset Strip.”

Stephen Tobolowsky’s Moment: “The Moth and the Window”

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Recognize this guy? It’s the inimitable Stephen Tobolowsky, who you’ve probably seen in Deadwood or Glee, and is perhaps most beloved for his role as Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day. He recently read his piece, “The Moth and the Window” at SMITH Magazine’s The Moment reading at Gallery at The Bootleg in Loa Angeles. Joining Stephen that evening to share their “moments” were Ray Richmond, Rich Ferguson, Rebecca Woolf, Sascha Rothschild, Jeremy Toback, Elizabeth Jayne Liu, Laura Cathcart Robbins, Christine Macdonald, and Craig T. Williams.

THE MOMENT book is out!

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

The Moment, a new book from SMITH Magazine, has arrived. The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous & Obscure (Harper Perennial) starts in the middle of blazing fire and ends in Disneyland. In between are 125 moving, personal stories about opportunities, serendipities, epiphanies and calamities that had a profound impact on a single life. SMITH editor Larry Smith talks about The Moment on NPR’s Talk of the Nation today (Jan. 3).

The stories in The Moment come in a wide range of forms from an amazing group of storytellers. The “moments” in this collection are told in written narratives, photographs, comics, illustrations, handwritten letters, and tweets; they come from the personal histories of bestselling authors Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Gregory Maguire; musicians Melissa Etheridge and Judy Collins; 100-year-old journalism legend Ruth Gruber; up-and-coming new voices such as Benjamin Percy, Tao Lin and Saïd Sayrafiezadeh; and many people published for the first time anywhere, who, like all of us, have a life-changing story.

Readings: See some of our favorite Moment storytellers in action at readings in Manhattan, Brooklyn and San Francisco, with more dates to be announced on our event page. At the end of each event, members of the audience are invited to share the first line of their own life-changing moment. and submit a longer story on SMITH Magazine’s ongoing Moment project.

Buy the book. Give The Moment to someone special in your life and then ask the best question in the world: What’s your Moment?

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