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The Moment: A Selection

Just a “Moment” With Patti Smith

Friday, August 19th, 2011

One of the reasons I started a project devoted to personal storytelling is my love of and devotion to reading memoirs of people both famous and obscure. (Most people who’ve found their way here share this passion, and the true memoir obsessive might enjoy my interview with Ben Yagoda, who wrote a book about the history of the memoir.)

I just finished Patti Smith’s Just Kids, a memoir about her first few years in New York that’s part portrait of the artist becoming an artist and part love letter to her best friend and muse, the artist Robert Mapplethorpe. I’m sure in years to come, and in updates to Yagoda’s book, it will become part of the great memoir canon; an example of a book that takes you inside a very specific time in someone’s life with depth and color and what feel like every drop of trueness the author had to give. Others have written much on Just Kids.

At the same time I was reading Patti’s Smith’s memoir of this important moment in her life, I was finishing up a draft of SMITH Magazine’s forthcoming book, The Moment, 125 stories from writers famous and obscure about a watershed moment in each one’s life. Memoirs, by virtue of the form, are full of moments. And given that I’ve been so immersed in moments lately, it’s not surprising that I’m pretty calibrated these days to spot them. So I wanted to share a lovely passage from Just Kids. Here, Patti’s a teenage girl living in South Jersey when her father decided to take her and her three siblings to the Museum of Art in Philadelphia.

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Moment Mondays: “Cornrows” by Lori Sabian

Monday, June 6th, 2011

My turn was last. It became clear very quickly my hair did not respond as expected. More vaseline was applied. More rubber bands came out and still it did not obey. We tried our very best to keep my slippery straight hair bound by tiny braids.

Each Monday, we’re featuring a story submitted for consideration in our upcoming book, The Moment, coming out in January 2012 from Harper Perennial. What’s a “moment”? It’s a story, told in words, images, emails or even the occasional poem or tweet (or sometimes a poetic series of tweets), about something large or small, playful or profound, that changed a life.

So many of the Moments we receive take place when the author was quite young. I suppose it’s not surprising that so many of us have turned into the people we are because of our earliest experiences and influences. Still, I’ve been blown away by the intensity and wisdom of these moments. As a new dad, readings stories like “Cornrows” by Lori Sabian (below) reminds me of the most obvious and yet often-forgotten notion there is for a parent: every single moment in a child’s life counts. (more…)

Moment Mondays: A True “Oprah Moment” by Ray Richmond

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Each Monday, we’re featuring a story submitted for consideration in our upcoming book, The Moment, coming out in January 2012 from Harper Perennial. What’s a “moment”? It’s a story, told in words, images (or both), emails or even a poetic tweet), about something large or small, playful or profound, that changed a life.

With Oprah’s final show in our recent rear-view mirror, I thought I’d share this weird and wonderful piece from Ray Richmond. In his story, Richmond posits that through a series of events, he may have been the reason Queen O jumped into the Obama campaign, and, arguably kicked his campaign into high gear. Could this SMITH writer be unsung hero of our 44th President? Read “‘Hi. It’s Oprah Winfrey” and decide for yourself.

Moment Mondays: “If I Don’t Die Today, I Will Marry Kristin Moore” by Aaron Huey

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

“The shooting had started three hours ago, and we had no clear exit. In the back seat of our unarmored Ford F250 there was a translator and a Dyncorp medic. I pressed down between them as close to the floor as I could so that they would absorb the bullets.”

Each Monday, we’re featuring a story from our upcoming book, The Moment, coming out in January 2012 from Harper Perennial. What’s a “moment”? It’s a story, told in words, images, emails or even the occasional poem or tweet about something large or small, playful or profound, that changed a life.

The story below and image above is by Aaron Huey, a photojournalist for National Geographic, Harper’s Magazine, The New Yorker, The Smithsonian, and The New York Times. It’s a moment about facing the worst—in his case an ambush by the Taliban, which is pretty much as bad as it gets—and figuring out what, or who, is the best part of your life for the first time. Thankfully, most of us won’t face what Aaron did, but everyone goes through gut checks. Read on for a very big moment. (more…)

Moment Mondays: “Just a Man” by Nadja Cada

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Each Monday, we’re featuring a story from our upcoming book, The Moment, coming out in January 2012 from Harper Perennial. What’s a “moment”? It’s a story, told in words, images, emails or even the occasional poem or tweet (or sometimes a poetic series of tweets), about something large or small, playful or profound, that changed a life.

The image above and story below comes from Nadja Cada, a student in Ramona Pringle’s Visual Studies course in the New Media department at Ryerson University in Toronto. This second-year class encourages students to explore the nature of narrative in the digital, visual age, and experiment with multi-platform production and non-linear modes of storytelling. This “moment” feels especially relevant in time between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and given the topic of SMITH Mag’s May 18 Story Show.

“The Moment was our first assignment of the year, a way of getting to know each other as individuals, artists and storytellers,” says Pringle, who was recently featured in a New York Times story about how virtual connections in gaming culture are fueling real-life connections. “Students were first asked to write a moment and accompany it with an image for print (of any media) and then asked to create a time-based piece (video, animation, etc), based on their moment.” (more…)

Moment Mondays: “Serious” by Josh Axelrad

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Each Monday, we’re featuring a story from our upcoming book, The Moment, coming out in January 2012 from Harper Perennial. What’s a “moment”? It’s a story, told in words, images, emails or even the occasional Tweet, about something large or small, playful or profound, that changed someone’s life. Everybody has a Moment—what’s yours?

The story below by one of our favorite storytellers, Josh Axelrod, feels particularly poignant in the wake of the killing of Bin Laden.

Serious
by Josh Axelrad

The stunted ring sounds when he hangs up. I watch him walk back, his arms grooving. He sits, controller poised, eyes fixed on the television. “We’re bombing Afghanistan.”

The phone rings. There’s no more apt verb. Clem and I are on the couch with the controllers in our hands. It’s October 7, 2001. Clem pauses the game, the ring surging. Clem is unserious. His manner of ambling is comical. His arms are too long. He moves like an impersonated hippie. Both our lives have lacked substantive import to anyone, including ourselves, so far. He answers the phone with two syllables. (more…)

Moment Mondays: “Catcalled” by Cathy Alter

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

On Mondays, we’re featuring a story from our upcoming book, The Moment, coming out in January 2012 from Harper Perennial. What’s a “moment”? It’s a story, told in words, images, emails or even the occasional Tweet, about something large or small, playful or profound, that changed someone’s life. Everybody has a Moment—what’s yours?

The story below, “Catcalled,” comes from Washington, DC-based writer Cathy Alter. Alter is both a longtime contributor to our community and a memoirist who’s been interviewed about her writing process on SMITH.

Catcalled
By Cathy Alter

It’s sad to say that I became a woman the day I was objectified by a man. It’s sad because I would be lying if I didn’t say I liked it.

It was summer and I was 15. Still flat as a board, but tall and willowy, my hipless torso and ribbon legs predicting the shape I would eventually own in adulthood. (more…)

Moment Mondays: “Flash” by Caroline Paul

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Each Monday, we feature a story from our upcoming book, The Moment, coming out in January 2012 from Harper Perennial. What’s a “moment”? It’s a story, told in words, images, emails or even the occasional Tweet, about something large or small, playful or profound, that changed someone’s life. Everybody has a Moment—what’s yours?

The Moment below, “Flash,” comes from Caroline Paul, a writer who in a previous life was a San Francisco firefighter. It’s a singular moment in one person’s life, one most of us would never even come close to experiencing. And yet like the best Moments, “Flash” tells a larger story about growing up.

Flash
By Caroline Paul

“The situation now in the house’s hallway was pretty typical—pitch black from smoke, and hot. Very hot. We were all crawling and dragging hose, bumping into walls and each other. Then—it was this simple—the world exploded.”

Black smoke was pumping heavily from the house when we arrived. The chief looked unhappy; the first arriving crews hadn’t pinpointed the fire yet, and the situation was devolving. (more…)

Moment Mondays—”Bye, Nana” by Adam Roth

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Each Monday until our The Moment book comes out in January 2012, we’ll be featuring a Moment from the SMITH community to give you a little preview of what’s shaping up to be one of the most phenomenon experiences I’ve had as an editor, at SMITH or otherwise. From across the world, people have shared intimate, intense, funny, and profound stories—in words, photographs, comics, and the occasional Twitter feed—and together are creating a larger narrative about the people, places, and things that shape and change us as people. You can call them life epiphanies or breakthroughs, happy accidents or even unfortunate fate. We call them Moments. And everybody has a Moment—what’s yours?

Most Moments are very personal yet told in such a way that most of us can relate to what the author’s experiencing. One such Moment is “Bye, Nana,” a story told visually by Adam Roth, an illustrator living in Los Angeles. Adam’s story is uniquely his—and perhaps yours, too. Click the image to view Adam’s incredible illustration larger, and read his well-chosen words.

Everyone Has a Moment—What’s Yours?

Saturday, December 4th, 2010


We’re in the homestretch of The Moment project, our newest book, one that’s once again fueled by the brilliance of the SMITH Magazine community. This challenge may be more than six words, but the song remains the same: it’s all about personal, passionate, meaningful storytelling. Like the Six-Word Memoir project, The Moment has turned out to be quite addictive. You’ve sent notes such as, “ever since I heard about the idea, I can’t stop wondering which moment changed my life the most,” and “I can’t stop readings the stories on the site…find myself bawling my eyes out.”

I’ve had email exchanges and calls with many writers, famous and obscure, who at first aren’t sure if they have a “moment”; by the end of these conversations, everyone does. And many of you have already shared multiple moments. A SMITH member who goes by the handle “Writingcocoon” has written two stories, “Trapped” (about how an incident in which she was trapped inside a bathroom stall at age five led to a lifetime of anxiety) and “Death Is Everywhere” (how as a volunteer, at age 10, at a convalescent home changed her young world view on mortality). (more…)

 
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