Editors’ Blog

October’s Member of the Month: Steve Leasure—Dad, Sixer, Superhero

October 16th, 2012 by Larry Smith

Reading the memoirs of October’s Member of the Month, Steve Leasure (aka Steve Anthony), is to offer a case study in one man’s strong sense of identity as a father, and the joy and clarity that comes with it. In his work life, Leasure has had a career that’s been both right-brained and left-brained, having worked as a machinist, toolmaker, journalist, CAD designer, and now a Quality Manager of a turbine blade manufacturer near Atlanta, Georgia. “But,” says Leasure, “I will always be the son of a machinist.”

Leasure first learned of the Six-Word Memoir project in AARP The Magazine in 2010 and says he was “blown away how people could sum up their relationships, loves and lives in just six words.” Now, 4211 Six-Word Memoirs later (and counting), he’s what I call one of the “powerusers”—the site’s most passionate and frequent posters— and a group not shy about debating the ways and means of SMITH Magazine. He’s a contributor to other SMITH story projects as well. Leasure’s piece, “Mercy,” about a car accident that almost killed him, is found The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous & Obscure (and you can also read a version that appeared on SMITH).

Recently, Leasure, who lives with his wife, Holly, and son, Adam, recently took time to answer six questions from SMITH. We’re pleased to give him the gift that keeps giving and starts many (more) conversations: the Six-Word Memoir T-shirt of his choice from Spreadshirt.
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September’s Member of the Month, Melesha Johnny: Dancing Through Life, Six Words at a Time

September 13th, 2012 by Vivian Chum

September’s Member of the Month Melesha Johnny (mzejay) wasn’t expecting to become a part of a rich storytelling community when she purchased a case of Honest Tea at her local warehouse store in Northern California. She was just thirsty. But from the moment she opened a bottle of tea and discovered a Six-Word Memoir on the inside of the bottle cap, she was hooked.

“Who knew that turning over an Honest Tea cap would lead to a new hobby?” says Johnny. “I logged on to SMITH and started reading memoirs. I remember being impressed with the idea of concise storytelling.” Johnny wrote her first Six-Word Memoir at her kitchen table that very afternoon. Fellow SMITH member Banjodan responded with a comment. “I was just tickled,” says Johnny.

Not long after joining SMITH, Johnny entered SMITH and Mercer consulting’s Six-Words about Work contest. Her submission to the “lessons learned” category, “Press every button till printer works,” was one of the winners selected to win an iPad2. “Now,” Johnny says, “I always check bottle caps for treasures.”

Recently, Johnny took time out of her busy life as a librarian to answer six questions from SMITH.
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SMITH Live—Stories Popping up in the Jersey Shore, NYC and More

August 6th, 2012 by Larry Smith

SMITH has a huge line-up of live events in the coming months, with three very fun and very different evenings of storytelling coming up along the Eastern seaboard.

August 8, LBI Foundation, Long Beach Island, NJ, 6pm. Larry Smith makes his happy return to the Jersey Shore of his youth in a presentation about the Six-Word Memoir project at the Long Beach Island Foundation, a nonprofit that offers workshops and lectures on art and science to kids and adults alike. On display at the Foundation: Six-Word Memoir creations from sixth graders who have been working in “memory boxes” that contain six-word remembrances and hopes for the future. Read more about this talk in The Sandpaper.

August 16, New York City—the way-cool pop-up store, called (this month) ST [New York] RY, 6pm. Join Larry and retail innovating master Rachel Shechtman for “Does the Naked Cowbody Get Cold?” a Six-Word Slam about New York City. We’ll issue Six-Word Challenges on the spot and give out prizes for audience favorites. The event is free but space is very limited so RSVP’ing is recommended. Read more about ST [New York] RY on Coolhunting.

September 20, a Six-Word Story Show at 92YTribeca, New York City, 7pm. SMITH Live returns to 92YTribeca for “Let Me in Your Narrative Whore”— a Six-Word Story Show on Creative Life.” Six storytellers will each begin with six words that sums of his or her creative life from the worlds or writing, art and music—and then have six minutes to tell us more. Join our Facebook page for updates on the performers for this show.

August’s Member of the Month, Manuela Josefina Hernández Sánchez: From The Hague with Love

August 6th, 2012 by Vivian Chum

I was only eight years old, and spending the summer at my grandmother’s house in a small Dominican town, when I wrote my first story. It was about a hummingbird that came to sing by my window whose nest had fallen.

To understand August Member of the Month Manuela Josefina Hernández Sánchez’s (Amapola) writing life, you have to understand her immigration story. Hernández, who is one of a growing number of SMITH’s international contributors, was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. In the early ’90s, she became active in the Dominican literary movement “Movimiento Interiorista” under the auspices of Dominican literary critic Bruno Rosalio Candelier. But when Hernández immigrated to the Netherlands in 1994 to pursue a graduate degree in Women & Development Studies, she lost her writing voice for a time. “You could call it writer’s block,” says Hernández, “but to me it felt as if my creative space belonged in my bedroom back at my parents’ place in the Dominican Republic and not in the moody weather and the language of the Netherlands.”

When Hernández began writing again, she chose to do so in English. “Though my mother tongue is Spanish, I feel at ease writing in English,” says Hernández. “English allows me to communicate with a diverse range of nationalities and feel more globally connected.”

Hernández connected with SMITH’s global community on Valentine’s Day of 2011. Since then, she has contributed over 1,400 Six-Word Memoirs. “SMITH has become my writing community,” says Hernández. “The wit, the humor, and the candid and sometimes brutal honesty of other SMITH members inspires me. It’s a community of beautiful minds and genuine souls.”

Recently, Hernández graciously took time out from her life as an educator in The Hague to answer six questions from SMITH. Read more »

June’s Member of the Month Alicia Jacobs: The Art of the Six-Word Memoir

June 19th, 2012 by Vivian Chum

June Member of the Month Alicia Jacobs (aka aliciacandraw on SMITH) doesn’t just pen Six-Word Memoirs, she hand letters them right into her fanciful dreamscapes of teepees, tornados and skylines. According to Jacobs, the visual connection between the memoirs and her illustrations is the key to her illustrated Six-Worders, which were the subject of her MFA thesis project at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

“I studied a lot of hand lettering before jumping into this project,” says Jacobs. “I really wanted to make sure I could capture the mood I was going for while also matching the playfulness in the scenes being illustrated.”

This year, Jacobs’s work will be featured in SMITH’s latest brainchild—an eBook of illustrated Six-Word Memoirs created entirely by students and published by TED Books, a new division of the TED conference. Until then, says Jacobs, “Now that the school year is over, I’m coming up with ideas for more Six-Word Memoir paintings.”

Check out Jacobs’s answers to our “Six Questions For…” interview.

Name: Alicia Jacobs
Town: Totowa, New Jersey
Member Since: September 13, 2011

How did you get the Six-Word bug?
I attended undergrad at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and took a memoir-writing class during my senior year taught by the wonderful Betsy Boyd. She was the one who introduced me to SMITH’s Six-Word Memoir book Not Quite What I Was Planning. I was hooked the very first time I opened it.

We would start class with an exercise of writing Six-Worders on various subjects, but it didn’t take long before I was jotting them down all the time. I started thinking in Six-Word phrases, and once it started it was impossible to shake.

What inspired you to incorporate Six-Word memoirs into your graduate school thesis?
When it came time to choose a thesis project for the second year of my MFA program at the School of Visual Arts, I was having a difficult time deciding what to do. I wasn’t passionate about any of my ideas and at first I just settled for something that I know would have bored me early on. But when I was sitting in class on my first day at SVU, it finally hit me—since I was so into writing Six-Word Memoirs already, it would be the perfect solution to incorporate them into my work. Read more »

May’s Member of the Month, John Roedel: Father, Husband, Burner of Pancakes

May 13th, 2012 by Vivian Chum

“I show up every morning with my cup of coffee ready to be wowed,” says May’s Member of the Month, John Roedel (JohnBigJohn), of his morning ritual with SMITH Magazine.

Since Roedel began taking his morning joe with a dash of SMITH in January, SMITH readers have likewise been wowed by Roedel, whose contributions most notably include stories about raising his autistic son such as Six-Word Memoir: “Doc said, ‘Autistic. ‘ I replied, ‘Artistic?’” and the My Life So Far piece entitled “Why Do We Kiss?”

“On paper, I am the least-abled father you could ever imagine who is tasked with the responsibility of caring for a child living with a special need,” says Roedel. (“Asshole in mirror is too self-critical” is another Six-Word Memoir of Roedel’s.)

“Make no mistake, watching your child struggle under the weight of autism is a very hard thing to endure,” says Roedel. “Often times when I write about my son Noah ‘s obstacles or hardships, I am writing from a place of heartbreak. Some of my Six-Word Memoirs are born out of absolute raw emotion.”

Recently, Roedel very graciously took a few moments from his busy life as a stay-at-home father of three, freelance writer and frequent burner of pancakes to answer six questions from SMITH.

Name: John Roedel
Town: Cheyenne, Wyoming
SMITH member since: January 6, 2012

We love your contributions since you began submitting them earlier this year. What keeps you coming back to SMITH? Read more »

Skill Sets: How to Run an Intern Program in a Small Shop

April 10th, 2012 by Larry Smith

At this year’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival, SMITH founder and editor, Larry Smith, and Andrew Macguire, founder of InternMatch.com, led a panel about how small business can offer an effective and ethical internship program. We had a great conversation with the assembled crowd (a large one, especially given that we were scheduled the same time as the festival’s biggest star, Anthony Bourdain), and we ended our chat with our “Six Rules for Rocking an Internship Program.”

1. Promote your hiring brand, not just your position.
2. Hire for cultural fit as well as skills.
3. Manage expectations early. Read more »

SMITH Live—Spring 2012—LA, SF, DC, Boston, Portland

March 5th, 2012 by Larry Smith

SMITH Magazine starts here on the web for many of us, but each year we’ve ramped up the rest of what hope is a 360-degree storytelling experience for the community. And there’s truly nothing like emerging from behind the screens and experiencing live storytelling. We have an awesome line-up of live events this spring and hope you’ll join us for evenings of fun, surprising, inspirational storytelling.

March 6, Los Angeles: The Moment reading and show at Los Angeles so-cool Gallery at The Bootleg, 2220 Beverly Boulevard, 7-9pm, with actor Stephen Tobolowsky, Ray Richmond, Rich Ferguson, Rebecca Woolf, Sascha Rothschild, Jeremy Toback, Elizabeth Jayne Liu, Laura Cathcart Robbins, Christine McDonald, and Craig T. Williams.

March 8, San Francisco: The Moment reading at SF’s indie gem, Booksmith, with Caroline Paul, Aaron Huey, Steve Silberman, Matthew Zapruder, Kirk Citron, Mo Clancy, Julia Halprin Jackson, Christine MacDonald, Michael Castleman, Ellen Sussman, and Caitlin Roper. RSVP on Facebook. Read more »

March’s Member of the Month: Mary McConnell, A Mom with a Sledgehammer

March 1st, 2012 by Vivian Chum

“My peeps are awesome,” McConnell says of her fellow SMITH Magazine contributors. “They keep me laughing.”

We can’t get enough of Mary McConnell, known as MaryMc on SMITH, whose 2,000+ Six-Word Memoirs embody the roll-up-your-sleeves, can-do spirit that is so essential to our community. “Mary will do it, no problem!” reads one of her typical Six-Word Memoir. “My theory used to be that everything could be funny, eventually,” says McConnell. “I realized I was wasting a lot of time waiting for eventually to come.”

McConnell’s year hasn’t been the easiest thus far. (In one recent Six-Word Memoir, she writes: “‘I’m in the process of dying.’” Backstory: “Yes, Dad. You are.”) Even so, McConnell insists on soldiering on with grace, wit and a healthy sense of the absurd. “Felt the need to explain purchases,” writes McConnell after she purchased 12 pairs of high-waisted granny panties (for her 82-year-old mom, not for herself, she wished she’d explained to the bored teenager at the cash register). Read more »

February’s Member of the Month: SMITH Teener Callie

February 1st, 2012 by Liz Crowder

We’ve seen Six-Word Memoirs in a lot of forms—from books, to board games, calendars and T-shirts—but this one, quite literally, takes the cake. February’s Member of the Month is Callie, who goes by the handle songwriter on SMITH Teens, and is a thirteen-year-old six-word savant from Ohio. She first discovered SMITH Teens in school, when an enrichment teacher had her class write a few. Inspired, she immediately went home, created an account and has been writing six-worders (sometimes as many as 30 a day) ever since. She’s on Six-Word Memoir 1,770…and counting.

On Callie’s thirteenth birthday, her family surprised her with a SMITHTeens birthday cake of epic proportions. Not only was the SMITH Teens logo depicted perfectly in green frosting, but friends and family decorated the cake with their own Six-Word Memoirs. Sounds deliciously literary. About the SMITHTeens community, Callie says: “It’s such a supportive place. I always find memoirs I can relate to and it’s nice to know there are other people going through the same things I am. I just feel understood and accepted by the members. Going on the site always brings a smile to my face.”
To find out more about this thirteen-year-old Six-Word musical memoirist check out her answers to our “Six Questions For…” interview below. Read more »

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