Can You Write Your Memoir in Six Words?

Carolyn’s Online Magazine


    Five members of The Beanery Writers Group had a “casual meeting” on April 17, 2009. This meeting filled a gap between meetings caused by the cancellation of our regular meeting date on April 10—which was Good Friday.

We met in the main room of the Coffee Bean Café in Latrobe, since there was a group of people in the back room and we didn’t want to kick them out. Aside from some background noise, all went well. It was nice to meet where there were windows.

As facilitator, the only preparation I made was to pull a pile of “stuff” from my file cabinet, briefly scan them, and stuff them into my laptop bag. A few of these items created short discussions, including the notation that April 17 is a special day: Blah, Blah, Blah Day.

After I read a few items that were sent for the Beanery Online Literary Magazine I pulled a newspaper article from the pile. I had planned to use it at a regular meeting, but fortunately, we’d been having enough items to review and critique that this particular piece sat in my files for quite a while. Today was my day to challenge everyone with it.

It was a June 23, 2008, Tribune-Review article written by Erin White, McClatchy Newspapers. The headline was Write you memoir in six words. The article reviewed a book authored by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser: Not Quite What I Was Planning. It’s a collection of six-word memoirs.

The newspaper article reported that Smith stated Six words isn’t scary (Hmmm—I thought it sounded frightening) and quoted some excerpts from the book:

  •       I was born some assembly required. (Eric Jordan)
  •       Macular degeneration. Didn’t see that coming. (Ian Gold)
  •       Couldn’t cope so I wrote songs. (Aimee Mann, singer-songwriter)
  •       I couldn’t resist giving the members of the writing group this challenge.

Although routine moans and groans followed my assignment the writers good-naturedly set to their assigned task. Amazingly, when the alarm rang after five minutes, and it was time to share the results, everyone had come up with at least one six word memoir. Several wrote more than the requested single memoir. Read the results (they had five minutes to produce them):

  •      Perky Pat survives family of twelve. (Pat)
  •      A sense of humor never hurt. (Sal)
  •      Loved this world. Will miss it. (Diana)
  •      Been here before. I’ll be back. (Diana)
  •      Little by little, not enough time.  (Bill)
  •      I tried. Give me another chance. (Bill)
  •      I, as of now, still live. (Joe)

“Six words is tough,” one member commented.

The memoirs written by the members may only reflect a single aspect of their lives. But I wonder, did the words we chose, so different, offer an essential glimpse into who we are as a person, a look at how we view ourselves or our world? Do they reveal a core essence of self?

Although I agreed that writing a six word memoir is tough, I was able to write four

  1.      I lived, I grew, I died
  2.      Born blue, lived green, died yellow.
  3.      Order within chaos, chaos within order.
  4.      Dreams created, dreams smashed, dreams achieved.

That evening, another member, Lois, was at my house. I challenged her, and here are the results (I didn’t give her the five minute time limit):

  1.      Life is good, even with change.
  2.      Life is good, no matter what.
  3.      I always end up starting over.
  4.      I worry, but never give up.

Members of the Beanery Writers Group (now the Foothills Writers) challenge you, my readers, to do what they did: write your memoir in six words. Can you do it?

I invite you to share your results with us. Post them in the comment box at the end of this post.

About carolyncholland

In several if my nine lives I have been a medical lab technician and a human service worker specializing in child day care, adoptions and family abuse. Currently I am a photo/journalist/writer working on a novel and a short story. My general writings can be viewed at My novel site is
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4 Responses to Can You Write Your Memoir in Six Words?

  1. Every day, opening more and more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. fran says:

    Loved, received, gave, laughed, cried, fulfilled


  3. From Kitty via Facebook: I did it my way. Amen.


  4. Pingback: Can You Write a Six-Word Story About Your Future | Carolyn's Online Magazine

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