Short on words, deep in meaning
Everyone has a story. That’s the tag on the masthead of SMITH, our online magazine. Yet until we asked the world to send us six-word memoirs, even we had no idea how true it was.
We took a page from Ernest Hemingway. According to legend, he was challenged to write a novel in only six words and came up with “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” We posed the same challenge online, but we asked for true-life stories -- in just half a dozen well-chosen words.
To launch the challenge, we posted examples from names we figured most readers would know, such as “Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert (“Me see world! Me write stories!”; she naturally e-mailed hers in from an airport runway in Indonesia) and celebrity chef Mario Batali (he sent seven, each enlightening but none as pitch-perfect as “Brought it to a boil, often”).
More than 15,000 (and counting) submissions later, we arecontinually struck by what proves possible in just six words.
The short, short life stories keep coming in. As we type this, a quick glance reveals that Emily Hambridge “wanted to write but feared failure.” With half a dozen words and a few clicks of the keyboard, she’s just rewritten the story of her life.
Ex-wife and contractor now have house.
-- Drew Peck
Wasn’t born a redhead; fixed that.
-- Andie Grace
Chinese immigrant loathing drama in Anaheim.
-- Eric Wong
Can’t tonight, watching “Law & Order.”
-- Rory Evans
Found true love, married someone else.
-- Bjorn Stromberg
Fifteen years since last professional haircut.
-- Dave Eggers
One tooth, one cavity, life’s cruel.
-- John Bettencourt
Must remember: people, gadgets. That order.
-- Brian Lam
Made a mess. Cleaned it up.
-- Amy Anderson
Hockey is not just for boys.
-- Alexandra Duplin
Put whole self in, shook about.
-- Melissa Delzio
My second-grade teacher was right.
-- Janelle Brown
Well, I thought it was funny.
-- Stephen Colbert
Where the hell are my keys?
-- Brady Udall
Dad wore leather pants in Reno.
-- John Falk
Secret of life: Marry an Italian.
-- Nora Ephron
Little bit Lucy, tempered by Ethel.
I think, therefore I am bald.
-- Dickie Widjaja
Took scenic route, got in late.
-- Will Blythe
Being a monk stunk. Better gay.
-- Bob Redman
Became my mother. Please shoot me.
-- Cynthia Kaplan
Should not have eaten those mushrooms.
-- Emilie Raguso
Was father, boys died, still sad.
-- Ronald Zalewski
ABCs MTV SATs THC IRA NPR.
-- Jancee Dunn
It’s pretty high. You go first.
-- Alan Eagle
Me: consistently avoiding death since 1978!
-- Daniel Fowlkes
New Jersey to California. Thank God.
-- Ayelet Waldman
I still make coffee for two.
-- Zak Nelson
It was embarrassing, so don’t ask.
-- Alex Lindquist