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Six Words Blog

During the fall quarter of 2020 at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, thirty upper division students gathered online to rant, share their experiences and opinions on life in COVID-19 times in — you guessed it — only six words. The discussion was part of an icebreaker in a class entitled Civil and Human Rights Law for Disabled People, taught by UW Part-Time Lecturer Stephen Rosenbaum. “Succinctness is always a good thing,” Rosenbaum says, “I tend to be verbose myself, but always encourage my students to be succinct in their writing.” After reading The New York Times article “The Pandemic in Six-Word Memoirs” by Larry Smith, Rosenbaum had the idea of skipping the small talk and asked his students to share their opinion on the hottest and most relevant topic that was currently looming over their heads as they logged onto Zoom. “People went back and forth, and I replied to some and tried to get them to post elsewhere, knowing that this really had a life of its own.” He encouraged them to read the article, reflect, and come up with their own memoirs based on where they were in their personal lives.

In honor of Hemingway's 122nd birthday, for SixContest #140, we asked you to write a novel in six words. Not the simplest of tasks—as any hopeful Hemingway knows—but as always, Sixers brought their imaginations to the party. In six words, your stories challenged the cynic (“Gave love, got even more back.” —MaxMatt), inspired the adventurer (“Road less traveled took her home.” —SF51girl) and brought familiarity to the grounded narrative (“Multi-millionaire. Fills purse with restaurant sugars.” —DynamicDbytheC). You showed what it is to be human on the inside (“A held moment startled the rivals.” —PapaCraft) and on the outside (“Telling stories to explain the unexplainable.” —canadafreeze). Papa would be proud. You also gave Hemingway’s “For sale” story its own life by adding your own twist to it, so here are our Top 6 “For Sale” entries, followed by our overall Top 6:

At Ashe County Middle School in Warrensville, NC, more than 400 students created Six-Word Memoirs for a unique multimedia project. Julie Taylor, curriculum director for the Ashe County Schools, has been a fan of the Six-Word Memoir form since she first discovered our teen book,  I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets. "As a teaching literacy specialist of 25 years, I have seen the many powerful ways that this  ‘American Haiku’ format can unlock students' creativity," says Taylor. Using the simplicity of the six-word format, Taylor conducted a range of lessons on the power of words. Syntax, diction, and connotations were essential learning tools as students wrote memoirs about their middle school experience. Taylor noted that once her students got the six-word bug, some students didn’t want to stop after their first Six-Word Memoir and kept writing.

At L’Anse Creuse High School in Harrison Township, Michigan, English teacher Michelle Wolff and her students craft personal Six-Word Memoirs and reflect on the one-year mark of remote distance learning. Wolff is no stranger to writing memoirs— since 2012, she has written over two thousand Six-Word Memoirs and has been featured in our Six Words Fresh of the Boat book ("The other kids never had grebble"). For the past eight years, her students say that Six-Word Memoirs is one of their favorite projects. [caption id="attachment_24499" align="alignleft" width="329"] "Sharing my joy with my students." —Mrs. Wolff[/caption] For her freshmen students, Wolff asks them to write memoirs for novel characters, such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Her creative writing seniors engage in Six-Word Memoirs as an introduction to a longer memoir unit. Her classes learn about the process through the Six-Word Memoirs books and founder Larry Smith's TED talk. Wolff’s seniors had been juniors when the school began remote learning. They endured a year of social distancing, wearing masks, and constant rules and restrictions. Their reflections on the pandemic, as well as personal life experiences and drama, are inspirations for their memoirs.