What would love say to you in Six Words? Larry poses that challenge as a guest on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Letters From Love Newsletter

Featured Classroom: Mr. Ferry’s Illustration Class at Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri

“Do you pray with that mouth?” — Gabriela Pabon

The students in John Ferry’s sophomore illustration class at the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) in Kansas City, Missouri have once again delighted us with their work.

“They used to make me smile.” — Jaycee Womack

Associate Professor Ferry first discovered Six Words while listening to a story on the project on NPR. He was inspired by the idea and in 2016 introduced the six-word form to his “Image and Form” class.

Ferry begins the assignment by educating his students on Smith Magazine and sixwordmemoirs.com,  sharing the legendary Ernest Hemingway six-word novel (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”) that first inspired Larry Smith to challenge anyone and everyone to give the six-word novel a personal twist. Ferry then reads aloud memoirs from our books to help his class get a sense of how granular or far-reaching a Six-Word Memoir can be.

“Panini press hands, toasty sandwich time.” — Lizard H.

Delivering a clear message in a brief moment—in words or images or both—inspires the assignment. Ferry wanted his students to realize that there are no boundaries to the types of art they can create. Each student begins by drafting a number of Six-Word Memoirs, and eventually choosing one to focus on for an illustration. “While all of my students may not consider themselves writers,” says Ferry, “the six-word form has proven to be a tool to help them express themselves in ways that many never expected.”

“Wish I didn’t need to sleep.” — Shelby Noel

Some of the memoirs deal with universal ideas and desire (“Wish I didn’t need to sleep”). Others touch upon forcing yourself to display a facade that doesn’t reflect who you truly are (“They used to make me smile”). Many are whimsical (“Panini press hands, toasty sandwich time”). As a whole, the work is striking, heart-wrenching, and clever.

“This assignment has helped me learn more about my students,” says Ferry. “This makes me a better professor; the more I know about them personally, the better I can help them figure out what they want to do with their work.” 

Want more from these illustrious students? Read about last year’s “Image & Form” class here.  And Six-Word Memoirs will showcase the work of both classes at KCAI as the “Daily Illustration” on SixWordMemoirs.com each day during the month of January 2018.

“I made the decisions I made.” — Alex Churn

Teachers! Since we first launched the Six-Word Memoir project, educators across the spectrum have found Six Words to be a terrific classroom assignment and catalyst for self-expression. At our Six in Schools section we celebrate students’ work from classrooms around the world. Download one or all of our free teacher’s guides here.


  • Sydni
    January 5, 2018

    Wow this is so cool! I had no idea KCAI did this! Hopefully I’ll get in in a few years!

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