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Six Words Turns Eight! Thank You.

SWM tree - stories

Eight years ago, just before Thanksgiving 2006, my then-SMITH Mag crew, Tim Barkow, Rachel Fershleiser and I challenged this community to describe their life in exactly six words. Giving Ernest Hemingway’s legendary six-word novel (‘For sale: Baby shoes, never used”] a personal twist, we called this new section of SMITH “Six-Word Memoirs.” We teamed up with a newish site that had an equal fondness for the short form called Twitter. And we had no idea what was coming next.

I remember telling my family about it. Everyone at the table, from ages 6 to 80, immediately took to the form; Sixes were flying across the table (my 11-year old nephew: “I have one for Pop-Pop: ‘Memory loss. What was I saying?'”). And the Sixes have been flying ever since.

Some eight years later, more then a million Six-Worders have been shared on Six-Word Memoirs from SMITH Magazine and the concept just keeps growing in ways I could never have imagined. This past year we released a Six-Word App, announced the Six-Word Advice book, started a new live events series at the 92Y, published a workbook and launched a new site for teachers/classrooms (more on that below), partnered with Urbanful for a Six in the City project (beginning with DC), and brought Six Words to a TEDx event inside a men’s prison. I’ve continued to lead storytelling workshops inside major companies such as Levi’s, Intuit, Dell and elsewhere, and brought the joy of six to festivals and conferences everywhere (including the National Storytelling Festival where this Six-Word Memoir tree so beautifully bloomed).

SWM Tree in TN 2014

We’ve published seven books of Six-Worders, made a board game and T-shirts; all of these commercial endeavors are aligned with SMITH’s mission to encourage self-expression and catalyze conversation. Trust me, when I walk around with a T-shirt that says, “So much crying, the baby too” or “Our prison visitations were surprisingly romantic” I end up have great conversations with strangers about my life and theirs.

Books and T-shirts may fuel the bottom line, but the noncommercial aspects of Six Words fuel the soul. We’ve engaged in collaborations with organizations such as the youth nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms, the veterans’ group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and classrooms around the world.

ninth-grade-memoir-group

At our Six in Schools section we celebrate students’ work in classrooms worldwide. This past year, we released the Six Words for Schools workbook, the first in our suite of new school-based teaching tools, and launched our Six Schools website, a place solely for teachers to share their classrooms’ work with other educators globally.

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LS - Believe hat

As I tap out these words a few days before Thanksgiving, I give thanks for my small, strong staff: Pat the tech guru; Jonathan the community czar; and the tireless Shauna, who is always one step ahead of me (and sometimes catches the mistakes I made one step behind). SMITH is just one of many things they each do, yet like me they wake up jazzed about the power of storytelling and the community that makes such a beautiful noise.

Above all,  it is the incredible community of storytellers that makes Six Words tick each and every day. You’re a Loon-y,  L2L3ove-able bunch, with a touch of ADHDean and constant Contemplative-ness; and so you better Believe I tip my hat to you. I am grateful for your passion and thoughtfulness, and even your impatience because it means you just want the best experience on the site possible. The community makes SMITH Mag’s mission manifest in exactly the way I had hoped: a place where the storytelling playing field is level and self-expression has no limits.

 

Comments

  • bevvie
    November 24, 2014

    Happy Birthday!

  • JRE23
    November 25, 2014

    Happy Anniversary !!!

    This is a wonderful little corner of the interwebs.

  • catsmeow
    November 25, 2014

    Thank you right back at you.

  • canadafreeze
    November 25, 2014

    So grateful I found this community. Thank you:-)

  • Dean
    November 25, 2014

    Happy Birthday Six-Word Memoirs! And thank you, Larry, for creating such a wonderful space for us to play.

  • Solstice
    November 25, 2014

    I am grateful beyond any amount of words for the great friends I’ve made here. And for the opportunity to write and grow as a person. Thank you for your vision.

    Breathe in jumbled-up-thoughts, breathe out Six-words!

    Cheers, xxooxxoo,
    ~Solstice

  • Johnbigjohn
    November 25, 2014

    Happy birthday! I’m proud to be part of this community! Thank you for providing us this amazing outlet. Here’s to another eight years!

  • Nancy Charcholla
    November 25, 2014

    So glad to have found six words. I love it. A challenge every time.

  • Joan Dempsey
    November 25, 2014

    Happy Anniversary Larry, Pat, Jonathan, Shauna!

  • jl333
    November 25, 2014

    This calls for a giant party. Everybody bring food! Congrats on the first 8 years. Here’s to the next 80 years. Cheers!

  • NumbrOneAunt
    November 26, 2014

    thank you so much larry, pat, jonathan and shauna! SMIITH is a very special place. happy thanksgiving to each of you and those you love 🙂

  • maryjane31
    November 26, 2014

    Happy Anniversary to all of you for wonderful six word memoirs! I love the challenge it gives me almost everyday.

  • DynamicDbytheC
    November 27, 2014

    Congratulations on eight and six.

  • l2l3
    November 27, 2014

    Six words. Eight years. Many thanks.

  • Loon
    November 28, 2014

    You certainly have made a benign addict of me, Mr. Smith. Thank you,
    Loon

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