Six Words at TEDx: Marion Correctional Institution


Rusty chained

Rusty Tarbet, co-emcee, TEDxMarionCorrectional

My wife, Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, and I are in the same business: starting conversations. I created Six-Word Memoirs as a simple way for anyone and everyone to express themselves. When anyone shares six words—on, in a classroom, at speed-dating event or To Write Love on Her Arms meetups—what often happens next is someone else responds with three more words: “Tell me more.” Piper wrote her book in hopes that her story, and those of the women she served time with, would spark conversations about the U.S. criminal justice system and lead many people to also want to explore this issue more deeply.

I love those moments when our work intersects. Such was the case at a recent TEDx event at Marion Correctional Institution, a men’s medium security prison in Marion, Ohio, bringing together speakers from both inside and outside the prison walls, including members of the administration, to talk about the theme “Refolding The Box?”

TEDxMarionCorrectional was the first TEDx held inside an adult male prison. It’s since held three events at Marion Correctional, each co-curated by inmates. Speakers included inmates, correctional officers, and local community members who have worked with the prison population.

Read More

No Comments

Top Memoirs about the Full Moon

shutterstock_104092787The supermoon inspired many of you these past two weeks. In SixContest #33, we saw the wicked, the scary, the unusual, and the magical. All shared a fantastical essence, but only six can shine under the moonlight. Here are our favorites:

6. “…his dark side is looking good.” -TeaTopper

5. “Cows are jumping; silverware is running.” -Bevvie

4. “My emotions surfaced; this stone cried.” -Jo1454

3. “The stars are wearing their tiaras.” -Solstice22

2. “My boss actually said, ‘Thank You.’” -cuzinvin

And our top moonstruck memoir is…

1. “Everyone is tiptoeing around the asylum.” -catsmeow

Congrats to catsmeow and thanks to everyone who joined in the fun! Whether in our Caption Contests, on FacebookTwitterTumblr or at—keep on Sixing!

Tagged 2 Comments

“My son is my promised land.” The Best Six-Word Memoirs of the Week

Best Six (Aug 9 - Aug 15) #2-01 (1)Early nomads traveled in tribes. Each group was like an extended family, with brothers, daughters, wives, and grandchildren all playing an important role for their community. These roles and connections kept them strong and protected. As our Sixers have shown this week, some of those nomadic values remain prevalent today. Their memoirs underscore bonds you want to embrace (“My sister, my friend with context.”) and realities that are tough to swallow (“Parents getting older. Time won’t stop”). They all play a part in the Six-Word tribe, making our family stronger than ever. –Gilmarie Brioso

Best Affection: “My son is my promised land.” –Steve_Anthony

Most Sorrow: “Distant cousins, grief never met relief.” –BanjoDan

Strongest Duality: “My sister, my friend with context.” –sherre

Best Reality: “Sleep: ancient memory to new parent.” –b-sting

Most Honest: “Parents getting older. Time won’t stop.” –cheesehead1976

Most Whimsical: “Son became little sister’s tooth fairy.” –AmyMarieLove

Plus! Today’s the final day! There’s still time to enter this week’s SixContest: “It must be a full moon because…“ Get your responses in by Friday, 8/15 – 3pm ET.

Tagged 1 Comment

Six-Word Tributes About Robin Williams


shutterstock_152762195 (1)There is no finer way to connect than through laughter and Robin Williams was a master at indulging this human delight. As people immediately reeled from the shock of his untimely death at age 63, reportedly a suicide, our community turned to Six-Word Memoirs to grapple with the unbelievable news and share their personal responses. Many quickly got to the heart of what made his death so shocking—that depression seemingly led to that point of no return.

It’s almost inconceivable that the man who delivered humor with such intensity, and who conveyed passion like no other, could not maintain that zest for life when he needed it most. But, as Sixer marymc was quick to tell us, “Depression doesn’t care who you are.”

The memoirs shared have expressed sorrow over his passing, gratitude for his legacy, and honor a man who touched us all. Here are a handful of the incredible Six-Word tributes to Robin Williams, many with touching backstories and comments. May he forever rest in peace.

And all of Ork silently mourns.“ –Steve__Anthony 

Robin’s song became a sob. RIP.“ –favepeep

Lights along the Hudson, dimmed again.“ –Honesthead 

No genie could grant his wish.“ –lillybrook

The world is less funny today.“ –DukeRaider

Robin Williams was my Princess Di.“ –JohnBigJohn

Oh captain, my captain, stay funny.“ –notjustagirlintheworld 

Robin made us laugh, now cry.“ –zsuzsa

Expired; stars glow for eons; still.“ –MissUnderstood

My farewell: Robin was a genius.“ –NumbrOneAunt

Dead Poets inspired me to teach.“ –jrmiller 

Now Robin Williams joins the list…“ –LetTheWolfin 

Fame’s difficult. Shame’s even more so.“ –Contemplative

Cronauer said it, Williams owned it.“ –steelponypoet

Laughter is universal. Depression is personal.” –Dawn Bernstein‏ (@dawnbe1229 via Twitter)

The vulnerability of genius is paper-thin.“ –canadafreeze

And you will contribute a verse.“ –Believe

Tagged 11 Comments

“My ouija board only uses emoticons.” The Best Six-Word Memoirs Of The Week

Best Six (Today)-01-2

We are incredibly visual creatures. As writers, our words leap off the page to fill that need and images propel those words even further. Not only do our Sixers fashion fantastic images through words, they understand the power images bring to their memoirs. This week’s best memoirs are flooded with imagery. Some of our Sixers’ photos make their words abundantly vivid (“Growing hops for privacy, not beer.”); others add interesting twists to their tales (“Strands of pain tangled in happiness.”). These images create another layer of meaning, making the memoirs more scintillating and profound. —Gilmarie Brioso

Most Modern:My ouija board only uses emoticons.” —JohnBigJohn

Best Green Thumb:Growing hops for privacy, not beer.” —canadafreeze

Most Foreign:Sketching unfamiliar faces of unfamiliar people.” —SmokeForScience

Toughest Narrative Arc:Strands of pain tangled in happiness.” —MissUnderstood

Most Honest:I’m not fat. I’m just McAmerican.” —spelly78_fromtwitter

Most Turbulent:On stormy seas. Need a lighthouse.” —alipie

Plus! Check out the wonderful memoirs from the fifth grade class at Riverdale Country School, whose students paired their words with images to reflect on their year.

Tagged No Comments

Classroom Of The Month: Fifth Grade Class at Riverdale Country School

When you fall down the rabbit hole of Twitter, you find some amazing tips and projects. As Meg Krause traversed through tweets and replies, she discovered Six-Word Memoirs and shared the project with her fifth grade students. Krause teaches at Riverdale Country School, a K-12 independent school in New York City that honors the whole child. She explains: “I thought they would be intrigued by the concept and indeed they were!”

Krause used Six-Word Memoirs to help her students understand the strength of well-chosen words. “It was also a great lesson in the power of revision as the students wrote and rewrote based on peer feedback,” she adds. Taking the project a step further, Krause asked students to pair their carefully crafted words to powerful visuals: “They loved matching words to images.” Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.24.00 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.24.12 PM Six-Word Memoirs came to these students during a very special time—fifth grade is the final year of Lower School at Riverdale. The activity gave students a chance to reflect on themselves as learners and their growth throughout the year. As an end-of-year celebration, a video was created to share with parents and faculty. Music accompanied the student’s words and images; the kids singing their graduation song, known at Riverdale as their “moving-up song,” can be heard in the background.

Now Six-Word Memoirs has found a home at Riverdale. “My students loved the activity of creating and sharing their Six-Word Memoirs. It was an especially gratifying experience for my struggling writers,” says Krause. “Six-Word Memoirs is an easy entry point for all students and ​[allows] many ways for students to push themselves.”

We are honored to be part of the Riverdale students’ educational path and hope they carry Six-Word Memoirs with them as their journey proceeds.

Tagged No Comments

Top Summer Recipes in Six Words

Summer Recipe-05

This SixContest proves it: the Six-Word community knows how to live life! Your six-word recipes were decadent, delightful, and downright delicious. With hundreds of submissions on our site and across social media, we can’t make all of the recipes entered, but these top six certainly deserve a try.

6. “Patio, Pints, and playful poker parties.” -Anne Austen-Lewis (via Facebook)

5. “Hear the melody, chase the truck.” -@MJmatters (via Twitter)

4. “Coconut shrimp with mango pineapple salsa.” -CanadaGoose

3. “Men who loved me with fruit.” -Smongar

2. “Lemon sorbet and Prosecco: grownup Slushee.” -AnnMC

And our top Six-Word summer recipe is… 

1. “Sunset, mountain mist, bourbon, branch water.” -Berea2011

Congrats to Berea2011 and thanks to everyone who joined in the fun! Whether in our Caption Contests, on FacebookTwitterTumblr or at—keep on Sixing!

Tagged No Comments

“My dreams are seeing other people.” The Best Six-Word Memoirs Of The Week

Best Six (July 26-Aug 1)-01-01

Life is often ​cushioned by dreams. Whether disconnecting from your day or reconnecting with your desires, dreams offer us a way to escape, explore, and imagine. This week’s Sixers are captivated by their dreams. Some dreams grace us as we sleep (“I too still dream in color.”); others hold our cherished aspirations (“Poetry of unfinished hopes and dreams.”). Dreams are a truly a mystical thing—they spark creativity, encourage understanding, offer us paths to explore and can bring us to a place of peace. -Gilmarie Brioso

Most Personified: “My maple tree daydreams of leaping.” -BanjoDan

Most Honest: “Poetry of unfinished hopes and dreams.” -theLotLessMonster

Toughest Narrative Arc: “Fled Indiana for dreams. Returned quickly.” -vogler

Best Backstory: “Wow! Dreams really do come true.” -amandataramona

Best Affair: “My dreams are seeing other people.” -randomwriter013

Best Hues: “I too still dream in color.” -EveningSkies

Plus! There’s still time to show us the MasterChef in you! SixContest #32 challenges you to create a yummy summer recipe in just Six Words. Ends Friday 8/1, 3pm ET.

Tagged No Comments

Memoirist of the Month: August 2014—Ellis Reyes

What keeps me here is the pure joy of consuming everyone’s thinking condensed into such delicious morsels. I’m constantly amazed at the degree of wisdom, emotion, humor, love and life that can be communicated in so few words. ”

Ellis Reyes MOTM August 2014Name: Ellis Reyes

Place: Suburbs of Seattle, Washington

SMITH member since:
May 2008



Ellis Reyes’ memoirs are much like the monkey in his profile image: funny and facetious, bold and unapologetic. Posting as Ellis_Reyes, he crafts cleverly told tales (“She sold Grandma’s ring. Bought boobs“) and can be sarcastically ironic (“Cynicism sucks, just like everything else“) or poignantly sentimental (“Invincibility died with my friend John”). His Sixes and backstories about service (“Don’t ask if I killed someone“) and education (“Kids are more than test scores“) are particularly powerful. Our congratulations to Ellis Reyes as our Memoirist of the Month for August. He can put the Six-Word Memoir of his choice on a first-rate T-shirt from our friends at Spreadshirt. Read more about Ellis Reyes: veteran, teacher and writer as he answers these six questions.

Read More

Tagged 14 Comments

“Peace rebuilds what wars tear down.” The Best Six-Word Memoirs Of The Week

Best Six (July 18-24)-01-01

With all the strife in Gaza and the Middle East, our community is keenly aware of the troubled times throughout our world. Whether sharing headlines (“Breaking News: Mideast out of control.”) or opinions (“If you can’t imagine war, GOOD!”), it helps to express feelings, thoughts, and emotions through writing and no form is easier than Six-Word Memoirs. Each memoir tells a story and each story leads to a moment of healing and catharsis. –Gilmarie Brioso

Most Opinionated:If you can’t imagine war, GOOD!” –LetTheWolfin

Ed. Note – We encourage you to check out LetTheWolfin’s backstory and join the conversation in the comments below.

Best Imagery: “Peace rebuilds what wars tear down.” –pennyslife

Most Theoretical: “There’s really nothing left to invade.” –Believe

Best Reporting: “Breaking News: Mideast out of control.” –Staraj

Most Shocking: “Gaza’s Most Inhumane Feature: Exploding Donkeys.” –wescoll

Most Honest: “Maybe I’ll just avoid the news.” –catsmeow

Plus! Share with us your most creative summer drinks and dishes in just six words. SixContest #32 will stir for another week so give us your best summer recipe!

Tagged No Comments