Struggling? Reach Out. Resources are Available.

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Life can be hard. Whether you are a teen or an adult, it may feel like no one around you understands or cares about your struggles. But you can be heard when you share with our community at Six-Word Memoirs. Putting your thoughts into words is freeing. It also lets you and others realize you’re not alone. Whether you post on SixWordMemoirs.com or in our Teens section, let Six Words help you start the conversation and connect with others. Here are a few tips—conveniently in six words—on getting help, finding resources, and holding onto hope when you are struggling the most.

To Write Love on Her Arms 

Since 2010, Six-Word Memoirs has partnered with To Write Love on Her Arms, a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. Check out Six-Word Memoirs on Pain & Hope to join the conversation. To learn more about these issues and find resources available, visit TWLOHA.

Help Is Just a Text Away 

If you need help now, you can reach out to the Crisis Textline. From your mobile phone, simply text “SUPPORT” to 741741 and connect to a compassionate and trained counselor who can respond quickly and is eager to listen. It’s free, 24/7 support, no matter who you are or what you’re going through. Click here for their list of national resources about struggles related to abuse, eating disorders, cutting, GLBT identification and more.

Doing Something Can Make a Difference 

When life gets you down or things spiral beyond control, rather than let the issues take hold of you or someone close to you, it’s important to reach out. Not sure where to start? DoSomething.org has a list of hotlines for at-risk youth.

And whether you’re the one in need, or if you want to help someone find relief, Six-Word Memoirs offers everyone a safe place to express and explore.

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Top “May the Force…” Memoirs in Six Words

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The Force was felt far and wide in SixContest #51 with more than five hundred submissions on our site and across social media! You channeled your inner Jedi, adding your own three words to complete the Star Wars-inspired quote, “May the Force ___ ___ ___.” Some harnessed that energy to change themselves (such as Contemplative‘s “May the Force become my Choice,” with a powerful
backstory), others called upon the Force to change the world (“May the Force feed the hungry”), and a few of you simply wanted to get your nerd on (“May the force have a Tardis”). While May the 4th Day and Revenge of the Fifth Day have passed, “May the Force be with you” throughout the year.

Here are six entries that were universally loved:

6. “May the Force find The Cure.” —canadafreeze

5. “May the Force lift what sags.” —CanadaGoose

4. “May the Force take my finals.” —@mpwhite95 (via Twitter)

3. “May the Force never need batteries.” —Bevvie

2. “May the Force improve the sequels.” —NY2LA

And our favorite form of the Force…

1. “May the Force ask for consent.” —Gabrielle A. (via Facebook)

Congratulations, Gabrielle, and thanks to everyone who joined in the fun! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagram, Twitter, Tumblr or at sixwordmemoirs.com—keep on Sixing!

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Six Words For Mother’s Day: New Video + Live Show!

Six Words from SMITH Magazine’s next “Six Words and More Live” show is extra special for a few reasons. This show is our first collaboration with PEN World Voices International Festival, as well as our debut at the so-cool STREB space in Williamsburg. It’s also special because of the date: May 10—Mother’s Day—and as you might guess, the theme is all about moms.

Then there’s the line-up: We’ll hear stories from Grammy-winner Dan Zanes; Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin’s Diane Guerrero; Little White Lie filmmaker Lacey Schwartz; writer Said Sayrafiezadeh, Breakthough.tv’s VP Lynn Harris; McNally Jackson Books owner Sarah McNally, and, introducing… my former student Gali Netter. Our format remains the same: Each storyteller starts with a Six-Word Memoir and then tells the backstory in 6-10 minutes.

We’ll start off the show with this new video loop of “Six-Word MOMoirs” (see above) created by SMITH Mag’s talented and versatile intern McKenzie Merriman.

Get brunch and then come check out the show this Mother’s Day.

May 10 2015 group image

Details:

Sunday, May 10, 2015, 3:00pm

STREB@SLAM, 51 North 1st Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211

With Diane Guerrero, Lynn Harris, Sarah McNally, Gali Netter, Lacey Schwartz, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, Dan Zanes

Hosted by SMITH Magazine’s Larry Smith

Co-presented with STREB@SLAM.

 

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Memoirist of the Month—May 2015: Kitty Maguire

I remember thinking that I’d never get so involved with a website; that I was here for the occasional post and comment only. But the community has become a regular part of my life. The comments, the backstories, the photos, the contests…it’s all fun.

KittyName: Kitty Maguire

Place: Whidbey Island, Washington and Southeast Alaska

SMITH Member Since: February, 2011

Kitty Maguire kicked off her Six Words journey with this conversation starter: “Avoid discussing anything unpleasant. Everything’s perfect.” More than seven hundred memoirs later, Kitty is as much a realist (“Scaled down my expectations. Weight lifted.”) as an optimist (“Believe you got the better deal.”). Known in the Six Words sandbox as catsmeow, Kitty knows how to connect with our community (“Create progressive story with six-word sentences?”) and deliver memoirs with deft lyricism (“Her vibrant colors fade into compromise.”). Congratulations to Kitty Maguire, our Memoirist of the Month for May, 2015. Discover what make Kitty our feline favorite as she answers our Six Questions:

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Classroom of the Month: Cathy Dyer’s 10th Grade English Classes at McKeel Academy of Technology


“I’ve gotten some of the most profound Six-Word Memoirs from the most struggling students.”


Cathy Dyer has used Six-Word Memoirs in her classroom every year since 2009: “This is the only ice breaker activity that I’ve stuck with,” she explains. As a tenth grade English teacher at McKeel Academy of Technology in Lakeland, Florida, one of the first activities Dyer gives her students is to write their Six-Word Memoir and a backstory, accompanied by a small illustration to be shared on her classroom wall.

An illustration from one of Dyer's students' interpretations of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech

An illustration by one of Dyer’s student’s interpreting Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech

In one of the first lesson plans of the year, Dyer has her students analyze Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic I Have A Dream speech and create a thematic Six-Word Memoir based on the speech’s message. That Six-Word Memoir is then used as a title for their own written piece that pulls textual evidence from Dr. King’s speech and creates a springboard for their interpretation of his words.

Over the years, Six-Word Memoirs have become a staple in Dyer’s class plans, allowing her students to keep their ideas and analyses concise. “I started using it as a way to get the students to arrive at theme. When we read something, I have them figure out the theme and put it in six words,” she explained. “I think the key for why it works so well is that it really gives a laser focus, since you’re only using six words.” Dyer believes Six Words fits so well in her teaching because “it’s so unintimidating, especially for your struggling writers. I’ve gotten some of the most profound Six-Word Memoirs from the most struggling students.”

A student's Six-Word Memoir characterization of Lady MacBeth from Shakespeare's MacBeth

A student’s Six-Word Memoir characterizing Lady MacBeth from Shakespeare’s MacBeth

Dyer’s use of Six-Word Memoirs extends far beyond her own classroom. In 2013, Dyer and some of her colleagues were awarded a $250,000 Innovative Best Instructional Practices grant that allowed them to travel throughout Florida for two years, sharing with other educators their favorite classroom tools to engage students through reading and writing.  One of Dyer’s presentations focused on Six Words as a tool in the classroom, encouraging teachers and classes in 48 counties to use Six-Word Memoirs in their own class plans. Dyer has gotten great feedback and ideas from teachers in other disciplines: “Math teachers have emailed me back and said ‘Hey, I’ve used Six-Word Memoirs to get kids to define shapes.’” She continued, “Or, instead of having kids copy down the exact dictionary definitions, [a teacher] made them put their science terms in Six-Word Memoirs.”

Dyer has been hard at work, both in the classroom and beyond, to share Six-Word Memoirs with the teaching world. We’re thrilled to be an icebreaker for academia and a springboard to learning!


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. Our Six Words for Schools workbook is the first in our suite of school-based teaching tools, and launched our Six Schools website, a place solely for teachers to share their classrooms’ work with other educators globally. Check it out! Let us know what your classroom is up to and we might feature your students’ work on our blog.

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Top Celebrity Crushes in Six Words

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They say you never forget your first love and apparently your celebrity crushes are just as memorable! For SixContest #50, we asked you to tell us which celebs captured your desires. Teen Beat may be long gone, but as your memoirs reveal, those passions can be reignited in an instant (or in just Six Words). And there are plenty of modern-day crushes to keep you tingling! A selection of our favorite entries will be included in the upcoming book, Crush: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing, and the Lasting Power of Their First Celebrity Crush (HarperCollins, 2016), edited by writer and Six-Word contributor Cathy Alter and Dave Singleton.

We’re infatuated with all of your crushes, but these six really got us going:

6. “‘Dear Emma,’ Redacted. ‘Dear Unrequited Feelings.’” (Emma Watson) —Blacked0utWorld

5. “Boy crushes only, until Julia Roberts.” (Julia Roberts) —@eagle_fire (via Twitter)

4. “Penélope Cruz: My Woman on Top.” (Penélope Cruz) —G_Austin

3. “Oh to be Mr. Darcy’s shirt.” (Colin Firth) —Lizasighs

2. “My Tiger Beat centerfold first kiss.” (Shaun Cassidy) —@amysmithpickett (via Twitter)

And the most swoon-worthy celebrity crush is:

1. “From sneakers to crop tops. Sigh.” (Taylor Swift) —@JScribe (via Twitter)

Congratulations @JScribe, and thanks to everyone who joined in the fun! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at sixwordmemoirs.com—keep on Sixing!

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Six-Word Memoirs Meetup on OSU Campus—And How to Hold Your Own

Some of the workshop attendees listening to Six-Word Memoir founder Larry Smith discuss some hints for crafting an effective Six.

OSU workshop attendees discovering Six-Word Memoirs

Meetups are a fun, interactive way to introduce concepts and connect people within communities. At the end of March, with the help of student organizations The Grove (Ohio State’s creative writing journal), and EUGO (OSU’s English Undergraduate Organization), a group of Buckeyes met on The Ohio State University campus to share their stories and experiment with the Six-Word Memoir form.

For the uninitiated, our backstory: since the 2006 debut of Six-Word Memoirs, a storytelling project of SMITH Magazine, our community has shared more than one million memoirs on SixWordMemoirs.com and countless more through our live events and on our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr pages. Six Words is also a bestselling book series (seven books and counting!) and phenomenon found in classrooms and boardrooms around the world.

Many of the workshop attendees were new to the form, but by evening’s end, each writer had a sheet filled with drafts, ideas and numerous Six-Word Memoirs. The group responded to a range of prompts, from “What I did during Spring Break” to “Six Words on My Secrets.” These photos show a selection of their varied and unique Sixes!

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“Quit lolligagging and drive the car.”
—Sydney Watsek

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“Walk in. Walk out. Lesson learned.”
—Kelsy Hernandez

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“Scientist’s remorse: missing what makes humanity”
—Haley Cowans

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“Aluminum foil oven: Sylvia Plath Halloween”
—Elizabeth Lantz

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“Counting to-do’s like sheep before sleep”
—Rebecca Epperson

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“Scarlet-and-gray wedding? Oh yes, they did.”
—Rachel Layfield

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“Catheters and Dementia, a messy combo.”
—Jacob Nickel

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“Never at a loss for words.”
—Larry Smith, founder of the Six-Word Memoir Project

For more about the evolution of Six-Word Memoirs, listen to this PopTech talk from Larry Smith, the founder of SMITH Magazine and Six-Word Memoirs:  Ready to start crafting your own Six-Word Memoirs? This video highlights six easy tips to putting together a terrific story in six words: Teens have a way with words, too! We’ve created a special Teens section on our site and this video highlights how one class was inspired by Six-Word Memoirs:


Tell me more! Interested in creating your own Six-Word Memoir meetup or event? Here are six simple tips for throwing your own Six-Word Memoir Meetup:

1. Gather your group
This can be your roommates, your classroom, or your entire workplace! Groups of any size can craft and share their Sixes. Teachers may want to check out our special Six in Schools site and accompanying workbook.

2. Prepare some prompts
If you’re organizing the event, come prepared with some pre-determined prompts for the participants. You can hand out the prompts or simply give them topics—whatever you think will get your group to write some killer sixes!

3. Pass out paper
Sometimes the old-school pen and paper method works best for rewriting and restructuring the Six-Word Memoirs. It also allows everyone look back on their journey to find the best six words.

4. Cultivate conversation
This shouldn’t be a quiet event! Whether collectively or in small groups, have people share the sixes and chat about each other’s memoirs.

5. Invite backstories
While incredible stories can be told in just six words, a memoir can be elevated when paired with the story behind the six. Invite people to share their backstories, ideally with time limits in mind: backstories are a simple way to continue the conversation and encourage personal expression.

6.  Share your Sixes with us and the world
It’s easy to share your sixes on social media. Snap a picture and post your #SixWordSelfie to Instagram—don’t forget to tag @sixwordselfie. And mention @SixWords when you tweet your sixes on Twitter—use the hashtag #SixWords to spread the word.


Have fun and explore the possibilities—just keep it to six words! Have you put together your own Six-Word Memoir workshop? Let us know how it went by sharing your tips in the comments and we may feature you on our blog.

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Top “Madness” Memoirs in Six Words

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From media mania to personal pet peeves, madness is among us. For SixContest #49, we asked you to capture madness in its many forms. Some memoirs were driven by delirium, while others were nimbly neurotic. With so much that drives us wild, it was difficult to remain rational, but we maintained our sanity to pick this Top Six:

6. “Maybe it was the blue pill. ” –thepoet1

5. “Protect your tiny spark of madness.” –BanjoDan

4. “Smoking while on oxygen, definitely disturbed.” —SouthPorch

3. “Madly craving Don Draper’s unwritten memoir.” –JanAlexander

2. “Single malt on an empty stomach.” –Lorraine_Berry

And the memoir we’re most mad about: 

1. “The optimism of a Cub’s fan.”  –G_Austin

Congratulations G_Austin, and thanks to everyone who joined in the fun! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at sixwordmemoirs.com—keep on Sixing!

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Classroom of the Month: Amber Lewis-Francis’ 5th Grade Class at Clarendon Elementary School

We can learn a great deal by examining ourselves and others, particularly when we ponder our words. Fifth grade teacher Amber Lewis-Francis first heard about Six-Word Memoirs on NPR. Always encouraging her students to write about themselves, Lewis-Francis thought it would be a great project for her students. “They embraced this concept,” she said of her students at Clarendon Elementary School in San Francisco. “I think it was freeing for them to only think about six words.” She was surprised by her students interpretations when she first introduced Ernest Hemingway’s infamous six-word novel: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Instead of hearing the typically sorrowful tale, her students found humor: “They pictured a little kid, selling his own shoes on the corner, and thought it was so funny.”

Lewis-Francis asked her students to write Six-Word Memoirs based on ten important events from their life, encouraging them to write true tales. The students were also tasked to write positive words about each one of their classmates. Those descriptors were turned into a word bank, which each student received, illustrating how their classmates view them. They put these various brainstorming concepts into action using their Six-Word Memoirs, as a way to look at word choice and how different words can strengthen or change the story they are trying to tell.

As Amber wrote her own Six-Word Memoir on the board, she asked her students to come up with synonyms for the words in her memoir:

“Children fill my life with happiness”

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Amber Lewis-Francis’ chalkboard: Six-Word Memoir brainstorming in action

As students listed different words, the class was able to bear down to the essence of her memoir. What resulted was a deeper and truer story that evolved from their brainstorming:

“Children fill me with anxious glee.”

“We wanted to talk about the fact that I’m worried about them, as a teacher—it’s not just all happiness, and there are things I want t accomplish with them, which is where that anxiousness comes from,” Lewis-Francis said of her final memoir.

The project culminated with a bulletin board featuring the student’s memoirs, their illustrations that went along with their memoirs, and their own picture. Together, her 5th graders created Six-Word Memoirs that offer vivid snapshots of themselves. Great job, Room 205! Here are just a few of the personal and creative Sixes made by Lewis-Francis’ fifth graders:


“Dancing in mirrors, because I can.”

—Ryan


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“Headbands make astonishing outfits much better.”

—Anna R.


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“Sweet and sour, but magnificent too.”

—Ammanuel


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“Pizza is my round, glorious world.”

—Ethan


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. Our Six Words for Schools workbook is the first in our suite of school-based teaching tools, and launched our Six Schools website, a place solely for teachers to share their classrooms’ work with other educators globally. Check it out! Let us know what your classroom is up to and we might feature your students’ work on our blog.

 

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Memoirist of the Month—April 2015: Marty B.

I use the Six Words app. I love having the site close when I can steal a minute away from work. What keeps me on this site is real people, real words, reality in just a few words.

Name: Marty B.MOTM April 2015 MB - Color

Place: Seattle, Washington

SMITH Member Since: December, 2011

Marty B. is an introspective soul whose six-word revelations are delivered with raw emotion and unfiltered honesty. Aptly known as thepoet1, he has shared more than 300 memoirs since joining us in 2011. Marty’s memoirs and backstories are cathartic. They reflect a turmoil that’s easily understood by anyone familiar with the darker side of life (“Pain has a name. My past.”). However, the horrors he’s faced go beyond ordinary loss and tragedy, the depths of which are understood by a relative few—those who have experienced war firsthand (“Humor with finger near the trigger.”). Learn more about his tempestuous, heroic and hopeful journey (“Open sign on heart means ‘Hope’”) as Marty answers our Six Questions:

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