#SixWordCommencement: A Toast To The #ClassOf2016

speecheswinnerGlorious days are upon the next generation of scholars. For SixContest #76, we offer a gift of wise words from those who are making their procession this graduation season. Remember that life is unpredictable (“Embrace the world, even its thorns.” —SouthPorch) and sometimes the best advice is tried and true (“Relax. Tomorrow the real work begins.” @MarielleMondon via Twitter). In the end, you will find your purpose — your sweat and tears will not go to waste (“You’re enough to change the world.” —@asraimun via Twitter).

Introducing the Top Six commencement speeches:

6. “Use your vacation days. Always. Often.” —Lizasighs

5. “Enjoy the grace period before loans.” —@ktbbug (via Twitter)

4. “Remember those who rally behind you.” —paristexas

3. “Move forward: Courage first, confidence follows.” —@gailgrey (via Twitter)

2. “Nobody breaks ground by standing still.” ChristinaDelia

And the Six Words that will set you on the path to success . . .

1. “Make our today your starting line.” thepoet1

Congratulations to thepoet1 and thanks to all who participated! Whether in our SixContests, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr or at sixwordmemoirs.com—keep on Sixing!

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Classroom of the Month: Mrs. Criswell’s Honors English Classes at Ozark High School in Ozark, Missouri

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“Student dedicated every day, student driven in every way.”

The teachers at Ozark High School in Ozark, Missouri, work hard to fulfill their school’s motto. One such educator, Sandi Criswell, was quick to adopt the six-word form as a tool to drive home the school’s mission, and get to know her students better along the way.

Mrs. Criswell, who teaches Honors English to sophomore and juniors, has used Six-Word Memoirs with great success in her classroom ever since she discovered Six Words on Twitter a few years ago; Six-Word Memoirs proved to be the perfect way to open her unit on Ernest Hemingway.

She begins by relaying the legendary challenge posed to Hemingway: Write a novel in six words. His answer? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Students are engaged from the beginning. Mrs. Criswell explains: “I recite that story from memory and they are hooked instantly.”

As this teacher talks to her captive audience, “about how hard it is to capture something in six words,” she shows examples from prominent sources, beginning with O Magazine’s feature about Six-Word Memoirs.

She then introduces them to @sixwords, the official Six Words feed on Twitter. Criswell advises: “It’s usually very acceptable for viewing with students, but, of course, I preview it first to be sure.”

6 word 6“The students really love reading them [others’ memoirs],” says Mrs. Criswell, “it gets them so excited for the Hemingway unit,” which typically lasts one week. They have the first two days to craft their own Six-Word Memoir, “one that really captures their essence,” Criswell emphasizes, “so I learn things about them.”

The students eagerly take on the challenge of writing their own memoir, which is accompanied by original artwork. The pieces are then displayed in the classroom for all to see. Some of these high schoolers have not shown their artistic side until this assignment: “It’s really exciting for me to see their artwork,” she reveals, “I get to know my students better.”6 words 2

“Through Six-Word Memoirs, the students also become more focused writers.” adds Criswell: “They start to work on being more concise writers, which is so important in this day and age.”

Ozark High School is a one-to-one learning environment, meaning every student is provided their own school-issued laptop. “We really embrace technology, and try to utilize it in our lessons.”

Mrs. Criswell encourages students to tweet out their memoir. However, Mrs. Criswell explains, this step of the unit is optional since Twitter is typically blocked on these laptops. Regardless, tweeting their work intrigues students.

“I tell students that they can keep this as a classroom assignment, by creating your Six-Word Memoir and decorating it, to be displayed on our board. Or, if you choose, you can elevate this and have an authentic audience and reach people across the world. It’s completely optional that they tweet it, but I have found that that’s what gets them excited.”

Tweeting their Six-Word Memoirs offers an enticing opportunity, as students could connect with what Mrs. Criswell calls a “genuine, authentic audience.” She instructs students to tag @sixwords and use the hashtag #sixwords, suggesting that they could “use this as a channel” to engage with others worldwide. This year, more Ozark High School students tweeted their memoirs than ever before.

The tweets range from comical and confessional. One reads: “Beached whale trying to survive land,” while another reveals “Cracked and broken but not fragile.” Some students broadcast their approval for the project while showcasing their creativity with the assignment, such as “You brought inner-tubes to my waves.”

Mrs. Criswell hopes to incorporate Six-Word Memoirs elsewhere in the curriculum: “The kids likes Six Words so much, that they asked to do more, so I’m looking at ways to use it next year,” she says. As with the success of this Hemingway unit, Six-Word Memoirs offers a natural convergence between curriculum, technology, and creativity for teachers and students alike.
Emma Arace

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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.

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Top Six Times You Call Mom


Although a mother’s love is cherished throughout the year, on the second Sunday of May, we celebrate moms everywhere. In SixContest #75, we asked you to complete the prompt “I always call my mom when…” Turns out mothers are renowned as the keepers of family traditions (click link for backstory: “…wanting to unlock her secret recipes.” —PoeticPisces). We often reach out to the women who gave us life when we want to share our successes (“…I get a post as MOTD.” —caralongwrites). Sometimes mothers are a handful (“…I have forty-five minutes to spare.” —Poser), but most often, the bonds with our moms are eternal (“Though she’s gone, conversations carry on.” —ggirl60).

Here are the Top Six reasons to reach out to mom:

6. “…I need a partner in crime.” —@ShelbyWoodz (via Twitter)

5. “…when I need to hear ‘sweetpea’.” —TypewriterGirl

4. “…I’ve gathered juicy intel about relatives.” —Neesha101

3. “…the stars tell me she’s listening.” —@JulieHall (via Twitter)

2. “…when my inner GPS is scrambled!” —UnitedStarminds

And it’s most likely #ICallMomWhen . . .

1. “…my children do brag worthy stuff.” —lillybrook

Congratulations to lillybrook and thanks to all who participated! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at sixwordmemoirs.com—keep on Sixing!

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Memoirist of the Month: May 2016—Jamie W.

“The most beautiful Sixes I have ever read on this site were posted well after midnight, when the writers’ hopes and fears are unchained. I write more easily late at night, so that’s when I do most of my own sixing.”
Maeva W

Name:  Jamie W. (aka Maeva)
Place: Northern Virginia
SMITH Member Since: May 2015

Just one year ago, Jamie W. found her voice and a safe haven at Six-Word Memoirs. Known in the Six Words community by her lifelong nickname, Maeva, childhood adversity meant that she grew up much too fast (“Forced to ride without training wheels.”). She proves that you can tell compelling stories and deliver plot twists in just six words (“More foster homes than birthday parties.”). With more than 700 memoirs to date, Maeva has impressed our most seasoned Sixers with her literary dexterity (“Love dog-earing pages in my story.”) and sophisticated voice (“Laughs our symphonies. Embraces our minuets.”). Congratulations to Jamie W. as our Memoirist of the Month for May, 2016. Read through Jamie’s answers to our Six Questions and discover what makes her triumphant: 

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RIP Prince: We Put The Right Letters Together

Cover-PurpleRainOne of the many surprises the Six-Word Memoir community has brought to me, each other and those outside the virtual walls of this space is how it responds to death, whether it’s a death directly effecting one of our own in the community or that of someone famous out there in the world. I’ve always said that some of the best Sixes—or any form of stories we tell—come in times of great happiness and great sorrow. (The one time I myself was made “Memoirist of the Day” was when I shared, “Hitchhiked to delivery room; blizzard boy!” when my son was born.)

If you happened to wake up very late on April 21 and went to SixWordMemoirs.com before seeing or hearing the news, you’d still know the story that shocked the world: Prince had died. In the minutes, hours and days that followed, Sixers shared their thoughts on the incomparable Prince. One week after his death—and an deluge of tributes across the world—here are six six-word tributes (some sixes include wonderful backstories if you click through).

Purple Rain running down my cheeks. —MO_Thoughts2

Thinking back on brush with Prince. —G. Austin (backstory)

Lovesexy: soundtrack of summer of ’88.Larry_D._Smith (backstory)

Prince, Hendrix playing  Purple Rain, Haze. —@hikealot2014

Reign, “Rain.” The pain won’t wane. —@KathrynDiPasqua

RIP Prince: Nothing compares to you. —ChristineMacdonald

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The Top Rhymes in Six Words


Microphone check—one, two, one, two. If you like to rhyme, SixContest #74 is for you. Our entries were lyrical (“Lots of bling, never my thing.” —Susan_Breeden) and a few spun political (“Not enthusiastic about selections this election.” —maryjane31). Some of our scribes brought the throwback vibe (“Hotel. Motel. Old school. Too cool.” —Bevvie) and a shout-out “like” by MC Hammer left us feeling enamored. Here are the Top Six rhymes we found sublime:

6. “Those who rule us, fool us.” —@lynco (via Twitter)

5. “I tried. She died. I cried.” —babsalot (Ed. Note: see below for this poignant backstory)

4. “Prince has passed. Rain will last.” —torturedbutterfly

3. “Hearts my igniter, dreams my empire.” —justinchance

2. “Her auburn hair kept me there.” —caralongwrites

And the one who threw down and took the crown . . .

1. “Being an enigma is my stigma.” —@EugeneEvon (via Twitter)

Congratulations to @EugeneEvon and thanks to all who participated! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at sixwordmemoirs.com—keep on Sixing!

Backstory to “I tried. She died. I cried.” —babsalot
“This is for Shari, who took her own life. I knew she was going to do it when she found a home for her beloved dog. I warned her family. They didn’t believe me. I have felt guilty every day since. RIP my amazing friend.”

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Classroom of the Month: 6th Grade ELA classes at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy in Central Falls, Rhode Island

What’s at the heart of Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP) Mayoral Academy charter schools in Central Falls, Rhode Island? PRIDE. “Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, and Enthusiasm” are the core values that guide their students who are proudly referred to as scholars.

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Top Stump Speech in Six Words

First Day As President

Although Inauguration day is mere months away, it remains tough to predict who will preside in the Oval Office next January. For SixContest #73, we asked if you were seeking the highest office in the land, what promises would you make to prospective voters? From the idealistically ludicrous (“Give every citizen ten millon dollars!” –Matt_LoGuercio) to the genuinely achievable (“We women get that equal pay.” –JAD), these entries also reflect that the norms of society are evolving (“First Lesbian President’s spouse: Second Lady?” –JoC.). The Six Words community has spoken — here are the Top Six stump speeches:

6. “Patiently telling people it’s ‘Madam’ President…” —elmc

5. “I would just declare World Peace.” —LotLessMonster

4. “…the missiles fly, delivering love! LOVE!” —@rusmclaughlin (via Twitter)

3. “I’d paint the White House pink.” —@MertonKidd (via Twitter)

2. “So much winning you’ll miss losing” —@RealDonalDrumpf (via Twitter)

And the Six-Word stump speech that really delivers . . .

1. “All candidates to compete on Jeopardy.” —Lizasighs

Backstory that accompanies our top entry: “All candidates to compete on Jeopardy. Get rid of the dog and pony shows that have become American campaigns and debates. Where a lot is said, but nothing is, really. The winner will donate their winnings to a charity of their choice. Some suggested categories: The U.S. Constitution Foreign Policy Who lied? Healthcare Economics They said what?! Civil rights Geography Who hates us? World history Literature Miss Manners says Ecology World religions Batshit crazy, crazy, or crazy like a fox? A candidate’s name will appear as the answer. Potent potables [Ed. Note: a popular Jeopardy category].”

Congratulations to @Lizasighs and thanks to all who participated! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at sixwordmemoirs.com—keep on Sixing!

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Memoirist of the Month: April 2016—Eric Skinner

“Like Sunday dinner at Grandma’s, the fried chicken gets us to the table, but the family experience keeps us there — even with the weird uncle, the in-your-face political cousin, and the cheek-smooching great-aunt. They’re all here at SMITH, and none of us can deny their loving, caring, fussing allure.”

FullSizeRenderName: Eric Skinner
Place: Nashville, Tennessee
SMITH Member Since: July 2014

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Top College Pride In Six Words


The national phenomenon known as March Madness is well underway. With millions of brackets already busted before we got to the Sweet Sixteen, we asked you to go beyond picks and tell us what makes your favorite college a winner. Some of you recalled the good times (“College Mascots; Lover boys in disguise.” —JAD), while others captured the legacy (“Three generations nurtured by Alma Mater.” —zsuzsu) and established yourselves as true diehards (“Why more parity? My Women Huskies!!!” —JoC.). Here are the Top Six ways our community showcased their college pride:

6. “FIT girl: forever fashionable and fun.” —sisterpoet
(Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY)
5. “A Blue Devil living in heaven.” —Savita
(Duke University)
4. “My heart swells hearing ‘Hail Purdue.'” —Audrey Jordan via Facebook
(Purdue University)
3. “Taking pride in being called COCKY!” —jene2008
(Jacksonville State University Gamecocks)
2. “Karen Walker Is Our Saltiest Alum” —@notabbynormal (via Twitter)
(Sarah Lawrence College)

And the Six Words that made us want to attend your school…

1. “Learned to love Tolstoy and beer.” —Susan_Breeden
(University of Texas, Austin)

Congratulations to Susan_Breeden and thanks to all who participated! Whether in our SixContests, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr or at sixwordmemoirs.com—keep on Sixing!

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