It’s that generous time of year again. Skip the line at Walmart with a fist full of gift cards, and instead give someone you love a gift that inspires their writer within. We’ve chosen some of our favorites from the SMITH Mag shop, as well as shops around the web and the world. Here are our curated picks for stocking stuffers, those many nights of Hanukkah, Secret Santas, or wherever your holiday spirit may take you.
Six Words Fresh Off the Boat
This timely and unique crowd-sourced book of immigration stories (done in collaboration with ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat) captures hundreds of memoirs on the experience from across America, spanning cultures and generations, to paint a powerful portrait of who we are as a country, and where we came from. Contributors include refugees (“Refugee went from burkas to bachelors,” “Boat person finds freedom in America”); students (“I only speak Spanish on weekends”); and armed forces personnel (“Salvadoran immigrant raises US Navy diver,” “Retired Marine, looked upon as outsider”). With contributions from Aziz Ansari, Julianne Moore, Junot Diaz, and hundreds of first-time writers, it’s a perfect gift for a teacher to inspire a classroom lesson or a grandparent to inspire a conversation about his or her American journey.
“If you had told me that someday I would have contributions in two wonderful books, Crush and Six Words: Fresh Off the Boat…I wouldn’t believe it was true. I’m still blown away by that. It’s an absolute Sally Field moment for me I keep replaying in my mind.”
Name: Amy Nealon
Place: Huntington Beach, California
SMITH Member Since: March 2015
You don’t have to write professionally to have a writer’s heart. Amy Nealon, whose profile name is FKA_Liza, is approaching 800 memoirs since joining us in 2015. Her thirst for creative expression is as rich (“Youth’s verve found within our wrinkles”) as it is vulnerable (“Little girl dressed in woman’s clothing”) — often served with humor (“I’m a hoarder of tired phrases.”), and her beverage of choice (“I’ve a monogamous relationship with wine”). We were delighted Amy spoke at our at Skylight Books event for Six Words Fresh Off the Boat to share the personal backstory that strikes a chord regarding immigration: “Buried his accent, buried his identity.” Congratulations to Amy as our Memoirist of the Month for November 2017. Discover what draws her to storytelling as she answers our Six Questions:
How do students get on a path for success when high school graduation is in jeopardy? Mount Tom Academy in Holyoke, Massachusetts, located on the campus of Holyoke Community College, offers an alternative learning program for at-risk high school students. Barbara Cheney, Mount Tom’s lead teacher, recently discovered the value of Six-Word Memoirs as an effective tool in student engagement.
Cheney is contagiously enthusiastic about engaging students in learning.
Were you able to avoid black cats and misfortune on Friday the 13th? For SixContest#105, we asked for your stories of bad luck in honor of the superstitious day. Many of you shared tales of poor timing (“Last minute homework, total power outage. ”—mzejay), used imagery to convey your calamities (“Broken mirror holds my life’s reflections.’” —FeyFox), and described some downright unfortunate circumstances (“Week of 13th: wildfires ravaged town.” —zsuzsu).
Introducing the top six unluckiest stories:
“Six-Word Memoirs pulled me back into writing and has become my place of solace and introspection. Here I can post my inner spirit with few rules or scrutiny. And at the same time, coming across a host of talented and interested souls who have made the site a daily draw for me.”
Name: Michael Hellwig
Place: Washington, D.C.
SMITH Member Since: January 2015
Michael Hellwig writes with an observant voice, sharing more than 5,000 Six-Word Memoirs under the pen-name JaydenGinoPrice since joining the site in 2015. He posts memoirs across our range of topics, from practical advice (“Watch 30 minutes of comedy daily”) and commentary on current events (“Hearing women will drive in Saudi!”) to philosophical insights (“All the answers change with age.”). Using this nom de plume, Michael is in our latest book, Six Words Fresh Off the Boat, with this six-word reality check: “Glimpsed at citizenship test; I’d fail!” Congratulations to Michael Hellwig as our Memoirist of the Month for October 2017. Discover what draws him to intrigue as he answers our Six Questions:
In ways simple and grand, we each have our own approach to making others feel welcome. For SixContest#104, you were tasked to create your own definition and complete the phrase “Welcoming means ___ ___ ___ ___.” Naturally, many turned to food and customs as a way of showing others they have a place at the table (“Welcoming means an extra dinner plate.”—drgn_kpr). There was an overwhelming emphasis on openness (“Welcoming means… Opening heart, mind, arms.’” —), compassion (“Welcoming means finding our common ground.” —caralongwrites), and the value of hearing someone’s story (“Welcoming means I will really listen.” —Trix95). Ultimately, the common thread between the submissions was the willingness to be there for someone else.
After an outpouring of responses, here are six of our favorite ways you welcome others:
Long before a new school year begins, teachers are busy preparing their curriculum and classrooms. How do educators prepare themselves to connect with a new crop of students? For one inventive approach, we turn to The Wellington School — a co-ed independent college preparatory day school serving preschool through 12th grade in Columbus, Ohio — which recently added Six-Word Memoirs to their Lower School faculty planning sessions.
Their reason for using the six-word tool: to help teachers focus on each individual child as well as to refocus on their own purpose as educators. “Writing our Six-Word Memoirs has provided the moment to just stop and think or reflect, which can easily get lost in all else that is required of teachers in August,” says Jill Webb, Head of Lower School.
Whether or not you witnessed the monumental total solar eclipse on August 21st (with proper eye protection, of course!), our lives are filled with pivotal moments that impact us forever. For SixContest#103, we asked about your pinnacle moments in six words. It’s no surprise that becoming a parent was an apex for many (“Would you like to hold her?”—Oh_Skinny, May 1997; his juxtaposed memoir reveals a deeper story: “You are unable to have children.” July 1985). A few life-changing moments show us that low points come with summits (“Releasing my son from all misery.” —JAD Backstory: “Breathing tubes removed.”). The vast majority of your stories highlighted personal milestones (“First time saying ‘I’m an artist.’” —Raven_OKeefe ) and epic events (“Met hero last day of 39.” —@BeyondHamilton).
“Social media can be really mean. The Six-Word Memoirs community is exactly the opposite—kind, interested and encouraging.”
Name: Janna King
Place: Los Angeles, California
SMITH Member Since: July 2013
Janna King’s entries in our SixContests are crowd favorites. Her Six Words for relieving stress? “Bourbon with a splash of funk.” With nearly 300 memoirs since joining us in 2013 as BigMammaPetunia, her tales of modern day life are forthright (“Life’s chaos has stolen my sleep.”) and often entertaining (“Right text. Wrong recipient. Big trouble.”). Through it all, her love of family (“Lucky my kids made me Mom.”) and words reign supreme (“My writing addiction spawned mental hangover.”) Congratulations to Janna King as our Memoirist of the Month for September 2017. Discover what makes her a go-getter as she answers our Six Questions: