“Without Six-Word Memoirs,I’d probably still be talking about writing but never actually doing it. Six Words allows me to…make the most impact with the fewest words.”
Visit SixWordMemoirs on any given day and you’ll encounter Dean Evans, who joins us from a smallish college town in northeast Alabama. His posts as ADHDean show his literary wit (“Spicy conversation peppered with salty language”) and insights about everyday woes (“Mechanics break wallets while fixing cars”), and showcase his romantic side with regular odes to his wife (“There she stood, my dreams materialized.”), our very own jene2008. Dean keeps our community on its virtual toes with his “Random Word of the Day” contributions and his real-life community raising their eyebrows with his participation in the cancer awareness project, Movember. Dean is also a founding member of the International Society for the Preservation of Whimsy . “We have yet to hold our first meeting, write our charter, elect leadership or come up with any bylaws,” he explains, “But we have nevertheless giggled, chortled, laughed, hee-hawed, guffawed and otherwise engaged in all sorts of whimsical behavior.”
As October’s Memoirist of the Month, with nearly 2,000 memoirs to date, Dean has no shortage of choices for his Six-Word T-shirt, thanks to our partners-in-six at Spreadshirt. There’s much more to learn and love about Dean as he answers our questions—Six of them, of course:
How did you first hear about SMITH?
A 2010 NPR All Things Considered feature, I believe. It immediately struck me as something I had to try. I posted just a few Sixes that year, but returned in 2011 and haven’t looked back.
When did you start writing, and what have been turning points in your creative life?
I first felt like a writer as a high school senior in Advanced Writing class. While nothing I churned out was earthshattering, I felt the joy of seeing a story take on a life of its own. I was bitten by the bug, which remains today. I’ve been told I have a way with words—my grandfather was something of a wordsmith, so I come by it honestly. Creative turning points have included the births of my children (Sonny and Sweet Pea, about whom I’ve written many memoirs) and my marriage to Jen (almost half of my Sixes are about her). We have four kids between us (“Five years. Four Kids. Three Words.”)—Jen has given me permission to truly be who I was meant to be, which includes stretching my legs as a creator and writer. Make no mistake: muses exist, and she’s most definitely mine.
I mostly write for myself, but I enjoy sharing a few favorite stories. One day I hope to push one out of the nest and see it fly. Writing is a way to connect with the world around us, to share our innermost beings. It’s frightening—do we really want the world to know THAT about us—and simultaneously enriching to have birthed an idea, shaped its legs and watched it run under its own power. A good story does that: it puts the reins on, demanding you go where it wishes. I’ve worked on simply letting go and not worrying too much about being the master of the story. In the end, the story and the teller end up as something of equals, shaking hands and parting on good terms. That’s my dream: to send good friends out into the world to make even more friends. I hope it happens someday.
What authors inspire you or do you admire?
Contemporary writers include: Stephen King, Joe Hill, Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman, David Sedaris, Brad Meltzer, Mark Haddon, and J.K. Rowling. Some classic authors are: JRR Tolkien, Charles Dickens, E.A. Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Shelley. Others of note: Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Dean Koontz (for his incredible work ethic), and H.P. Lovecraft. These are in no way complete lists.
What does SMITH bring into your life?
I share the sentiment of many Sixers, who refer to SMITH as “a sandbox, a place to play and experiment in a safe environment.” Without Six-Word Memoirs, I’d probably still be talking about writing but never actually doing it. Six Words allows me to tell stories—mine, others’, and those I’ve made up—and forces me to make the most impact with the fewest words. That practice alone has made a real difference in what I produce outside of Six Words. It’s also exposed me to brilliant writing I’d never get to see elsewhere.
Even more fulfilling is the incredible sense of community Jen and I have experienced through the Six-Word Memoir Project. Not only have we made electronic acquaintances, we’ve broken bread in our home with friends we’d never have met without SMITH. Even new members realize the Comments section (below each Six) is where the “life” of this art form truly pulses. Here, other writers express appreciation and their personal takes on the memoirs. Friendships blossom and bloom, new Sixes are inspired, new insights on life and events gained. It’s a brilliant social experiment, and feels as much like home as my physical address (“Check on Sixers more than family”). Oh, and it beats hell out of social networks. Everything on SMITH is original and fresh, not reheated stale dreck. For that, Larry (founder, Larry Smith) has my eternal gratitude.
Finally, it’s just plain fun. The wordplay, running punchlines, and inside jokes keep me coming back every single day. I post the “Random Word of the Day,” going for a year now with no signs of stopping. It all started with banter in…you guessed it…a Comments section. I’ve received supportive feedback from Sixers—it’s an absolute blast seeing what this very talented group does with arbitrary words. I have yet to visit sixwordmemoirs.com and not come away inspired or awestruck by someone’s talent.
Is there someone’s writing on SMITH that’s especially moved you?
I’m sure everyone dreads this question. With so many talented people, it’s hard to name some without overlooking at least twice as many others. The member who has inspired and impressed me the most is JohnBigJohn (“My ark is made of words”). His voice is authentic, soulful and powerful; his stories about his son’s journey through autism, and his own struggles and triumphs, never fail to move me. I’ll read a few of his Sixes and think, “Wow, I wish I lived near this guy so we could just sit and talk about writing over coffee.”
Others include BanjoDan (“My cape messes up my stance”), Contemplative (“Hospital gown clashed with magenta thong”), Level1 (“Surface movement hints at life beneath”), Bevvie (“Saving euphemisms for those special occasions”), L2L3 (“Stars in eyes melted into tears”), JAD (“My acting career done in private.”), Steve_Anthony (“Life’s the storm. Love’s the umbrella.”), Loon (“Words are clothes covering our souls.”), DynamicDbytheC (“Lots to cry about, laughing instead.”), and, of course, jene2008 (“I said, ‘write like we’re starving.’ “). Apologies to those omitted—I could go on, but Six Words has taught me brevity is next to godliness.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Mostly just being with Jen and the kids. We enjoy laughing, camping, hiking and going on little adventures together. Not surprisingly, I’m a sucker for a good new book. I’ve recently become hooked, I reluctantly confess, on a couple of television shows (but let’s keep that between us).
I’m an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter by profession and temperament. It’s been 23 years, a challenging and rarely boring career. I absolutely love using two languages in new and interesting ways every day; I feel like I make a real difference in people’s lives. Interacting with the Deaf community is a huge part of my life. I have a regular gig interpreting for a local church and also do freelance community interpreting. I sincerely hope the hearing world learns about this rich, vibrant culture and realizes their important contributions to our society.
Finally, Dean Evans, what’s your Six-Word Memoir for today?
Laugh hard. Wipe eyes. Laugh more.