“I visit Six Words almost daily, commenting and favoriting as I go. I like to trawl through each and every six since my last visit. I used to just focus on my own writing, but I’ve really bought in to the idea that Six Words is a community in which we feed each other’s writing and our inspiration for it. ”
Coming to us from the writer’s paradise of Ireland, the man who debuted on Six Words as ElvisLinen has since shed that playful anagram to reveal himself, in name and in words, as NeilSlevin. A poet at heart (“Words rise when I am sleeping…”), Neil has a way of channeling tributaries of emotions into waterways of words (“Two boys, crying into their writing”). Our congrats to Neil Slevin as our Memoirist of the Month for October 2015. In just two years he has posted more than 700 memoirs and we suspect this is just the beginning. Read more about Neil’s writing endeavors as he answers our Six Questions:
How did you first hear about Six-Word Memoirs?
Google! In 2013, during my summer break back in Ireland, I was reading the Irish Independent’s Weekend Magazine. The paper was seeking entrants for a six-word story competition and told the story of Hemingway’s legendary Six-Word Memoir. The idea drew me in straight away and once I’d consulted Google, Six-Word Memoirs was there, just waiting for me to sign up and start sixing. I visit Six Words almost daily, commenting and favoriting as I go. I like to trawl through each and every six since my last visit. I used to just focus on my own writing, but I’ve really bought in to the idea that Six Words is a community in which we feed each other’s writing and our inspiration for it. My not-so-secret secret being that my poetry is often the source of my sixes. Sometimes I include images and I also try to include backstories. I like to think my unique selling point is the majority of them are poetic, but more and more poets are joining our world — perhaps in some small part due to me and my ramblings! I mistakenly started off seeing the site as a competition; now I try to show my appreciation for anyone and everyone sharing good work with others; I recognize how hard it is to write and write well. Writers need that affirmation, whether they admit it or not.
When did you start writing and what have been turning points in your creative life?
Unofficially, it was during my secondary years — known as high school in the U.S. — back at Carrick-on-Shannon Community School, in response to the praise and probing of my English teacher, Catriona Sexton. Looking back, that first moment was a crucial one, when I produced a piece of work in class that kept my teacher and peers coming back for more. I think I shared my writing each and every lesson over nearly four years. I always knew I needed to show up to class with something good to share — my first real experience of writing, knowing that people were going to, and wanted to, read what I had to say.
Officially, it was in 2011 when I emigrated from Ireland to the U.K., where I taught secondary level English for four years. As I began to teach, I realized I had left my own writing voice behind. For my first two years or so on Six-Word Memoirs, I was pining for home, as so many of my early sixes will attest (“Drunken sadness of Irish living abroad”). My first adult poem, “Trainspotting” (“Where is home, once you’ve left?”) was a turning point in the sense that it planted the seed, the idea that I could be a poet — that perhaps I was one. The poem itself was awful, but it got me thinking about my writing, about poetry, and it set me down that path “less travelled.”
My decision to return to Ireland and leave teaching — perhaps permanently, who knows — to undertake my M.A. in Writing at National University of Ireland, Galway was probably the most important turning point of all. I’ve felt that I need to write in order to justify myself and my ambitions of being a writer. A special mention here must also go to my writing partner of the past year, Ken Yeates, a great friend with whom I have shared my writing’s musings (good, bad and downright ugly), and yet he pretended to love them all just the same!
Which authors do you enjoy or admire, including writers on Six-Word Memoirs?
Always a tricky one, my answer changes each time I’m asked. For today, it would have to be: Simon Armitage — his poetry is honest, raw, unpretentious; W.B. Yeats — I am Irish after all, and who doesn’t admire him; and William Shakespeare – like so many, I’m just in awe.
On Six Words, I need to thank NumbrOneAunt for her constant support and encouragement of my writing and poetry, while acknowledging that she is an excellent writer in her own right. Steve__Anthony was the first Sixer I followed – I’ve long admired the persistent beauty of his sixes that are often so original, and I envy his relentless writing as I just don’t know how he does it. The sixes, backstories, images and contributions of Mytaphrodite are all things of love and wonder in their own ways. Neesha101 has a unique voice and en pointe writing. Other honorable mentions must go to Midnight, notjustagirlintheworld, LotLessMonster, Amapola, and Loon — I always look out for their writing. Finally, I’d like to give a shout-out also to Nom-de-guerre, someone new to the Six Words world, or so I think — a Sixer who has already posted numerous sixes and poetic backstories that I’ve loved, even if the ambitious part of me does see Nom as up-and-coming competition!
Can you share a favorite Six-Word Memoir, or other story of yours on SMITH and tell us why it’s meaningful to you?
So many are drawn from my poetry, which is everything to me, but I have to go with “Lost in maze walled by questions.” which told the story of one of my more difficult life moments. I doubted the quality of it initially, then it became The Daily Six. The Six Words world encouraged me to love it at a time when I was doubting my own writing, and perhaps even my own self.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time and what do you enjoy doing?
I recently returned to the west of Ireland: County Leitrim, where I hail from, and have just begun my Master’s in Writing. I am now pursuing my dream of becoming a published — and successful — author. I am also dipping my toe into the world of reporting and article writing, but my heart and mind are with poetry and probably always will be. I enjoy drinking good coffee, reading, running, sixing, sleeping, thinking about my next piece of writing… already I live what I imagine to be the existence of a writer, I’m just not paid for it yet!
Finally, Neil Slevin, what are your Six Words for today?
“Ironically, I can’t six on demand.”