“The six-word setup has become so much more than a creative challenge for me…with two little boys, free time is a hot commodity. I like the ability to express myself creatively in short bursts, in between washing marker off of my wall and relinquishing my baby’s grip on my hair.”
Place: Philadelphia, PA
SMITH Member since: February 2009
Known fondly as Wench, Alexis joined Six-Word Memoirs in 2009, making this her sixth year here. Her memoirs are rich in content (“You can always take another step.“) and volume—over 2,200 to date—often complemented by compelling backstories (“Is he still in there, anymore?“). We’ve enjoyed watching her blossom and evolve, both in her photos and her memoirs (“Tonight’s goal: Tastefully turn some heads.”). Wench has used Six Words to chronicle milestones (“Two kids on a big adventure.”), riff on everyday life (“Queen of the fireball hipster pour.”), and work through hardships (“Pounding my fists on God’s chest.“). Congrats to Alexis as our Memoirist of the Month for September, which she can celebrate with a custom t-shirt thanks to our friends at Spreadshirt. See why Alexis has found an audience here as she answers our Six Questions.
How did you first hear about Six-Word Memoirs, and how does Six Words fit into your life?
In 2009, Larry Smith gave a presentation at my school on his writing project, Six-Word Memoirs. At the time, I was working on a scar photography project, with the tagline, “Every scar tells a story.” Larry started his presentation with his tagline: “Everyone has a story—what’s yours?” I was instantly hooked and I’ve been writing here ever since.
The six-word setup has become so much more than a creative challenge for me. It really forces you to understand what you want to say and get to its core. It’s caused me to reflect more thoughtfully on a lot of things I’ve gone through in my personal life. Lately, with two little boys, free time is a hot commodity. I like the ability to express myself creatively in short bursts, in between washing marker off of my wall and relinquishing my baby’s grip on my hair…
These concentrated doses of humanity have created some really close connections with people I’ve never met. There are so many members here that I have come to love and whose stories I’ve been following for months or years. I’ve also experienced some of the most humbling acts of kindness from this community. I think I may have coined the term, “Believe Hat” a few years back (“I am wearing my Believe hat“). I was feeling really overwhelmed, and I found genuine comfort and strength in a simple knit hat that a stranger made for me.
When did you start writing and what have been turning points in your creative life?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I was home-schooled, and when I was little, my mom used to cut out pictures from magazines and ask us to make up stories about them. She wrote them all down—I still have them. I wrote a 200+ page novel between the ages of 11 and 13 (I mean, it’s hilariously bad, but still…). I’ve won a few awards for poems and short stories. I play guitar (sort of) and I’ve written countless songs, but it’s up for debate whether any of them are worth listening to! When I was pregnant with my first son, I started keeping a journal to him, and I’ve continued that tradition with both of my boys. I don’t have a lot of free time, so I’m getting good at writing in bursts. One more reason to love Six-Word Memoirs—it’s fast!
Can you share a favorite Six-Word Memoir, moment or other backstory of yours on SMITH and tell us whether someone’s writing here has especially moved you?
“Melted my past. Forged my future.” It’s a reminder that even when it feels like everything is falling apart, I’m constantly being shaped and strengthened for the next step. The past few years have thrown our family a lot of curve-balls. There was the loss of our second baby, which we shared with very few people—I was so grateful to have this outlet to speak about it. Also my brother’s diagnosis with schizophrenia (“Is he still in there, anymore?“) and a lot in between. Sometimes I just need to step back and remind myself that I’m still here. I must be tougher than I realized.
Which authors do you enjoy or admire, including writers on Six-Word Memoirs?
I’ve always been encouraged by the words of John Donne, in his poems, “Death, be not proud” and “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.” But when I was writing that novel as a kid, I was obsessed with Lloyd Alexander. My mom looked him up in the phone book on my eleventh birthday and actually found him. I will never forget her calling up the stairs, “Alexis? Lloyd Alexander is on the phone for you.” I spoke with him for half an hour about my book, his writing, and his book about his childhood in Philadelphia that was coming out soon (The Gawgon and The Boy). The experience of having my ideas respected and encouraged by a brilliantly creative author at the age of eleven was so incredible. When The Gawgon and The Boy came out, my mom bought it and read me a chapter every day. Sometimes two, if I begged her.
I’ve been moved by the writing and the kindness of so many writers here. Oh no, not this question—I know I’ll forget people: Believe, DynamicDbytheC, Hieronimo, Loon, BanjoDan, ShellDeFelice, NumbrOneAunt, Amapola, Bullitt, Steve__Anthony…the Six Words editors said I had to stop at ten, sorry!!!!
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time and what do you enjoy doing?
I’ve run a one-woman photography business for the past few years. I do weddings, family portraits, the usual, but I’ve also photographed births, which is just too cool for words. Recently, I’ve picked up bartending; it’s a lot of fun meeting people and getting to know their stories.
I’m happily married and my full-time, favorite job is being a mama to my two sons, who are two (nearly three) and seven months (“Motherhood. Suddenly I understand slimey kisses“). We have dance recitals in our living room, every single day, with my toddler. Singin’ In The Rain is his favorite movie.
Finally, Alexis, what are your Six Words for today?
No, honey. We don’t flush sneakers.