6 Word Memoirs

Dec 31, 1969
Image for issue at Youth Voices

Will you: 

How can we capture an element of our identity in just six words?

Legend has it that when Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a six-word novel, he came up with, “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Inspired by Hemingway’s short story, SMITH magazine launched online in 2006. They challenged readers and famous writers alike to submit their own six-word memoirs for a contest. People of all ages sent in short life stories in droves, and the results were poignant, hilarious, devastating and good lessons to all. (Smith Magazine) A Six-Word Memoir is the story of your life—some part of it or all of it—told in exactly six words.

(versión española)

This mission is to create a six-word memoir about an element of your identity.  Your six-word memoir will…

  • Use exactly six words
  • Communicate a part of your identity
  • Include an image that connects with the message
  • Include thoughtful punctuation and word choice
  • Here's an example (in addition to all the ones on the left there, and below):

First Moves:

Figure out what a six word memoir is, anyway. What makes a strong 6 word memoir? What do you notice about this genre?

Check out Smith Magazine's video of teen memoirs  And, for more the students at Christy Kingham's high school, TYWLS of Astoria, Queens  

In 2013, TYWLS 11th Graders were chosen as classroom of the month. Maybe yours can be, too!

Quick Draft and Brainstrom

Try a few out quickly- just see what happens! Then it’s a good idea to take step back and brainstorm: consider what you want to communicate about yourself- is it that you are thoughtful? An activist? Athlete?  If I were to write about being a soccer player I would try to communicate how that feels, so my six word memoir about soccer might be, “Most alive on the soccer field.”  Some students like to make a list of their characteristics or beliefs they are trying to get across.  Here’s one way you could brainstorm 

Try it out!

Now that you have some thoughts about who you are, try to communicate that in a single sentence.  DON'T count words yet! Write a whole bunch of these single sentences--they are short, it doesn’t take long.  Write on a google doc or in your journal. Some writers like to take one idea and write it many different ways using different words.  Choose your favorite sentence.  NOW try to say the same idea in only six words!  It’s helpful to return to the models if you are stuck--which of the published six word memoirs stood out to you, and why? How can you try to do the same with your sentence?

Revise and Edit 

Once you have some to work with, begin revising and editing.  How can we improve the craft of 6-word memoirs by using punctuation and by cutting unnecessary words?  Return to the models- notice that many of them do not use I and cut other unnecessary words.  Pick one of your own memoirs and try to write it a few different ways.

Image Design

Time to select a memoir and an image! The image should not take away from your memoir, but should compliment it.  Watch Christy Kingham's video "how to use google draw" video for help! *Be sure you add your first name to your image! (First initial of last name is fine too, if you'd like.) The name should be small and out of the way of the six word text.

Publish on Youth Voices!

Export your image as a .jpeg to your desktop, then post it in two different places on Youth Voices.

  • Post your image as a Discussion on Youth Voices to get other students' comments on your six word memoir.
  • After you put your image up with a discussion, you should embed your image on your Profile Bio. Go to your bio text box. 

img = image

src = source

  • Below your bio text, copy and paste this: <img src="http://url of your image.jpg">

Where it says "http...." you take that out and but the url of your image in.  
They way you find the url of your image is by going to your image on your profile (you just uploaded it as a discussion so find it again on youth voices!). Click on the image so it's big on your screen.

"Right click" on your image (hold down "control" and the mouse) and click on "copy image url".  Paste that inside <img src= ......> (where the dots are) It's that easy, but don't forget the angle brackets, the equal sign, and the quotation marks.

Save and check out your embedded 6 word memoir!