Six-Word Memoirs

The novelist Ernest Hemingway was once asked to create a full story in six words or less.  Here is what he wrote:  “For Sale:  baby shoes, never worn.”

Last year, the online magazine Smith asked readers to take up the same challenge and write the story of their own lives in a single, six-word sentence.  The result was the book, Not Quite What I Was Planning.  Here are some submissions the magazine received:

     Revenge is living well, without you.  – Joyce Carol Oats

     Well, I thought it was funny.  – Stephen Colbert

     After Harvard, had baby with crackhead.  – Robin Templeton

     70 years, few tears, hairy ears.  – Bill Querengesser

     Catholic school backfired.  Sin is in!  – Nikki Beland

     She said she was negative.  Damn.  – Ryan McRae

     I asked.  They answered.  I wrote.  – Sebastian Junger

     Joined Army.  Came out.  Got booted.  – Johan Baumeister

     Almost a victim of my family.  – Chuck Sangster

     The psychic said I’d be richer.  – Elizabeth Bernstein

     Mom died, Dad screwed us over.  – Lesley Kysely

     Painful nerd kid, happy nerd adult.  – Linda Williamson

     Slapped by a nurse;  still sore.  -Matt Mather

After looking at these examples, I decided to write some six-word memoirs of my own.  Here’s what I came up with:

      “Hidden strife.  Unfaithful wife.  New life.” 

      “I taught them what I know.”   

      “English mom.  Irish dad.  Didn’t last.”

      “I thought I knew.  Not anymore.”

Now it’s your turn.  Come on, give it a try!

About Scott Shields

Years ago, I left the Midwest for the deserts of Arizona. Since then, I have worked in the grocery business and as a high school English teacher. Literature and writing are my passions, and I try to share my love of the written word with my students each day.


  1. Had fun. Found one. Now done.
    Glass half full and still pouring…
    Good food, great company, incredible life.
    I make new friends through negotiations.
    Contract negotiations – not for the adversarial!
    observe, listen, touch, taste, absorb, grow

  2. Born fat. Lived fat. Die fat.

  3. I had rhythm, now it’s gone
    Ha, ha, ha, ha, oh my

  4. I’ve changed. But not that much.

    Seven times down. Eight times up. –Japanese saying.

    I laughed more than I cried.

    The story’s how you tell it.

  5. Thnaks, folks! Your insightful six-word memoirs inspired me to write a few more:

    “The laughs washed away the tears.”

    “I’d rather be good than smart.”

    “Love shared makes a life fulfilled.”

    “We all seek our lost Eden.”

  6. I taught. I fought. I wrought.