Sunday, October 19, 2014

Six-Word Memoirs Rock This Blog

Olga García Echeverría

Wonderful things can happen while procrastinating...

I was putting off writing the day I bumped into Six-Word Memoirs on the Web.  I love writing, but unlike the truly disciplined who sit down at a set time everyday and go there, I struggle.

I am all over the place.

I have no set time to write. Nor do I have a specific format. My words end up on scraps of paper, on the computer, in journals, on the "Notes" section of my phone. Sometimes my writing time is in the middle of the week at noon. Sometimes in the wee hours of the night. Sometimes in the mornings. Sometimes, sadly, not at all. Still, the constant desire and effort to keep the words flowing is present and persistent.

Erratic writer constantly seeks literary inspiration.
I found some of that inspiration in Six-Word Memoirs recently. Larry Smith and Tim Barko, founders of SMITH Magazine, debuted the Six-Word Memoirs project in 2006. The idea for the project was inspired by Ernest Hemingway who is said to have once been challenged to write a novel in six words. According to literary legend, Hemingway answered the challenge (over dinner and on a napkin) with: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." There are different version of this story, some with doubts that it ever really happened. Whether it happened or not, the legend has functioned as muse, first for SMITH Magazine and now for over a million people who have joined in on the fun, trying to script their memoirs into six words. Scripting one's life in six words may initially seem impossible. When I first started playing with the format, I found it difficult because I was trying to find the right six words to say it all.
Can six palabras encapsulate una vida?
I doubt it. But really the idea of the Six-Word Memoir is to capture a fragment of the self, to express in an abbreviated space an idea, a memory, a snapshot of who we are or who we were or who we are becoming. The more of these little memoirs that I write, the more I realize that what is captured in this format doesn't have to be extraordinary. The everyday is perfect food for these memoirs.
Usually go to bed thinking, "Pancakes!"

What I love about the Six-Word Memoir is that it is highly accessible and it can be birthed anywhere--while in line at the grocery store, while walking or driving, in the shower, when taking a break from grading, while cooking. Counting words on fingers is addictive, and yes, there's an App. Also alluring is that these short snapshots can be fleshed out. One of my favorite sections of the Six-Word Memoirs website is the Featured Backstory, where writers share the story behind their six words. This is where the real writing practice can happen. I most likely won't go back and flesh out every six word memoir I have written...

Got chorro from too many churros...

But there are a few that triggered something deep and tugged at the heart. What writer doesn't need or want a strong literary jalonazo? Since my serendipitous encounter with Six-Word Memoirs, I've written dozens, and I've gone back and fleshed out a few on my computer. Maybe they will become future poems or stories. Or maybe they will remain just what they are--little memoirs that sprouted and then disappeared into oblivion. Es todo.

Memoirs can be fleshed or flushed.

In any case, they're writing exercise and writing seed, two things I consider essential not just for me but also for my students. Anyone who has ever taught writing knows it's a hard job, and I am always looking for engaging ideas for writing assignment. In the past weeks, I've incorporated Six-Word Memoirs into my classes. In one class, I had students write six words about a significant memory, and then pair up with a classmate and share the backstory. Imagine 40 students all jabbering about their lives at the same time. Music to my ears. For homework, they had to write a 600 word vignette that incorporated figurate language and fleshed out the memoir. I'm still reviewing my students' papers, but thus far the assignment has resulted in some pretty amazing stories. I am not the first teacher to take the six word format into her class and create a lesson around it. Many others have being doing it for years, and some of them have shared their results on YouTube and/or on the Six-Word Memoirs site. Students seem to respond well to the six word format for reasons already mentioned--they're fun and accessible. They also reinforce that good old writing teacher mantra:

We all have stories to tell.
We all have stories to tell.
We all have stories to tell.

This past week, I reached out to a few dozen people and asked them to help out a blogging sister and write a Six Word Memoir for this blog. Here are the memoirs of those who responded. Mil gracias amig@s, your memoirs were the highlight of my week and they truly rock this blog.


"I flip tortillas with bare hands."
--Catherine Uribe
"Things that should not be said."
"Cosas que no hay que decir."
--Gloria Alvarez
"Need an opinion? I got one."
--Sandra Munoz

Portrait of Urrea by Eric Nishimoto

"Married Cinderella: lived happily ever after."
--Luis Urrea

"La Dolce Vita Vida Loca sometimes."
--Suzanne Lummis
"Bronx girl. All on the page."
--Lilliam Rivera

"She read to me. I wrote."
--Cheryl Klein
"A decolonized mind frees the spirit."
--Maritza Alvarez


"Lived a thousand lives in one."
--Liz Vega


"Lottery winner of love, not money."
--Deidre Harris


"Full of shit and feeling satisfied."
--Doug Carroll

"Ewok Feminism: The Myriam Gurba Story."
--Myriam Gurba

"I like you but you're stinky."
--Alazne Carroll Vega

"El cielo often speaks to me"
--Amelia Montes

"Mind is full no more comments."
--Gabby Carroll Vega

"She has scars on her head."
--Pat Alderete

"Mom said never marry a Mexican."
--Persephone Gonzalez

"Saved by dog and Betty White."
--Wendy Oleson

"My dedos danced mambo every day."
--Sonia Guiterrez

"Nice Southern girl fights the power."
--Bronwyn Mauldin

"First loves are nice, I bet."
--Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

"Gooks as silent villains--rewrite erasure."
--Bao Phi

"I haven't had time for babies."
--Celina Martinez

"Dead immigrant father. Pochafied fourth-generation daughter."
--liz gonzalez

"Meditations on Street Vendors and Salvation."
--Erika Ayon

"My greatest passion is to think."
--Manuel Velez

"Stop holding-out on my treats, bitches!"
--Xiquis The Great

"Chaotic mornings but not with donuts."
--Maria Figueroa

"I awaken
turning boulders
to dust"
--Alejandra Sanchez

"Too young
an existential
--Geronimo Flores


"Push pedal word! Breathe green Poet."
--A.K. Toney

"Malflora poet scripted in East LA."
--Veronica Reyes

"I've got a costume for this!"
--Cristy McMahon

"My Tongue is a Snazzy Tool."
--tatiana de la tierra

"I dreamed. I danced. I wrote."
--ire'ne lara silva

What about you, Bloga readers? Wanna share your own Six Word Memoir? Post it in the comments section. We'd love to read it.
Wait! There is a literary announcement... 
Five Queer Women With Loaded Tongues. 
If you're in Los Angeles, please join us this coming Wednesday, Oct 22, at 9PM
for The LA Word: Exploded Guns where 5 LA women writers take out their literary pistolas and shoot out some verse.
Cheryl Klein, Pat Alderete, Wendy Oleson, Bronwyn Mauldin, and Olga Garcia Echeverria will be reading at the Laemmle 7 in North Hollywood (lobby area) as part of the 2014 NoHo Lit Crawl.  
5240 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Bueno, gracias. Goodbye. Hasta next time.
Long live the Six-Word Memoir!


Daniel Ricardo Casias said...

The story of the story rules.

Olga Garcia Echeverria said...

Eso! I'm always looking for the story behind the story. Love it! Thanks for sharing your memoir, Daniel.

Daniel Ricardo Casias said...

De nada. Reality comes and goes, all we are left with is the story and the story of the story. If you happen to click on my book Daughters of Earth, Sons of heaven on Amazon, could you please click the want to see it on Kindle for me, por favor?

Michael Medrano said...

In love with the word, love.

Sonia Gutiérrez   said...

Wonderful excercise and compilation! Gracias Olga de Los Angeles!


It all began one summer night.

Memory serves to smudge the details.

Once in love, everything becomes clearer.

Writing 6-word-memoirs is challenging.

Olga Garcia Echeverria said...

Those are wonderful! Yes, they can be challenging, but they are also highly addictive.

Eloise De Leon said...

I came here from the void.

Lydia Gil said...

Cup of coffee always half full.