From Off My List: A Six Word Experience Continues


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“Our prison visitations were surprisingly romantic”

-Larry Smith

It all got so compelling that I started sleeping with a pad and pen right at my bedside so I could immediately record my six word musings on love and heartbreak while they were freshly formed.  Some presented themselves perfectly the first time out, others got tweaked and re-tweaked until they felt finished.  All were a direct result of feelings related to some past dating history in my life or another, and the focus on love and its resulting fallout was actually quite cathartic.  I continued to be inspired by Larry himself, who wrote the above six words about his relationship with wife Piper Kerman.  These six probably most accurately describe my entire existence, romantic sentiments notwithstanding- and I felt were my best bet at getting published, because I loved it so much:

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At the height of my six-word writing obsession, I was working at a well-known private equity powerhouse in the San Francisco financial district.  The best part about that job was meeting some of the most wonderful women I have ever known; I am thrilled to still call a number of them friends.  I shared my copy of Not Quite What I Was Planning and the web address  I tested out various memoirs on these co-workers, asking which ones they liked best.  Consequently, a number of these lovely ladies developed their own obsession with six.  Soon I had infectiously influenced more friends and family as well to say it all in six; they were madly composing and clicking right along with me.  By the end of summer, I had written and posted almost one hundred six-word memoirs.

As time went on I was still counting the words, but my preoccupation with writing them down in sets of six eventually did drop to a normal level.  However in late fall that year, the unimaginable suddenly happened.  I received an email from Rachel Fershleiser, one of the editors of Smith Magazine: “If you’re getting this email, it means that the six-word love story you submitted at SMITH Magazine is one of our favorites. Congratulations! We’re hoping to include you in Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak, a new book coming out from Harper Perennial this winter. Our first book, Not Quite What I Was Planning, was a big hit, and this one is already getting great press.”

I was stunned!  One of my 100 stories?  Which one?? Later Rachel wrote back to specify that it was one that had been inspired by a comment my mom made about an early boyfriend (it was not the last time she would utter those words about a man):

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Shortly thereafter, I learned that not only had a co-worker also been chosen for the book, but so had my cousin and another dear friend.  Wow!  How exciting that we would all participate together in such a unique and interesting project.

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Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak by Writers Famous and Obscure was released in the first week of January 2009 by HarperPerennial and Smith Magazine.  I was beyond thrilled to see not only my memoir, but also those selected and written by my nearest and dearest.

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My co-worker Kacey was one of the very first people I told about the books, the website and my desire to write the perfect six.  Her memoir encapsulates an entire relationship experience, leaving the reader to fill in all their own words in between.

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Tiffany told the entire story of her relationship from its very beginning to her engagement in just six words.  This memoir reflects a great sense of humor, but if you actually knew her now- husband Mike, you would totally get how practically stalking him would be required before he’d finally realize she wasn’t kidding about making their relationship permanent.

But my very favorite six word memoir on love and heartbreak published in the book, even counting the really great ones written by those authors famous and obscure, was written by my own cousin Laura.  When I first read her story, I literally fell into fits of laughter:

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Even if you don’t know the backstory of Laura’s memoir, it is brilliantly told- they all were. It was thrilling to be connected to not only these women in a new and public way but also to be a part of a cultural phenomenon.

Larry and Rachel invited their authors to attend various publicized book reading and signing events at bookstores all over the country.  Of the many they arranged, two were announced for the SF Bay Area.  They asked memoir writers to participate by agreeing to come forward and personally read their memoirs, plus recite a backstory for the listening crowd. I immediately confirmed to Rachel that I would attend both.  My friends who had been published would also participate, and I was so excited for us all that I spammed my whole address book with invitations containing the details of these events.

A final chapter on My Six Word Experience to be posted here next week 🙂

©2017 Lisa Ihnken All Rights Reserved, except where noted

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