“I just hope there’s a sequel.”
-Lila Louise Nawrocki
Immediately after Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak by Writers Famous and Obscure was released in the first week of January 2009, I bought several copies and gave them out, silently conveying the subtext “Look! I’m finally a published writer!” to select and familiar recipients. I was just really feeling extra special about the whole thing. Not only was I in print, I was a part of a whole literary cultural phenomenon that was taking the internet by storm. Whatever feelings of importance and self-worth that I was not getting from my day job came in abundance instead from my “hobby”.
During the last week of January, our editors invited all local published memoirists to attend book signing events in Berkeley and San Francisco. I let everyone know that I planned to appear in both cities and hoped to see familiar faces. My dear friend and fellow memoirist Tiffany had also decided to attend both events; I was super excited that we would participate together. First stop: Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts on College Ave.
Although I had been to book signing events before (any opportunity to stare adoringly at John Irving), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Larry and Rachel had asked that we be ready to read our memoir aloud, give a short backstory and answer any questions attendees may have but outside of this, who knew what the evening would bring. About 30 people gathered inside Mrs. Dalloway’s prior to the 8pm start time, and milled around the shop while waiting for Larry and Rachel to start the program. Finally the appropriate time arrived, and our esteemed editors kicked off the talks.
Somewhere in the middle of the memoirist talks, my name was called to speak. I don’t remember what I said after I read “Not him again!” said my mother”. I likely just babbled off the top of my head about the relationship in question, and my mother’s reaction to it for a minute or two, I didn’t think much ahead of time about what I would say. After the event was over, a fun group of 6 friends and supporter headed down the street a few doors to celebrate with an afterparty at a bar and restaurant down the street.
The very next night I headed over to Books, Inc. at Opera Plaza for the SF event. Years before, I had briefly lived upstairs in a condo at Opera Plaza and spent many, many hours amongst the shelves in that very store, which had previously been known as “A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books”. There’s a really good story about why I spent so many hours there, but I’ll have to tell that at another time. At this reading, quite a few more published memoirists also appeared, including my other great friend Kacey along with Tiff and I. This bookstore was larger than Mrs. Dalloways, and the crowd was also. It was another entertaining evening of excitement and laughter.
I repeated my same spiel from the previous night and while listening to what some of the others had to say, I found myself wishing I had put more effort into my backstory. After the readings were over, I approached some of the other memoirists to convey my admiration of their work and get my own copy of our book signed as well.
Just when I thought my foray into the world of six was a thing of the past, around mid 2010 I got another email from Rachel and Larry. They were planning to publish yet another book of six word memoirs, this one a follow-up to the original book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure. Not only were they going to publish yet another book, but they had selected another one of my memoirs to be included! I could barely contain my excitement to learn that next, they would publish another set of six on my life (and in all caps, no less):
It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure was published in the Fall of 2010.
I was again invited by Rachel to attend a book reading event, this one scheduled at Book Passage in the San Francisco Ferry Building in November. This time however, I spent some time preparing my verbal backstory, remembering how I wished I had done that the first time around. Here are some passages of the talk I prepared for that night:
“Hello my name is Lisa and I am a Six Word-Aholic. My memoir on page 22 (pay attention! there will be a test later) of the book is: FROM LOW BUDGET TO HIGH MAINTENANCE. When I first wrote this memoir, I was pondering the ways in which my life has changed from childhood into life as a modern woman. How during my childhood years, I gave no thought to how I looked or how much money me and/or my parents had. I was totally happy with one pair of cool shoes (yes, these obsessions can start during childhood)….. but now as an adult, and a rapidly aging female who’s youthful beauty and firm body are long gone, my existence requires a tremendous amount of funding and effort. What was once a simple bath has now turned into spa visits, a carefully chosen wardrobe and a cherished relationship with my dermatologist…. entertaining these thoughts then caused me to reflect on pop culture, and how the media and it’s public are completely obsessed with watching novice pop tarts evolve into high maintenance divas….so as it turns out, “from low budget to high maintenance” is more than just my memoir- its also my own personal theory of evolution, of sorts. Thank you.”
Once the applause subsided, I felt very well received. The extra effort I put into the backstory had definitely paid off. Although she did not attend the Book Passage event, my friend Nicole, a co-worker who also started writing and posting her own memoirs on http://www.sixwordmemoirs.com was published in this installment:
Nicole was clearly ready for a life change, or at the very least a tropical vacation. I could totally relate, because we were working in the same office and I was spending my days the same way she was. I am happy to report that after this was published she did make some major changes (we both did) and if she were to write another memoir today, it would likely tell a very different story.
By 2011, the well of ideas for six word memoirs ran dry for a few years time. Larry however, continued to keep very busy releasing several more follow up books containing six word stories, including Six Words About Work and The Best Advice in Six Words, to name two. While I definitely have added more six word memoirs to my list since, you can see I am still having fun writing about my life- but mostly now without restriction in length or form.
What’s your story?
©2017 Lisa Ihnken All Rights Reserved, except where noted