Seven Words Wishes You a Happy April Fools' Day
Moving on up: We've rebranded as Seven-Word Memoirs! (Gotcha...)
Contest: Tell a Six-Word Lie
April Fools’ Day is celebrated globally as a day for practical jokes, pranks, and straight up lies. Famous hoaxes include Taco Bell claiming to buy the Liberty Bell, BBC announcing the discovery of fictional flying penguins, and the Canadian three-dollar coin known as the “threenie.” We’ve also heard pranks about running into cellophane, replacing Oreo cream with toothpaste, waking up covered in glitter. It seems like there’s no escape from this mischievous day. For SixContest #138, we want you to tell us an extraordinary lie in six words.
What was the craziest lie you ever had to tell? What about a time when you were caught in a lie or lied your way out of trouble? Are there lies you’ve told yourself to get through a tough time like a breakup, a job rejection, or a global pandemic?
You can share your six-word lie here.
Celebrity Six: Jane Goodall
This month, we’re diving into the mind of famed primatologist and April 3rd birthday, Jane Goodall. Her groundbreaking work with protecting chimpanzees from extinction redefined species conservation. Her memoir in our book, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, gives insight into her perspective: “Forest peace, sharing vision, always optimistic.”
Now it’s your turn! Here’s how it works: We pick the celebrity and you come up with a Six-Word Memoir for that describes or celebrates that person. Click through to our page on Substack to leave your Six Words for Dr. Goodall in the comments. We’ll share our favorites in the next issue and send a Six-Word Memoir book to one six-word scribe.
Last month, we explored the world of Vice President Kamala Harris. Our favorite six came from subscriber AnnaMac which examines the past and looks to the future: “May be first. Won't be last.” Congrats AnnaMac — we’ll be in touch about your prize, a copy The Best Advice in Six Words.
Short Cuts: Six-Word Reviews
In each issue of our newsletter, we celebrate another Substack newsletter that shares our passion for storytelling, as well as a project from the wide, world of culture in our Six-Word Reviews.
The SneakyArt Post: SneakyArt describes itself as “the practice of drawing beauty from your world, without drawing attention.” Six-Word Memoir intern Danielle’s take on SneakyArt in Six Words: “Casual, natural observation creates accidental art.”
From the rest of the world:
Hidden Brain Podcast on Storytelling: I always look forward to Shankar Vedantam’s Hidden Brain podcast, but the last few weeks really hit my sweet spot as the show featured a three-part series on storytelling. My Six-Word Review: “Science of stories is brain changing.”
The Craft of Storytelling: Tip #3— Write Like You Talk
Whether I’m in a high school classroom, teaching creative non-fiction to adults, or helping my 10-year-old with a writing assignment, strong storycraft remains the same. All the same rules for writing a good Six-Word Memoir apply to longer stories, live stories, wedding toasts, and eulogies. In earlier issues I shared tips on specificity and honesty in writing. And Tip #3 is my favorite: write like you talk. Way back in November of 2006, I launched the Six-Word Memoir project as a one-month challenge with a then little-known startup called Twittr (no “e” back then). More than 10,000 brief life stories poured in, and after Six-Word Memoir co-founder Rachel Fershleiser and I narrowed it down to our top 10, we decided to let our growing community of storytellers pick the winner. And so it was that I went to the Apple Store in downtown Manhattan, bought an iPod (a pretty good prize in 2006) and had it engraved with these crowdsourced, winning words from Abigail Moorhouse: “Barrister, barista. What’s the diff, Mom?” Abigail hits so many notes that comprise good writing and what I love most about her Six-Word Memoir is that she’s writing like she talks. Among the millions of Six-Word Memoirs I’ve found that teens, more than any group of writers, write like they talk, very much on display in the video above. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Aspiration: colonize Mars, you’re not invited.” —Jordon H.
“It is very, very, very complicated.” —Kika M.
“Googled what he called me. Ouch.” —Emily L.
“Note to all boys: I quit.” —Lauren A.
My own son is indeed a wordsmith (pun intended), but he’s much more verbally expressive and can struggle with the written word. And while it may feel like the last person he wants writing advice from is dad, when I can get him to stop thinking so hard and just write like he talks, one beautiful word after another begins to fill that blank screen.
In Tunis, Six Words on Inspiring Women
For the past few years, writer and poet Heather Bourbeau has led workshops with American Corners Tunis, a cultural center created by the American Embassy in Tunis to improve language fluency and support cultural events.
Bourbeau has been introducing the participants to Six-Word Memoirs using the prompt as a way to spark their writing and improve conversational English skills. In late March, I was delighted to join her most recent Tunis workshop, "Woman of Courage." I shared a bit of background on The Six-Word Memoir Project, and tips for writing them, before Bourbeau presented the day’s challenge, timed to International Women’s Day: to write and share six words on a woman who inspires you. Over the course of an hour, more than fifty English learners shared beautiful tributes to the women in their lives. Some stories spoke of the legacy of a parent (“She was beloved, powerful and invincible”— Bilel) or the strength of youth (“Never underestimate a teenage girl's power” —Samira). We heard stories of lives lived to the fullest (“Powerless, fought illiteracy, graduated at 63”—Rayhan) and lessons learned along the way (“She saw art inside the pain” —Eya). One of the joys of Six-Word Memoirs is how the six words are often a jumping off point for a longer story, and the Tunis students had many. Selma shared a powerful backstory about her grandmother who survived World War II (“Her eyes were blue like memories”). And toward the end of an inspired hour, Nourhen left of us with these six words: “Our world needs more dangerous women.”