Thursday night my friend Camille called me up to ask where she could buy the green stuff that florists use. I knew that she and her daughter Cressida were hosting a literary luncheon at the Stanford Grill. Camille had invited me when she was at my house about a month ago. She told me that the theme was going to be six-word memoirs and gave a couple of examples. I was intrigued and sat down to write mine without hesitation. I thought about what events in my life defined me and came up with: "Indonesia: survived. Amsterdam-grown. Paradise found!" The punctuation came later that night.
After Camille left, I looked around my calligraphy supplies looking for suitable paper to write my memoir. Years ago my mother gave me a large roll of antiqued silver paper that she found at a garage sale. I always loved this paper but could never find a use for it. It is not acid-free, so it is unsuitable for scrapbooks and it is too fragile to tie into a bow, but it was perfect for this event.
When Camille called about the green floral foam, she told me that she was going to make six floral arrangements. Six? I said. Why don't we create six table names? I have the perfect paper. We brainstormed and came up with: lyrical, harmonic, athletic, aesthetic, adventurous, and inquisitive. I offered to write out the guests’ six-word memoirs as they arrived. Did she need any help with the flowers? Sure, let's meet in the morning.
Friday was a great day filled with flowers and calligraphy.
The Saturday luncheon was pure fun.
Guests selected their tables:
Cressida, who works at our favorite independent bookstore Kepler’s, explained the idea of six-word memoirs came about when Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a six-word story. His response was “For sale: babies shoes, never worn.”
In 2006, Smith Magazine challenged its readers to write six-word memoirs. The response was viral. The first book they published as a result of this challenge is “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure” and their second book “Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak” published just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Camille shuffled all the papers before we read each others’ memoirs, allowing for anonymity, but it turns out most of us had no problem claiming ownership. The women outdid themselves. Their memoirs ranged from humorous:
"I tried my best, pobody's nerfect"
"Dad died, Mom cried, I tried."
and everything in between:
“Love at first sight, many times.”
“Two children, I watch in wonder.”
“Ready to climb the highest mountain.”
“I gladly take time to listen.”
“Married, worked, raised kids, finding way.”
“Every day is happily ever after.”
“Dropped ball in Little League, survived.”
Camille then challenged us to write another six words inspired by our table name. I can tell you that it gets easier with practice and over-thinking makes you loose your mojo . After a while, we found ourselves counting words on our fingers every time we heard someone say something memorable. I might as well warn you now, this can be addictive.
Thank you, Camille and Cressida, for a fun afternoon of reflection and inspiration!
How about you? What is your six-word memoir?