Sunday, February 22, 2009

Six-Word Memoirs

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"

to poignant:

"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?


iasa said...

Condom broke, his name his Sean.


Grab life, throttle it to death.

beth said...

OH how I wish I had been there....what a GREAT LUNCHEON !!!!
hmmmm....6 words, huh ?
my heart knew right from wrong
my head screwed with my heart
I think about you too often
you taught me good and bad

Ruth said...

Your chronicle is perfect, I loved every step of it. A great idea for a luncheon with friends.

Ok, I'm overthinking it. I'll try to come up with one and come back. :)

Ruth said...


churched out, grew up, free now

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Fantastic post on such an original initiative - great idea for a a party/event I'm holding/organising this summer...thanks for sharing..!

head thick, brain dumb, inspiration won't come

Afraid I'm not only overthinking but I can't count...!!!!

paris parfait said...

Oh what a fun time that must have been! Poetry, calligraphy, friends and food - what's not to like? You're right, the six word idea can be addictive. Too tired, not now, two a.m. :) (Truly it is 2 a.m. and after a day that started out chasing down a mis-delivered 2000-euro camera lens, I'm exhausted)!

Relyn Lawson said...

Oh, I love this. You and your friends throw the best parties.

Actually, I wrote mine back in April. Here it is:

A Cuban In London said...

What a poignant post this is. I loved you six letters, by the way.

I love the fact that I come back from holidays and my favourite blogs either remain the same, i.e., high quality, or they get better, Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Rebekah said...

The idea of this party makes me want to dance around. Your flowers are lovely, and what a PERFECT use for the treasured silver paper! I have to think about the six words. I'm going to go open a bottle of wine!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Iasa,
But I bet you're glad to have Sean!

Dear Beth,
My goodness, four tumbled out of you just like that! I'm so impressed.

Dear Ruth,
It was worth the wait. You truly seemed to have distilled your life into six words!

Dear Here, There...
I hope you have a six-word party - it will be very fun!

Dear Paris,
If I was up at 2 a.m. after a long stressful day, there is no way I would have come up with even one coherent word! You are so clever!

Dear Relyn,
Yes, I have the greatest friends. One of the main reasons why I love living here.

You are almost a whole year ahead me. I remember how I loved reading your six-word post last year.

Dear Cuban,
Welcome back!!! I've missed you! I hope you had a spectacular holiday.

Dear Rebekah,
That's the spirit! I look forward to the result.

julochka said...

six word memoir--what a concept. i'll definitely have to think about that one.

what a wonderful use for your fabulous silver paper!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Julochka,
As you can see from my update, you too can have a sliver of the silver paper. I'm sure you will come up with something wonderful. I hope I didn't jinx you just now :) May I suggest Rebekah's approach?

Camille said...

Your story telling is just wonderful. My gratitude upon looking back nearly a year grows more. The photos and commentary bring it all alive. What an artist you are. Thank you for these memories.

Dutchbaby said...

My Dear Camille,
My gratitude goes to you for hosting this great luncheon. Will it be an annual event???? Hint, hint...

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