By John Garcia
SMITH Magazine, home of the Six-Word Memoir project, is publishing a new book of Six-Word Memoirs written and illustrated entirely by Â students, "from grade school to grad school."
Submit though October 15, 2012, and your illustrated memoir could appear in the eBookÂ âThings Donât Have to be Complicated: The Art of Six-Word Memoirs by Students of the World,â to be published in early 2013 by TED Books, a division of TED Conference. The book will be the eighth in the Six-Word Memoir series and available through the TED Books app for the iPad, Kindle, and Nook. For more information, including rules, click here; for inspiration, check out Smithâs Facebook gallery and theirÂ Six in Schools blog.
We recently sat down with SMITH magazine founder Larry Smith, a self-proclaimed âevangelist for personal storytellingâ who can often be found walking the streets of Brooklyn with one of his own six-word memoirs emblazoned across his T-shirt. Among the collection:Â "Parenting: Idiot. Expert. Idiot. Expert. Idiot" and "ThrewÂ spaghetti at wall; some stuck."
After years of working at print magazines, where he most enjoyed editing personal essays, he founded SMITH in January 2006 with the tagline âEveryone has a story. Whatâs yours?â His goal was to create a user-generated online magazine on par with Slate or Salon. The Six-Word Memoir project began as a one-month contest on SmithMag.net, launched as an antitode to National Novel Writing Month. A literary legend surrounding Ernest Hemingway, who wrote the heartbreaking âFor sale: baby shoes, never wornâ to win a six-word short story challenge, served as inspiration.
The populist celebration of first-person narrative took off on Twitter and in the press, and by early 2007, Smith had a publishing deal for multiple Six-Word Memoir books. The first in the series, the New York Times bestselling âNot Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure,â was published in February 2008.
âThe beauty of six words is that anyone can do it,â Smith says, talking animatedly over coffee. âAfter publishing their memoirs with us, people often say, âI finally got the courage to write my own book.â I hear that every week. The power of what weâre doing is that itâs really inclusive.â
With hundreds of contributors to each of the Six-Word memoir books (and sometimes more than 1,000), SmithMag.netâs extraordinarily active online community, and an eighteen-month-old son, Smith has his hands full. âThere are lots of moving parts. I have minimal but excellent help, and I work very hard,â he says.
Without a doubt, Smith has played an influential role in the recent renaissance surrounding the ancient art of storytelling: âItâs trendy now,â he says. âThe Moth is the new rock show, and people are so engaged in TED talks, simply talking and listening. I really wanted to do a book celebrating illustration and education, and TED, with their emphasis on technology, entertainment, and design, is the perfect partner.â
What's your six-word memoir? Call on your inner artist and submit now!