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Can You Tell Your Life Story In Exactly Six Words?

Feb 3, 2010 (Talk of the Nation)

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Once asked to write a full story in six words, legend has it that novelist Ernest Hemingway responded: "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn."

In this spirit, Smith Magazine invited writers "famous and obscure" to distill their own life stories into exactly six words. It All Changed in an Instant is the fourth collection of very, very brief life stories from Smith. The tiny memoirs are sometimes sad, often funny — and always concise.

It All Changed in an Instant is full of well-known names — from activist Gloria Steinem ("Life is one big editorial meeting"), to author Frank McCourt ("The miserable childhood leads to royalties"), to actress Molly Ringwald ("Acting is not all I am").

Larry Smith, founding editor of Smith, and Rachel Fershleiser, Smith's memoir editor, talk to NPR's Rebecca Roberts about the fun and the challenge of capturing real-life stories in six little words.

Smith's six-word memoir? "Now I obsessively count the words." And Fershleiser's: "Bookstore to book tour in seconds."

Can you write your autobiography in one sentence? Share your six-word memoir.


More six-word memoirs from It All Changed in an Instant:



Found on Craigslist: table, apartment, fiance.
Becki Lee

Alzheimer's: meeting new people every day.
Phil Skversky

Met wife at her bachelorette party.
Eddie Matz

Family portrait: everyone smiles but me.
Ian Baaske

Hotel sex still rocks over fifty.
Marcella Oleksiuk

I picked passion. Now I'm poor.
Kathleen E. Whitlock

Normal person becomes psychotic on Twitter.
Robin Slick

Yale at 16, downhill from there.
Anita Kawatra

Overworked and underpaid,
Oversexed and underlaid.
Victoria Hansen

After cancer, I became a semicolon.
Anthony R. Cardno

At least I never voted Republican.
Tony Kushner

Full circle: morgue tech becomes obstetrician.
Andrea Skorenki

So would you believe me anyway?
James Frey

Excerpted from It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure from Smith magazine, edited by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith. Copyright 2010. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, Harper Perennial.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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