The six-word memoir conceit grew into a popular series of books, but the editors knew it was tough to share a meaningful story in so few words. So Smith Magazine prompted its community to write about the moments that changed their lives — the moments of clarity, the things that happened to them, the things they made happen.
The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous and Obscure is a collection of the tales readers and friends of the magazine submitted. The titles of the stories, from "The Thin Envelope" to "The First Kiss," hint at the revelatory moments within.
Larry Smith, editor of the collection, joins NPR's Neal Conan to talk about the moments included in the book, and to hear listeners' stories of the moments that changed their lives.
Tell us: When was the moment your life changed?
On how the idea — and Smith Magazine itself — came about
"Kimberly Ross is why I started Smith Magazine. She saw this prompt — who knows where, on Facebook, a newsletter. [She's] not a professional writer, and she decides to think about a moment that changed her life. And she's sitting outside of a CVS Pharmacy, opening up these pictures that she was picking up from the family camera, and she realizes she is not part of her husband's life, part of the story. There's no pictures of her.
"And at that moment, she decides she needed to get a divorce. And there's a great ending in that story, which is that she then gets some professional photos taken of herself, and she just looks at those photos and feels like, 'I did it. I changed my life.' "
On Dave Eggers' story, "Mr. Criche"
"Teachers are a really interesting through-line. Dave Eggers, who is a very famous writer, wrote about a teacher who really changed his life when he was in high school in Chicago. He was writing a paper about Macbeth, and he was procrastinating, as Dave was, you know, sort of wont to do. And he turned in his paper, and at the bottom of the paper Mr. Criche wrote, 'Sure hope you become a writer.'
"And I'll quote Dave here: 'That was it, just those six words. It was the first time someone has indicated in any way that writing was a career option for me.' "
On Summer Pierre's contribution, "Tattoo"
"It's just a single-page illustration. The author is 8 years old and her mom [who is at Candlestick Park preparing for the Rolling Stones' concert] really misses her and did this amazing sort of tribute to her by having a tattoo. It's the 'Tattoo You' tour, after all.
"... And, you know, her worldview of her mother just sort of changed. And also, like, hey, life's imperfections are kind of beautiful, you know. That's why bells have cracks."