Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure edited by Rachel Fershleiser & Larry Smith



Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure

by Rachel Fershleiser (Editor), Larry Smith (Editor)


  • VOYA Coding: 4Q 4P A/YA
  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial ( February 5, 2008 )
  • ISBN-10: 0061374059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061374050
  • In response to Smith Magazine’s online challenge to produce unique six-word memoirs, thousands of readers– both famous and ordinary– reached deep inside and produced an amazing collection of thought-provoking, amusing, and often poignant gems.  Six-word wonders range from heart-breaking (“Mistakenly kills kitten.  Fears anything delicate”) to inspiring (“cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”).  The writers are equally diverse, including minor celebrities such as Stephen Colbert (“Well, I thought it was funny”), sports figures such as UFC President Dana White (“Took a spectacle, made it sport”), and writers like Roy Blount Jr (“Maybe you had to be there”) and Rick Bragg (“Like an angel.  The fallen kind”).  In addition, pieces appear from an eight-year-old cancer patient (see above) and an unusual couple (“Mormon economist marries feminist.  Worlds collide ” and “Mormon feminist loves husband, hates patriarchy”).  Every life experience appears to be represented, insuring at least one memoir will appeal to every reader. 

    This would be an excellent choice for readers relunctant to read memoir in general as well as those who struggle to remain focused on long text.  Young readers may resist the work at first, but all will be able to find something to connect with.  This would be a great work to use in a writing class to illustrate conciseness and to inspire story.  As a writer myself, I could not resist the urge to mark and keep some of my favorites (“She read too much… into everything”) and to compose a few of my own (“Wasted potential?  So sorry to disappoint”).  Indeed, I was startled to find several pieces that I felt completely captured my own experience (“I’m the fine print.  Read closely”).

    I think the book works well both for a quick thumb through, and as an intensive read.  I personally read it both ways and found that the memoirs spoke to me differently over time and when paired in different ways.  While a few made no sense to me (“ABCs, MTV, SATs, THC, IRA, NPR”), others hinted at something both intriguing  and foreign (“I grew up in a cemetary”).  Most importantly, these short pieces provoked conversation and reflection with any audience.


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