Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Writing a six word story


During our end of term 2 holidays I heard an interview with Amy Hempel on Radio National she talked about short stories and quoted Gertrude Stein who once wrote a 4 word short story titled Longer: "She stayed away longer." Jill Wilson referred to the interview on her blog Chopping block. As a result of this I remembered the six word short story that Ernest Hemingway wrote: ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn.") and is said to have called it his best work. Is the story apocryphal? In Author! Screenwriter!: How to Succeed as a Writer in New York and Hollywood by Peter Miller on page 166:


More than thirty years ago at the beginning of my career, I had lunch with a well-established newspaper syndicator who told me the following story: Ernest Hemingway was lunching at the Algonquin, sitting at the famous “round table” with several writers, claiming he could write a six-word-long short story. The other writers balked. Hemingway told them to ante up ten dollars each. If he was wrong, he would match it; if he was right, he would keep the pot. He quickly wrote six words on a napkin and passed it around. The words were: “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” Papa won the bet: His short story was complete. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end!

Wired magazine asked sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers from the realms of books, TV, movies, and games to take a shot themselves. You can see the full list here: Wired six word short stories.

Here are some of my favourites:


Longed for him. Got him. Shit.- Margaret Atwood

The baby's blood type? Human, mostly. - Orson Scott Card

Bush told the truth. Hell froze.- William Gibson

Don't marry her. Buy a house. - Stephen R. Donaldson

Easy. Just touch the match to - Ursula K. Le Guin

Teacher Magazine decided to run a competition of their own after getting the idea from Smith magazine:



The six-word memoirs published by Smith include one from TV chef Mario Batali ("Brought it to a boil, often"); another from an anonymous student ("Deferred all math homework to Dad"), and this from a long-suffering English teacher: "Grading AP essays, I crave Tolstoy."


Here’s the specific question Teacher magazine used:

If you were writing a mini-memoir of your teaching life, what would your six words be? Your memoir might be funny, inspirational, profound, mundane, deeply true. Want to play? Mull it over, doodle with pen and napkin or your favorite digital tool, and post your memoir for all of us to read.



A few results:


They asked. I listened. We learned. (Majorie)

Life on the bell curve's edge. (Amy B)

Every day is a new adventure. (Amy E)

Reading creates new worlds—let's go! (David)

Exercised the muscle of the mind. (Nancy D)

Please, don't ask me for more! (Kim after a hard year)

No growth, no life. Struggling, soaring. (George)

This sure gets away from edubabble we often have to read and listen to as part of our working lives.


3 comments:

allied said...

Hi Sam - my sshort (SHORT-SHORT) story of six words:

Man Speaks. Woman replies. World changes.

Or, another I thought of tonight as I was in the garden inspecting the miracle of my little carrots coming up after all the rain!:

Seed planted. Winter passes. Sun flowers.

sc said...

whose performance plan are you completing?

Jeff said...

Consultation is a waste of time.