Non-Fiction and the Memoir The 6 Word Memoir Project


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Non-Fiction and the Memoir

The 6 Word Memoir Project
A memoir is a story based on a personal memory. A six-word memoir is one of those personal stories, but told in only six words. That means you must choose your words precisely so your memoir has as much meaning as you can squeeze into those few words. Also, it’s important to remember that this isn’t just coming up with a clever sentence or a personal motto (i.e. “I love going to the mall!” or “Live life to the fullest everyday!”). It must be six words that hint at a much larger, more intricate story (i.e. Hemingway’s “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn”). Those six words should point (or at least hint) at a very interesting and meaningful story.


Frequently standing in my own way.

- Melissa DiPalma
Cranky. Tactless. Weary. Love my life.

- Steve Kocur

Watching quietly from every door frame.

- Nicole Resseguie

Savior complex makes for many disappointments.

- Alanna Schubach

Some cross-eyed kid, forgotten then found.

- Diana Welch

Mom died, Dad screwed us over.

- Lesley Kysely

Painful nerd kid, happy nerd adult.

- Linda Williamson
Well, I thought it was funny.

- Stephen Colbert

Ill-fated music career averted by baby.

- Greg Andree

Not who I wanted to be.

- Kathy B.

So would you believe me anyways?

-James Frey

I've already turned into my mother.

- Elizabeth Grace

Waiting indefinitely for life to begin.

- Wordy Girl

Writing Your Own  Tips:

  • 1. Be specific. "Homecoming king with a septum ring" says more than just "punk but popular"; "We are banned from Wal-Mart forever"—not just "my family is embarrassing."

  • 2. Be honest. Many of the most interesting memoirs are raw and full of emotion.

  • 4. Use your speaking voice: With "Got three sisters and two dads" and "Hair’s pink to piss you off", you can hear the individuals behind the words.

  • 5. Experiment with structure. Two three-word sentences. Three two-word sentences. One statement or six separate ones. Repetition can be powerful and punctuation is our friend.

  • 6. Stop trying so hard. Or "Write carelessly; edit carefully." Throw a million ideas down and then decide. These aren't epic novels or Supreme Court decisions. Just start scribbling and see what catches your eye. Our first instincts are usually the best.

  • 7. Ensure it is autobiographical. It must represent you and a significant/meaningful experience, not someone else’s life.


-Create your own six word memoir based on a specific and important aspect/chunk of your life (or write a few and pick your favourite).

-Find an image/series of images that you feel reinforces the message being presented in your memoir. This image CANNOT have any other text.
-Arrange your 6 word memoir overtop of your selected image/images. Your 6 words should be large enough to read from a distance.
-Write a TWO paragraph response in which you

1.) explain what your 6 word memoir means, what it refers to, who was involved in the circumstances/situation, what meaning it holds, etc (first paragraph).

2.) analyze how your selected image connects to and reinforces your memoir’s message – ensure you pick apart the image (i.e. discuss why you selected the image, the colours, etc) and connect it back to your memoir (second paragraph).
**Your written response should be double spaced, spell-checked, use size 12 font and contain your name/course code/date. Each paragraph should be 6-9 sentences in length.

-See attached rubric!

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