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Memoir Musings, Issue #100--March issue-- Six-Word Memoirs
March 15, 2008

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Just Six Words...

You may have heard of many forms of memoir, ranging from simple story collections to the more unusual quilt and collage art forms. One that may be new to you is the six-word memoir.

It’s a brilliant idea started by Smith Magazine, an on-line writing site. ( They challenged their readers to submit their “life story” in six words, total. The results are fascinating. They have just published a volume of the best, from the 15,000 or so submitted, called Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure.

It’s a challenge to capture the essence of a life in a mere six words. I’ve toyed with some for my life, including:

Question always; first learn, then provoke.
(My father told me I had (too) many questions as a child; that pattern has continued into my careers, first as a researcher, now as a memoir writer and video producer.)

Took less traveled road— serendipitous choice.
(Borrowing words from a long-time favorite Robert Frost poem, these six words capture the way I think of my life thus far.)

I encourage you to write a six-word memoir about your life, and here’s why. Think of your six words as a bare-bones outline of sorts. The words you choose may reveal clues to the most important phases, events, people, and themes in your life.

It’s a highly effective way to gain focus for your memoir project! A beginning, middle and ending for your story may be much clearer after this little exercise.

If you take the challenge and write your own six-word memoir, please consider sharing it!

Send your six-word memoir to Extraordinary Lives by March 31. I’ll award a prize to one randomly-drawn submission!

Family Corner

“From the mouth of babes...”

Have your children blurted out words, phrases and questions that have taken you by complete surprise? I have been astonished, proud, blind-sided and, on occasion, embarrassed by some of the things my daughter has said, from the time she first began talking. Some of her words and phrases struck me as so precious and funny that I began to write them down, as I was worried I would forget them before I wrote them in her baby and memory books. I’m so glad I did this, for the memories disappear at at horrifying speed!

What worked great for me was adding a page to my planner (it’s always with me). I called it “the word according to Becky page.” Here I jotted down her strange statements, questions and names for things and people as she expressed them. Consider jotting down the amazing and strange things your child says, and even dating them (I wish I had thought to date my list).

Whether or not these statements end up in a future memoir, you will have a memory jogger that will spark some smiles and tears as the years roll on.

What's New at Extraordinary Lives?

The prospect of starting a memoir can be overwhelming, especially if you are thinking about capturing an entire lifetime. It is often easier to begin with a narrowed focus or theme. Click this link to our web site to read an article about specific Memoir Themes. It may inspire you to think about your memoir project in an entirely different way.

Memoir Themes

Monthly Memory Prompt

Easter arrives early this year, well ahead of spring. In my childhood, Easter involved many traditions, including special outfits, baskets and places to visit. Memories include trips to the Krohn Conservatory, Easter Mass with my Dad, and a special dress and coat ensemble sewn by my Mom.

Think about your childhood Easters and how they compare to those of your children. Some topics to consider:

  • Lenten traditions
  • Outfits for church
  • Coloring eggs
  • Easter egg hunts
  • Easter morning traditions
  • A typical Easter basket
  • Family celebrations & meals
  • An Easter that stands apart as different in some way

In telling your life story, you would not generally recount each Easter; instead, you might use details from all of your Easter memories to paint a rich picture of one particular Easter, perhaps one that involved a turning point or revealed personality traits of family members.

Also, your children may wish to know how you chose which traditions to carry on and which to end.

How-To-Tip: Correcting Yellow Church Photos

You may have Easter, baptism or wedding photos that have a strong yellow cast. Church lighting is particularly difficult. Luckily, it is easy to fix in virtually any photo-editing software. Import your digital picture or scan your film picture and open in your editing software. (Good choices include Adobe Elements and iPhoto.)

Use your software’s “levels” command to get to the black and white eyedropper tools. Click on the white eyedropper, then click on something in the photo that should be white. That instructs your photo to set that element to white, and will usually remove the yellow cast immediately. If the photo turns too light, repeat the process with the black eyedropper and a black portion of the photo.

To avoid the problem, if you are shooting with a digital camera, check the camera’s “white balance” settings. You may have a built-in option for indoor or tungsten lighting, which will adjust for the yellow color of that lighting. On upper-end cameras, you can set a custom white balance for your church photos. Check your manual to see if you have this customizable white balance control.

White balance settings are also found on digital video cameras; be sure to check this important feature to make your life much easier when editing your videos.

Thank you for taking the time to read Memoir Musings. Please email or call 513.385.1637 with any questions or suggestions.

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