“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”
Ernest Hemingway supposedly wrote that eerie but decidedly evocative six-word story in a bar room challenge. It’s just a literary urban legend, but the idea that a gifted storyteller can get their point across in so few words is still a formidable challenge for writers. That’s why Smith Magazine launched its Six Word Memoir project in 2006, asking readers to send in their life stories in six words. What was meant to fill space after writers backed out of an assignment turned into a full-fledged writing trend, as the magazine received a deluge of responses. The project blossomed into an ongoing challenge, with six books published with some of the best responses. Teachers use “six words” as a prompt in the classroom, it’s an icebreaker at conventions — and it’s an annual Twitter Festival.
This year, from September 24-26, the Six Words Festival provides Twitter users with a variety of different prompts encouraging them to craft six word yarns. Celebrity judges read the responses, retweet the ones they like best, and decide daily winners. The standout entries may get included in the next installment of Six Words books.
The first prompt on the schedule was “I Will Never Do That Again.” Members of the cast of Orange is the New Black and Regina Spektor, as well as the creator of the show, Piper Kerman, judged the set of tweets. Jason Biggs was especially enthusiastic (remember, he plays Larry Smith in OITNB). The creator of Smith Magazine got the ball rolling:
— Larry Smith (@larrysmith) September 24, 2013
The prompts range from series to tongue-in-cheek, with Tim Gunn deciding who captures their personal style best in six words, and Katie Couric evaluating six word tweets describing the secret of life. Michael Ian Black judged a prompt asking people to tweet “Six Words That Mean You’re Lying.” Responses are still popping up on Twitter even though this prompt contest is over, and there were some good ones:
— Pauly Casillas (@PaulyPeligroso) September 25, 2013
— Beth (@thisbethgreen) September 25, 2013
— Alyssa Wolff (@alyssawolff) September 25, 2013
Comedian and Twitter genius Rob Delaney judges one of the prompts on the last day of the contest, so that should inspire some funny tweets.
To learn more about Six Words, check out this video describing its origin story: