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

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,730 Ratings  ·  397 Reviews
Deceptively simple and surprisingly addictive, Not Quite What I Was Planning is a thousand glimpses of humanity—six words at a time.

When Ernest Hemingway famously wrote, "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn," he proved that an entire story can be told using a half-dozen words. When the online storytelling magazine SMITH asked readers to submit six-word memoirs, they proved a

Paperback, 225 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by Harper Perennial (first published February 1st 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Richard Derus
May 04, 2015 Richard Derus rated it really liked it
Rating: 3.75* of five

My Review: Deceptively simple and surprisingly addictive, Not Quite What I Was Planning is a thousand glimpses of humanity—six words at a time.
When Ernest Hemingway famously wrote, "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn," he proved that an entire story can be told using a half-dozen words. When the online storytelling magazine SMITH asked readers to submit six-word memoirs, they proved a whole, real life can be told this way, too. The results are fascinating, hilarious, shocking,
Jun 26, 2015 Melki rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, wordplay
During NaNoWriMo 2006, SMITH magazine issued a challenge - write a six-word memoir. From published writers, celebrities and undiscovered authors came the responses.

The stories they (briefly) told were philosophical:

"Afraid of everything. Did it anyway." Ayse Erginer
"Found great happiness in insignificant details." Alisdair McDiarmid
"Started small, grew, peaked, shrunk, vanished." George Saunders

Occasionally inspirational:

"Followed rules, not dreams. Never again." Margaret Hellerstein


Mar 21, 2008 Derek rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: writers
I love this book, if only because it makes me want to write a six-word memoir for my life. My junior American Studies students wrote their own:

A little rough around the edges.
My conscience: brought to you by…
Dear mom, how is your cell?
I love god. Love me more.
I wonder what my cat’s doing.
What’s broken can always be rebuilt.
I am not quite there yet.
Would you like fries with that?
When do I get to leave?
Homesick for somewhere I’ve never been.
Wherever I go, fun follow me.
Milk in a cup of oil.
It’s n
Apr 26, 2008 Emily marked it as to-read
My attention span only lasts about five words these days, but when I work up to six, I'll give this a shot.
May 26, 2008 Valerie rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Kind of cute; got old quickly.

And for all you wise-crackers out there - that's my review of the book, not my own six-word memoir.

Smith magazine, inspired by Hemingway's six-word story "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn" invited its readers to submit their own six-word memoirs. The results were published in this book, along with some submissions by famous writers and celebrities.

Here are some that I liked:

Couldn't cope so I wrote songs. Aimee Mann

Would you like fries with that? Scott Northrup

Dec 05, 2007 Kevin rated it really liked it
This book comes out in January 08 but I just read the galley. And yes, it really is a collection of 6-word memoirs. About 1,000 of them. They're compulsive reading and many hold the mystery of a good haiku (but shorter!). The people at the great non-fiction web site, Smith Magazine put this together. To my surprise, I have one in here too (if you ask nicely I'll share it). I remember submitting it months ago but never heard back. Strange.
But I'm excited to be in it, right after Myfanwy Collins (
May 04, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Lisa by: MeggieBree
Thank you Meghann for recommending this book. I loooooved it. It is what it is: writers give their memoir in six words. Fabulous. I'll give you just ten of my faves:

Being a monk stunk. Better gay.
Happiest when ignoring huge financial debt.
Lived in moment until moment sucked.
Nothing profound, I just sat around.
It was embarrassing, so don't ask.
Thought I would have more impact.
Can't tonight, watching Law & Order.
Anything possible - but I was tired.
Rebel librarian on sabbatical from boys.
No sh
Apr 23, 2008 jess rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008
i love work that is driven by the method, not the material. this is often my biggest complaint about crafting books. well, this is definitely not a crafting book. however, it is decidedly driven by the method and not by the materials! challenging a bunch of writers *famous & not* to write their own memoirs in exactly six words, not quite what i was planning is a peek into the thousands of different ways people can tell their stories. i think that having some very strict rules and limits can ...more
Sep 14, 2011 Kirsti rated it it was amazing
I like that this collection mixes famous authors with unfamous ones.

"I asked. They answered. I wrote." --Sebastian Junger

"The psychic said I'd be richer." --Elizabeth Bernstein

"I thought I was someone else." --Tysa Goodrich

"Happiness is a warm salami sandwich." --Stanley Bing

"I'm enjoying even this downward dance." --Column McCann

"Dad died, mom crazy, me too." --Moby

"Fight, work, persevere--gain slight notoriety." --Harvey Pekar

"Mushrooms. Clowns. Wands. Five. Wig. Thatched." --Amy Sedaris

Apr 08, 2012 Josie rated it really liked it
This is not your typical book. It is a fun read that portrays many different emotions throughout the stories. Each story is 6 words and that is all. By this style of writing you are leaving the interpretation of the story to the reader. They can interpret it many different ways. Some are happy while others are sad. You can easily relate to a handful. By reading this it makes you think of some of your own that you can write.

Each story is completely different some are about relationships while so
Aug 12, 2009 Heather rated it liked it

Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a story in six words. "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
In 2006, Smith Magazine offered to its readers the opportinuty to write a six-word memoir. This book contains some ot the entries they received.

Cursed by cancer. Blessed by friends.
I was born, some assembly required.
Creative and destructive in many ways.
On her birthday, my life began.
We walked barefoot in wet cement.
I wrote it all do
May 20, 2008 Claudia rated it really liked it
Recommended to Claudia by: Teacher Leader Network
Shelves: nonfiction
I heard about this book from a listserv that challenged us to sum up our career in six words. Mine: "My students enrich my life daily." The book is at times funny, irreverent, reflective. Other times it's off the mark. But when this many authors are involved, the quality will be spotty. I had my seniors, who are winding down their last week of public school, write their own six-word memoirs. My favorite: "Done. Let's not do this again."
Jun 19, 2008 Linda rated it it was ok
I was disappointed. It was neither as pithy nor as funny as I had hoped.
May 14, 2011 Arryn rated it really liked it
Talk about economy of words!!! The editors of Smith magazine issued a challenge to its readers to write a summary of their lives in a single sentence of six words--no more, no less. The resulting book (Not Quite What I Was Planning) is delightful and depressing; humorous and morose; endearing and disenchanting. I love words and their power, so this book spoke to me on that level alone. It is amazing how much you can say without saying hardly anything (was that a double negative? If so, I'm sorry ...more
Mar 15, 2012 Greg rated it did not like it
Take one part "Life's Little Instruction Book" and one part angsty teenage diary entries, combine and shake lazily, then leave out in the sun to grow moldy and spoiled. There, now you have "Not Quite What I Was Planning."

Seriously, this book is a wreck. It's 219 pages of roughly 5 entries per page -- and almost all are inside-jokes-sorta and/or blatant attempts to be profound and artsy. When I closed the back cover, I felt more like I'd gained nothing than after any book I've ever read.

May 27, 2010 ~Sara~ rated it really liked it
This was a quick and delightful read that I would recommend to everyone.
The stories are funny, thoughtful, thoughtless, heart-breaking, confusing, all condensed down to the bare bones. It's amazing how much you can reveal in only 6 words!

Some of my favourites were:
I still make coffee for two. -Zak Nelson
Followed white rabbit. Became black sheep. -Gabrielle Maconi
Found true love, married someone else. -Bjorn Stromberg
Came, saw, conquered, had second thoughts. -Harold Ramis
I coloured outside of th
Apr 11, 2008 David rated it really liked it
Interesting to compare this kind of concision, mostly about what we want others to think of us, to the concision of, say, Basho or Issa - those pebble in a well words that just expand. The things in this book are so often reductive, rather than reflective or expansive. er... But still it is interesting, and a wonderful excercise, or party game, or whatever the hell you'd call it. Lots and lots of fun. And I just love little snippy things. Like Georg Lichtenstein's The Waste Books, Feneon's Novel ...more
Ooh ooh! This project from the Smith Magazine web site now has a book form! How can a life be summarized in six words only? These are addictive and more thought-provoking than you might guess. Sort of like haikus, or fortune cookies.

I wrote down a few dozen (!!) favorites, but here's the one that rose to the top:

I live the perfect imperfect life.


Learned everything from words, pictures, love.
Put whole self in, shook about.
Fearlessness is the mother of reinvention.
We were each other's
Dec 22, 2008 Angie rated it it was amazing
This is the most hilarious book ever!!! It was inspired by a challenge issued to Ernest Hemingway to come up write a story in six words. He wrote,"For sale: baby shoes, never worn." Celebrities and regular people submitted their own six word memoirs in response to a Smith Magazine post. Some of my favorites include:
She walked barefoot in wet cement
My life's a bunch of almosts
Fact checker by day, liar by night
After reading this you won't be able to resist writing your own and your friends' six wo
May 02, 2014 MeggieBree rated it it was amazing
I love this book so very much. It makes me smile, and it makes me think.
Ann Marie
Apr 20, 2015 Ann Marie rated it liked it
Interesting, probably closer to a four, if only because it makes you want to try and write your own memoir in six words. Only issue was how did none of the editors notice that one of the "memoirs" was, verbatim, an Oscar Wilde quote: "I can resist everything except temptation" and not made up by the girl who submitted it??
Sep 30, 2009 Sarah rated it it was amazing
First of all, I love when I can read books in 30 minutes. I sped through this one, only stopping to add my favorites to my myspace and facebook pages. And I found tons of poems that I loved.[return][return]All of this started when Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a story in six words. He wrote, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." Wow. That gets you thinking, doesn't it? And most of the 6 word memoirs in this book will, too.[return][return]Some of my favs.....[return][return]Painful nerd ...more
Elisabeth Beck
Nov 21, 2013 Elisabeth Beck rated it liked it
Larry Smith has done it. He has put together a book that can get many readers to express their emotions. He has taken famous writer's personal thoughts on their life and turned them into something extraordinary. Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure will help you see the way writers come up with many of their stories. It will also show you how hard an author's life can actually be.
Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscur
May 09, 2009 Geni rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen-2009
Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers 4Q 2P J S A YA {Review}
“Take six and call me later” It’s amazing how six words can make you smile, cry and ponder. Sitting at the diner counter and reading these small memoirs I started to notice it didn’t matter if I knew who the famous or obscure writers were…I could connect with a lot of the quotes on many levels. It became so apparent to me that six simple words could describe so many of my own experiences, and motivate me to express myself with six words. I
Jun 16, 2008 Heather rated it really liked it
This is a good book to read while on a quick break. It's best put down & read in small batches.

I enjoyed it. Some of the memoirs are funny; some are tragic.

Great examples of a few found in book:
"Soul'd out so I could prophet"

"Born Free, but lost my Country."

"Followed white rabbit. Became black sheep."

"Painful nerd kid. Happy nerd adult."

"Took scenic route, got in late."

It's completely addicting. Watch out, you may find yourself writing your own 6 word memoirs incessantly; as I have.

Here are
Nov 25, 2014 Katrina rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
I think that the word "memoirs" in the title is misleading, but this was a quick and enjoyable read nonetheless. Some of them were a bit boring, but there were also some that I enjoyed a lot and read over and over again. The last three were the best.
Jul 07, 2012 Abbie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Ack, gorgeous. Right up my alley, and the first book I've finished in AGES (darn you, busy schedule and rather dense 100 Years of Solitude!)

But yes, I loved this. It was fun both to see certain themes (Coffee? Tequila?) as well as some names I recognized (Diana Welch, Nora Ephron.) I like how much people can reveal of themselves in only six words. I think that's truly beautiful. Anyway, I took a class on this actually, and I have to say that the concept has not lost any of its funness for me. I
Aug 04, 2008 Joanna rated it really liked it
Surprisingly addictive, indeed. I've been reading this book off and on all summer, and it's been a very welcome amusement. I coined my own---easily distracted by bright shiny objects---early on, and I still love it. Her are some of my other favorites:

Palindromic novels fall apart halfway through.

I will never be quite finished.

Without me, it's just aweso.

The psychic said I'd be richer.

Semicolons; I use them to excess.

Followed Yellow Brick Road, Disappointment ensued.

I wrote it all down somewhere.
Dec 20, 2008 Keri rated it really liked it
A collection of memoirs, written in six words. I bought this as a gift, and have enjoyed "previewing" it (reading the whole thing). Obviously it's not that deep, but it definitely prompted me to create my own. My kids got into it too, and now my son wants to suggest the idea to his teacher.
My favorites from the book:
"abc's, mtv, sat, thc, ira, npr"-Jancee Dunn
"Adopted? Are you f-ing sh#$ing me?"- Darius Logan.
Mine for myself...
"Social worker both passionate and fatigued"
Mine for my husband.
Jan 04, 2012 Angie rated it really liked it
From the silly to the profound to the sad to the "huh?" to the wow. Six word memoirs from nobodies, somebodies, and everyone in between.

Some of my faves:

"Born free, but lost my country."
"Followed rules, not dreams. Never again."
"My spiritual path is 100 proof."
"I hope to outlive my regrets."
"Happiness is a warm salami sandwich."
"My life's a bunch of almosts."
"I couldn't possibly fuck him again."
"We were our own Springer episode."
"Full of tequila and bad ideas."
"Must remember: people, gadgets. Th
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Our book features nearly 1,000 six-word memoirs by famous folks, as well as unknown writers from SMITH Mag's storytelling community.

More than 200,000 people have submitted Six-Word Memoirs at SMITH Magazine ( and its younger cousin, SMITH Teens ( Thanks to the devoted admiration of writers, critics

and educators alike, the six-word memoir concept has spread to classroom

More about Larry Smith...

Other Books in the Series

Six-Word Memoirs (8 books)
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  • One life. 6 words, what's yours? : six-word memoirs from Smith magazine
  • Oy! Only Six? Why Not More? Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life
  • Things Don't Have To Be Complicated: Illustrated Six-Word Memoirs by Students Making Sense of the World (TED Books)
  • Six Words About Work

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“After your jump, the net appears. - Vincent Lauria” 6 likes
“I still make coffee for two. - Zak Nelson” 4 likes
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