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

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,972 Ratings  ·  423 Reviews
Deceptively simple and surprisingly addictive, Not Quite What I Was Planning is a thousand glimpses of humanity--six words at a time.One Life. Six Words. What's Yours?When 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-wo ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published February 1st 2008)
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Richard Derus
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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


Feb 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
My attention span only lasts about five words these days, but when I work up to six, I'll give this a shot.
Feb 15, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

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

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 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: MeggieBree
Shelves: memoir
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

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
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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)
  • I Can't Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous  Obscure
  • Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: by Writers Famous and Obscure
  • It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous  Obscure
  • 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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