IVP - Strangely Dim - The Clock Still Seems to Tick

February 13, 2008

The Clock Still Seems to Tick

Today, courtesy of Very Short List, I learned of the book Not Quite What I Was Expecting: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Obscure and Famous. The book collects "ADD autobiographies" submitted to Smith Magazine.

Memoir as a literary form is never uncontroversial; even celebrated Christian memoirist and Blue Like Jazz author Donald Miller declared the genre dead--adding wryly that its death means that it still has ten good years left in Christian publishing. Memoir as a genre walks a fine line between stories that transcend the memoirist and edify a broader audience, on the one hand, and stories that act as a release valve for the memoirist's emotional reserves. To say yes as a publisher to the one is to become vulnerable to the other.

I was accosted once at a writers conference by a lovely little old lady who ecstatically recounted a tale of mild woe to me, ending on the happy note of a meagerly miraculous, apparently divine intervention that busted all the dust of her trying experience. I asked her what central idea her story would offer a reading audience, to which she responded, "That God is good." Now, I'm not denying that "God is good" is not a conclusion easily reached by everyone, and a good memoir may reach such a simple conclusion and leave the reader in awe of its profundity. But in the case of the proposal in front of me, the payoff was not worth the story.

With that in mind, I want to thank Smith for giving writers a place to lay their tales of woe to rest, and for enforcing the six-word limit as a writing discipline. As their archives prove, six words can tell a pretty transcendent story.

I'd also invite you, all our Strangely Dim friends, to take a stab at posting your own six-word memoir here. No vulgarities, please. Let me get you started:

"What was I thinking? Now what?"
"I let the dogs out--me."
"Never tell a memoirist your secrets."

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at February 13, 2008 10:24 AM Bookmark and Share


Fond farewells forge friendlessness from family

Comment by: Mark Eddy Smith at February 13, 2008 11:58 AM

Hot drinks help make everything better.

Comment by: Allison at February 14, 2008 8:43 AM

Allison always knows whereof she speaks.

I'm always out of my depth.

Who knew that I'm a memoirist?

Comment by: dave at February 14, 2008 2:15 PM

Go West, young man.

Comment by: Drew Blankman at February 14, 2008 4:35 PM

Good stories revive sagging markets : )

Comment by: Christine A. Scheller at February 15, 2008 11:19 AM

Memoir is the idiot's novel; have mercy.

Comedic memoirs rule.

What is historic fiction anyways? A contradiction.

Didactic is for dummies.

Comment by: Christine A. Scheller at February 15, 2008 11:31 AM

I guess I cheated, didn't I? Not a six-worder in the bunch. How about this:

Memoirists live for editors' word counts.

Comment by: Christine A. Scheller at February 15, 2008 2:09 PM

Ha! Here are some less-than-six-word memoirs:

"Memoirs Should Be Short."
"My Life Sucks."
"My Life Is OK."
"My Life Rocks."
"I Love Brevity."
"Can't Talk Now."
"I'm an Overachiever."

Comment by: dave at February 15, 2008 2:12 PM

here's a question. How does a writer express laughter in words? : )

Comment by: Christine A. Scheller at February 18, 2008 3:19 PM

Comments are closed for this entry.

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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