We've just come crashing back into New York after visiting six cities in 12 days. I'm exhausted, and all I wanted to do when I got here was cook sweet potato-kale soup (healthy!) and make out with the sidewalks (somewhat less healthy). But we were lucky enough to visit only independent bookstores in Denver, San Francisco, Portland (what's up Pooooooooooowell's!), Boston, and Chicago, and it really makes a huge difference. Plus, I was reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle along the way, and thus feeling even more pedantic than usual about shopping local.
So, as the airplanes, security checks, hotel rooms, radio interviews, morning television hostesses, cardboard coffee cups, and skipped meals blend together, it is the bookstore readings that stand out in my mind. Each had a distinct character, and a multitude of distinct characters in attendance. The more contributors took over the event, approximating a poetry slam by way of group therapy session, the better the reading got.Who wants to hear Larry and me debate the validity of hyphenates when you could be getting the origins of "Monogamists meet at sex party, marry" straight from the monogamist's mouth?
Since I can't hand over the microphone in this particular forum, here are a few of my favorite contributor stories, via email.
To explain her six-word memoir "Redeye. Him Aisle. Me Window. Love," Joanne Flynn Black wrote all six-word sentences:
Usually I sleep on redeye flights.
This time would be very different.
He was friendly, charming, and cute.
We talked from California to Jersey
Exchanged business cards. Said our goodbyes.
Eight years without seeing each other.
Always said we'd meet for coffee.
Each of us — always another relationship
When we finally did meet again,
We couldn't stand to be apart
Cross country flights to be together.
Then backpack trip around the world.
And now a sweet new baby.
So you want to know about me. Where do I begin? I am a 76-year-old lady living the good life these last 13 years in Lake Chapala, Mexico. My backstory is amazing, even to me: Carlos was my Mexican lover for about 8-1/2 years. He is 21 years younger than I am!! He is tall, dark and handsome and wanted to marry me..................we are no longer lovers. Jim came next, but that didn't last very long. He may have been too old. He is 62. If this makes you laugh, it's OK. I will laugh with you.
For the gentlemen, Scott Northrup represents with "While playing wingman, found my wife." He explains:
It was 11pm on a Thursday and I was out with a group of my friends. One of my friends kept trying to hit on a girl, but her cute friend was getting in the way. Being a good friend and wingman I stepped in to run interference by asking her friend to dance. She said no. I should have left, but for some reason I persisted. After five minutes, she said yes. Luckily things went more smoothly when I asked her to marry me five months later. If you're wondering about our friends...they're not together anymore.
And "Sirena wooed. Sailor swooned. Man overboard!" by Jim Ruland sums up the following:
I met Nuvia at a nautical bar in Los Angeles called the H.M.S Bounty. It was very crowded and there was only one open seat. I was immediately attracted to Nuvia's long, flowing hair. She was intrigued by my sailor tattoos. We hit it off, but she was from out of town and we each had places to go. We were like two sh — well, you get the idea. We traded e-mail addresses, arranged a few dates, and commenced a long distance relationship. Eventually, she lured me to San Diego, where I was stationed during my stint in the Navy 20 years ago, and we were married a few months later. Nuvia drew this image on a card she sent me on the first anniversary of our meeting. Man overboard, indeed!
Of course, it's not all hearts, flowers, rainbows, and Obama in the White House. Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak — much like life — contains its fair share of liars and cheaters, divorces and funerals. But who wants to read sad stories on a Monday morning in February?
Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak
÷ ÷ ÷
SMITH magazine founding editor Larry Smith ("Now I obsessively count the words") has worked as an editor at Men's Journal, ESPN magazine, and Might. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Popular Science, on Salon.com, and many other places. Larry lives in New York City.
Rachel Fershleiser ("Morning: national television. Afternoon: bookstore bathrooms") is SMITH's memoir editor and has written for the Village Voice, the New York Press, Print, and the National Post. Rachel lives in New York City.
Books mentioned in this post
Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser is the author of It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure