Friday, April 04, 2008

The Magic of Six

Thirteen used to be my favorite number. Now it is six. There are six members of my family (including our dogs). My children are six months apart. And I am a proud contributor to the recent NY Times bestseller: Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs from Writers Famous & Obscure. Check it out at

I first heard about Six-Word Memoirs while listening to the radio on a drive to the San Francisco Bay Area for the holidays in 2006. It was Christmas Eve and they were accepting entries until midnight that night. I thought it was a cool idea so started composing my own in my head. At that time, my husband and I were forging full steam ahead with a gestational surrogacy arrangement with his cousin, who had volunteered for us. She had been cleared medically by my doctor and we had a schedule in place to do IVF and implant her in early February. I came up with and submitted the perfect memoir: "Multiple miscarriages. Cousin will carry baby."

In early February, our cousin had to pull out of the arrangement on the eve of my egg extraction due to medical problems that surfaced in the prior two months. We were devastated and knew she was our last hope. Not a week later I received an email from the editor of Six-Word Memoirs, Rachel Fershleiser, that mine had been selected out of thousands of entries to be included in the book, and could I please send some sort of photo. Oh the irony!

I wrote to her explaining that my memoir was no longer true and perhaps she should reconsider including me in the book. She wrote back to me and said, yes, she still wanted my contribution and that each memoir is really only a moment in time. I agreed but did not have a photo to include.

Fast forward one year later to February '08. I get another email from Rachel that the book is published, that all contributors will be getting a complimentary copy, and please share any updates: "P.S. Is there a story-behind-the-story of your six-word memoir? Did you find our contest in an outrageous way? Has there been a major update in your life? Please write back to me with anything you can contribute to the lore of project. It's fascinating and will help us do interviews. Hell, if one of you could be so kind as to fall in love with me, we could be on Good Morning America!"

Well, I shot her an email as fast as I could type: "I do have a major update: I am sitting in my new home with two babies to my name..." and gave her the rest of my story.

Rachel's response to me: "Joanna! I can't tell you how happy I am to hear from you! I am dancing around my bedroom! I swear, when I wrote that P.S., I was thinking about you. I was so touched by your emails. I even quoted part of what you wrote to me in the book's introduction, about lifetimes happening every day and truth changing. But I wasn't about to write a "yo lady, you knocked up yet?" email. But you are! Or were! Or whatever, look at those beautiful, perfect babies and that happy, happy family! I'm not usually such a mush but you have entirely goosebumped me. I'm so incredibly thrilled for you, and so honored and grateful to have stuck my little nose into your incredible story."

I rewrote my six-word memoir for Rachel: "Adopted baby. Got pregnant. Instant family." She put my new memoir on CBS' Morning News:
Life In Six Words

When I met her in person at the Los Angeles book launch, I shared my newest six-word life story: "Two children six months apart. Huh?"

So, sorry for the shameless plug but Six-Word Memoirs are now all the rage. I invite you to try writing your own. But be careful, it's addicting. (You might even try writing them for other people, like I do. Can I make a living at that?) So, please share your six.

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Blogger Mary Ellen Walsh said...


What a great story. Where can I get this book? My little one just turned 6. I know the magic of that number. She's standing taller and acting wiser, saying when I was five I used to cry, not anymore. Wasn't there was a Winnie-the-Pooh original book called When We Were Six?

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

mary ellen

7:22 PM  
Blogger Joanna Brody said...

Thanks for your kind words Mary Ellen. Book is available on Amazon. Also, the web site takes continuous submissions, so if you're inspired, go to it. The editors are also working on a new version of Six-Word Memoirs for kids.

10:27 AM  

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