Writing Short Life Stories in Six Words

How one short sentence forms a snap-shot of life.

Writing as therapy for caregivers.

(anitage / Shutterstock.com)

Is it possible to pare down your story about your loved one to only six words? That’s the idea behind the AlzAuthors Six Words Memoirs project. The objective is to write a cohesive takeaway from a personal journey of caring for a loved one with dementia in one short sentence.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the international Six Words Memoirs. According to the organization's website, legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

In November 2006, Larry Smith, founder of what was then called SMITH Magazine, gave the six-word novel a personal twist by asking his community to describe their lives in exactly six words. He called these brief life stories, Six-Word Memoirs.

People sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet, “Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends.” The poignant, “I still make coffee for two.” And the inspirational, “From migrant worker to NASA astronaut,” Thus the Six-Word Memoir project was born.

 Writing about Alzheimer’s
Caregivers of loved ones with dementia are often moved to write about their situations as a way to cope. As author and poet Margaret Gibson shared on Alzheimers.net about her writing, “The miracle is this: we can feel, we can let go and we can feel more deeply in the process.” 

On the other side, having material for caregivers to read allows them to educate themselves about dementia from other people who have gone through what they’re experiencing, according to dailycaring.com.Understanding what is happening can help you solve problems and improve the quality of life for both the caregiver and your loved one.

The idea behind the  Six Words Memoirs project is to not only allow people to express themselves but to collate the stories into a book to support the volunteer work of AlzAuthors. Organized by AlzAuthors’ Co-Founder Marianne Sciucco with support from Larry Smith’s foundation, there are now more than 100 six-word entries on the AlzAuthors’ site.

 “This is a way for people to express themselves,” Sciucco told Goodnet.. “Some of the stories are helpful or hopeful. Some of them are sad. They just run the gamut of all emotions and once people try writing one, they keep going and it opens the floodgates of emotions.” 

Sciucco is the author of Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s Love Story, based on the dementia patients she cared for as a registered nurse.

Making Writing Material Accessible
Banding together to support each other and amplify caregivers’ voices to the general public, AlzAuthors publicizes their authors’ books through their social media platforms and a website that acts as a library for their authors’ published stories.

In addition to their online book shop, AlzAuthors curates several traveling libraries of books about Alzheimer’s and dementia from the donated books of their authors that are presented at events from coast to coast, and in caregiving settings such as Alzheimer’s Association chapter meetings or memory care facilities.

 “When placed together, these books take on a vibrant life of their own,” explains Ann Campanella, Traveling Libraries Coordinator, on the AlzAuthor website. “Each book, each journey, represents years, if not decades, of shared vulnerability, revealed as a beautiful garden of healing for others.”

 Campanella, like many members of AlzAuthors, is no stranger to publishing. Her poetry collections encompass both the grief and the grace of her mother’s Alzheimer’s journey.

Whether you’re a caregiver or a writer, the idea behind the six word memoir is to create a small glimpse into the caregiving world both for yourself and for others. “No two dementia journeys are alike,” one entry wisely states. 

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