Announcing the Winner(s) of the Six-Word Memoir Contest

The six-word memoir contest ended at 5 p.m. today. There were 28 entries, three of which were posted on Facebook  and added into the comments section of the original post by me. Click here if you want to see all 28.

I have selected the entry of Chin Pheng Oh “Watching her grow, I see myself” as the grand-prize winner of the contest. She tugged at my mother’s heart. Parents learn so much about themselves from their children. Chin explains one reason for this–as adults we are able to stand outside and observe closely our child instead of staying inside as a child sees himself or herself.

I found five entries worthy of prizes also! In the same vein as the prize winner above, Lanie Tankard wrote, “I am still that little girl.” Lanie names a universal truth for all memoir writers. Our childhoods never disappear completely. All that we are and will become was there from the beginning. The statement suggests we sometimes need to be reminded to be kind to ourselves.

Donna, you hit me with the statement, “I’d like to do it again.” Your statement has a kind of delicious ambiguity. It could be a regret for not having done what you wanted to do in the first place. It could also be the result of so much joy of living that, like the kid who has just dived off the board and resurfaced, you want to go a second time.

Sally Rogers appealed to my 60-plus years sensibility with “Nearly all is said and done.”  Again, the interpretation is bitter/sweet. Life is passing fast. This could be spoken with gratitude and anticipation, with resignation, and with bitter regret.  It could also be about novelty rather than the passage of time–another way of saying with Solomon that there is nothing new under the sun.

Adam Tice, on the other hand, offered “There’s always something more to say.” Another lovely statement redolent of multiple meaning. Could be the memoir of a talkative person. Could be a philosophical statement about the impossiblity of endings. Could be just getting in the last word.

Finally, Grandpa1 amused me with “Still looking for my pivotal event.” I’ll admit that the statement would not have attracted me as much if it had come from teenager1. From a grandpa, however, it made me chuckle. I can interpret it as a spoof on developmental theory. I can interpret it as genuine yearning for transformation even at the last stages of life. And, above all, I see it as active yearning rather than passive acceptance. Go grandpa!

I loved all the entries, of course. And I thank everyone who commented. If you disagree with my judgments, let me know–or start your own contest. 🙂


Chin wins her choice of books from the six on my shelf that I am giving away. I have added to the Judith Jones book five others.  I know four of the winners, but Donna and Grandpa1, you are new to me.  To all six of you–if you write to, we can discuss the books and how to get them to you.

I’ll leave you with Paul Simon’s phrase that happens also to be a six-word memoir: “Still crazy after all these years.” You can substitute any other adjective for crazy and make your own statement.

Let me know if you enjoyed the contest whether you entered or not. Shall I do this again sometime?

Posted in

Shirley Showalter


  1. grandpa1 on January 18, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I came to the contest in the final 36 hours with the invitation of ClifH, a good friend and companion searcher to find faith and practice in reason. I found the memoir idea a short time addiction in my own personal meditation, and came to the 6Words bouncing off our Pastor's sermon on MLK's “pivotal event” in being called to lead SNLC. Late in life now, I see a number of significant turns, many made in response to subtle signals. As I look back I wonder how it would have been different to feel a large dramatic turn. Would I have know that if I had seen it?Thanks for the occasion of such musings!

  2. deenamersky on January 18, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    She promised more than she delivered

  3. shirleyhs on January 18, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    I love hearing the story behind the story, Grandpa1! Thanks so much for entering the contest and for paying attention in church! Who knew how useful the sermon was going to be? 🙂

  4. shirleyhs on January 18, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Ooh, I like it, deenamersky! So mysterious. Hang on to this one and enter it again when I do another one of these. People seem to like them. Maybe in another three-six months? I also did a beautiful sentences contest last year that was fun. So start collecting the best sentences you come across in your reading. And keep coming back. I will do more contests in the future.

  5. clifh on February 9, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Over the past weekend I heard some interesting “Haiku Poems” based on the Super Bowl theme. It occurred to me that the experience of enjoying haiku is somewhat similar to the “life in six words” exercise. Perhaps haiku is another type of contest you could consider. You'd need decide on a theme and what was to be considered the definition of a haiku poem. I concluded from the Super Bowl Haiku that Americans apparently define it to be simply 17 syllables or less. I prefer the definition of exactly 17 syllables divided into three lines of 5, 7, 5.

  6. shirleyhs on February 10, 2010 at 1:55 am

    Clif, you are full of good ideas! Thank you for sharing so generously! I love the idea of Haiku Memoir, and would love to make a contest out of that–as well as the Google Search Memoir. This combo will keep me very busy indeed!

Leave a Comment