Illustration: Dana Tanamachi

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In November 2006, writer and editor Larry Smith issued a challenge to fans of his Web publication, SMITH Magazine. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway's legendary shortest of short stories ("For sale: Baby shoes, never worn"), Smith asked his readers to describe their lives in six words. The Six-Word Memoir contest officially ended after a month, but the stories kept coming. Five years on, participants have contributed more than half a million mini-memoirs. Smith has published five compilations of the intensely personal accounts and continues his online quest to spark the creativity of aspiring writers. "There is inspiration everywhere," he says. "Even if you don't think you're a storyteller, you are."

Feeling...well, inspired, we asked you to tell us your life stories in six words on, Facebook, and Twitter. For a glimpse into the lives of fellow O readers, flip through the gallery. You can share your Six-Word Memoir at, and see our favorites here.