What can six words say?

What can you know about someone from just six words? There is a story, probably apocryphal, that a fellow author challenged American writer and mid-20th century Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemmingway to write a story in six words. Whether or not he wrote it, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” is the best-known example of a genre called flash fiction.

In 2006 Larry Smith announced a call for community members to contribute six word memoirs for Smith Magazine. Replies rolled in by the hundreds of thousands. Since then, a story in six words has become a global phenomenon with multiple iterations, contests and topics.

Last month, The Tyler Loop made a call out for local offerings. What do Tylerites and East Texans say about their lives in six words? We are grateful to have received an abundant response. Our inbox and social media comments were full with topics ranging from politics to personal challenges to your deepest values. Every contribution sent to us is published here.

In keeping with The Loop’s mission to “help develop shared understanding in our diverse and growing city,” these mini-memoirs invite you into the lives of fellow residents. It is our hope that these six word phrases will help you know your Tyler and East Texas neighbors better. 

What can six words say? Read on, aided by poignant images by photographers Sarah A. Miller and Chris French.

📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Chris French
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Chris French
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Chris French
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Jessica Richardson

“My all time favorite epitaph is on a tombstone in Old Waverly, Texas, belonging to the matriarch of my family, my great-great-great-grandmother, Rebecca Cunningham,” said Jessica Richardson.

Richardson’s ancestor was a wife and mother from Virginia. In a movie-worthy tale, Rebecca Cunningham’s husband, a physician, was killed by bushwhackers — post-American Civil War guerrilla fighters — while out making a house call.

Afterwards, Cunningham brought her nine grandchildren from Virginia to Texas. “I strive to have her same grit and determination,” said Richardson.

📷 Chris French
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Chris French
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Chris French
📷 Sarah A. Miller
📷 Chris French

Sarah A. Miller is an independent editorial photographer and journalist with over 10 years of experience in newsrooms across the country. She lives in Tyler with several roommates and three quirky cats. Sarah loves being a community storyteller and getting to document the everyday lives of people in East Texas.

Chris French is an independent photographer based in Tyler, TX, who takes all of his photos through vintage film lenses. He is also a local musician and barista. Chris loves to share in the nostalgic feeling provided by photos and aims to bring that joy to others. To see more of Chris’ work, you can follow him at @mrcoffeeswag.

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Jane Neal is the executive director of The Tyler Loop and storytelling director of Out of the Loop: True Stories about Tyler and East Texas. In addition to the Loop, she works at the Literacy Council of Tyler and Tyler Public Library. Jane is a certified interfaith spiritual guide. She is a member of Leadership Tyler Class 33 and a former teacher of French at Robert E. Lee High School, where she ran a storytelling program called Senior Stories. Jane and her husband Don have four children.
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