A Terrible, Horrible, No-Good Year: Hundreds of (Very Short) School Stories

Stoney M. Beavers, Ph.D.
Assistant Director
Alabama Best Practices Center

As the story goes, Hemingway – a writer whose muscular style made each word count – was once challenged to write a whole novel in just six words. He came back with —

FOR SALE: Baby shoes. Never worn.

While not everyone agrees on the veracity of this story, many do agree that the six-word memoir that has evolved from this tale is a powerful way for students (and the rest of us) to express themselves. And we can all agree that Hemingway’s six words pack a powerful punch.

In true Hemingway-esque style, author and six-word memoir promoter Larry Smith has edited a large collection of stories from the pandemic submitted by students, parents, and teachers from across the country, titled A Terrible, Horrible, No Good Year: Hundreds of Stories on the Pandemic.

There are funny gems like:

and illustrated memoirs like:

Wistful thoughts:

Ironic contributions from teachers:

And parent insights:There are more sobering stories that remind us that no one is really OK right now:

Throughout the book, there are also glimmers of hope for a happier future and a stronger profession:

If you are looking to memorialize and celebrate the creativity of our students, parents, and teachers, then dive into these quick six-word stories and brief author essays. They offer great insight into how the pandemic has affected education – and us. You’ll also gather ideas about ways to use the six-word memoir as a teaching and SEL tool. (I did, in my English classes years ago. They’ve been around awhile!) One teacher quoted in the book wrote:

“The day I used Six-Word Memoirs was the day my students came alive. Being free to write in this wonderful short format helped them to discover the essence of themselves and the heart of their writing.”— Candra McKenzie, English and ESL NYC public school teacher and host of the podcast, HallPassBreak.

To learn more about six-word memoirs and to order the book, visit the book site. You can also learn about a free classroom teaching kit that can help you produce a free hardback book of your own students’ work. Of course, the hope is that parents will want to buy one, too.