The Hemingway Challenge

Six-word novels from 25 influential writers

Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words. The result: “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” Rumor has it that Hemingway regarded it as his greatest work. Stirred by this masterwork, the editors of BlackBook asked 25 of today’s most renowned writers to offer their own original six-word stories. Some offered more than 10 narratives in less than an hour’s time, while others took weeks to labor over each of their six words. In spite of its economy, the collection delivers the same humor, drama, irony, and suspense found in literature’s lengthier tomes.

Give it a try in a Comment to this Post!

“Forgive me!” “What for?” “Never mind.” –John Updike

Eyeballed me, killed him. Slight exaggeration. –Irvine Welsh

Satan—Jehovah—fifteen rounds. A draw. –Norman Mailer

“Welcome to Moeshe Christiansen’s Bar Mitzvah.” –Andrea Seigel

grass, cow, calf, milk, cheese, France –Rick Moody

He remembered something that never happened. –A.M. Homes

Saigon Hotel. Decades later. He weeps. –Robert Olen Butler

—I love you . . . –Love ya back. –Courtney Eldridge

She gave. He took. He forgot. –Tobias Wolff

You are not shit. You are! –Memoir, Jerry Stahl

All her life: half a house. –Jamie O’Neill

Poison; meditation; skiing; ants—nothing worked. –Edward Albee

My nemesis is dead. Now what? –Michael Cunningham

I saw. I conquered. Couldn’t come. –David Lodge

“Cyanide? Bitter almonds.” He knew. How? –Brian Bouldrey

Father died. Mother triumphed. I left. –Mary Gaitskill

“You? Her? No dice, fat boy.” –Pinckney Benedict

Oh, that? It’s nothing. Not contagious. –Augusten Burroughs

Mother’s Day came, doubling Oedipus’ pleasure. –Bruce Benderson

Tossed remorselessly, whiffle balls sure hurt. –J.T. LeRoy

As she fell, her mind wandered. –Rebecca Miller

It’s negative. Say hi to Mom. –Ben Greenman

Horny professor. Failing coed. No tenure. –“A Short History of Academia,” by Sue Grafton

Shiva destroys Earth: “Well, that’s that.” –A.G. Pasquella

Havana’s no place for hockey, coach. –Nicholas Weinstock.

The above appeared in the Utne Reader, July-August 2005, reprinted from the Fall 2004 Arts Issue of BlackBook.

38 Responses to The Hemingway Challenge

  1. myclue says:

    Just enough makeup to escape unscathed.

  2. myclue says:

    Anything for the sake of patriotism.

  3. myclue says:

    “Chocolate covered jumping beans!”, says Hunter-gatherer.

  4. myclue says:

    Droopy cheek skin allure. Fetish realized.

  5. myclue says:

    Artsy-fartsy girl lost in binary code.

  6. Hannah says:

    study marathon leaves flat buttocks remnant.

  7. crystal says:

    gone to pick fruit. -love, eve

    (not mine!)

  8. myclue says:

    Showered infrequently. Contracted airborne disease. Lonely.

  9. myclue says:

    Born and bred to kill jackalopes.

  10. myclue says:

    “Can’t touch this”, said museum curator.

  11. Jodie McLeod says:

    (Just stumbled on this after looking at the “writing” tag… I remember when this Hemmingway-inspired book came out and thought it was a great idea, but never got to read any of them! Now for my attempt…)

    He taps me; I roll over.

  12. myclue says:

    He proceeded to cough out offspring.

  13. myclue says:

    Thanks for the posts! Keep coming with them!

    “You’re barking up the wrong tree.”

  14. myclue says:

    Guy gets burned by girls daily.

  15. myclue says:

    I can’t believe it’s not butter…

  16. Chicco says:

    “time machine! I have invented a “

  17. Kuan says:

    New Zealand. new adventure. crash landing.

  18. jane says:

    i have nothing left to offer

  19. jane says:

    everything i know is a lie

  20. myclue says:

    “I can’t stop dancing!”, chuckled Grandpa.

  21. myclue says:

    All hail the ingest-or of cosmos!

  22. irving says:

    home is where your heart is

  23. irving says:

    There, I commented. You happy now?

  24. irving says:

    Vampire porn!? I am not surprise.

  25. Jason says:

    going off on what irving wrote…

    home is where your heart is. it’s never more than 90 feet away.

  26. Jason says:

    oops, i didn’t get the game. 6 words!

  27. myclue says:

    You can do it! Try again!

    Oh and irving, you might want to *surprised your comment.

  28. Emily says:

    Jesus abjectly died and triumphantly rose.

  29. levimontgomery says:

    Sorry, no. Story requires conflict resolution.

  30. Emily says:

    “You’re the highlight of my life.”

  31. Emily says:

    “Love, as a matter of fact.”

  32. myclue says:

    He came; he saw; he melted.

  33. irving says:

    I went and ate 60 mcnuggets. BARF!

  34. sladefromatlanta says:

    Smile through a fistfight.

  35. boyfulani. says:

    i came,i saw, i wrote.

    under wrong trees, roamed the zombies.

    drinks from my father, i mused.

    and talking about six, check out this site.
    What can you say in six-sentences?

    Good tidings,
    Boyfulani, Kenya.

  36. icecollision says:

    Lonely soldiers left cities in ruin.

  37. Jess C Scott says:

    Sparkly Vampires. Highly Overrated. Hyped $erie$.

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