This collection of short essays delivers more joy than many books twice its size. Culled from two decades’ worth of Mary Helen Stefaniak’s “Alive and Well” column in the Iowa Source, each essay invites readers into the ordinary life of a woman “with a family and friends and a job . . . and a series of cats and a history living in one old house after another at the turn of the twenty-first century in the middle of the Middle West.” One great aunt presides over nineteen acres of pecan grove profitably strewn with junk. A borrowed hammer rings with the sound of immortality. Famous poets pipe up where you least expect them. Living and dying are found to be two sides of the same remarkable coin.
What’s more, writing prompts at the end of the book invite readers to search their own lives for such moments—the kind that could be forgotten but instead are turned, by the gift of perspective and perfectly chosen detail, into treasure. The Six-Minute Memoir encourages people to tell their own stories even if they think they don’t have the kind of story that belongs in a memoir.
“A treasure trove of marvels, the sort of book you want to wave around and buy for everyone you love. These brief, beguiling essays turn ordinary moments into extraordinary delights and take you along on the wild and bumbling adventures of a writer so witty and wise you will miss her like a dear friend when you close the book.”—Valerie Laken, author, Dream House
“The vignettes that make up The Six-Minute Memoir are quirky, engaging, and add up to a terrific evocation of life well-lived, of life joyfully and abundantly embraced (from bike riding as a kid to porridge with a swim club to house remodel miseries to travel stumbles in China). Never mind the inevitable foibles and sorrow, Mary Helen Stefaniak’s stalwart midwestern take is reassuringly positive and utterly charming.”—Debra Gwartney, author, I am a Stranger Here Myself
“The Six-Minute Memoir is a great pointillistic painting of a book. Up close, you admire the detail inside each dot—a snowy night at the Drake, the troubling foundation of a 150-year-old house, a murky ultrasound of the heart—but when you stand back, taking in the whole of it, the bigger picture emerges: an oft-neglected region of the country, a family lineage, a writer’s life. Mary Helen Stefaniak has written an irresistibly likeable, slyly funny, and addictive memoir.”—John McNally, author, The Fear of Everything
“The Six-Minute Memoir is so inviting, so insistently curious about so much, the essays sparkling and witty reminders that stepping briefly into the life of another to have a look can be both a joy and a relief.” —Scott Korb, director, Pacific University’s MFA in Writing program