The inside story behind six-word autobiographies

October 22, 2017 / by / 0 Comment

Dawn Shaw, an early childhood education major, wrote a six-word autobiography about overcoming depression.

God was a frequent theme Friday in the six-word autobiographies on the National Day on Writing.

Story and photos by Laurie Merrill 
GCU News Bureau

Grand Canyon University’s English department celebrated the National Day on Writing by encouraging passersby to find their inner author.

Instructor Kimbel Westerson’s six-word autobiography was practical.

The six-word autobiographies and community extend-a-stories – set out enticingly on tables near the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Friday – were intended to punctuate the point: Writing is fun — give it a try! 

Those who picked up markers and pens seemed to thoroughly enjoy concocting creative expressions. Not surprisingly on a Christian campus, many students included mentions of “God” and “Jesus” in their exercises.

“God is a recurring theme in my life,” said Kathy Kelly, a Christian Studies major. “When I’ve been downtrodden, He’s been there for me. He’s always bigger than my problem.” 

On a paw-shaped sticky note, Nimer Munakash jotted down family, friends, culture, sports, God and love as his six-word autobiography.

“Which one is most important?” a friend asked, to which he responded, “God is.” 

Some autobiographies contained simple messages, such as Amber Hinson‘s, which said: “Always dream.” Others were practical and still somehow poetic, such as instructor Kimbel Westerson‘s, which proclaimed: “No groceries … eggs for dinner again!” And some, like Dawn Shaw‘s, spoke of a triumph.

Dawn Shaw wrote of overcoming depression — with God’s help.

“I kicked depression’s butt!” she wrote. “I’m free! Praise God!” 

The written messages revealed the popularity of STEM classes, such as the note, “I really enjoy taking science classes,” and another listing “code” as a favorite activity. 

While the autobiographies made some semblance of sense, the much longer lines of passersby added to extenda-stories that got downright silly right away.

Each writer adds a new rhyming line to an ongoing story, some of which were appropriately silly. For example, there were the ones about SpongeBob escaping a unicorn and a herd of fleas amid a green sea. 

One story turned turned quickly to candy – perhaps because of the M&Ms, Tootsie Rolls and Lifesavers candies that brimmed from green and orange tubs on the table. 

“This candy is great but kind of wrapped tight,” one person wrote. 

“My favorite is Snickers because of the caramel inside,” the next scribe added. 

“I will chew it with great delight,” noted a third. 

Gary Dominguez, a senior government major, said he loves to write. 

“It’s a weird way to know yourself,” he said. “When you write, you find yourself.”

As GCU’s National Council  of Teachers of English Club members coordinated writing activities outside, professor Brian Raftery conducted a session on Jane Austen’s “Emma” inside Building 1.  Coordinated by GCU’s Novel Ideas Club, the discussion marked one of series commemorating the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death. 

GCU is also home to Write On, Friends of the Pen and the Professional Writing Club and Novel Ideas.

The strong attendance Friday reflects the growth of GCU’s writing community, Westerson said. 

“I get excited to see things a little further along every  year,” she said. 

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or

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