In her classic text, Writing Alone and with Others, writing guru Pat Schneider reminds us that “we are all connected to one another … through our strange and marvelous ability to create words.” This human connection is what Street Lit aims to nurture, and like Schneider, we’re guided by the philosophy that “writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level.”
The Street Lit Authors Club helps those experiencing homelessness in Missoula to tell their stories, and supports them in finding their voices on the page.
In cooperation with the Poverello Center, Street Lit delivers free books and offers creative writing workshops in a relaxed and non-judgmental environment. We lend encouragement and mentoring, foster open expression, and honor the strength in those whose stories so deserve a rightful telling. Positive new connections are formed, and empty pages are filled with art that might have never come to light.
Your partnership keeps the words flowing. Please, help us bring more voices into the world in 2018 and in years to come.
I'm Barry Maxwell, the founder of Street Lit and the Street Lit Authors Club workshops.
The project began in 2013 in Austin, growing from a one-off book drive into an ongoing donations hub serving the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, the downtown shelter where I lived as a client for nearly two years.
The ARCH and I started the creative writing workshops in June of 2015 and I was fully prepared to fail, with no idea whether anyone would show up, or how long it would last. I'm proud to say that the workshop thrived from the first day, and even after my move to Missoula to join the MFA cohort at UM, the Austin group is still going strong under the gifted guidance of my friends Tony Nuñez and Phil Force. (The duo has a great site running for the group at http://streetlitauthors.org/ . Give them a visit and get in touch there for donations in Austin.)
The workshop in Missoula is still young. The first was in early May of 2018, and I'm happy to report that the group is growing steadily. A core of regulars are bringing their writing projects to the table, and the word is spreading. New folks drop in out of curiosity (or for the coffee) and then come back for the writerly conversation, the chance to share their own words, and to join in the discussion of others' work.
As it was in Austin, I walked in braced for failure, and found instead a community waiting for way to connect. I couldn't be more thrilled with the progress we’ve made so far.
We’ve enjoyed a warm response from the press, both locally and in wider the literary world. If you’d like to look further into Street Lit’s origins and daily reality, please give a read to our friends and supporters:
"MFA writer Barry Maxwell takes literature to the street " The Missoula Independent (July 26, 2018) by Susan Elizabeth Shepard
"Picking up the Pen: Writing group offers escape and expression for Austin's homeless" The Austin American-Statesman (July 31, 2016) Article and photos by Roberto Roldan
"How Books Are Helping Austin’s Homeless Community Street Lit: Finding Hope Through Literature " Literary Hub (May 16, 2016) By Michele Filgate
And wow--we were chosen by The Austin Chronicle as a 2016 “Best Life Changer .” What an honor!
"Using Literature As A Force For Good Among Austin's Homeless Population " Citylab.Com from The Atlantic (June 8, 2016) By Eillie Anzilotti. Photos by Ian Marcotte and Lavonne Roberts
"Formerly Homeless UT Student Leads Creative Writing Workshop Street Lit For Austin’s Homeless " The Daily Texan (August 26, 2015) By Katie Walsh. Photo by Rachel Zien
How will your donation help the Street Lit authors?
Immediate and ongoing expenses:
~ Sturdy-backed pads or composition books, and pens by the bushel.
~ Coffee, snacks, and all the accessories. ($15-$20 per week, on average)
~ Printing costs for handouts and course packets.
~ Writing texts, such as: This Word Now, The Mindful Writer, How to Write a Poem: a Beginners Guide, Writing Down the Bones, Bird by Bird, Stephen King's On Writing … and the occasional Oprah moment: “I've just read an amazing new book, and you’ve all got a copy under your seat!” (You can also order texts and supplies directly from our Amazon wish list .)
As Marge Piercy writes in her poem, “To Be of Use,” the Street Lit Authors Club is a “thing worth doing well done,” with “a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.” These newly-inspired authors deserve all the help we’ll give them. I hope you’ll join in this work through your donations, and nurture the Street Lit Authors as they grow.
Barry Maxwell and the Street Lit Authors