The Street Lit Authors Club: A voice for Austin’s homeless
Organized by: Barry Maxwell
…is everyone’s, and each deserves to be told.
The Street Lit Authors Club helps Austin’s homeless tell their stories, and supports them in finding their voices on the page. Help us bring more stories into the world in 2016 and on into the new year.
* * * *
In cooperation with Front Steps and the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (the ARCH), Street Lit delivers books and offers free 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.
Our stories and the need to share them are what we all have in common, and through our stories positive new connections are formed; empty pages are filled with art that might have never come to light.
Your support keeps the words flowing.
Since our first workshop in June of 2015, we’ve had the privilege of welcoming other distinguished guests--rock stars of the writing and teaching community have come to work with us, and I cannot thank enough our friends Elizabeth Cullingford, Elizabeth McCracken, W. Joe Hoppe, Deb Olin Unferth, Vivé Griffith (of the Freeminds Project), and Charlotte Gullick (ACC's Creative Writing Chair) for the time they've devoted to the group.
We’ve enjoyed a warm response from the press, both local and and in 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 at:
"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 we’ve just been chosen by the Austin Chronicle as a 2016 “Best Life Changer.” What an honor!
Such enthusiastic participation from the “real world” is invaluable.
The Street Lit writers are an eclectic group. Meet a few of our regulars:
- Jack is working on a digital video story of his childhood family times.
- Josh is deep into a screenplay, and writes songs, poetry, and essays, too.
- Cindy creates poetry from the mundane, often hilarious, always a joy.
- Dezi has composed over 50 poems, and is making the rounds of open mics to read them!
- Marcilas writes for the Challenger newspaper, focusing on activism, but comes to Street Lit to concentrate on his more creative work.
- Thom is a Challenger contributor, and bring to the group his activist works as well as forays into creative expression.
- Niko writes memoir, fiction, and poetry.
- Tony is working on a Manchurian Candidate-style spy novel!
- Randy is working on a long-form piece about the metaphorical ‘life’ of a homeless backpack…
Every Saturday sees a fresh face or two, and new conversations rise about the nature and effect of writing, and how it has become an essential part of our lives.
We don't limit ourselves in genre or style, and every word counts: poetry, fiction and fact, freewrites, memories and vignettes, thoughts on life as it is or might be, or simply hearts and imaginations in action. One point we agree upon is that the writing process not only helps us come to terms with the past and present, but helps us rewrite our future.
Writing guru Pat Schneider, in her classic guide, Writing Alone and with Others, 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.”
How will your donation help the Street Lit authors?
Immediate and ongoing expenses:
- Sturdy-backed pads or composition books, and pens by the bushel.
- 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, On Writing … and the occasional Oprah moment: “This is an amazing book, and you’ve all got a copy taped under your seat!” (Order direct on our Amazon wish list.)
- Coffee, snacks, and all the accessories. ($30-$40 per week, on average)
- Printing costs for handouts and “course packets.”
- Dictionaries. Pocket-sized. Many.
- Transportation for missions delivering books to the ARCH, donation pickups, etc.
- Web hosting, design, and domain expenses.
- Writer’s magazine subscriptions to share amongst the group. (Or funds to buy used copies to hand out.)
- Contest entry and submission fees for getting the authors’ work into the world.
- Field trips! Libraries, bookstores, campuses, literary events.
- Public readings: transportation (Cap Metro passes), petty cash for coffee, snacks, and an order of dignity at the venue.
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.