Illuminating Challenges. Actualizing Dreams. Nurturing Human Beings.
Through the publication of original materials created by people who are incarcerated, LuxLit Press seeks to spark new understandings for people. We are an intentional collaboration inside and out of prisons in the state of Colorado. By seeing, supporting and strengthening the luminescence of every author we come into contact with, we strive to celebrate the work, craft and joy of publication.
View Team Member Biographies and Artist's Statements
Our greatest dreams come in the darkest moments of our lives. This has become true for me in many ways. I have always been one to avoid vulnerability because of the moments in life that bring pain. I’ve learned to embrace those moments, grow from them and cherish the experiences. Art in any form has been my platform for so much of my life. Whether in dance, song, poetry, an ol’ guitar or just the way I live my life, it all says art to me. After all, I am a product of the greatest artist known to man.
Lynell’s Artist’s Statement
The imagery of the LuxLit Press logo was derived initially from Matthew and Brett. When the project was presented to me, my artist’s mind took the images given as literal symbols of what LuxLit represents to me.
The two outward facing L’s represented the “L” in Lux and the “L” in Lit. The flame represents the illumination of knowledge shining into areas that have been ignored or forgotten. In some cases, many are unaware as to the troubles we face on the inside, just as we are not aware of the struggles they face. I was like so many on the outside, oblivious to this world inside the walls where I am now presently suspended. So, to bring some illumination to the matter and show that humanity exists on both sides of the walls was, and will remain, a purpose that has driven me through the course of my incarceration.
We are brighter together than apart. Our knowledge alone has power, but the potency of our combined knowledge emits change farther than our deepest desires.
There are many different signifiers in the imagery designed into our logo. Our hope is that you not only trust our words but are enlightened from the voices you read in these pages. May the compass of your soul guide you.
I have loved words for as long as I can remember. Words are how we make sense of the world around us. Words are how we understand ourselves. When I was born, my mother saw in her mind’s eye the word that best described me: Matthew. Since that day I have worn many words, some as descriptors, some as intentions, some as curses, but none of them are who I am. There is a piece of me in everything I have ever written. I see it as the highest honor to participate in conversations between artists and audiences.
Matthew’s Artist’s Statement
My journey to becoming a writer started as a reader. As a kid I always had two or three paperbacks tucked into my backpack or shoved under my mattress. Often, I would be walking around with my nose shoved in a book, relying on some unseen force of fate to guide me safely in my oblivious state. I was an escape artist and books were my portals to more empowering worlds, to more expansive landscapes, to realities that were simply separate from the one I was immersed in. It was a space separate from loneliness, from pain, from an existence that was constantly being decided for me. I know there are many that can relate to this experience.
As I moved into adolescence, I discovered that I could create these spaces for myself. In the sixth grade, we read The Hobbit as a class project. We paused our reading at one point and the teacher told us to imagine what happened next and finish the story. Suddenly it was my hand sculpting the world, shaping the paths heroes and villains walk down…I got to decide. I don’t remember at all what I wrote, but I remember knowing right then that this is what I wanted to do. I never made a formal declaration of this intent, I just started writing. I think a lot of writers’ first steps with pen and paper are steps they take for and by themselves. As I took those steps, I found a way to process the ineffable aspects of life.
Sharing my deepest musings with another person for the first time was one of the scariest moments I’ve ever experienced. It was also one of the most rewarding. When someone else glimpses the unseen essence that resides within us, and responds with that glimmer of recognition, seeing those unmentioned pieces of themselves reflected in words, that is the most sublime success that writing has ever given me.
This thirst for the message “you are not alone” is what drives me as a writer today. It is a conversation, because at its root, all writing is based on communication. LuxLit Press is especially dear to me, because it is based on the premise of a community of artists all helping each other to strive for a higher level of skill and inspiration. The fulfillment and purpose I have found here carry a very specific responsibility with them—to help others find their own version of agency, their own space where they are most seen, most recognized, most reflected in the eyes of those who are undoubtedly looking at them.
Brett Phillips, that’s me, does not take himself too seriously, and finds that life is so much easier because of it. Normally I don’t talk about myself in the third person, but, hey, it’s a bio. He loves love stories. Not romance novels but messy, passionate love stories, no matter the medium. His favorites are the ones without a Hollywood ending. Music moves him, and currently he is listening to Mazzy Star, literally as he writes this. Who knows what he’s listening to as you read this.
Brett’s Artist’s Statement
There is beauty in the madness. I look for it everywhere and not surprisingly I find it. I see the beauty, I feel the beauty, I drown myself in it holding it close to my chest, clinging to it, hoping to squeeze out every last drop. It is in the madness that I find the reason to do this work. It is in the madness that I find purpose and fulfillment, wonderment and joy, as well as darkness and pain.
I choose this life, the work of being my best self, so that I may help others to discover that they too have beauty in their madness—they are seen, and cared for and loved. This is the work I have chosen; truly it has chosen me.
One of the opportunities to do this work I found here, in the virtual halls of LuxLit. We are developing spaces for creators to define their madness in a beautiful way. I get to not only see them where they are but also help them further develop their sense of themselves and their artistic work.
I love the idea of creating partnership with creators, developing content as well as character. Mostly I love the thought that I will probably learn more from the experience than the artists will. I am well aware that my journey will include difficult and frustrating times, but those are the times when I can achieve the most. That is the most amazing thing about life. The harder it is, the more you gain from the experience. As a student of life—in this moment—this is exactly where I am supposed to be.
Imagining Worlds Anthology
"Imagining Worlds: An Anthology of Plays by Artists from Colorado's Prisons" is a collection of creative work selected from DU PAI's course "Imagining Worlds: Reading and Writing Plays." This 12-week class served over 200 incarcerated residents in ten Colorado Department of Corrections' facilities in the summer of 2020.Purchase Imagining Worlds
Sojourn: The Search
"Sojourn: The Search" is a year-long journal composed of daily prompts which ripple out from the theme of ‘the search.’ No pursuit is too BIG or too small to explore in these pages. No search is trivial or unwelcome here. We believe that being alive in the hopes of something yet to come is elemental to our existence as human beings. Arts in Society is a proud supporter of Sojourn.Purchase Sojourn: The Search Download the PDF
The Inside Report
"The Inside Report" is a news publication for Colorado Department of Corrections residents, staff and the general public of Colorado. Its mission is to provide an intellectually challenging forum for information, entertainment and inspiration, written by and for the people who live and work within the CDOC. The newspaper journalists and staff at Fremont Correctional Facility strive to be good stewards of truth, while recording history and news that affects us all.Read The Inside Report
Reverberations from With(in)
"Reverberations from With(in)" is a digital newsletter sharing critical writing and creative work on the themes covered in the With(in) podcast. All of the work in the newsletter comes from incarcerated people within the Colorado Department of Corrections. "Reverberations" is edited by Matthew LaBonte and Brett Philips who are residents at Sterling Correctional Facility.Read Reverberations from With(in)
Tell It Slant Anthology
In this forthcoming anthology from the course "Tell It Slant: Reading & Writing Creative Nonfiction," participants from ten Colorado Department of Corrections facilities contributed original essays, poems, recipes, journal articles and excerpts from memoirs. Mark your 2021 summer calendar for the publication of this amazing book!