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The short story:

Writers from coast to coast to coast each received a different picture of litter with the request that they submit a response in any form, inspired by that debris.

Those responses will be posted.

Canadian writers = a phenomenal bunch.

Note: This is my own initiative. The idea is to create awareness and conversation about the problems of both illiteracy and litter in our communities. I’ve chosen to support Frontier College specifically for their history and ongoing work to increase literacy from coast to coast to coast. All donations made here go directly to Frontier College through their website.


The medium sized story — aka: why litter??

I’ve been picking up litter for years, possibly eons. I try always to carry bags when I walk. But sometimes I don’t have a bag, so I’ll just pick up the odd Timmy’s cup, a can, a water bottle, egg carton, hub cap. There’s never nothing to pick up. It becomes a habit.

Once you start seeing it, you see it everywhere.

Occasionally I’m rewarded by finding bits of paper with interesting things scrawled on them. Notes, directions, letters, envelopes. Some of it beautifully cryptic and I begin wondering about the provenance of this or that. Who’s Bonita? And why is she thanking Chris for looking after Harry? Who’s Harry? A dog? Her dad, a kid, her renegade step-grandmother Harriet? And this list… is it for a party, a prison visit; who’s going to eat the mini marshmallows listed between ‘chicken soup’ and ‘toothpaste’?

The best of these bits, I keep.

That’s right. I have a litter collection. (What? You don’t?)

The idea of connecting litter and literacy happened when it occurred to me that, beyond alliteration, there are real similarities: both are problems, both are ubiquitous, but only one is visible. It became a Pavlovian thing: I can no longer see litter without thinking illiteracy.

Once you start thinking about it, you realize it’s everywhere.

And so I wondered if there was a way of sharing that connection so litter might become a small weird trigger to remind us that there are a lot of people out there who can’t read what’s written on that debris.

Plus, the trash inspired writing is a bundle of exquisitely trashy goodness.

So please visit. Come back often. And if you ever feel compelled to click the Donate box on the Home Page, it will take you to Frontier College, where you can choose what programs you’d like to support, and where even a few dollars will be received with much gratitude.

On behalf of those who can’t yet put gratitude into words: thank you for supporting literacy.

Thank you to the writers.

To the readers.

And to everyone in-between.



p.s. — The Student Story

As of May, 2016, the project will also be including students from creative writing programs across the country.

Browse the ‘student’ tab for details or contact me.

  1. Lisa says:

    Congratulations! And what a great way to launch this project, Carin. I loved your trashy story! 😉


  2. […] And what it’s all about, Alfie… here. […]


  3. commatologist says:

    Oh, the wondrous products of a richly littered mind! I LOVE your concept, Carin, and I salute you! Your sister trash collector, Leslie


  4. fhaedra says:

    Brava to you for initiating this project!

    I am a picker upper of other peoples’ litter. It used to anger me to see it there, on my landscape, but one week I collected all of it…at least what was touchable…and built a sculpture. then I photographed it and wrote about it. Trash transformed into a kind of Dirt Art. I felt slightly less angry.

    I still don’t understand the nature of litterers. And I still pick up their trash. It’s my duty. It’s my small contribution, and the trash I carry away each day is my homage to my landscape.


    • carin says:

      I love that you did something with it. Anything but ignore it. It’s complacency that allows it to grow. Thank you for your kind comments. And brava to you also for the picking upping! “Homage to my landscape…” beautifully put. All the best! /carin.


  5. […] a lot about my early years as an ESL student and remembered something I wrote a while back for The Litter I See Project.  Canadian writers are given a picture of litter and asked to write a response inspired by  the […]


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