If you’ve known me any length of time, you’ve probably figured out if there is anything I like more than the written word, it’s seeing people, especially kids, get excited about it. That’s why I’m ecstatic this week to share with you The Stars are Lying, an anthology by some local Birmingham students. I recently interviewed Elizabeth Hughey, co-founder and programming director of the Desert Island Supply Co. about the project.
Tell me about the book The Stars are Lying.
The Stars are Lying is an anthology of poems by the Woodlawn Writers Corps, a collective of student writers at Oliver Elementary and Putnam Middle School. Every week during the school year, volunteers from the Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO) lead poetry workshops in these schools. In these workshops, we explore poetry and language and how they intersect with history, science, math and the arts. Every student participating in the Corps contributes a poem for the anthology. This year, we worked with more than 200 students in second, sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Every student who participates receives a copy of the book at a year-end reading/book-release party at our space in Woodlawn. The book is also available for purchase on our website (discobham.com/store), and all proceeds from book sales go toward sustaining the Woodlawn Writers Corps.
Why did you decide to undertake this project?
The Writers Corps is based on the idea that language and storytelling empower students to embrace their imaginations, strengthen their vocabulary and writing skills, and practice creative problem-solving. These are fundamental life skills for all students, regardless of what part of town they grow up in and what they want to do with their lives. We make books of Writers Corps poetry, because the poems are so wonderful and should be available for the world to read! We also want students to know that writing is meant to be read, shared and celebrated. The students are so excited when they see their own words in print, and they love showing the book to their families and friends.
How can students participate in the next book?
During the school day, DISCO works with students in Woodlawn Innovation Network schools. However, after school, we offer creative writing workshops that are free to all kids in the Birmingham area. DISCO publishes many books of student writing from our workshops throughout the year. DISCO’s Fall Workshop Schedule will be up on our website next month.
Tell me about the Desert Island Supply Co.
The mission of the Desert Island Supply Co. is to give Birmingham-area kids the creative tools they need to explore and document their worlds.
My husband, Chip Brantley, and I are both writers. We founded DISCO five years ago because we wanted to give kids in Birmingham more opportunities to write and be creative. We also wanted kids to meet and learn from the creative writers and thinkers in our city. To start, our guiding principle was: What do we wish we could have done when we were kids? So in addition to offering workshops for kids, DISCO hosts readings, writing groups and music and art shows. People often visit the space for an event and get inspired to bring their own creative project to DISCO, so our space in Woodlawn has evolved into a hub for creative community projects and events.
What’s next for the Woodlawn Writers Corp and DISCO?
We are working hard to get ready for the school year. The Woodlawn Writers Corps will expand to more than 300 students this year. We’re also working with the schools to create a Poem of the Week program; just like it sounds, every week, a new poem that will be posted in the school hallways, distributed in the classrooms and read over the loudspeaker. Collectively, we will select poems written by established, professional poets as well as student poems from the Woodlawn Writers Corps.
After school, we’re getting ready to release our Fall Workshop Schedule. We’ll continue our much-loved Comic Club on Thursday afternoons, and we’ll have some fun, new workshops for kids and adults, too!
Do you have anything you would like to add?
Yes! DISCO is always looking for volunteers to lead and assist in Woodlawn Writers Corps workshops. Since workshops are during the school day, this seems like a great fit for Magic City mommas! We also love book donations. We need books of all genres that are suitable for school-aged kids. To get involved or to make a book donation, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.