It all started on a whim. When Elizabeth Hughey Brantley and her husband, Chip, moved back to Birmingham they realized the city where they both grew up was missing something important to them both — a writing center for kids. And so they started one.
They call it the Desert Island Supply Co., a name sure to intrigue kids and grownups alike. DISCO, as it’s known around town, offers free after-school creative writing workshops to kids in the Birmingham area.
“We aim to be cross-disciplinary in our programming, so you’ll see workshops in science, visual art, poetry, music and design,” Elizabeth explained. “But writing is incorporated into everything we do!”
DISCO is located in Woodlawn and also offers weekly, Core-aligned writing workshops in the schools in the Woodlawn High School feeder pattern. “Our goal is to help students become strong writers, creative problem solvers and critical thinkers,” Elizabeth added.
Last month Elizabeth received the SMART award from the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham for her work with DISCO. As a past honoree, I had the privilege of being a hostess at this year’s event and had a chance to chat with Elizabeth about the mission and future of DISCO.
Why do you believe Birmingham needs a program and a place like DISCO?
We all know that kids need to be able to write well, and we also know how hard it is to write, even if you’ve been doing it for a long time! At DISCO, we have an arsenal of tricks, tools, writing prompts and creative exercises to help kids get their thoughts onto paper. There are no grades, and there are no wrong answers. DISCO is truly a place to experiment and explore!
DISCO also hosts a number of community events. Why did you all decide to not only hold your writing workshops but also become a venue for other local organizations?
We raised money through Kickstarter to build out a space on the first floor of Woodrow Hall, and the renovation turned out to be really beautiful. People loved just being at DISCO, and other artists and writers started to think about what they could do there. We’ve had plays, readings, music shows, craft nights, writing group meetings and even a few dinners at DISCO. So, the space just sort of evolved into a hub for Birmingham’s creative community! We want the space to be inhabited. We want creative things to happen at DISCO!
What was it like to be honored at last month’s SMART party?
Encouraging! DISCO is in its third year of in-school and after-school programming. I feel like we’re sort of into our groove, now, but there is still so much we need and want to do. Being a SMART party nominee has given me an energy boost. I also admire what the Women’s Fund is doing for so many women in Birmingham!
What’s next for DISCO? How do you hope to see the program grow and what can people in Birmingham do to help?
Our main goal for this year is to expand our in-school programming. We are currently teaching weekly writing workshops in the 2nd, 6th, 7th and 8th grades in schools within the Woodlawn feeder pattern. We also run a journalism program at Woodlawn High School. We are looking for Birmingham area writers to volunteer in these workshops for one or two hours every week. Like every non-profit organization, DISCO also needs money! We never turn down books, especially books kids and teenagers.
Learn more about DISCO at DesertIslandSupplyCo.com.
The Birmingham Jane is a feature recognizing women of Birmingham striving to make the city a better place. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.