The Driftless Writing Center, in partnership with area libraries and the Vernon County Historical Society, is embarking on a project to collect stories from people affected by the record-breaking August 2018 flood. The flood damaged hundreds of homes and businesses, prompted evacuations, and changed the lives of thousands of southwestern Wisconsin residents.

“When we share our stories, we help ourselves and our neighbors make sense of what happened and better understand what our communities need as we try to rebuild,” said DWC board chair Jennifer Morales.

Beginning in early April and continuing through spring, DWC will host story workshops at public libraries and other community spaces throughout the Kickapoo River and Coon Creek watersheds. Residents will be invited to record their flood stories in written or audio form. With the storyteller’s permission, these narratives will be shared with other flood-affected residents and with local, state, and national policymakers and the media. The stories will also be preserved for researchers and future generations in archives online and at historical societies.

“People are still dealing with the aftermath,” said project director Tamara Dean. “Maybe they were offered logistical or financial support. But many haven’t had the chance to share their experiences with the rest of the community and with government officials who can make better planning decisions when they understand exactly how lives were upset.”

Dates, times and locations for storytelling opportunities will be posted online at www.wisconsinfloodstories.org and on DWC’s Facebook page. Those interested in writing or recording their stories can also contact DWC by phone at 608-492-1669 or by email at driftlesswritingcenter@gmail.com to learn more about the workshops or schedule a one-on-one interview with a DWC member.

People who record their stories aren’t obligated to make them available to others. However, Dean encourages them to. “As we share stories, we help each other feel less alone. We can reflect on our experiences together as we move forward.”

To cap off the project, DWC will publish a book of photos and narratives about the flood and its effects. Books will be available at area libraries and historical societies. In addition, public presentations will bring these stories to the wider community.

The “Stories from the Flood” project is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin. This grant will help with story collection, transcription, digitizing, and archiving. DWC will seek additional support from individuals and businesses through a crowdfunding campaign that begins March 13.

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