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Group writes away the flood

BY KASSIE FRIEDRICHS | MARCH 26, 2009 7:40 AM

While last summer’s flood may be a distant memory for some, people throughout the community continue to deal with its aftermath. The Johnson County Crisis Center is giving those affected by the devastation a chance to use their creative sides to cope.

The center will hold “Swept Away-Brought Together” — a writer’s group for those who wish to discuss the flood — at 7 p.m. today.

“I know that writing stories and sharing stories is a great way to heal,” said Diane Yagla, a Crisis Center flood-case advocate and creator of the workshop.

The event is open to all members of the Iowa City community — regardless of their writing skills — who wish to share stories about the flood in a safe and supportive environment, according to a release. The group will meet each Thursday night through April 30.

Christopher Merrill, the director of the UI International Writing Program, said writers often use their craft to deal with personal issues.

“I think every book I’ve ever written on some level represents an effort to deal with the issues in my life, some of which are sad and some of which spark my curiosity,” he said.

With the one-year anniversary of the flood not so far away, Crisis Center Executive Director Becci Reedus said the writers’ group is starting at an ideal time.

“It’s in all of our minds at this point,” she said.

Yagla noted this semester’s workshop is a way to help the community understand that people are still struggling with the disaster.

“It’s easy for the rest of the community to say, ‘Oh, everything seems fine,’ but there are still a lot of difficult situations out there,” Yagla said, noting issues like the future of the UI Arts Campus.

Yagla created the initial workshop last semester after coming to the UI to pursue a master’s degree in social work. That group also wrote about the flood.

Beau Pinkham, project manager for Project Recovery Iowa in Johnson and Cedar Counties, was one of the people to attend last semester’s writers’ group and said he plans to attend tonight’s gathering as well.

Because he works closely with flood victims through Project Recovery Iowa — a mental- health service that provides crisis counseling — Pinkham said writing is helpful in sorting out his emotions.
“I managed to get two of my poems published,” he said.

Pinkham was one of three members in the original workshop, Yagla said, noting she believes attendance will improve this semester.

“Now that we’re almost a year out, there seems to be more interest,” she said. “As time goes on, [people] start dealing with the emotional aspects of what they’ve been through.”

Yagla said all three members from last semester’s group will return tonight. She said she has received several additional phone calls from interested community members, but there’s definitely room for more.

The group will begin tonight’s meeting with a few creative writing exercises, Yagla said. After the session, participants will be encouraged to compose throughout the week and use the Thursday night meetings to share their work.

“[Writing] is not going to solve every problem, but it’s a way to try to make sense of what seems senseless,” Merrill said.


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