NAC lecture revisits historic Johnstown flood
Patti Kurtz, associate professor of English, will discuss her research for her new novel, Dark Enough to See the Stars, on the Northwest Art Center Lecture Series Monday, (Feb. 25), 7:00 p.m. in the Aleshire Theater, MSU. The story, an historical novel for teens/young adults, is set in Johnstown, PA, in the turbulent days following the city's deadly 1889 flood.
Kurtz traveled to Johnstown to do research and wrote a draft of the novel while she was on sabbatical leave from MSU in the spring of 2012.
"Most of the stories told about this flood focus on individuals' struggles to survive the torrent and the fires afterwards. But a far more intriguing story can be found in the way in which the flood brought ethnic and class tensions that had been simmering in the mill town to the surface," said Kurtz.
The main characters in the story are a teenage girl and boy who have a developing romance that is complicated by the disaster. Kurtz said visiting places where her characters lived and interacted, and various buildings in the city of Johnstown which survived the flood, helped her better understand the lives and emotions of her characters. Kurtz will share some of her primary research, including site visits, contemporary newspaper accounts, and first hand autobiographies written by flood survivors and published shortly after the flood.
Kurtz has been teaching at Minot State University for ten years. She has degrees in English from Waynesburg University, Slippery Rock University and Idaho State University. She grew up in Pittsburgh, where the story of the Johnstown Flood of 1889 is well known, and she writes historical and contemporary fiction for young adults.
Her presentation, "Finding the Story in 'History': Researching the 1889 Johnstown PA Flood," is free and open to the public. An informal reception will follow the lecture. Parking on the MSU campus is unrestricted after 5 p.m.
The Northwest Art Center Lecture Series is funded in part by a grant from the North Dakota Council on the Arts, which receives funding from the state legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.
For more information about Northwest Art Center activities, call 701-858-3264.