Happy New Year! Stories about work and the future

Happy New Year!

2018 is going to be a big year for our Working Lives Project!

Stories are at the heart of the humanities. From history to anthropology to philosophy to literature, all the lenses of the humanities help us to understand ourselves – where we’ve been and where we are going – through stories.

Stories will continue to be central to our 2018 Working Lives Project events. Watch for a provocative discussion about automation, artificial intelligence, and the future of work in Kenosha this spring and more storytelling events in cities around the state later in the year.

This past fall, we partnered with Ex Fabula, a Milwaukee-based non-profit committed to strengthening community bonds through the art of storytelling. Ex Fabula hosts storytelling workshops and storyslams all over the city. They have even shared their storytelling expertise with our ShopTalk members!

A trademark of Ex Fabula events is audience participation. In addition to the ten members of the audience chosen to share stories on stage, many more stories are written as UltraShorts and shared by the moderator. We are excited to share some of these, along with a few from the WHC staff. Enjoy!

And happy New Year from all of us at the Wisconsin Humanities Council!

At the Work StorySlam earlier this month hosted by Ex Fabula, people talked about what work looks like, feels like, and means in their lives. We believe that understanding ourselves, and each other, helps us make better decisions, build better communities, and be better humans.


“Been there – done that – retired!” –Audience member

“Don’t forget to put yourself on mute during conference calls, especially if you’re going to start gossiping about that one VP no one likes…who is also on the call.” –Audience member

“No one forgets their first job. I faked my way into mine as a PR person for a computer company. I knew nothing about computers. So I hid out in the shipping department. One night a shipper offered me a ride home across Boston Harbor in his boat! On the way he got hungry so he decided he wanted lobster. I thought that was fine until I saw the lights of the lobster boat chasing the guy who just poached their lobster pot. That was the freshest lobster and the strangest commute of my life.” –Dena Wortzel, WHC Executive Director

“My job at the unemployment compensation department was to garnish child support payments out of unemployment checks. It was unnerving to observe how many drawers of blue cards with family names on them I had, each card representing a marriage that had ended before a child reached the age of three. (I was pregnant at the time.) One day a woman called from Dunn County to say she had found my letter informing her husband that he owed child support for a boy in Crawford County. “What’s this about? We don’t have any children in Crawford County!” I couldn’t help but wonder how many more marriages I was destroying every time I sent out one of those letters.” –Shawn Schey, WHC Administrative Specialist

“When I worked at DNR I looked forward to staffing the State Fair educational displays. But some colleagues found making the science accessible hard. While working one display, I found many visitors confused by the explanation of effluent testing. One couple scrutinized the display of a water faucet, a bunch of minnows, and a lot of calculations and graphs. The man pointed at the fish and said, “those are in our drinking water?” I nodded. “That’s why there’s a little screen on your kitchen faucet that you need to clean out every so often.” He stared, mouth agape. His girlfriend, laughing, said, “you’re such an idiot.” I think I convinced my colleagues the display needed work.” –Meg Turville-Heitz, WHC Grant Program Director

“About a year ago, I came across a job posting for a “Working Lives Project Director” with the Wisconsin Humanities Council. I thought to myself “this looks like my dream job. But should I apply? It sure looks like someone with a graduate degree in Public Humanities from Brown or Yale, and with a killer resume, will get it.” As it turned out, I didn’t need a degree from Brown or Yale to get the job and I still pinch myself for having landed my dream job.” –Carmelo Dávila, WHC Working Lives Project Director


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