“Everyone has recollection of something in their lifetime,” said Carol Bergman, adjunct associate professor of writing at NYU and published author.
Bergman is hosting an eight-week workshop titled “Witness to History” at the Unison Arts Center in New Paltz. In the workshop class, students will report on an event that they have witnessed in the media or first-hand.
She plans to teach students archival research, interviewing skills, elements of craft, how to discuss someone else’s work and more. Students will also keep a journal of the class and choose a topic to explore on the first class. By the sixth week of class, the writers will have full drafts of their stories.
“I would like everyone to feel engaged with their writing,” Bergman said. “Our writing is the interface between the world and the readers. Our voice has to be heard.”
The workshop class at Unison Arts can be geared for anyone in high school and up. The class provides the possibility of talking about difficult and hard topics. Professional and experienced writers are welcome too. Even some of Bergman’s faculty members at NYU have experienced the workshop.
Unison Arts Center is featuring Bergman’s “Witness to History” as one of the first writing workshops under Unison Arts Center Executive Director Alex Baer. This will also be Bergman’s first time teaching at Unison Arts Center.
“The topics she works with are so relevant,” Baer said. “She really has her finger on the pulse on what to write on this day and age.”
Bergman first had the idea of a writing workshop shortly after 9/11. She was in New York City during the attacks and everything, including transportation and classes, was delayed by two weeks. Bergman’s writing classes were filled up, because people wanted to write about their experiences.
At Gotham Writers Workshop, she had a firefighter’s wife who wanted to write about her husband. The firefighter sat in for the class, and Bergman said he had “a sacred presence.”
Other cases of witnessing history have been brought to Bergman’s attention and curiosity, such as events in New Paltz and the media. Bergman recently wrote a column for The Poughkeepsie Journal, where she mentioned how “New Paltz and other communities need to go beyond renaming dormitories and monuments.”
She said in the article, “We all must ask what we can do to help this campus, this particular town, and our country as a whole to move beyond the legacy of slavery and the endemic racism that remains our present-day reality.”
The workshop was a staple assignment in her NYU classes. She framed the assignment as first being an incident that happened to someone, which could then be reported on. It could move to a larger story, where the student could interview someone who was also there at the same time.
“It isn’t just the historians, but the people themselves to tell experiences from different point of views,” Bergman said.
After many years of teaching,“Witness to History” has stuck with her. From traveling to Geneva and helping out the Red Cross, Bergman has spoken with many people who have witnessed impactful events. The witnesses have a story to tell first-hand, and with their own points of view too.
Bergman’s book “Another Day in Paradise: International Humanitarian Workers Tell Their Stories” introduces the audience to the Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan, Bosnia and the Gaza Strip international humanitarian workers. She interviewed them to tell stories that occured in the life.
“These people are witnessing what is happening at the ground,” she said.
“Witness to History” will start on Oct. 6 and last through Dec. 8. The cost of the class is $280. For more information, visit www.unisonarts.org/event/witness-to-history-writing-workshop-series/.