~ By Catherine Gregoire
At the Writer’s Center, we love welcoming new members to our ever-expanding community of talented writers, authors, teachers, and literary enthusiasts. This is why we’re especially excited to welcome Marija Stajic, the newest TWC workshop leader!
Marija comes to TWC with a long literary history. She is the winner of both The Writer’s Center 2014 Undiscovered Voices Fellowship, and the Neoverse Short Story Award (top 20 out of 4000). Her unpublished novel, Refugee and her book of secrets, was a Washington Writer’s and Publishing House 2015 competition finalist. Marija received a BA in Literature from the University of Nis in Serbia, and an MA in International Journalism from American University. She studied fiction at both The George Washington University and The Writer’s Center, and playwriting at HB Studios in New York City. Marija’s work has been published in the Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, South 85, Gargoyle, Epiphany, Lunch Ticket, Inertia literary journals, and in the Defying Gravity and Threads anthologies. Marija is also the author of three collections of poetry in Serbian.
Born in the former Yugoslavia, Marija is no stranger to transcultural and transnational experiences. In fact, she says that her time spent living in various countries has made her a better writer. In fact, she plans to draw on her unique background to teach two upcoming Winter/Spring workshops: Multicultural Fiction and How to Build Complex Characters.
The Writer’s Center: Why are you teaching these particular topics? Why are they important to you?
Marija Stajic: “I'm teaching these particular topics because my brilliant former novel teacher, Amin Ahmad, thought that I would do a good job. It is/was something that TWC didn't offer until now. I believe diversity and options in education are always good.”
TWC: How would you say the concept of sharing culture and reaching beyond one’s culture through writing can impact both writer and audience?
MS: “I think people read fiction because it transfers them into different worlds—often ones they would never be able to experience in person. I know that I love to read about cultures I know nothing about. It's mysterious; it's exotic. I feel like I'm learning while I'm hovering over a scene a great writer created—like Junot Diaz of Dominican Republic, Jhumpa Lahiri of India, or Orhan Pamuk of Turkey. I also believe that people should write what only they can write. I happen to have a somewhat unique experience of growing up in the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia under Tito, then living in dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, then surviving NATO bombardment of Serbia, and then immigrating to the United States five years later to start a whole new life. As I recently said to a Serbian journalist who is writing a story about my winning the Neoverse Short Story Writing Competition, I am bilingual, have two college degrees in two languages, and I have two driver's licenses. I had to take a test to become an American citizen. I had to do things twice that most people only do once. I believe these unique experiences make me the writer I am today, for better or worse. Why not share my experiences with people who are interested in hearing about them?”
TWC: What are you up to next? What are your future plans and goals?
MS: “I will be teaching two TWC courses in January: Complex Characters and Multicultural Fiction. For more than 15 years, I have been teaching Serbo-Croatian and Bosnian languages and literature, but this will be a different kind of teaching. I am excited about it. I look forward to being a part of TWC's community of teachers and writers. I plan on immersing myself into my best teacher-self, and preparing for these courses with energy and enthusiasm. I'm also writing my second novel, The American Sorceress. I'm only at 55,000 words of the first draft, but I am hopeful that after some strenuous and diligent workshopping with my TWC peers, I will be able to find a legitimate publisher for it.”
We’re excited to have Marija on board to teach these exciting new classes! We believe that just as it has for Marija, an exposure to multiculturalism will make us all more effective writers. We hope you can join her in January! Click here for course registration information.