AU alumna wins North American Writing Competition

Marija Stajic’s short story earns her a spot on the winner’s list

AU alumna wins North American Writing Competition

Making appearances in the news for their accomplishments is a somewhat common occurrence for AU alumni, however, it’s not every day that an alumna is named a winner of the North American Writing Competition.

Marija Stajic is one of 20 authors to win the award this year, having been selected by editors and other writers from an original submission pool of over 4,000 entries.

The North American Writing Competition is hosted by Neoglyphic, an organization which helps authors and artists create online platforms for their work. Neoglyphic announced the winners on Sept. 15 by publishing the winning works in a compilation of short stories entitled “Threads.” Stajic’s piece is titled “Refugee and Her Book of Secrets,” a segment from her new novel of the same title.

Stajic, who now lives in Arlington, Virginia, graduated from AU’s School of Communication in 2007 with a master’s degree in international journalism and public affairs. Stajic also earned a B.A. in literature from the University of Nis in Serbia, in addition to studying fiction at the Writer's Center and George Washington University.

Stajic is originally from Serbia and fostered a love of writing from an early age, she said.

“I began writing poetry in elementary school,” Stajic said. “I didn’t start writing fiction until I came to America and was just out of grad school in New York City and I was unsure of what I wanted to do. My father suggested that I try writing fiction, so I began writing short stories and ended up really enjoying it.”

Stajic said she has been influenced by many writers, including Junot Díaz, Orhan Pamuk and Tim Johnston, who was actually one of her professors during her time at GW.

“The book [Refugee and Her Book of Secrets] is about a young woman named Ana living in Serbia during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, so her mother applies for a refugee visa but is only able to get one for Ana,” Stajic said. “The short story is adapted from the beginning of the novel, so it focuses on Ana preparing to leave her home, her family, and everything she’s ever known behind when she goes to America.”

The award is not Stajic’s first brush with success. In 2013, she was awarded the Writer’s Center Undiscovered Voices Fellowship, and prior to that, she worked as a translator, fact checker and contributor at The New Yorker.

“I can relate to my protagonist’s experience because I am also an immigrant, although not a refugee, and I was in Serbia during the NATO bombing,” Stajic said.

Stajic said that her writing process stems from her experience with journalism.

“The fiction I write is typically historical fiction, so I write down or record people’s stories and then base my stories off of that,” she said. “I think it’s fascinating to listen to other people’s stories for inspiration.”

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