Thursday, May 29, 2014

Marija Stajic on First Person Plural

Writer's Center Undiscovered Voices Fellowship recipients Marija Stajic and Rose Fitzpatrick will be blogging for First Person Plural through the year.  We're glad to post Marija’s first entry on our blog. 

In summer of 2010 I moved from New York City to Washington DC. I had an embryo of my novel on my laptop and I knew that if I ever wanted to be a published fiction writer, I needed to take fiction-writing workshops. The Writer’s Center seemed like the best choice, and just a month later, I signed up for one of the workshops, then became a member of an excellent writing group sprouting from it, then got into highly competitive Jenny McKean Moore Fiction Workshop led by extraordinary Tim Johnston, published a dozen stories in literary journals, then met talented Gimbiya Kettering in the Center’s superb Susan Land’s short fiction class, partnered-up with her to help each other finish our respective novels, got spotlighted by The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review as an up and coming DC fiction writer, and finally, this winter, I was awarded the Undiscovered Voices Fellowship for fiction.

(I crisply remember sitting at my desk one snowy winter morning, sipping tea, reading Laura Spencer’s e-mail congratulating me for the Fellowship, jumping from my chair, loudly yelling “yes” and frightening my two cats under the futon.)

The timing could not have been more perfect. I just began querying agents and receiving long e-mails back stating that I was “an excellent writer” and my stories were “unforgettable” but that the book had, in a nutshell, “structural issues.” (It’s not quite novel-in-stories, nor a novel, nor a collection of short stories, but some hybrid of it all. And here I thought originality was good.) They liked my writing but they didn’t think they could sell it. At least that’s what they said.

The Center’s teachers and fellow-writers have already helped me learn how to write fiction well. It seemed as if all I had to do now is figure out how to structure that writing well.  What better way to do that than take Amin Ahmad’s Master Novel I Workshop? Who better than an MIT educated architect, turned successful mystery writer, to decipher structural problems and solve them? (By the way, my nickname for Ahmad is King Midas.)

And after taking Ahmad’s intense eight-week class, getting lots of useful feedback and ways to resolve my novel’s issues, all I have to do now is apply those tools and ideas, and rewrite my book once again.  Easier said than done, right? With one exception. I don’t feel as if I don’t know where to start or don't have anybody to help me through rough patches. I know the Center has my back, and its brilliant teachers like Amin Ahmad ready and willing to help me achieve my goal--a novel worth publishing and reading.

Honestly, I can’t wait. I can’t wait to take more of the Center’s workshops, to learn more, better my craft, meet more writers and teachers, work on my book, and help others work on theirs.

Neither should you. 


Marija Stajic




Thursday, May 8, 2014

On Blurbs

Writer's Center Undiscovered Voices Fellowship recipients Rose Fitzpatrick and Marija Stajic will be blogging for First Person Plural through the year.  We're glad to post the first entry, by Rose Fitzpatrick.

On Blurbs

When I became a published author for the first time last year I felt a sense of giddy relief: I did it! But my joy evaporated when the assistant editor gently asked me to write an autobiographical blurb.

 Why? Hadn’t I already expressed everything essential about myself in my personal essay? I loathe writing blurbs. Even the sound of the word “blurb” bothers me: the sluggish gulping of water through a blocked drain. The blurb is the opposite of my preferred form, the personal essay.

 A personal essay is a confidence shared with the reader, an imaginary conversation that arises from the inclusion of the author’s subjective experiences, including flaws, self-doubt, and failures. This forges a sense of connection. As a reader of essays, I trust an author who is as flawed and confused as I. As a writer of essays, my flaws and confusion become valuable assets for gaining (and sharing) insight.

The blurb, however, irritates me because it is glossy and promotional in nature. It’s not that I’m modest: I simply don’t yet have many of the kind of accomplishments one includes in blurbs. I’ve made a pig’s ear of my life, but I never worry about this until I read the blurbs of others. Then I become envious and worry that I am running out of time for my own dreams. That’s a worry that destroys creativity faster than anything I know, and I hold it up as proof that the horrible blurb does not shed light on anything, though it can cast a shadow.

Yet here I am, and it appears I have accomplished something new, and must now write a blurb about it. Forgive me.

The Writer’s Center honored me this year with one of the Undiscovered Voices fellowships. It is a generous opportunity for me, but only one example of the kind of outreach that is part of the mission of The Writer’s Center. Like the personal essays I love, the Writer’s Center is about forging connections and building a creative community because that helps us all get closer to our individual goals.

I applied for this fellowship two years ago and was turned down. But since that time I’ve made lasting friendships with instructors and classmates, whose ongoing support and encouragement have enabled me to improve as a writer. Certainly I have accomplished something in which I take pride; but every writer who participates in the community that is The Writer’s Center is part of a much bigger accomplishment.

 And so I humbly ask that you join me as I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world: not so much because I’m proud (though I am) or want to brag (because I do) but because the most important thing to celebrate is the way we writers connect with readers – and with each other.

* * *

Rose Fitzpatrick