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Meet Tanja Pajevic

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tanja Pajevic.

Tanja, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’m a memoir and nonfiction book coach who’s passionate about helping women bring their stories into the world. I truly believe the world needs our stories now more than ever, and that’s why I teach women how to write their stories through coaching, classes and manuscript reviews.

Like many other women of my era, I was raised on a diet of traditional Western male authors. As the daughter of Yugoslav immigrants, it took me years to see my experience mirrored in any of the books I was reading, and I was in college by the time I discovered writers like Zora Neale Hurston, Louise Erdrich and Amy Tan. Their books changed my life.

My father’s death, though, is what turned me into a writer. I was 22 when he died, and his death blew apart the trajectory of my new, young professional life. I wrote my way through the next few years, trying to make sense of our estranged relationship as well as the past. Eventually, I went to graduate school to earn my M.F.A. in creative writing and explore the themes of family, identity, ethnicity, transformation and belonging in my work.

That was over 20 years ago. I’ve spent these past 20 years teaching creative and professional writing at the college level as well as in the larger community, and I love it. There’s nothing more empowering than teaching someone else how to write their story.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My writing and writing teaching career has been a windy road, most definitely. After leaving academia in 2005 to start my own company, I worked as a writing consultant at an environmental research and consulting firm. During that time, I was working on my own books and teaching online writing workshops as well as workshops in the larger community, not to mention starting a family. It took many years and side projects before I settled into my current role as a memoir and nonfiction book coach.

That all changed in 2012, when my mother passed away after briefly battling a rare form of cancer. My kids were only 4 and six years old at the time, and I was catapulted in a horrible new reality. I wanted to learn how to grieve consciously–something I wasn’t able to do when my father died–but I had no idea how to do that. So I wrote my memoir, The Secret Life of Grief, to explore how to grieve consciously in a society that barely recognizes grief. That book changed everything for me. It won the Nautilus Silver Book Award for memoir (an award honoring “books that inspire and connect our lives as individuals, communities, and global citizens”), but more importantly, it put me on the path to what really mattered in my life, personally as well as professionally.

In the years since I’ve recommitted to helping others share their stories. Helping a client empower herself through writing is one of the best things about my job, hands down. I’m pretty frigging lucky!

Please tell us about Tanja Pajevic, Inc. Memoir and Nonfiction Book Coach.
I’m a memoir and nonfiction book coach, and I teach women how to write their stories through classes, coaching, and manuscript reviews. I’m known for bringing kindness, compassion and emotional support to the writing process. Most traditional writing teachers only focus on craft and technique, but I believe in providing my clients with the mindset tips and techniques that folks really need to succeed, as well as giving them the support and accountability to get there. I tend to draw an engaged, kind and supportive community, which makes everything more fun.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
As the daughter of Yugoslav immigrants, I spent much of my childhood traveling back and forth between Chicago and the former Yugoslavia. In my mind, Yugoslavia was a visceral, living, breathing place–it was just so different from the Chicago suburb where I grew up. I especially loved visiting friends and family on the seashore of Croatia. To this day, the scent of bus exhaust will bring me back to Belgrade as a young girl.

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