Hi, I’m Tanja,
and I believe in the fierce power of books.
As the daughter of Yugoslav immigrants, I spent much of my childhood traveling back and forth between Chicago and the former Yugoslavia, wondering where I fit in. Books were my salvation.
I was born in 1970, and like many others, was raised on a diet of traditional Western male authors. 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 I struggled to make sense of his death. Soon after, I quit my job, returned to bartending and started writing. As I grappled with the shrapnel from our estranged relationship, I kept writing, trying to make sense of 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.
On the heart level, I believe in kindness and compassion, as well as good music, laughter and dance. I’m happiest outside on a sunny day, and believe that a heartfelt hug can cure most anything. A good dance class and a strong cup of coffee are also essential. When I’m not writing, teaching or dancing, you’ll probably find me refereeing a Nerf gun war or snowboarding, trying to keep up with my kids. I live in Boulder, CO, with my husband Ken, our boys Nico and Gabriel, and Ash, a sweet pup with a fierce bark.
The author of The Secret Life of Grief: A Memoir and 9 Steps to Heal Your Resentment and Reboot Your Marriage, Tanja Pajevic, is on the faculty of Lighthouse Writers and has taught creative writing and professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver, the Community College of Denver and Indiana University, where she earned her M.F.A. She is a member of Colorado Independent Publisher’s Association (CIPA), Colorado Authors’ League (CAL), Boulder Editors and Boulder Media Women.
Tanja’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, Huffington Post, mindbodygreen, Gawker and Scary Mommy, as well as in literary reviews Shenandoah and Crab Orchard Review. Her memoir The Secret Life of Grief received the Nautilus Silver Book Award, an award honoring “books that inspire and connect our lives as individuals, communities, and global citizens.” Tanja is also the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, Hemingway Fellowship, Kraft Fellowship, and a faculty award from the University of Colorado Denver for her project “Writing as Healing.” She lives in Boulder, CO, with her family.
Writer, mother, teacher, dancer, wanna-be singer, fierce and tender-hearter
I’ve created black “Remember” wristbands to honor the grieving process and remember our loved ones who’ve passed.