It was 2012 when the contemporary chapter (so to call it) of my life as a writer started. Until then, I was writing just to express myself without any desire to share my work with others. One day, while on a break between our classes at the university, a friend and a fellow writer, Zerina Zahirović, told me that there is a person who is gathering a small group of writers in a workshop. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to join a group, but still I felt I should send this person an email. After all, what’s the harm in checking it out?

As I was writing the email, it took me a while to formulate my answers to questions “why would I like to join the group” and “why am I a writer”. The funny thing is nobody asked me these questions. They weren’t required. I somehow stumbled upon them in my mind and felt a need to form some sort of a comprehensive answer to them. As if justifying the choices I made. That was the first instance the workshop helped me grow. I realised I want to learn from others, to mature, to develop, because I am an artist, a writer. I want to live hundreds, thousands of lives – be a daughter, a son, a parent, an uncle, a hero, a villain, a variety of animals, and that chrysanthemum on my character’s table. I want to build worlds and invite others to join me there.

I pressed “send” and my email landed in the inbox of this American writer living in Sarajevo at the time, called Stacy Mattingly. By this moment, I was no longer uncomfortable about becoming a member of a larger unit. Instead, I was impatient for a reply, hoping she would accept me in the group. She sent me an email back welcoming me. I ceased being a lone author, learning the craft on my own for its own sake, and I joined a collective. What I didn’t know then is that these writers would soon become my colleagues, my friends, my teachers – they would speak to me so I’d listen and learn, and they would listen when I had something to say.

Stacy Mattingly, who smiled at me as soon as she saw me entering through the door, lightly jumping out of her chair to great me and welcome me, became my mentor and a precious friend – a person who shares knowledge generously and is open to all my ideas.

This group of people taught me the immense power of objective, non-judgmental feedback. It is a type of feedback which comes from a pure intention of helping a friend. Together we learned how a feedback received is like water for thirsty seed. We learned how a feedback given is doubly rewarding – you help and you learn yourself.

That is why, this group was an undeniable source of my growth as a writer so far, and will continue to be so, I believe.

We call ourselves Sarajevo Writers Workshop.

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