Two-time Toronto Star short story contest winner Nina Dragicevic signed a deal on Friday to publish her first two books.
The Scarborough author won the Star’s competition for the first time in 2017 and claimed his second win on April 19. Less than twelve hours later, Dragicevic’s agent told him that a publisher wanted to acquire his first novel “The Clarion” and an anthology of his short stories.
“Signing with a publisher is the dream,” Dragicevic said.
“I didn’t even aspire to be an author, and now I’m going to be a two-book author right off the bat. It doesn’t get better than that.
Dragicevic, a freelance journalist and fiction writer who publishes as Nina Dunic, said she was “a bit in crisis” five years ago. She first tried creative writing in 2017 as a New Year’s resolution
“I never dreamed of being an author. I didn’t even dare to dream that.
His short story “Cardinal” won the short story competition that year. The win earned Dragicevic $5,000 and tuition for a 30-week creative writing program at Humber College
This put Dragicevic in correspondence with the Canadian writer John Metcalf. During their time on the program, Dragicevic said he wrote about seven short stories.
In 2018 Dragicevic hired Akin Akinwumi at the Willenfield Literary Agency as an agent. She said Akinwumi encouraged her to try writing her first novel.
Dragicevic said that after a year of writing the novel and a year of editing, she has completed her first manuscript, “The Clarion”. His agent began sending the manuscript to publishers in February.
That’s how “The Clarion” ended up with Norman Nehmetallah less than two weeks after he became an editor at Invisible Publishing. Nehmetallah said Dragicevic’s novel first caught his attention on Monday.
“I knew from the first 20 pages that this was the kind of book I was interested in publishing,” Nehmetallah said.
And when Dragicevic’s “Youth” story earned him a second short story contest win on Tuesday, Nehmetallah said he knew he had to act fast. He offered Dragicevic a two-pound contract.
“I imagined there would be more publishers interested at this point, so I moved quickly and I feel pretty good about it,” Nehmetallah said.
“The Clarion” will be the first book published by Dragicevic. The novel will also be the first published and acquired by Nehmetallah.
Nehmetallah said the novel is slated for release in the fall of 2023, and Dragicevic’s short story collection is scheduled for 2025.
With the competition prize, Dragicevic said she would return to Humber College’s mentorship program.
“I’m going to get a published writer and someone very experienced to watch all of my short stories and tweak them with me,” Dragicevic said.
“I hope the collection of short fiction films will come out and be absolutely pristine.”
The author added that she couldn’t express how excited she was about publishing a novel.
“I don’t even know how to describe how I feel,” Dragicevic said.
“As I said before, this is the dream. This is it.”
Isaac Phan Nay is a breaking news reporter who works in the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Contact him by email: [email protected]