“Dragan Veselinovic’s memoir is nothing short of brilliant.”

Dragan Veselinovic Wins Writing Award for His Memoir– “How Cancer Saved My Life”

Dragan will be attending the 2022 Story Summit at the Kauai Writers Conference

David Paul Kirkpatrick
3 min readOct 11, 2022


Dragan Veselinovic, a PH.D. in film and media history, is the first winner of the Storyteller Foundation Writing Award. The award includes ongoing online education and attendance at this year’s Story Summit at the Kauai Writers Conference in November 2022.

“We are thrilled to make this announcement,” says Debra Engle, managing director of the Story Summit. “In his remarkable memoir, Dragan shows us the art of living — how to thrive fully and courageously in a time of a seemingly unbeatable challenge.”

Dragan with wife, Jelena, and with son, Aleksa, who he calls “my pilot”

In 2021, Dragan went to the doctor for nasal congestion. Within a few days, he was diagnosed with a rare cancer. The cancer spread into the orbit surrounding his left eye, affecting the nerves and muscles of that eye. If his left eye was not removed, the cancer would eventually kill him.

The memoir entitled How Cancer Saved My Life recounts the harrowing 18 months from diagnosis, the operation to remove the eye, and ongoing treatments.

“What is astounding,” says David Paul Kirkpatrick, founder of the Story Summit, “is how funny the material is. What could have broken anyone’s heart instead becomes a unifying element, bringing Dragan closer to his own humanity and his wife, Jelena, and his four children and two grandchildren.”

Today, Dragan is cancer-free.

Funding for the award comes from the Storyteller Foundation’s Rainbow Fund, a resource dedicated to lifting up voices in the BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled communities.

“Dragan is a marvel!” says Jane Sibbett, chairperson of the Storyteller Foundation. “His writing is the kind of upliftment we all need whether facing a monumental crisis or simply desirous of keeping our life on its most precious and joyous trajectory.

“You understand the measure of a person’s character in how others respond when they are in need,” writes Storyteller’s chief of diversity, Candace Blust. “So many people from Story Summit lifted Dragan up, in support, because we know he has done the same for us. It’s no surprise that Storyteller Foundation’s Summit’s Rainbow Fund is keeping this support going. Dragan has shown amazing talent, before, during and since his physical challenges. I am thrilled to know that we have a hand in elevating his important voice.”

To learn more about the Rainbow Fund, go here.

Dragan will be joining over 300 other participants at the annual Kauai Writers Conference this November in Hawaii. Writers from around the world, including Marta F. Kauffman, co-creator of the iconic Friends and Grace and Frankie, and Luis Alberto Urrea, award winning novelist and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, will meet to share and learn from one another.

According to Chairperson Sibbett, the award to Dragan was based on a review of his work by The Rainbow Fund Panel, consisting of staff, writers, and board members. “We are honored by Dragan’s work and excited for the next act in his writing career,” adds Sibbett.

Storyteller Foundation is part of the Family University Foundation, Inc., a California corporation and a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible. If you would like to make a contribution of any size to support emerging writers, we would be grateful. You can do so here. Thank you!



David Paul Kirkpatrick

Founder of Story Summit & MIT Center for Future Storytelling, Pres of Paramount Film Group, Production Chief of Disney Studios, optimist, author and teacher.