Bolaji Yusuf wins the Brno Short Story Writing Contest. His “Petrichor” was selected as the best of 87 entries for the 7th annual writing contest.
Petrichor, which is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil, is about an accidental meeting between two people, a trip to a local hospital, and the impetus to reach out to family. You can read the whole story at brnowriters.wordpress.com.
“It is mostly made up, but there are pieces of it that are inspired by biking and people I know,” Yusuf said. “I had some of it in my head before but I don’t know how likely it was that I would have written it. Then I saw the contest and I thought that was the perfect venue for it.”
Yusuf, who is originally from Nigeria, is an engineer who conducts research in machine learning at the Brno University of Technology, helping to improve voice assistance programs like Siri and Alexa with the ability to handle new words and sounds on the fly. He has lived in Brno for the past three and a half years.
87 entries competed
A Spectrum of Belonging written by Michael Hall (originally from Arizona) was second. “It is a hobby,” Hall said about his writing. “I remembered hearing about this contest last year. I thought this would be a good opportunity to get back into writing.”
Miracle on Petrov Hill by Dagmar Pavlov (now living in Prague) was third. “I was inspired by the contest,” Pavlov said. “I went back in my memories and I remembered what Brno felt like. I remembered Petrov. The idea came. I just took a notepad and started writing.”
This was the first year that the BSSWC was able to provide a separate bonus structure for student contestants. Three students advanced into the final round, two of them were selected for a prize. Plotěný is a student at střední škola Olomoucká Brno but he is currently in Ireland as part of an internship at an electronics company. He is working on his first book.
“My friend told me about this competition, because I can’t stop talking about my book,” Plotěný said. “I read the rules, spent two hours during math class coming up with the story, then I came home and for the rest of the day I was writing.”
Skokanová is a student at Gymnázium Brno, Slovanské náměstí.
“I was thinking about what is special about Brno,” she said. “Not so long ago I went with my classmates to the theatre to see Vyhnání Gerty Schnirch (The Expulsion of Gerta Schnirch, a book published by Brno-writer Kateřina Tučková that has since been made into a play). It stuck in my mind. From that point on it connected to the history of Brno. That was the biggest inspiration.”
The rules and the jury
The BSSWC was a free contest that allowed only one entry per person. The short stories had to be in English, 2,500 words or less, and address the theme “Perfect Strangers” with a significant connection to Brno. Entries had to be created and written by the entrant, and submitted by email by midnight Sunday, May 21, 2023. The jury included a cross-section of local cultural icons and writing enthusiasts:
- Don Sparling, a co-founder of the Brno Expat Centre and a longtime leader in the local expat and Masaryk University communities;
- Tomáš Kačer, the head of the Department of English and American Studies at MU and a translator;
- Anna Formánková, a translator and a book editor at MOBA Publishing House;
- Anne Johnson, a medical and academic editor, former BSSWG contest winner (2021), and co-founder of Czech Theater; and
- Joe Lennon, a writer for Brno Daily and the Brno Expat Centre, and coordinator of the Writing Lab at Masaryk University.
The jury was instructed that the contest was focused on creating a story that included the theme “Perfect Strangers” with a significant connection to Brno. The story was the most important aspect, including the writing, originality, character development, and plot development. It was understood that most of the entrants would not be native English speakers and that, in fact, this may have been their first attempt to write creatively in English.
Eight additional stories were awarded Honorable Mention (listed in the order submitted):
- The Last Watch, by Anežka Sanitrová
Braggs and Noel have one in common – they are sent to fight monsters on a watchtower for the rest of their life. Can a beautiful city on another planet be an escape from their fate?
- Shaken like green leaves in the water, by Philipp Spiegl
…tells the story of a man, a heartbroken and weary traveler, who is looking for a place to settle down and be happy, and a woman, who contributes to keeping up the illusion of their sparking love but actually has different plans, are drinking wine in a park.
- The Blue Passport, by Anastasiia Furman
A personal story about strangers, who find themselves far from home while it’s being destroyed. Their lives are overwhelmingly difficult but perfect for saving each other’s souls.
- Brutta Rima Colorata, by Roxana Badiu
Two souls moving in Technicolor,
Close to and away from each other.
- Something Old, Something New, by Inga Morawski
Ina travels to Brno, where she used to live, to attend a friend’s wedding. Visiting Czech Republic with her new boyfriend, she is confronted with old relationships and new acquaintances, new experiences and old places, old memories and new perspectives.
- A Pair of Sevens, by Jan Cymba
Various motives come into play when a vengeful member of the Brno dissent plans his farewell to the regime.
- Celia’s Algorithm, by Lucie Lamačová (student submission)
Technically, trying to understand the way my daughter’s mind worked in terms of computer algorithms was bound to end up in ruins – retrospectively, it’s easy to see that.
- The Cukrárna, by Maya Harel
A young Czech boy is fascinated by the old sweet shop in his village and the foreign family who moves into it.
You can read these stories at brnowriters.wordpress.com.