American John Derhak Wins BSSWC-2

John Derhak’s “Over the Fields under Bile Karpaty” — a story about Cold War espionage and jazz — was selected as the winner of the Second Annual Brno Short Story Writing Contest. The American wins the top prize: 6,000 kc.
“The Encounter”, written by Hungarian Beatrix Turán, was selected for second place. She earns 2,000kc.
Two stories tied for third place and receive 1,000kc each: “What If Mo Stood For Moses” by Englishwoman Jessica Sofizade and “Out of the Box” by Englishman Simon Botten. (A generous donation made it possible to have two third-place stories.)
Seven additional stories were given Honorable Mention.
Six of the 11 stories that won money or Honorable Mention were written by non-native speakers of English. It shows that English fluency within the Brno community is rapidly increasing.

The Winner

Derhak, born in Canada and raised in the United States, was inspired by a day trip to Mikulov and his discovery that jazz legend Karel Krautgartner was from there. The story is set in 1988 during the Cold War, includes several characters with mysterious motivations and revolves around a strange piece of sheet music named “Over the Fields under Bile Karpaty”. His own description:

“This is a story of unexpected encounters, with a little jazz, one hot potato, a dash of stealth, and a promise kept.”

Click here to read “Over the Fields under Bile Karpaty.”

Second Place

Turán, who lives and works in Brno as a technical writer, wrote about two strangers meeting on a beach in “The Encounter.” Click here to read “The Encounter.”

Third Place

Sofizade’s “What If Mo Stood For Moses” is about the religious and political ramifications of love and death. Click here to read “What If Mo Stood For Moses.” Botten’s “Out of the Box” is a powerful abduction thriller. Click here to read “Out of the Box.”

Honourable Mentions

Seven entries were awarded honourable mention, listed in alphabetical order:

  • Gravity, by Jan Suda
  • Jack, by Rita Collins
  • Nice to Meet You, Valerie, by Silvia Divékyová
  • The Cerna Pole Kid, by Yiğit Tokgöz
  • The Last Time, by Jack Stephens
  • The Moon In the Sky, the Stars and I’ll Die, by Inga Morawski
  • Unrequited Love, by Veronika Jirků

Morawski earned Honourable Mention in the 2017 contest with “The Endless Renouncement of Feelings.”
All of the award-winning stories and the honourable mention entries are available at
The free contest attracted 51 entries. Every entry had to include the theme “Out of the Box” in some significant way. There was only one entry per person. The short stories had to be in English and 2,500 words or less. The deadline was April 30 at midnight. The original prize pool was 9,000kc, but another 1,000kc was added by an anonymous donation to allow for the third-place tie.
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, a teacher in the Department of English and American Studies at MU and a translator; Anna Formánková, a translator and a book editor at MOBA Publishing House; and contest co-founder and Brno Writers Group co-founder Lee Adams, the At the Movies blogger for the Brno Expat Centre.
Each story had to include the theme “Out of the Box” in some significant way. The story was the most important aspect, including 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. All entrants should have endeavoured to adhere to the rules of English; however, spelling and grammar were not critical for success.
Brno Daily ( and the Brno Expat Centre were both media sponsors of the Brno Short Story Writing Contest.
The Brno Short Story Writing Contest was made possible by anonymous donations.
Click here to see the contest website.


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