Jan Váňa Wins the Brno Short Story Writing Contest
BRNO, Czech Republic — From a pool of 50 stories that featured many genres and a high level of quality, “Alex”, a dark and complex story about the social norms of Brno, was selected as the winner of the Fourth Annual Brno Short Story Writing Contest.
Jan Váňa, the winning author, will receive the first prize of 6,000kc.
“The main goal for me is to incorporate social issues into my writing and raise attention to the things that I consider important, like racism and gender issues,” Váňa said. “In this case, it was body shaming, the stereotypes connected to the body and social norms connected to the body.”
Váňa considers the story to be sociological fiction, which is appropriate because he is working on a Ph.D. in Sociology at Masaryk Univeristy.
Interestingly, earlier this week Váňa learned that his article “Theorizing the Social Through Literary Fiction: For a New Sociology of Literature” was accepted for publication in Cultural Sociology, a prestigious academic journal.
“Sibling Rivalry”, written by Anne Johnson, was selected as the runner up. She gets 3,000kc.
Eight additional stories were awarded Honorable Mention.
Anonymous donations funded the initial 10,000kc prize pool. Another anonymous donation allowed for both third-place authors to receive 1,000kc. Brno Daily (brnodaily.cz) and the Brno Expat Centre (brnoexpatcentre.eu) were both media sponsors.
The BSSWC was a free contest, with only one entry per person. The short stories had to be in English, 2,500 words or less, and include the theme “Brno” in some significant way. The contest was announced on March 1 and entries had to be submitted by email by midnight of May 17.
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
• Theo Singleton, a member of the Brno Writers Group who finished second in this contest in 2017.
The final choices, according to the jury, were of the highest quality of the four contests. The stories were all strong and offered different perspectives. In fact, there was a broad range of genres, including romance, magical realism, crime, psychological thriller and satire. Many of the stories were ambitious in terms of theme and style.
The jury was instructed that the contest was focused on creating a story that included the theme “Brno” 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.
Interestingly, the 12 finalist stories included six native speakers and six non-native speakers. Four of the finalists were female, three of whom receive monetary prizes.
For more information, go to the contest website at https://brnowriters.wordpress.com/ or visit www.facebook.com/brnowritersgroup . Synopses for all of the 50 entries are available on the contest website at https://brnowriters.wordpress.com/.
The decorated short stories will be available on the contest website soon.
The top short stories, with brief synopses, are listed below:
FIRST — Alex, by Jan Váňa
Behind every name, there is a unique and complex tale, with society looming over it, saturating it, overwhelming it. My short story explores how names are embodied, how names are flesh and blood buffeted by social norms.
SECOND — Sibling Rivalry, by Anne Johnson
Living in the shadow of an older brother can seem daunting. Brno teaches the narrator the flip side of sibling rivalry.
THIRD (TIE) — The Dragon Slayer, by Karolína Štěpánová
Audrey, a history student doing a foreign exchange in Brno, sees a young man dressed in medieval armour on her way to class one day. The incident can’t leave her mind, plaguing even her subconscious – will she figure out who the mystery man is?
THIRD (TIE) — Station, by Rita Collins
Where is the mouse hole and who is the mouse? Surely there is more to life than scrabbling back and forth with a few stale crumbs in a dreary existence.
Eight additional stories were awarded Honorable Mention:
• Did Dandelions Grow Taller after Chernobyl? by Jakub Švanda
Maggie had been quarantined just like the rest of us when she received a message that her mother was hospitalized.
• Medical Attention, by Charlie Trotter
Peter waits by his two-year-old son’s hospital bedside for the return of his wife Marta, returning from a conference in Rome.
• Absolute Eternal Truth, by Tomáš Lesa
The story takes place in a fictitious (or is it?) reality of Brno during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic and follows a young student who’s making sense of what’s going on.
• BRNQ, by Anna Dvořáková
It takes a Japanese book and Leoš Janáček’s ghost to remind a professional violinist in quarantine that Brno has not changed into someplace else.
• Different Worlds, by Vincent Farnsworth
A lost American finds the city of Brno a lively place. But danger lurks underneath the surface.
• Incarnations, Simon Botten
Returning to the city after two decades, a man wonders whether some places and people aren’t best left in memories.
• The Lesson, by Benjamin McCulloch
A newly arrived expat in Brno wanders down a city centre lane and discovers a tea shop. They hope to buy black tea so that they can enjoy a homely British cuppa, but the shopkeeper isn’t going to let that happen until she’s satisfied with their Czech.
• A Day Like Any Other, by Roman Jakubčík
The life of the city goes about its usual business and so does one wailing, run-of-the-mill ambulance car. To its sole passenger, an anonymous young man, things may, however, look quite different.