Brno Writing Contest 2022

Veronika Opatřilová and “The Bright Pale Yellow”, a mix of emotions, images, and sensations that revolve around an abandoned island and the regrets of our earlier lives, has won the Sixth Annual Brno Short Story Writing Contest. 

Opatřilová wins the 7,000kc first prize. 

“Saudade”, written by Ari Dvořák, was second and receives 3,500 kc. “The Balloon Factory”, by Elaine Wood, is third and gets 1,500kc. Ten additional stories were awarded Honorable Mention (see below). 

The BSSWC was a free contest, and total prize money was increased to 12,000kc for 2022. Only one entry was allowed per person. The short stories had to be in English, 2,500 words or less, and address the theme “Opening Up” in some significant way. The deadline for entries was May 15. 

Opatřilová, who studied Spanish language and literature at Masaryk University, translates mostly crime fiction from Swedish to Czech. She published “Ostrov žije”, a young adult fantasy novel, in 2021 with the help of a crowdfunding campaign. She is currently working on another book for Prostor Publishing. 

“This story was specifically for the contest,” Opatřilová said about the winning entry. “The main idea was something that I have been thinking about for many years. I usually start with an image or an idea of a feeling that I want to write about. When it comes to short stories I try to finish them on the first attempt, then I rewrite and I edit. This one I had to rewrite many times.” 

Second-place Dvořák finished third in last year’s contest with “The Dog Heaven”. 

“I write a lot in Czech,” said Dvořák, who studies audio engineering at Brno Technical University and sound design at Masaryk University. “This contest is my annual occasion to write in English. It was interesting this year. I was thinking about it for a long time. I heard a song called Saudade and that night I had a dream about it. The next morning I sat down and wrote it. It was very spontaneous. In like three hours it was all done and I just had to edit it.”

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; 
  • Theo Singleton, a member of the Brno Writers Group; 
  • Anne Johnson, the winner of this contest in 2021 and a local producer of theater; and 
  • Lee Adams, the co-founder of both the Brno Writers Group and the Brno Short Story Writing Contest. 

The jury was instructed that the contest was focused on creating a story that included the theme “Opening Up” 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.  

Brno Expat Centre (brnoexpatcentre.eu) and Brnodaily.com were both media sponsors. 

The Jetveo Platform and App Builder (jetveo.io) was an in-kind sponsor.  

For more information, go to the contest website at https://brnowriters.wordpress.com/ or visit www.facebook.com/brnowritersgroup . Send questions to brnowritersgroup@gmail.com.

The top short stories, with brief synopses, are listed below: 

FIRST — The Bright Pale Yellow, by Veronika Opatřilová 

An aging artist. An abandoned island. One beautiful young man. A regret. A decision. And one day in early spring. Who were we when we made decisions that decided the course of our lives? And when is it too late to change? A short story about isolation and a gust of wind that might open what was always closed.

SECOND — Saudade, by Ari Dvořák

[soh-dah-juh], noun.

1. a deep emotional state of melancholic longing for something you either lost or never had.

THIRD — The Balloon Factory, by Elaine Wood

Young Giorgiy is just a normal kid who loves basketball but when war suddenly comes, he and his world fall apart. Can the magic of hot air balloons mend Giorgiy’s mind, and enable him to open up to the wonders of life again?

Ten additional stories were awarded Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order): 

• A Little Bird, by Kateřina Gajová

Some birds leave the nest sooner than they should…

The story is about how the inability to open up in time and to the right person can slowly destroy us. It also talks about how bad we often are at listening to ourselves.

• And Then One Day, by Rita Collins

A young woman dissatisfied with her lot and even her name, attempts to change things up with a fresh start in another country. But even there, hot weather and one’s past catch up.

• Cutting Oranges, by Lucie Lamacova 

Friends are a lot like oranges – extremely desirable, but sometimes unpredictable. Opening up to one’s friends is, in this case, like cutting oranges – it’ll always boost the friendship, but the orange juice might splash out and right into one’s face.

• Laila in the Dam with Mushrooms, by Melis Karabulut

In times of isolation, a foreign girl Laila and a local boy Andrej, like many, look for an escape from reality. They dive into a psychedelic trip on a Yellow Submarine with The Beatles and Tomáš Masaryk who help the young couple pave ways into a newfound understanding of life and love.

• Skeletons, by Jennifer Kořínková

A fated delivery evokes haunting contemplation and past secrets. Sometimes things are hidden for a reason.

• The Feeling Remains, by Adam Eyre

An old man wakes up tortured by a past that he feels but does not remember. Heading to his study in the basement, he tries to piece together who or what he was.

• The Key to a Man’s Heart, by James Marsh

A British guy reluctantly visits therapy for the first time after an attempt to impress his now ex-girlfriend goes badly wrong.

• The Perplex Ways of an Egoist, by Andrea Zábojníková

In a desperate attempt to find an explanation as to why Václav had felt alienated from the rest of the society as long as he could remember, he convinced himself he’s an actual Neanderthal.  

• Unpacking, by Maya Harel

A woman buys the house that her grandmother lived in before World War II to try to learn about her grandmother’s life, then has an unexpected encounter with a Czech villager.

• What She Knew and What She Didn’t, by Denisa Petrilakova

Opening up about opening a suitcase, and a drawer, and other things, not just to do with airports. The story the author was not going to write as it could have meant opening up maybe more than she would have liked.