Bolaji Yusuf’s ‘Petrichor’ Wins the 2023 Brno Short Story Writing Contest
“Petrichor”, written by Bolaji Yusuf, was selected as the winner of the contest. Photo credit: Brno Writer’s Group.
Brno, 23 June (BD) – “Petrichor”, written by Bolaji Yusuf, was selected as the best of 87 entries for the 7th Annual Brno Short Story Writing Contest, winning the CZK 10,000 first prize.
“A Spectrum of Belonging” by Michael Hall was second, and receives CZK 4,500. “Miracle on Petrov Hill” by Dagmar Pavlov came third, and receives CZK 2,500.
In the youth category, “The Depth above the meaning”, by Lukáš Plotěný, and “A Lifetime”, by Barbora Skokanová, each won CZK 1,000.
The winning writers will read their stories as part of a special Brno Writers Group meeting at the Brno Expat Centre on Tuesday at 7pm. All are invited.
Eight additional stories were awarded Honourable Mentions (see below).
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.
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.
In their notes, the competition jury noted the story’s “psychological depth, stunning descriptive language, the natural and relaxed rhythm of the two main characters’ conversation, and its loving details about Brno.”
“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.”
Hall is originally from Arizona.
“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.”
Pavlov, who lived and got married in Brno, now lives with her family and teaches English in Prague.
“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. Plotěný and Skokanová were selected and both received CZK 1,000.
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.”
Student Lucie Lamačová earned an Honourable Mention.
The BSSWC was a free contest, with one entry allowed 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. 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;
– 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.
Brno Daily (brnodaily.cz) and the Brno Expat Centre (brnoexpatcentre.eu) were media sponsors of the Brno Short Story Writing Contest.
The Jetveo Platform and App Builder (jetveo.io) was an in-kind sponsor that provided the youth bonuses.
For more information, go to the contest website at https://brnowriters.wordpress.com/ or visit www.facebook.com/brnowritersgroup. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eight additional stories were awarded Honourable Mentions (listed in the order submitted):
• The Last Watch, by Anežka Sanitrová
• Shaken like green leaves in the water, by Philipp Spiegl
• The Blue Passport, by Anastasiia Furman
• Brutta Rima Colorata, by Roxana Badiu
• Something Old, Something New, by Inga Morawski
• A Pair of Sevens, by Jan Cymba
• Celia’s Algorithm, by Lucie Lamačová (student submission)
• The Cukrárna, by Maya Harel