Br(u)no: Lessons From a Year of Weekly Columns

Photo credit: KK / Brno Daily.

On Saturday, June 29, 2019, Brno Daily published a story titled “Br(u)no: The Onset of Summer”. It was about summer coming and it was an introduction to a year of weekly columns. The headline was meant to be slightly confusing: do anything you can to get people’s attention when you start something new.

For next 52 weeks (50 Saturdays, one on the following Sunday, one on the following Wednesday, plus a couple of Wednesday attempts to be funny during the COVID-19 quarantine period) Bruno in Brno columns appeared in Brno Daily, constantly looking for an angle that would be interesting for the readers of an online English-language newspaper in the second-largest city in the Czech Republic.

Sometimes it failed miserably.

More often, the column got people talking. After all, something has to stick when you throw 50,000-plus words against the wall.

* * *

The Bruno in Brno column was designed to be a snapshot of an expat life in Brno, something that readers would recognize and something to which they could relate.

Here are some things that I have learned about the readership of Brno Daily:

• Never Write About Holidays. I thought that Valentine’s Day would be a good jumping off point to write about the evolution of local restaurant culture. Apparently not. Thanksgiving and Halloween are completely played out. Christmas may have some interest, but not much, unless you complain about hot alcohol.

• No Sports. I had always wanted to give women’s basketball and men’s basketball some extra play, especially at the beginning of their seasons. Big mistake. I don’t even think the team members read the stories. The HC Kometa article, at least, got some interest.

• Use a Broad Brush. To get any number of readers, there always has to a general hook. Spurning a Czech pop star, apparently, does not have enough universal interest. Writing a commencement address clearly didn’t attract the professional class.

• Nevertheless, Even Obscure Topics Interest Someone. It’s weird, though, because no matter the topic, people always seemed to mention it to me, oftentimes months later. It is nice to make an impression.

• Too Much Personal Information — From the beginning it was uncomfortable to use “I” and the first-person narrative tense. It seems self-serving and arrogant. Why would people care? Yet, apparently, they do. Over the winter, I ran into a friend whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. I asked him how things were going. He told me, then added “I already know how things are with you: I read about it every week.” I do worry about writing about my kids, and always photograph them carefully.

• Stay Positive. The column was to be a way to appreciate the great city in which we live. Politics and criticism would be fantastic to write about, but they would alienate people. Of course, topics that I thought were conservatively down the middle — like the one about Sept. 11, 2001 — proved to be controversial enough to inspire some uncomfortable comments.

• Be Annoyed Sometimes. Bruno in Brno was designed to shine a light on pleasant parts of local life. But, everyone once in a while, Grumpy Br(u)no columns helped to balance things out a bit by complaining about Christmas, being annoyed by local coffee culture and losing a board game to your kids. They clearly struck a chord.

• Tap into a Large Facebook Following. The most popular Br(u)no column was the interview with Napoleon: the American actor/educator Mark Schneider. Attempts to get into pop star fan clubs or sports team online social groups never amounted to much. At least random people still find the stories through key words and browser searches.

• Sometimes Things Can Get Dark. Looking back, there were some times that got quite pessimistic. You can go home but you can never go back again. Whoa! Mr. Good Times. The series of quarantine columns, which turned out to be quite popular, were actually tough to keep upbeat.

• Writer’s Block Doesn’t Exist. I rarely struggle for ideas. Sometimes, however, it is tough to match the zeitgeist. And motivation can be lacking at the end of busy weeks.

In any case, I have dozens of solid ideas that will be good enough for another year. I hope you like them.

Here is a list of all of the Bruno in Brno columns for the last year, in chronological order:

JUNE 2019

June 29 — Br(u)no: The Onset of Summer

JULY 2019

July 6 — Br(u)no: Kozaty Počasí

July 13 — Br(u)no: Finally Getting to Be an Uncle, or What to Do with Teenagers in Brno

July 20 — Br(u)no: Explaining Brno’s Phallus-like Chronometer (to Teenagers)

July 27 — Br(u)no: The Heart of the Two-wheel World


Aug. 3 — Br(u)no: The Foreign Invasion for the CzechGP

Aug. 10 — Br(u)no: The Mythology of Brno

Aug. 17 — Br(u)no: The 500-kilometer Rule

Aug. 24 — Br(u)no: Here Come the Krojsters

Aug. 31 — Br(u)no: Continuing the Evolution of Musical Taste


Sept. 7 — Br(u)no: Explaining Sept. 11 to a New Generation

Sept. 14 — Br(u)no: Kometa Pride

Sept. 21 — Br(u)no: Jak se maš?

Sept. 28 — Br(u)no: A Consistent Source of Brno Sports Success


Oct. 5 — Br(u)no: The Start of a New Basketball Era

Oct. 12 — Br(u)no: You Can Go Home, But You Can Never Go Back Again

Oct. 19 — Br(u)no: Parking Made Simpler but Not Less Annoying

Oct. 26 — Br(u)no: The Night To Live Your Fantasies


Nov. 2 — Br(u)no: How to Celebrate a Birthday in Brno

Nov. 9 — Br(u)no: 1-1-1-1

Nov. 16 — Br(u)no: The Velvet Revolution Through One Faraway Mind

Nov. 23 — Br(u)no: Teaching Turkey

Nov. 30 — Br(u)no: Talking to Napoleon


Dec. 7 — Br(u)no: Bumping into a Legend

Dec. 14 — Grumpy Br(u)no: When will Christmas Finally Be Over?

Dec. 21 — Br(u)no: Holiday Fishmongers

Dec. 28 — Br(u)no: Fireworks


Jan. 4 — Br(u)no: Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

Jan. 11 — Br(u)no: Take Off Those Shoes

Jan. 18 — Br(u)no: A Day Without Earphones

Jan. 29 (Wednesday) — Br(u)no: The Inadvertent Sexual Tension of Czech


Feb. 1 — Br(u)no: The Sensory Confluence of Reggae and Memory

Feb. 8 — Br(u)no: Make Your V-Day Reservations Now

Feb. 15 — Br(u)no: So It Goes

Feb. 22 — Grumpy Br(u)no: Just Give Me a Normal Cup of Coffee

Feb. 29 — Br(u)no: What Should We Do to Make Today Special?

MARCH 2020

March 7 — Br(u)no: International Women’s Day, or The Day That Wives Go to the Local Bar

March 14 — Br(u)no: Life in the Time or Coronavirus

March 21 — Quar [Br(u)no] antine: What to do While Stuck at Home

March 25 (Wednesday) — Grumpy Br(u)no: Don’t Tell Me Not To Not Get Angry!

March 28 — Br(u)no: Life Continues Through Self-Quarantine Week 2, Alcohol Helps

APRIL 2020

April 1 (Wednesday) — Br(u)no: When Can We Laugh Again?

April 4 — Br(u)no: Face Masks Become All the Rage, Quarantine Week 3

April 11 — Br(u)no: Being Inside Brings Out Big Thoughts, Quarantine Week 4

April 18 — Br(u)no: How Life Has Changed During this Pandemic? Quarantine Week 5

April 25 — Br(u)no: Some Perspective. Quarantine Week 6

MAY 2020

May 2 — Br(u)no: Remember Those Who Rise to the Challenge, Quarantine Week 7

May 9 — Br(u)no: The Numbers Tell the Story. Quarantine Week 8

May 16 — Br(u)no: The Great Awakening

May 23 — Br(u)no: Close to Home

May 30 — Br(u)no: The Circus is in Town

JUNE 2020

June 6 — Br(u)no: America Doesn’t Have 13 Months. No Beer for You!

June 13 — Br(u)no: Ladies First

June 20 — Br(u)no: Always Have Something Interesting To Say

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