Viktorie Anna Goldmannová wins first place in the 2021/2022 Youth Journalism International contest

Viktorie Anna Goldmannová, a junior from PORG Ostrava, has always enjoyed writing. However, it is only recently that she has gained the self-confidence to start submitting her work written in English for international peer review. It did not take long for her talent to be recognized. Whereas last year, the jurors of the annual Youth Journalism International (YJI) contest awarded her with an honorable mention for her essay about her hometown Hradec nad Moravicí (see the article Viki Goldmannová – objevený talent mladé autorky), this year, she won first place for her essay titled “We don’t talk about sexual assault here, but it happens.” The jurors had agreed that the author “very clearly convey[ed] vulnerability and […] disappointment” while “invit[ing] readers to identify with the frustration, even if they have not had a similar experience.” The YJI contest is open to non-professional student journalists aged 19 and under, and each year more than a hundred young people from around the world compete in several categories, such as first-person essay, opinion writing, travel writing, profile, news story, and other.
To find out more about Viki, her love of writing, and Youth Journalism International, read her conversation with Karla Kovalová posted below.

KK: Viki, my sincerest congratulations on your first place in the YJI contest! This is serious recognition and I cannot think of anybody else who would deserve it more. You are an amazing inspiration for other students. Can you tell us how you learned about Youth Journalism International (YJI)?
VG: One night, during a time when I was starting to be determined to make my way as a writer, I was browsing the internet for any kind of experience. There were many organizations that I researched but YJI stood out to me. I sent an email and applied with an article - six months later i received an acceptance email.
KK: And what made you consider submitting your work for the YJI contest?
VG: As I said, I wanted experience. Even though journalism isn't the field i wish to pursue (joining YJI made me realize that it is not the field for me), it still gives me so much. Our wonderful editor, Jackie Majerus, organizes weekly zoom meetings, edits our work, and overall gives wonderful lessons. She is a teacher both in writing and life.

KK: The YJI contest has several categories, each focusing on a different type of writing. Why did you choose the First-Person Essay category?
VG: While journalism interests me immensely, I definitely feel more myself in creative writing. So, writing from my point of view was the closest alternative.

KK: What did you write about in your essay?
VG: In my essay I focused on the topic of sexual assault, namely how it is perceived in the Czech Republic. I used the (at the time) fresh news about the politician Dominik Feri and the reactions of my surroundings as the main argument.

KK: I know that last year, you received an honorable mention for your essay on Hradec nad Moravicí. This year you ranked first. Has your writing changed in any way since last year? What do you attribute your success to?
VG: I think that this year I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone. It was, and still is, scary for me to be voicing my opinion on such a delicate topic. But I had a lot to say, and felt it my duty to write about something that the rest of the world didn't seem to know, or care about. While spending these past two years having some of my work published, I gained much more self-confidence, and that is what probably helped me stand out more this year.

KK: You have also won first place for a team project. Can you tell us more about it?
VG: The team project was also on the topic of sexual assault. Me and many other YJI students collaborated on a summer project, trying to cover how SA is perceived and handled differently around the world. Apart from my essay, I also made two paintings to accompany other articles. I can say that I am very proud to have been a part of this project. Earlier this year we even had an online zoom event, where we talked and were interviewed about our work by the public. Definitely one of the best and most nerve-wracking experiences i've had so far.

KK: I know that you have a passion for writing. When did it start and what prompted it? Do you remember the first piece you wrote thinking this is really good?
VG: I think I have always had the tendency to make up stories in my mind, and often even believe them. In middle school my favorite part of Czech was always the story writing, and as I was quite the pretentious child I used as many metaphors, imagery and similes that I could. My teachers were always impressed and I remember always being so proud. When i read those short stories now though, i cringe.
However, I never considered writing as anything more than something I enjoyed. At around fourteen I began writing a fantasy story (which I abandoned at around 20 000 words), but that is the moment i though “wow, i really wish i could do this all the time.”
I think the most pivotal moment in my writing journey was when I got feedback from you [Mrs. Kovalová] on a creative assignment in kvinta. You wrote “you are quite a writer yourself”, and that was the most groundbreaking thing anyone has ever said to me. I think that even though I loved writing, I was always quite embarrassed and never let anyone read it - this was the first time my writing was acknowledged in this way. I still have this feedback saved at home, and i believe I will hold onto it forever.

KK: I never knew that! What do you think has helped you become a good writer the most? Do you have any models? Are there any journalists or writers you admire?
VG: I think being a massive bookworm from a young age definitely helped me expand my vocabulary and thinking but mostly it is just: writing, writing and writing, re-reading, absolutely hating whatever i wrote, changing it, and then repeating the whole process again. Another big part of it is definitely joining YJI, and taking creative writing courses - both of these experiences exposed me to constructive criticism. Having other people read my writing is always so scary, but I gain a lot from it.
At first, I always searched for role models in fiction. The most important to me was always Jo March from Little Women, later on I turned to real writers and for many years i worshiped Jane Austen. As of now, the most influential writer for me is Madeline Miller, who combined the two things i love most - writing and history (and of course the feminist point of view). Her work made me consider studying for a combined degree in classics and English literature.

KK: Honestly, I cannot imagine you studying anything else! Speaking of the future, what are your plans in terms of writing?
VG: I just hope to keep on writing and getting better, hopefully getting published in more places. The ultimate goal is to become a published author but I believe that is quite far ahead. Most people laugh at me when I share my dreams but I truly wholeheartedly believe that I was put on this earth to create and write. I hope that one day at least one person will own a book with my name on the cover.
KK: I do hope all your dreams will come true, Viki. I cannot wait to read books written by you. I wish you an unending stream of inspiration and thank you for your time. Once again, my sincerest congratulations on your extraordinary achievement!