TTAC Future Writers Week: Help! Help! I'm Drowning!

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

This is day five of TTAC’s Future Writers Week. We have three new winners. We have seven new contestants. And I have a huge problem.

Let’s get to Thursday’s winners first. It looks like you had no problem picking them. Sex, crime, Autobahn and Nürburgring carried the day yesterday. Not quite in that order, but that’s what keeps it interesting. Keeping with the budding writer theme, it was mostly PG13: We did read stories about front bench seats that were used for nothing else than a dumping ground for fast food residue, we learned about a pervert who did not want to party with people half his age, and who preferred an affair with a Peugeot instead. It was a winning combination. Yesterday’s winners are:

  • Andrew Lok, a.k.a. Contestant #28
  • Matt Oppen, a.k.a. Contestant #22
  • Sean Scoggins, a.k.a. Contestant #24

We congratulate thee! With the votes and confidence of your peers, you have advanced into the ranks of TTAC’s Future Writers. Hold your horses, bask in your glory, and wait until you hear from us for your first writing assignment.

I also must admit that I am having a huge problem. With today’s new batch of seven, we will have juried 35 contestants. Looking at my email-inbox, I have contestants for at least another week, if not more. I think, the prudent thing to do is to immediately say:

No more applications, please! The inbox is closed.

As for what to do with the huge backlog, I need your advice. Voting once every four years seems to be big enough a bother, but voting each day for weeks? I could blow them all out over the week-end. Want to jury a huge collection of one-liners over two days and get it over with? I could do personal triage and simply take the ones I think are good. I bet the commentariat has better ideas. Let’s hear them. And don’t send more applications, please! There will be another contest, trust me.

As for the backlog, I will be most grateful for your advice. Suggestions that the contestants are no L. J. K. Setright are being met with the old adage that you get what you pay for. And that there is no such thing as a free Setright.

The TTAC orchestra already has left for the weekend. So without fanfare and drumrolls:

The TTAC Future Writers – Friday Contestants

The rules of engagement, listed below, remain the same as yesterday. Keep in mind, the writing examples are presented here in the same order as they arrived in my mailbox. They are shown unedited, unproof-read, as-is. If no writing examples were sent, despite the fact that they were requested, snippets from the emails were used instead.

Contestant 29 writes:

“My neighbor growing up, Wayne Stork, was a quiet, gentle giant of a man who loved machines. Growing up as a car nut myself, it was hard to miss the fact that the Storks owned almost every kind of cool machine you could imagine – motorcycles, trucks, cars, boats, tractors, hay bailers even a couple of bulldozers and a ramp truck. If it rolled, floated, or crawled, Wayne probably owned it at one time or another. For a guy with an enduring love of machines, however, Wayne had one fault – he never really took especially good care of anything. As a result almost every machine Wayne owned died within a few years of purchase.“

Contestant 30 writes:

“Here is where I give full disclosure: I’m a former owner of a Nissan pickup. Remember the Hardbody? I had one– and loved it. I’m a current owner of a Nissan cube and a base Ford Ranger pickup. I bought the Ford because at the time I was shopping (2007), it was the most fuel-efficient pickup on sale in America. I seldom haul more than a few hundred pounds in the bed, and primarily use it as a commuter. When truck-shopping after years of faithful service from my recently totaled Hardbody, I just couldn’t talk myself into a Frontier for a couple of reasons.”

Contestant 31 writes:

“My G-ride awaits, a 2007 Ford Crown Vic Police Interceptor in “Official Government Business” silver. My department assigns each officer a home-fleet vehicle and I’ve been driving this one for a little over 40,000 of it’s 89,000 miles. One of the last of the real Police Interceptors, it boasts the civilian interior upgrade, with mouse- fur covered cloth bench seats instead of vinyl, carpeting instead of vomit resistant rubber, and a CD player. However, in a surprise outbreak of fiscal prudence, whoever ordered the cars that year failed to check the box for the exterior upgrades, like chrome trim. It’s the best of both worlds: soft semi- luxury inside with the blacked out “move to the right” front grill.”

Contestant 32 writes:

“Why the ****should I provide three paragraphs? I’m not in this for the notoriety associated with being published. I am a high school English AP teacher and everyday 180 students are forced to read my cynical commentary on a subject that serves no inherent purpose to them. The only reason that I am even responding to this query is because I am a man; I eat raw meat and drink milk that expired last week, I have a permanent line of dirt under my fingernails that I am apparently saving in case the apocalypse happens and I need to be carbon dated, I make a conscious choice to inhale deeper when the whiff of gasoline or diesel is nearby, and the only type of circular saw I know how to use is worm gear driven, weighs sixteen pound (lightweight due to the lack of a safety trigger), and needs its oil changed three times a year.”

Contestant 33 writes:

“About ten years ago, I finally began to settle down. Got engaged, and went out and bought myself a sports car. I justified this particular car to my then-fiancee with a plan for an epic (there’s that word again) honeymoon trip: Drive to New England, in autumn, topless. No, this isn’t Maxim or The Chive. Topless car, not topless wife. So, fueled by fires of forum chatter aplenty, I started my search for the only ragtop that makes sense to keyboard racers: a Miata.”

Contestant 34 writes:

“Rays of ice-blue xenon pierced the dense, rain-soaked night, illuminating a postmodern, high-priced, yet dully conventional house. The BMW’s headlamps exorcised the darkness as Sadler navigated into the dry uncluttered garage. The wet tires crackled and left a trail along the immaculate sealed concrete. The garage door whirred to a close muting the cacophony of a summer storm. Sadler silenced the engine’s hollow thrum. Wearied, he sighed before stepping out of the “platinum grey metallic” vehicle. Entering the back hall he had expected familiar quiet and coolness, but lashing rain sounded too clearly and the indoor air was humid. Sadler knew he had an uninvited guest.”

Contestant 35 writes:

“I thought I was hard-core. People who complain about the Lotus Elise’s lack of creature comforts or suspension compliance are wimps I thought. Many of us would agree that pure driving pleasure outweighs most other considerations, but the Elise is the ultimate test of this idea. I had lusted after the Elise ever since seeing one in Europe in the late 1990‘s and everything I had read about it perfectly meshed with my ideals about sports cars. After owning a ’91 Miata for almost ten years, the Elise was the next logical step. When I first sat in one in 2005 upon their release in the U.S., I knew I would own a used one someday. The styling was to die for, the cockpit was starkly beautiful in its own way, and the mechanical-feeling shifter was a joy.”


Above are today’s contestants. Pick them carefully. The top ones will be around for a long time. Here are the Rules of Engagement:

  • You are presented with a set of seven writing examples. Their authors haven been carefully anonymized. They have a number instead.
  • The top three out of each set of seven receive an entry permit into the rarefied world of TTAC writers. Those who don’t make the grade and who fail in front of our jury will be sold into white slavery, or worse, recommended for the morning shift at Jalopnik. (Inciting voter apathy could mean that all contestants are sold off, we want and keep the winners.)
  • The snippets come in the exact order they landed in my mailbox.
  • The snippets have been chosen by me, in a very subjective way: By looking quickly at the story, and by picking what stands out.
  • You have two votes for each day. Both votes have equal weight. You may not vote more than once per day and set of contestants. Don’t throw away your votes!
  • The vote for each set runs until the second set appears. That’s typically for around 24 hours. Vote now, do not procrastinate. Voting for the last set stops when I say so, also typically 24 hours after the last set goes up.

And now, let’s go to the polls!

(No hanging chads. Don’t mail or phone it in. Read snippets before voting. Vote now.)

Remember: You have TWO votes. Place your bets.

This poll has been removed.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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4 of 52 comments
  • Marcelo de Vasconcellos Marcelo de Vasconcellos on Jan 25, 2013

    29 and 33. good luck. Not voted before cause I was on vacation. Good luck to all. God knows that if I had had to submit to such a process, I'd not be picked. Who wants to read about BRazil on a (mostly) American site? 1.0s against v8s? Sheeehshshhshs

    • See 1 previous
    • Marcelo de Vasconcellos Marcelo de Vasconcellos on Jan 26, 2013

      @djn Hey djn, thanks! I'm a little out of that market but sometimes I check out old Fords. I have a thing about them. Everything going fine, I'll probably eventually give in and get one for weekend drives Old Corcel I in perfect shape but with use is anywhere from 25k reais to 40. Maverick v8s I've seen from 40k to 80k. But those are very old cars and not really driven anymore. Below are some Fords still seen on the road in various conditions. From pristine to full out ruined: Old Escorts in perfect condition go for around 25k. In driveable condition I see people regularly asking 10k, but I believe they don't get it. Old DelReys in driving condition anything frm 6 to 10k reais. In perfect condition from 20k to 40.

  • George Herbert George Herbert on Jan 26, 2013

    My two cents on one-liners... It's hard enough to judge writing ability from a paragraph. From just one line? ... Maybe one big poll with a thumbs up/ down per one-liner, and a "none of the above" option, for all the short ones? Or just zap them as not following directions... You did ask for a paragraph or two as I recall...

  • Xidex easier to buy a mustang that already sounds like that. love the coyote growl
  • Oberkanone Shaker motor on an EV. No thanks.
  • Oberkanone Crew Cab 6'4" box, 4x4, BighornInterested in midsize truck from Ram. Our fleet includes fullsize truck as well as Maverick compact and something midsize could replace both. Ram is 1st choice of the current full size offerings, with Ford in 2nd place.
  • EBFlex Nice truck, but it needs a proper engine.
  • SCE to AUX Somehow, I missed your pick for the "right spec".