By on January 25, 2013

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.

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52 Comments on “TTAC Future Writers Week: Help! Help! I’m Drowning!...”

  • avatar

    How much does it pay? What’s the incentive?

    • 0 avatar

      Along the same lines I was wondering about the “job description”, maybe I just missed it. What are the expectations of the future writers? An article a day/week/month? Send one in when you get around to it? Is it a 1hr/week job, or 30hrs/week?

      I had thought about submitting just for fun, I’m a human factors engineer/user experience researcher in the industry- half my job is making the vehicle usable (visibility, reach, comfort, etc) and the other (fun) half is human-machine interaction stuff. Basically, using subliminal trickery to improve the perception of quality, safety, sportiness, etc by tuning sounds, lighting, textures, thermal properties, and so on. I was picturing something a little bit educational along the lines of the LFA/mechanic/car salesman series, but I realistically wouldn’t devote more than an hour or two per week.

  • avatar

    #29 “…was a quiet, gentle giant of a man…” = Yawn. It’s a nice sample but I’m not looking for nice from TTAC.

    #34 “Rays of ice-blue xenon pierced the dense, rain-soaked night…” I’m also not looking for romance or mystery novels from TTAC.

    What I am looking for are Tumultuous Tirades About Cars ((c): me). Hence, for my vote, #32 wins this round.

    As for Bertel’s quandary about how often to hold try-outs… continuously! This voting has been interesting and it’s kinda nice to pick the writer we will likely be reading when taking breaks at work or when relenting to insomnia but I suggest some sort of credentials be included along with a writing sample. Someone could write like Hemmingway but if they haven’t been busting their own knuckles for years on a POS car, or aren’t connected to the industry somehow I doubt I’ll be interested in their flowery mini-novels for more than a month. So what I’m saying is: keep the inbox open perpetually and when you’re bored, read some samples if the credentials are up to snuff.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, bravo 32.. You encompass why I read TTAC in the first place! Best one so far in the contest. 31 also has that TTAC style of humor/relevance. As a TTAC hooked individual I love the way TTAC writers metaphorically describe cars and there attributes.

  • avatar

    Maybe one way to weed this down would be to include a none of the above choice. This way if we didn’t like any of them instead of not voting we could register our choice as none of them made the cut in our minds.

    Just a suggestion.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, there have been a couple days I really wasn’t into any of the samples. But it does let you vote for only a single one.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. I asked for a thumbs down option earlier, but perhaps it would be more efficient to have an ejection vote. Anyone who gets 20 ejections (and it should be possible to vote ejections on a full slate) gets tossed.

      Another way to speed it up would be to bucket them. I suggest: A: Industry guy(you); B: used car/mr. fix it guy (Sanjeev); c: car culture guy (Derek?); d: Racer guy(baruth); E: Dealer guy (Lang/Mercer) Maybe a special bucket for really good writers if one pops up. Then just have one voting per bucket.

  • avatar

    Contestant 32 is the winner, just give him the job already.

    Contestant 34 should stick to sci-fi novels.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t understand how 32 can be an English teacher. “Everyday” should be “every day”. “Pound” is missing an “s”. And the main sentence is a catastrophe. Try reading it aloud:

      “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.”

      • 0 avatar

        Somebody had to teach the rest of us how not to write.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve refrained from responding long enough. You take what you do every single day for 12 hours a day (teaching, tutoring, grading papers, writing curriculum) then tell me that you are going to make a conscious choice to continue the same mentality at home. Writing, raw and unedited, is my chance to unwind, not much different than keeping my thoughts in a Moleskine. Without the glaring hindrance of spelling/grammar checkers, I get to focus on my writing style. Besides, you did not get to read the end of my rant “Gratefully unedited and tapped out on my iPad on my day off.”

  • avatar

    Since you have a pool of eager writers, I think one way top handle this would be to start a subsection called “Amateur Hour” or “Open Mic” and solicit submissions from the readership.

    If you wanted to keep this vote thing going, which is fun and engaging, you could post up snippets of everything you get in one post and let the readers choose which article will be printed. Then, after you do your editorial magic, post the article and move on with your life.

    That way we will always be exposed to something new and possibly unexpected each week.

  • avatar

    I wonder if 32 is a serious entry or just an attempt to appeal to the manly stereotype that spilled out all over the comment section of the VW ad article yesterday…

    I want to read the rest of 34, too. I want to know what the visitor is. I’m guessing zombie or giant alien insectoid.

    • 0 avatar

      Number 32 is more an attempt to appeal to people who enjoy long winded but often pointless rants.

      I think that their votes are largely from entertainment factors, should they win I just hope that they actually write about cars as opposed to…well I can’t even decipher a subject from that post.

  • avatar

    I’d like longer excerpts not shorter. The tiny paragraphs you’ve used are just not enough in most cases to get a sense of the writing.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. More.

      This new-writer concept is entertaining, at least for now. As to the solution for “drowning,” run one new piece per day, with voting of how much the readers liked it. Like a 1-5 or 1-10 scale. NOT Facebook linked, please.

      I don’t expect all stories to resonate with everyone all the time, so I’d allow an averaging of multiple submissions. If their average scores aren’t producing hits, then you’ll know what to do.

  • avatar

    31 not because of Panther, but because I’d like to hear some cop stories and 29. 34 sounded interesting… for a novel.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure I take 32 seriously, but 35. The rest of them all sound like the same guy (who all sound the same as 90% of the other folks who have been voted on), and none of them sound particularly interesting

  • avatar

    #32 seems to have something to prove. My suggestion is therapy.

    Today was a hard day to choose, the quality was very similar among the entries and one notch down overall from yesterday.

    I agree with Ciriya. Most entries sound very familiar to what we are used to reading here. Eagerly waiting for the knights in shining armour who will sweep us away with their writing skills.

    As per what to do with the excessive number of entries:
    – keep the daily vote going for as many days as necessary – I enjoy it. This will result in a high number of winners.
    – ask for a full article from each of the winners, eliminate the ones the editorial staff deems sub-par, and go for a second and final round of voting to select the top whatever number of writers you were aiming for.

  • avatar

    I know that it might be a pain in the ass to do it, but in the interest of fairness to the people who made late submissions I think that they should have the same chance to have a full paragraph sampled of their work and then torn to shreds in the comments section as people who submitted early have enjoyed. Running through them all in a rush over the weekend seems kind of lame to me, espoecially since submissions were still being solicited as late as yesterday. I know the rules are being made up as we go along, but if you have enough submissions to run another week doing the seven samples at a time elimination thing, why not? It’s easy content, right?

    Not only that, but TTAC could miss out on somebody with real talent in the later submissions. I’ve refrained from commenting on other’s writing styles over the last few days, but in general I think that the quality of the submissions has improved, particularly in the last couple of days. We’re seeing real writing about cars and experiences in cars, not resumes and dissertations on distribution and supply networks or whatever. The TTAC community could miss out on some real gems if the later entries are ignored.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, the quality has definitely increased these last couple of days. There are three or four in this group that really stand out, IMO. Depending upon how close the voting ends up, it may be worthwhile to include more than three from this group, especially after Tuesday’s gonging.

      Looking to the future, I’m guessing that many of these writers’ interest will wane over the coming weeks and that life will draw them on to other endeavors. I wonder how many will still be regular contributors in a year…

      Still, this has been a great week on TTAC as far as I am concerned. I know my own involvement in the site has tripled since this started.

  • avatar

    Can’t fool me, #30 is really Sajeev trying to double-dip.

    #31 is really Sajeev trying to triple-dip.

  • avatar

    Contestant 32’s ****ing honesty seems to be paying off.

  • avatar

    “high school English” got plurals, hyphens and “everyday” wrong.

  • avatar


    Can you actually publish some of these articles/stories in their entirety? I for one would like to know what it is like to drive an Elise, and learn if it really is a torture rack. I know thoughts, feelings, and impressions are relative, but I would like to read reviews of (used) fun cars that I always wanted.

  • avatar

    I think that people read this site because we (usually) trust you as an editor. You should absolutely be willing to take a first pass and weed folks out. There is no reason to publish everything you get.

    I would rather read fewer, longer excerpts by people selected by the TTAC team than read a ton of short snippets, of which at least half are not seriously in the running.

  • avatar

    A good rule of thumb in hiring is “does this person raise the average around here?” If not, then just say no quickly and move on.

  • avatar

    Only the 29 and 31 were really any good to me, they weren’t the most exciting (and I’m getting very sick of panther entries) but they weren’t overly self-indulgent, and 31 was actually about cars!

    Why do so little of these entries actually pick a car and stick with it?
    This is TTAC! Not some comment section to brag about your rusty Nissan pick-up, nor to rant about yourself being “An Englishman”.

    Its as if people hate to talk about cars or something.

  • avatar

    I’m thinking that all of this testosterone may be getting to our heads; TTAC *really* needs a female writer or two…

  • avatar

    It doesn’t surprise me that Bertel is inundated with entries. Any self-respecting fan of ttac would welcome an opportunity to write an article, even for gratis!

    Now that the Inbox is closed, I believe that we (all) should muddle through the as-yet unpublished entries with Bertel and vote.

    If someone takes the time to enter the competition, we should respect their time and effort and give them equal consideration. They deserve an up or down vote!

    And so the early bird gets the worm. Those who entered early get consideration, and the fence sitters who delayed entering missed an opportunity to be considered. Better luck next time.

  • avatar

    Were some entries not presented? I entered, but don’t see my entry put up for a vote. I’m thinking the TTAC email system may have not transmitted my entry because I let it sit overnight to allow a final edit before sending.

    Oh well, guess I need to await the next contest . . . .

  • avatar

    Drat – I was one of the late entries. I’ll be ready next time.

  • avatar

    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

    • 0 avatar

      I do. I’m waiting for your article on outrageous prices for JK’s, Willys Aero’s and Opalas.


      • 0 avatar

        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.

  • avatar

    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…

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