By on January 26, 2013

Friday – thank God – was a great day in TTAC’s Future Writers Week. It definitely was a lot better than Dud-Tuesday. The readers loved what the Friday round of writers wrote. The winners were separated by just a few votes, always a good sign of an exciting race. My favorite came in 4th, which again proves that my tastes are totally removed from the mainstream. And the winners are:

  • Jeremiah Cayce , a.k.a. Contestant #32
  • Jeff Snavely, a.k.a. Contestant #35
  • Thomas M Kreutzer, a.k.a. Contestant #29

My personal favorite David “Dukeboy” Hester did not make the podium, probably due to blatant discrimination against LEOs. I have a thing for cops, except when they pull me over, and I declare Dukeboy TTAC’s first Editor’s choice. With that, TTAC’s Future Writers Week ends with 13 new TTAC writers, selected and elected by a very tough audience from 35 contestants. Would there not be one nasty problem …

I am drowning in many more contestants. We have gone through less than half of what is in my inbox. Yesterday, I asked for your advice in that matter.

I did read all your recommendations. You tell me that you want this contest to go on. I need to reconcile this with the fact that I also want to write about other things, and that (you did notice that the writing gig will be pro bono, did you?) I definitely do not have the budget to hire that special TTAC Future Writers Editor. I also want to do something else than dig through old Apprentice UK YouTube videos.

So here is what will happen: I do another round today. Maybe, I will do another round tomorrow, after I have returned from a fact-finding mission that will prove once and for all and with pictures, that Japan is NOT a closed market for imports, and that, as a matter of fact, one can find parking lots full of imported cars with not a single Japanese car in sight, right here in downtown Tokyo. Don’t believe? Come back tomorrow for a new round of TTAC’s Future Writers, and for the definitive photo report on the wide open closed market that is Japan.

EVEN THEN we will still have masses of unchecked contestants in my hopper. Those will be presented to you throughout the year, in the now familiar format, and you can select them in the now familiar format throughout the year. Meaning: A round of voting maybe once a week, or once every two weeks, possibly. But no more new entries, please.

Amca and Jif, you are confused: I said no more new submissions. If you have sent in yours before, I should have them. If you haven’t seen them show up, then they must be in the huge backlog, and they will be judged – eventually. As a penance for not paying attention, you must read TTAC throughout the year to check for when your number is up.

As for the repeated calls for female writers: I heard and hear you. They will be chosen according to a completely new evaluation scheme: You bring them. I pick them. Then, Frau Schmitto-san will go through what I picked. Frau Schmitto-san is a designer and will want pictures.


The TTAC Future Writers – Saturday 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 36 writes:

“103 miles. 103 miles of ¬ba-bump-ba-bump concrete interstate, tires droning beneath uninsulated floor pans, a rattling rear door, and a squeaky passenger visor. This veritable symphony of automotive maladies lulls me into a semiconscious daze as I travel up and down I-16 during both of my daily 51.5 mile trips to and from work. There are a handful of small stretches of smooth pavement that do offer a brief respite, allowing the radio to drown out the road noise without making the speakers rattle. The only thought that enters my mind from the time I leave work until the time I arrive home is a simple four word phrase: I hate my car. It wasn’t always this way, though. I test drove it four times before trading in my silver 2004 Crown Victoria LX on a brand new 2008 Toyota Rav4 Sport V6. I know, I know… Panther blasphemy.”


Contestant 37 writes:

“You know you should like it. It may be a few years old, but it’s maturity, not decline. The ticker reads a number only attainable after many years of faithful service, but somehow that doesn’t show when you fire it up. It turns over effortlessly; the engine fires up willingly; the engine quickly settles into a gentle purr. It’s a Toyota – a Corolla – and it shows it. It was built to last, and last it will. Shift it into gear, and you are under way. Fifteen triple-digit summers and fifteen oil-congealing winters have done little to lessen the quality of the ride, and yet the car is soon forgotten. Your heart quietens and relaxes; your breathing slows. All you see is the traffic in front of you; all you feel is this empty feeling inside. How could it be that someone designed and built this car to be forgettable?”


Contestant 38 writes:

“I won it on eBay in 2008, between Christmas and New Years, during a moment when the stock market was in the toilet and most people were more worried about paying for presents than buying things for themselves. No one was buying cars, certainly not little, overpriced ones, which is why I snuck up and sniped a 2006 BMW 325 xiT station wagon, real fly in tan leather, burled wood and arctic silver paint (you know, the shade that looks blue or grey depending on the sun, the angle, and the mood of the observer. It’s like a mood car).”


Contestant 39 writes:

“Jeff called while I was watching the Ed Sullivan Show. He was my best friend but it was odd for him call on a Sunday night. (As eighth-graders in 1968, it was unusual for any of us to call our friends except to see if they were available to “do something” at that moment, and we never did anything on Sunday nights.) Jeff liked to take his parents’ 1967 Saab 96 around the block when they were gone and, that evening, overshot the turn onto his street, jumping the ditch and landing in his next-door neighbor’s front yard. After repeatedly killing the engine while attempting to get traction, he managed to exit the yard. As this was a two-cycle three cylinder Saab that sounded like a chain saw when revved, Jeff assumed the neighbors, or the police, would soon be paying a visit.”


Contestant 40 writes:

“While the NAIAS was going on, there was a much more significant auto show in Scottsdale at the Barrett Jackson Auction. As someone who actually doesn’t care much for most classic cars, let’s face it, Packard’s are not pretty, nor is the Mercedes-Benz gullwing, sorry. Plus I like comfort, seatbelts and navigation. The auction is one of few enjoyable things to watch now that the football season is ending. At the auction, we saw automotive failures that are now successes and designs that can no longer exist because of safety and fuel standards. It also shows a bygone era of when cars were built by trial, entrepreneurship, design flair, and whimsy rather than by computers. It also proves how important design is (i.e. the Mustang), in that all you need to do is get it right once, and then just modernize the style. There’s a reason why design is so important: once it works, it will last forever.”


Contestant 41 writes:

“I have always been drawn to oddball cars. Growing up in Vancouver during the early 90s, we were privy to a host of automotive delights which were never available to our neighbours to the south. The mixture of Cold War ambivalence, Canadian frugality and the then largely non-existent emissions regulations ensured that there was a constant stream of cheap and reasonably cheerful offerings in the used car markets. A 1986 Skoda Estelle you say? Done that. A Lada Niva? Been there. Three mid-80s Hyundai Ponies in rapid succession? Pleaaaase.”


Contestant 42 writes:

“The Obamobile will be like no vehicle you’ve ever owned before. First, the good news. It will get much better fuel economy than the less hopeful, less changed competition, and it will belch fewer pollutants into the air. More good news – it weighs less than vehicles lacking the refinement of the Obamobile. Now for the bad news. It weighs less than vehicles lacking the refinement of the Obamobile. There will be a minor period of adjustment until the ordinary vehicles are gone from our roads during which, if your Obamobile collides with an older, less nuanced vehicle, it collapses into a box roughly shaped like a coffin. But there’s a silver lining, citizen. You can be buried in your Obamobile, and there will be one less burial option your survivors will have to dicker over at the funeral home.”



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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22 Comments on “TTAC’s Future Writers Week Draws To An End...”

  • avatar

    Hooray for Dukeboy, for whom I also voted. I won’t tell you who received my other vote.

    Thanks to everyone your support and/or your lack of hurtful comments. You’ve made my life complete.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, I see you made it, tmkreutzer. A heartfelt congrats.

      The latest crop of entries also brought out the feeling that I wanted to read more from them. But I reluctantly voted for just two. It was tough. It was tough to decide on all of them.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks – The voting is going to be even tighter this time. There are some really good choices up there.

        Up to this point, all my votes have ended up at the top of the list, but this time around I haven’t got a clue. These guys all brought their guns to the gunfight and they appear to know how to use them.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks, and congrats right back to you.

      – Dave

  • avatar

    How much does it pay? What are the incentives and benefits?

    These are the only questions I ever ask about anything…

  • avatar

    Sweet! Thanks, Bertel, and I look forward to getting not- paid for the privilege of being publicly crucified by the Best and Brightest for my opinions in the comments section about cars over the coming weeks and months.

    In all seriousness, I’ve had the daydream of being an auto journalist since my dad bought me my first issues of Car and Driver long before Al Gore invented the internets and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Thanks to the B&B who threw a vote to “Contestant 31” yesterday. I appreciate your confidence and will aim to please or at least annoy in an entertaining way.

    I await my first assignment and the subsequent blown deadline.

    – Dave

  • avatar

    re Contestant 41, I thought Derek K. already wrote for you guys.

  • avatar

    36 and 41

  • avatar

    To Contestant No. 42: making your snippet a political one probably wasn’t the best-possible exercise in maximizing votes. But, hey, it is what it is, right?

  • avatar

    Good entries today. Liked many and can we please read the rest of #39? I want to know what happened!

  • avatar

    I gotta tell ya – I’m afeared of the way this entire call for writers thing was handled. I hope this isn’t jump the shark time for TTAC.

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t worry about this being a point where TTAC jumps the shark. The whole thing is like a TV network putting up a bunch of new shows. Some will be hits, some will be also-rans and maybe a few will even be flops. But in general it should be a positive thing. The more choices here, the more chances to find something you like.

      The worst thing that could happen is that all us new guys suck and end up getting dumped, which just leaves your old favorites.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not saying that all you guys suck but IF the case ends up being that the new writers are not worth reading for me (or another reader), we’ll experience the downside of the WordPress platform: it’s hard to skip things you’re not interested in, and to find things you are interested in.

        WordPress limitations? The categories and tags are inconsistent, only 15 articles per (long!) page (even by tag or category), there is no proper search and Google searching is not effective due to the comments (which are included in the search).

        Let’s hope that the writers work out so that these problems don’t get bigger.

  • avatar

    38# ‘snuck’ is just a lousy word; the perfectly serviceable ‘sneaked’ has been there and working well forever.

    “It’s like a mood car.”? Does that mean it’s similar to a mood car? What it’s like is a mood ring. Better to simply coin the new term and write a simple, powerful declarative sentence: “It’s a mood car”.

  • avatar

    I was the dude from #39 my old best friend told the story about. There was a bit more. It was still light out and the neighbors had put fresh sod in. Next day there was sod every where from me spinning tires. The next day my dad asked me about some fresh grass in between the rim and the tire. I was 14 and said mom must of done it. Dad let it slide, that was close! Also the next day a teacher gave me a ride home. We told him and he just shook his head as we drove by the next door nieghbors home.

  • avatar

    I can’t help but notice that the votes are highest at the top of the list and lowest at the bottom with a roughly linear decay. Does this happen on all the votes? Does Bertel stack the deck by putting his favourites on the top? I also liked Dukeboy’s submission, and think having a cops viewpoint on the site will be very entertaining.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t speak for Bertel, but he has written in every post so far that he is posting these in the exact order in which they were received. I take that at face value.

      I will also say that, in my own case at least, I submitted a complete article with maybe two dozen paragraphs. My snippet was the very first paragraph in the article and, in my own opinion, it was not the strongest part of the article. The strongest parts were:

      “The years passed and the big Honda suffered as it sat semi exposed to the elements behind the house. The hard plastic saddle bags filled with water and their once bright red felt linings rotted away. The seat split and its orange foam spilled out into the elements where it eventually hardened and chipped away little by little. Chrome parts pitted, then rusted and the once shiny paint faded to a dull hopeless looking shade of black. Generations of spiders made their homes in the various nooks and crannies of the bike and their webs collected still further debris. Tires went hard and cracked with age while grass grew up through the spokes only to wither and die at the end of each season.

      Each spring the process repeated itself and eventually the bike sat there so long that it ceased to be a vehicle and became a part of the house and yard. As we kids lived out our childhoods and grew into adulthood, the idea that the bike had itself once been a running, moving thing slipped away from our conscious minds and our own brief obsession with it faded from memory. At least until the day I brought home my own motorcycle.”

      So, I believe it when Bertel writes about being overwhelmed with responses. I think he has so much on his plate that he is bailing water out of the boat almost as fast as it comes in. He certainly didn’t offer me any special help, I think it was just dumb luck that put me at the top of Friday’s list of snippets.

      The lessons I learned from this exercise were:

      1: Be more focused and instead of submitting an entire article and leaving the choices up to the boss, cut to the chase and send your strongest from the get-go.

      2: Think about the audience and pander to them. Even if your normal storytelling style is a little more gentle and nuanced, understand that people on TTAC (at least) want less pith and more vinegar. Style has won over substance at least a couple of times in this contest.

      I was lucky I got in with what I submitted. If I ever do something like this again, I’ll bring my heavy weapons to the gun fight right from the start.

      • 0 avatar

        Always, always start with your best paragraph.

        Old writers trick: Start writing, then throw the first paragraph away. If you are new at writing, you may need to throw the first three away, even if the story has only three paragraphs.

        Old writer’s trick 2: Rewrite, or “noodle” as we call it in the biz.


  • avatar

    PS: The entries ARE in the order they came in.

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