The Best Writers

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The Best Writers

Post by Two Handed Engine » Sat May 10, 2008 12:14 am

There was a lot of negativity in the “Problems with Packets” thread that was started in the wake of ACF Nationals. Now that that’s passed, we, the two editors of ACF Nationals that saw it through from beginning to end, thought we’d recognize the best active writers on the circuit and provide our thoughts. To be clear, our definition of active was based on a vague notion of volume/significance combined with some arbitrary decision making. We did this somewhat on a lark, but also to promote discussion. Basically, we ranked people until we could think of no one else to rank, then created an “honorable mention” section to list and talk about people who, even if they’re not ranked, deserve recognition. The ranking itself is a composite of each of our lists, and the way we ranked each writer personally is listed above what we had to say. Our qualifications are dubious, but our intent is good. Take what’s said here seriously, or with a grain of salt.

1. Matt Keller

K’s Rank: 1
W’s Rank: 2

K: When we talk about the “best” active writers, we have to consider pyramidality, appropriate answer selection, and, at least to some extent, reliability. There are several writers who excel in one or two of these areas, but I can think of no one who excels more consistently in all three than Matt Keller. As a player I am always impressed with his questions, and as an editor I appreciate that his questions are always both of good quality and delivered punctually. By claiming that he’s the best active writer on the circuit I am certainly not saying he’s perfect; everyone produces some bad questions or submits things a day or two late. But when I see a packet with questions by Matt Keller, I know I can expect a certain measure of quality, and I think we’ll all miss that when he retires.

W: Surehanded writer who has produced a lot of solid stuff for a lot of tournaments. Plus he knows about all manner of SCIENCE, and it's tough to overrate that. Not sure I have much more to say here, and that's probably an indication of how few bones there are to pick with what Matt has produced.

2. Ryan Westbrook

K’s Rank: 2
W’s Rank: 1

K: We all know that Ryan has a reputation for being loose with difficulty standards. There are some writers whom we can impugn for writing difficult questions out of ignorance of what is really askable. Ryan is not one of them. It is true that Ryan will occasionally write a question for a mainstream tournament that pushes the envelope too far, but the difficulty of his ACF sets has been by and large right on. Ryan’s questions are both clue-dense and pyramidal, and important as well is his ability to create such questions in almost any subject area. He may slip up on occasion, which is why I put him second, but having worked with him on nationals I can say that he’s a good addition to any editing team.

W:Yeah, that's right, I'd rank myself first...so suck it. Well, really, it's probably just a reflection of the fact that I prefer my style and method of writing to anyone else's...and of course I do, that's why it's my chosen style. Like K says, pyramidality/answer selection/reliability are key here - but to some extent, I should admit that a lot of these rankings inevitably come down to mere preference in style. You know what you're going to get with me...I own a summer home on the edge of the canon and sometimes I'm going to board my yacht and drift a little far out on Lake Crazytown when it comes to difficulty, but c'est la vie. Of, if that
line's old by now - think of me as a crafty left-handed pitcher who likes to spend the whole game nibbling at the corners of the canon and, if you give me the strike call out there, I'll just keep going farther out on you. Okay, enough of that. Anyway, for this rating and this rating alone, I should be clear that I'm also factoring in personality, keen wit, and aptitude at logarithmically comparing the hotness of female celebrities to that of Anne Hathaway.

3. Jerry Vinokurov

K’s Rank: 3
W’s Rank: 4

K: The singles event Jerry wrote for the 2006 Illinois Open was unquestionably one of my favorite tournament experiences. I love Jerry’s questions because often his answer choices, however eclectic and/or overly difficult, appeal to my tastes, and Jerry is one of the only people I personally would trust to head edit ACF Nationals. Honestly, though, I’d rather stick with the multiple editors model because specialists who write well are going to produce better questions than generalists whose perspectives are, in many cases, colored extensively by the personal biases that have led to their particular knowledge within any given subject. At higher levels Jerry allows himself more than others to indulge those biases, and while I enjoy that as a player, as an editor it can be quite troublesome.

W: Jerry presents quite a head/heart battle for me. On the one hand, I think that his questions tend not to be as technically sound as others (like Teitler) in terms of pyramidality and clue selection. On the other hand, his answer selection is fantastic and he writes, in my opinion at least, probably the most interesting and enjoyable questions to play on in the game. Whenever I play a Jerry packet, I feel confident that I'm going to hear something exciting come up, no matter what the level is, and I'm rarely disappointed. People who criticize Jerry's writing might say that he's like a bull in a china shop, in that he's often not particularly confined to the constraints of a tournament, but I rather like that wildness factor.

4. Seth Teitler

K’s Rank: 4
W’s Rank: 6

K: Seth Teitler seems in many ways to be a foil to Jerry—they are both skilled generalists who can write pretty good questions on just about any subject, but in Seth’s case, he tends to play it safe. My comments on generalists apply here again, and as I would Jerry, I’d trust Seth to produce a good ACF nationals set. There’s certainly a lot to be said for Seth’s grasp of the canon and measured execution, but from the questions I have seen in my personal areas of expertise, that safety also results in questions that I feel like I’ve seen before. Seth writes questions that are, by and large, unquestionably pyramidal and that reward players/teams with superior knowledge. But generally I don’t get the thrill that comes with hearing a really original question, and at the highest level that’s something I value.

W: Yep, and Teitler presents the flip side of the above head/heart battle. On the one hand, it's nigh impossible to fault him for lack of pyramidality or clue placement; he has tremendous knowledge of lots of subjects and his questions are always well-structured, clear, concise, and provide for good gameplay. On the other hand, his questions sometimes strike me as being plain and unimaginative and his cut-straight-to-the-chase style of writing sometimes comes off as too simplistic for me. Also, I think he's one of those people (and there a few) who sometimes suffer from a love of writing on very accessible answers, on the theory that there are lots of good clues for those types of answers, and I don't think that approach works as often as others think it does. I should be clear though - I think qb needs writers like Teitler just as surely as it needs writers like Jerry - it gets tedious when everything feels the same stylistically.

5. Eric Kwartler

K’s Rank: 5
W’s Rank: 3

K: My writing career is certainly not beyond reproach—after all, I was once thrown under a bus for a tournament I “produced.” That being said, as Ryan said earlier, one is partial to one’s own methods and style. I’m certainly not going to rank myself above Jerry and Seth, because I think the ability to singlehandedly edit a nationals-level tournament trumps anything I’ve got (even though I still prefer specialists to generalists). When it comes to writing literature and arts questions, though, I can get the job done.

W: Of course, Eric's major drawback is that he's mostly limited to literature and fine arts and (as with others in this list) it's difficult to decide how to factor that in. I'm happy with him at 3 because the stuff he does write is typically deep, dense, and clue-packed...very much in line with my preferred style. The time I've spent working with him on stuff has shown me that he does a good job at researching and using sources, and is both careful and knowledgeable with clue placement. He probably suffers from some procrastination issues, leading to him having to fight off some buses, and sometimes I think his difficulty gauge is strange but this is a rather minor issue.

6. Jonathan Magin

K’s Rank: 6
W’s Rank: 5

K: Jonathan Magin turned a lot of people’s heads with his 2007 lit singles tournament, which was lauded by many (including myself) as the best tournament they’d played in a long time. That being said, the literature questions he submits still inordinately reflect his personal biases, and while we all have agendas, it seems that, whether consciously or not, Magin is more influenced by his own than most. Certainly we all write questions that people in the know can spot as ours from a mile away, but when I see a packet by Maryland A, I know what to expect, which shouldn’t be the case. Don’t get me wrong; I wish everyone were as skilled a literature writer as Jonathan Magin--but once you reach this level of skill, the biggest barrier left to overcome is the temptation to be self-indulgent.

W: Once again, here we have someone who is limited to certain types of questions. I think Magin shocked us all by busting onto the scene and writing an incredibly good literature tournament, proving in the process that he is a friend of the pyramidal question. With Magin, probably the most important thing is that you're sure that he writes for the right reason - as much as anyone in the game, he is intellectually interested in writing on and learning about important things and getting better, and it shows.

7. Andrew Hart

K’s Rank: 7
W’s Rank: 7

K: If someone had told me three years ago that in 2008 someone from the University of Minnesota would be head editor of ACF Fall, I would have laughed in his or her face. The impending departure of the old guard has led to a few people of dubious skill or commitment being called “the future of quizbowl” in the last couple of years, but I think none of us can question that it applies to Andrew Hart. Of course, his thoughts on difficulty inevitably reflect his relative youth, and his questions sometimes have clue order problems because he hasn’t been around as long as many of the rest of us. But he’s willing to learn, and he’s not too proud to ask for help when he needs it. By the end of his career, Andrew may be at the top of this list. But he isn’t there yet.

W: I think that Hart's major limiting factor in this ranking is his relative youth, and that's certainly not a bad thing. I get the sense that he's in the process of feeling out how to best write stuff, and that's a process you have to go through, find a style and method that you like and that allows you to produce good stuff. Experience also helps one gain an intuitive sense of what's come up, what hasn't, what should, what shouldn't, etc. I don't really have any substantive complaints about Hart's writing, as all of the stuff I've seen from him has been really solid and well executed; I suspect that he'll grow into a dominant writing force.

8. Eric Mukherjee

K’s Rank: 10
W’s Rank: 8

K: Eric Mukherjee’s rise to the player and writer he is today was nothing short of meteoric, but he still has a ways to go. Obviously, Eric’s specialty is science, a rare and valued commodity, but as a result his efforts in other areas are still falling somewhat short. That being said, the reason you have to like Eric Mukherjee from an editor’s point of view is that he tries really hard 100% of the time to produce the best packet possible. As a result, he pays attention not only to the quality of the questions but also to how they relate to each other, which makes the editors’ job much, much easier.

W: I think the overriding reason why both K and I have ranked Mukherjee above a few others in this poll is that, from what I've seen at least, he is really careful and deliberate with his question writing. He spends a lot of time making sure that clues are where they're supposed to be and that all of the information provided is helpful, not misleading, etc. In order to move up, he'll likely need to expand his repertoire into other subjects.

9. Matt Weiner

K’s Rank: 8
W’s Rank: 10

K: I want to start by saying that Matt Weiner is the only person on this list who is indispensable to quizbowl. The circuit needs someone who, if nothing else, can produce large quantities of questions very quickly and is willing to do the jobs no one else wants to do. That being said, one of my biggest problems with Weiner is that he is the #1 violator of Weiner’s Rule #1. He comes up with crazy ideas and, while I’m not as against common link tossups as some others, Weiner goes overboard. Additionally, he really believes that at ACF Nationals, anything goes for the third part of a bonus. What really bothers me, though, is that he just isn’t that careful with his questions. They’re often good, but I really value people who are meticulous with their writing, and Weiner is not that.

W: Weiner is the Gilbert Arenas volume shooter of qb writing, there's no doubt, and there's no doubt that quizbowl needs volume shooters. He pumps out ridiculous amounts of questions in his sleep, usually of quite high quality and good pyramidality, and that's incredibly valuable. Aside from his oft-discussed overreliance on the common link tossup, Weiner has a difficulty gauge that perplexes the crap out of me, but I suspect our differences there have to do with the environments in which we were introduced to the game. This observation aside, Weiner's questions often have a rushed feel to them, a quantity-over-quality impression, that is sort of the opposite of Mukherjee and Magin writing for isntance. Nonetheless, he is an insanely valuable writing resource with lots of knowledge and experience, and an ability to write on anything but science..."what's that guys, we need a science editor?, okay don't panic...no wait, panic,
panic now, what are we going to do, AAAARGH!"

10. Chris Frankel

K’s Rank: 9
W’s Rank: 8

K: Frankel is probably the best technical writer on this list. That being said, the great fuckouts of 2005 and 2008 certainly knock him way down. While he is a great arts editor, Frankel writes questions on what he thinks people should know, not what they do know. For instance, Renzo Piano isn’t tossupable because A) Frankel has never heard of him, so obviously no one knows him and he doesn’t matter, and B) Anyone who’s still alive is current events/trash, not arts. Of course, a tossup on Delibes’ Sylvia is right in line. We’re all tempted to let our prejudices come through in our question. Thing is, Frankel doesn’t just give in to that temptation—he earnestly believes that he’s done nothing wrong.

W: Frankel's most glaring downside is that he's a neverending source of drama when it comes to qb writing...legitimate medical crises aside, his reliability has proven itself a serious question mark. Also, as perhaps best exposed by his CO history tournament, he has a tendency to be transparent with his questions, which is not helped by his typically uncreative answer selection instincts. That said, noone can doubt his ability to write very pyramidal questions with important and relevant clues.

11. Mike Sorice

K’s Rank: 11
W’s Rank: 11

K: Mike Sorice is tough to rank. On the one hand he has been plagued by super late submissions in many of his tournament efforts, leading one possibly to undervalue his pure skill; on the other hand, his submissions are often late, his grammar and spelling are really problematic, and, like Weiner, his questions (aside from science) are often just not that carefully constructed. Mike’s a good writer, and while I don’t think he’s up with Jerry and Seth, he is capable of editing most academic subjects. I just think that, for one reason or another, he’s built a somewhat poor reputation for himself, and he hasn’t really done much lately to fix that.

W: As much as Seth Teiter, Mike's general writing style is the polar opposite of mine, so the usual
caveats apply here. I think his lower ranking in the cadre of elite writers being ranked here stems from his writing often having that Weiner-esque rushed feel, a lack of carefulness which sometimes bleeds into grammar issues and sentence structure issues...sure, we're not in Romero land here, but Sorice questions sometimes make me feel as though I've been tossed on a choppy ocean. Plus, he seems to suffer from bouts of procrastination and reliability issues at times. Even so, Sorice is a science master (have I stressed how key that is yet?) and someone with a great command of which clues belong where. I'm just left with a persistent feeling that his writing isn't what it could be.

12. Charles Meigs

K’s Rank: 12
W’s Rank: 12

K: Charles Meigs’ skill at writing history and geography questions solidly gets him onto this list. Obviously his serious knowledge of both subjects allows him to construct questions that, at least mostly, use relevant and appropriate clues. That being said, having tremendous amounts of knowledge does not necessarily make you a fantastic writer. Sometimes, Charles’ questions are on really hard things or use clues that no one but he knows, because Charles’ knowledge doesn’t really come from studying old questions. It’s just there. Similarly, when writing on things he knows little about, he’s more prone to pyramidality issues. I enjoy Charles’ questions and he’s an obviously capable writer. But he’s not the best.

W: This evaluation of Charles Meigs' writing is brought to you by the letters K, Q, and Z - because his Central Asian-biased questions contain a greater density of those letters than anyone else on the circuit could possibly muster. This is a long way of getting at the issue that Charles can sometimes be a little self-indulgent (gasp!) with his writing and prone to including lengthy inside jokes and labyrinthine witticisms, both at times when such indulgence is appropriate and at times when it's less appropriate. He's also somewhat prone to clue ordering and difficulty issues, most of which stem from the fact that he knows a shit-ton about geography and history, while his writing outside of those areas is less foundationally secure. Nonetheless, he is an entertaining and quite capable writer (as everyone on this list obviously is, I hope I've made clear).

Honorable Mention

Susan Ferrari

K: As part of the Chicago team, Susan is, presumably, partly responsible for their submissions, which are usually pretty good. While I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a question I knew to be Susan’s, she’s made it clear that she knows how to write good questions. Maybe if I had more to go off of I’d be able to rank her more conclusively.

W: Everything which I can conclusively trace to Susan has been really well written. And while at one point she might have been fairly confined in terms of subject matter, I don't think that's true at all anymore. I suspect that, if she were ever to undertake a substantial writing/editing project, I'd be persuaded to rank her at the top end of this poll.

Trygve Meade

K: There’s no question that Trygve tries really hard. He’s worked extensively on several tournaments, which means something even if those tournaments left something to be desired. Trygve’s problem is that he just doesn’t have a good enough grasp on the canon, which is a lot easier to fix than issues with question writing fundamentals. He’s got a lot of potential, and I’m sure that once he gets a little more experience he’ll be good enough to be ranked properly.

W: An up and coming star on the writing horizon, Trygve's proven himself very willing to write and that's more than half the battle (paging qb's most tragically undermined resource Matt Lafer). Anyway, Trygve's stuff seems quite promising too, and he'll only get better.

Chris Ray

K: Well, Chris Ray has answer selection issues. It’s possible that his problem lies in his misguided focus on high school rather than collegiate mACF quizbowl, which is a problem I believe he is ready to rectify. We’ll see how this goes when he edits TIT in the fall.

W: Just for allegedly being the source of that Battle of Tondibi tossup submitted to nats, I give him five stars. Chris is clearly someone with question writing experience and skill, and it will be exciting to see what he can do upon turning his attention more fully to the collegiate mACF game.

Selene Koo

K: I really don’t have much to say about Selene. Most of my comments on Susan’s writing apply again here. I’m sure Selene is a good writer, but I can’t trace enough questions directly back to her to make any informed comments.

W: It's harder for me to trace the elusive yellow-tailed Selene Koo question than the more distinctively marked Susan Ferrari question. But, yeah, she's part of that Chi machine and they write good stuff - I know she's helped out with a handful of tournaments, and I've never noticed anything by her to be of subpar quality. I suspect she can write bio and chem with a power unmatched and all the tossups on the Fries Rebellion you might desire.

Ted Gioia

K: Ted Gioia, with help from several other writers mentioned here, produced a high school lit singles tournament this year that was pretty good. He also apparently wrote a good chunk of Harvard’s ACF Nationals packet, including stuff that I edited, and that, while not top notch, was also pretty decent. Ted seems open to criticism, and he has a lot of potential, so I’m sure as his college career progresses he’ll become as good a writer as any on the circuit.

W: I don't know a whole lot here. From all appearances, Ted is someone with a very solid grasp of clues at the lower end of the difficulty ladder, and I'd imagine that makes him capable enough, evidence his solid lit singles.

Matt Nance

K: Matt’s grasp of technical writing principles is very good. The fact that we felt confident enough in his abilities to ask for his help on the music questions for nationals is enough to justify including him here. He’s not rankable, but his skill is worth recognition.

W: Helped out with nats, did a fine job with his stuff, or so I hear. Seems to be reasonably apt in his areas. Eh, don't really know too much here.

Charlie Dees

K: Charlie Dees hasn’t worked on any college tournaments (probably because he isn’t in college yet), but that will certainly change. We’re recognizing Dees here because of his potential to become a great writer very easily once he starts focusing on the college game. It may be a while before Dees gets to the big time, but he will eventually.

W: See Trygve, except younger. Quite a bit younger. Perhaps it's even too early to rank Charlie here, but he's one of those people who seems to be in this show for the long haul. He reads packets, writes questions, and bathes himself in the mythos of the collegiate circuit...even though it's populated by scary "adult males." In any case, the stuff I've seen him write is very carefully done and bodes well for the future.

Stanford

K: We don’t really have any way to tell which member of the Stanford team wrote/edited which questions for Cardinal Classic and ACF Nationals, so we’re just going to recognize their overall effort. Stanford managed to create a set that appropriately differentiated between the excellent teams present at Cardinal Classic, and they submitted a nationals packet that, while it had its problems, was in the end pretty good. It’s nice to have another program out there that is capable of this level of writing/editing.

W: Yeah, I can't even begin to differentiate between members of the Stanford club in terms of writing, and my midwest bias doesn't help much. But, Cardinal Classic was competent and their nats packet was pretty good over several different areas, so we should at least recognize that they seem to be doing something right. Along with Minnesota, they are a club which shows some great upside in being able to produce/edit stuff.

Rob Carson and Gautam Kandlikar

K: While Andrew Hart has done much more editing/writing on his own, it seems that he ropes Rob and Gautam in whenever he can. From what we’ve seen, this has worked well. I’m excited to have them on the team for ACF Fall next year, during which I’m sure they’ll distinguish themselves.

W: I think we're mentioning them together for now as part of the exciting Minnesota renaissance, but they'll soon distinguish themselves plenty, as Minnesota promises to pump out all sorts of stuff in the next few years. Minnesota really did submit a great nats packet, even if it was incomplete, and there were a few questions which were especially well-done. They have the advantage of having a young group of people who can work on things together, and both Rob and Gautam have shown that they're gaining a feel for clue placement, canonicity, etc.

Dennis Jang

K: Dennis did a very good job with ACF Fall last year, including sticking around to the end to help with logistics, and he was part of the team that produced the generally lauded EFT 2. Thing is, his actual writing/editing obligation for Fall was (like that of the rest of the editors) very limited, and we don’t know how to distinguish Dennis’ questions from those written by others for EFT 2 and packets submitted by Brown since. I’m totally sure Dennis is a good writer, and he’s going to be working on ACF Winter, but it’s going to be hard to rank him until we get a better idea of what he’s really capable of.

W: Rumor has it Dennis is a good writer, and with Jerry riding you like Vishnu on Garuda, how could you not be...oops, Hinduism refs are for DE. Anyway, Dennis seems to have a good handle on proper answer selection and clue selection. Like a lot of honorable mentions, he just hasn't created a body of material that allows any sort of conclusive impression of his writing to be formed, but he seems to be a potentially quite capable ACF contributor.

Trevor Davis

K: When I read Trevor Davis’ ACF Fall submission, I immediately said, “This person should edit this tournament next year.” Trevor will, in fact, be editing ACF Fall next year, and I’m sure he’ll do a good job. His submissions have been very good considering his relative inexperience, so I’m sure as he gets more experience he’ll only get better.

W: Yep, see what K said about him. We'll see the power of his blade in the near future.

Ahmad Ragab

K: Ahmad is a good writer, but he has two main problems. First, his answer selection can be a little NAQTastic. Some of his tossups are on things that are only pseudo-academic. Second, he can go way off the deep end on difficulty sometimes. Nonetheless, he’s a really nice guy and he makes a real effort to produce high quality packets and tournaments, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t recognize his contribution.

W: Minus some apparent NAQT influence on his style, Ahmad has stealthily "strongarmed" himself into a reasonably apt writer in the midst of a region not exactly overflowing with such fruits. He's certainly done his best to subtract an N from Sun N'Fun(n) All in all, he seems determined to improve himself and provide the best stuff he can, and his answer choices are sometimes really exciting, but then I enjoy fourth-tier social science obscurata a little more than most.

Paul Gauthier

K: All my information on Paul Gauthier I’ve gotten from Matt Keller, who has shown me some of Paul’s questions and told me a bit about his strengths. From what I’ve seen and heard, Paul is a capable writer in his areas. He’s leaving Vanderbilt after this year, but I hope wherever he goes he continues to write.

W: The other half of the Vandy duo, I've heard he's capable enough in his areas. Like others in this section, it seems hardly appropriate not to mention him, given the role he's played in packets submitted by Vandy.

Jeremy Hixson

K: Jeremy Hixson certainly tries hard to be a good writer, but his difficulty gauge at times really can be off the reservation. Additionally, he has a problem with letting his classics background influence his question topics. A Jeremy Hixson packet is guaranteed to have a large amount of classics in it. As an editor, this can get a bit annoying. Thing is, even some classics in every packet doesn’t work, because then people know to expect it. I like Jeremy’s questions, but his answer selection is a problem.

W: Who didn't enjoy Jeremy's burst onto the scene...well, pretty much anyone who played Toby Keith, that's who. But, that didn't stop any of the people who played Toby Keith in the chat room or elsewhere from enjoying it. Seriously though, Jeremy has shown that he's willing to put work into writing good stuff and quite capable of performing, and surely deserves a mention here as someone who can capably contribute to a good packet.

Dave Letzler

K: Dave Letzler writes pretty good literature and art questions. He submitted a decent half-packet to nationals, and we asked him to work on Fall next year, but unfortunately he won’t be available. That being said, a couple of weeks ago he sent me an email saying that if I or anyone else in ACF ever finds him/herself in a bind again and needs someone to help out, he would be glad to do so. That alone earns him recognition in my book.

W: While a few of his questions have struck me as just plain weird and poorly conceived, Letzler certainly deserves a mention on this list as someone who has written some solid stuff on a number of occasions, including Magin's lit tourney and his nats packet this year.

Billy Beyer

K: Billy Beyer edited ACF Fall a few years back and did a pretty good job, and he has that most sought after of qualities in an editor, science proficiency. He’s done some good science editing for Penn Bowl, and while he’s pretty conservative in general, he gets the job done. And, like I said, science.

W: While Billy's writing has never struck me as jaw-droppingly awe-inspiring (unlike Billy himself), he is a stalwart ACF supporter who is quite capable of producing good stuff, and so he deserves a mention on this list.

Sorry to Andrew and Zeke for shamelessly parodying their A to Z player ranking.

Edit: Weiner says we have to sign it, so..

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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sat May 10, 2008 12:50 am

On an afterthought, I signed up to play Seth Teitler's mythology singles after IO in 2005. It might have been one of the best decisions I ever made. I finished in the bottom bracket, but the experience nonetheless changed my life forever. That was the tournament at which I was exposed to high-level tossups on accessible answers, something which I fell in love with immediately. In general, I think, most of my writing since playing that tournament has been an attempt to immitate it. (Except for his hatred of 'famously' 'well known' or 'best')

I think that type of tossup has been a big thing in quizbowl over the past few years (even if this years ACF Nationals moved away from it), and if Seth Teitler had a role in converting anyone else to that type of writing, he should be higher for sheer effect on the game.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by vandyhawk » Sat May 10, 2008 2:21 am

Wow, I definitely didn't expect to see myself on top of that list. In my own opinion, several others on the list are equally or more deserving, but I certainly appreciate the plaudits. I've worked hard over the years to improve as a writer, so it's nice to see that something came of it. You should see some of my early writing efforts from like '02...
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Sat May 10, 2008 3:10 am

I'd like to thank the [not so] mysterious W and K for their kind words and good advice; I certainly wouldn't mind cutting my teeth on some other categories, for those of you who will invariably draft me into your writing projects.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by cornfused » Sat May 10, 2008 6:04 am

Thanks for the list, guys. But, um, Eric, did you misspell your own name at the end there? (K-w-a-l-t-e-r?)
Last edited by cornfused on Sat May 10, 2008 4:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by Deviant Insider » Sat May 10, 2008 8:25 am

What's the problem? That's the way I've always spelled it.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by Mike Bentley » Sat May 10, 2008 10:46 am

Interesting list, although I'd probably disagree with some of the choices. For example, I've seen only a very limited amount of work from Trevor Davis (his packet for TIT), but that was downright excellent, and I'd be willing to place him on the Top 12 list or at least top amongst the honorable mentions.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by fleurdelivre » Sat May 10, 2008 10:49 am

Congratulations to Matt, who really does deserve some credit. Also, thank you to two editors whose willingness to praise I hope starts a trend in recognizing and rewarding good writing.

Finally, Paul Gauthier will be at Chicago next year, so one sincerely hopes that he'll stay with quizbowl and become integrated into the machine.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by Mr. Kwalter » Sat May 10, 2008 11:09 am

To be clear, the honorable mention is in no particular order, so Trevor isn't at the bottom of the ladder as far as quality goes.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sat May 10, 2008 12:04 pm

To be even clearer with regard to Mike's point, some people here fall into Honorable Mention simply because they haven't produced enough work yet. The way it worked out, in order to be ranked in the "Top 12 list" (if that's what we're calling it), you pretty much had to have done some work on a major mACF-type project. Otherwise, I just didn't feel there was enough for me to go on.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sat May 10, 2008 12:08 pm

Oh, and also, the "top 12" shouldn't be read as "these are the 12 writers we say are the best" - those 12 are simply the full group of people we felt we could consider in the ranking...either because others hadn't produced enough work/worked on a major project or because they didn't meet our (quite arbitrary, as K said) conception of active for the purposes of this ranking (thus, no Zeke, Yaphe, Lafer, etc.).
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by STPickrell » Sat May 10, 2008 1:08 pm

Ryan Westbrook wrote:Oh, and also, the "top 12" shouldn't be read as "these are the 12 writers we say are the best" - those 12 are simply the full group of people we felt we could consider in the ranking...either because others hadn't produced enough work/worked on a major project or because they didn't meet our (quite arbitrary, as K said) conception of active for the purposes of this ranking (thus, no Zeke, Yaphe, Lafer, etc.).
Hasn't Yaphe written much of the ICT's in the past couple years?
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sat May 10, 2008 1:44 pm

Note, I said "mACF-type events," which notably does not include ICT.

Regardless of what you think about it, ICT is a different beast altogether - I actually think it'd be unfair to Yaphe to allow his ICT stuff to color any evaluation of his writing.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by grapesmoker » Sat May 10, 2008 3:30 pm

I'm certainly flattered by being placed in the 3rd spot on this list; that said, I think Ryan and Eric's evaluation of how I write is pretty accurate, although that might well have put me at #6 or 7 depending on personal preference. I have to also agree with the placement of Matt Keller at the top of the list. He gets there by not only delivering well-written questions on time, all the time, but also by having a very good sense of what's appropriate for what levels, maybe the best of anyone I know who currently writes for ACF and mACF events. This is an incredibly valuable skill that more people should work on developing.

Also, while this presumably won't alter anyone's rankings, I want to point out that for EFT2, the questions are in fact directly traceable to the authors. I believe that tournament included 5 packets each by Eric and Dennis, 2 packets by me, and 2 more packets co-written by the 3 of us. Obviously he's my teammate and that makes me somewhat biased, but I think Dennis does a great job of finding novel clues and is very meticulous about his question construction, which is pretty remarkable for a player who just finished his second year of collegiate quizbowl. Having seen most of Dennis' questions over the last year I honestly can't remember when I saw questions from him that required anything more than minor editing. I figure if anywhere is the place to sing his praises, it must be here.

edit: I think if you had to do a historical survey of the best writers, there's no question that Andrew Yaphe, Zeke, Adam Kemezis, and Matt Lafer would all rank near the top.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by Mike Bentley » Sat May 10, 2008 4:15 pm

Would "Mr. Kwartler" and "Mr. Westbrook" be willing to provide the same type of feedback who weren't mentioned in the original post? I would certainly be interested in hearing some about my writing, and I'm sure there are other people who would as well.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by Mr. Kwalter » Sat May 10, 2008 4:30 pm

Mike, honestly, we didn't include you because we didn't really know where to look. It wasn't that we didn't think you were a good writer. I have since been told more about your stuff, and more than one person has said you should be on the list, so I'm sorry we overlooked you. I know you're not angling for any sort of recognition, but yeah, if you point us in the right direction we can probably gather some thoughts. Again, not sure we're more qualified than anyone else, and most everyone on the list is willing to give feedback.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sat May 10, 2008 4:56 pm

Yeah, and a big problem is that - even with some of the better-known Honorable Mentions on this list, I think both Eric and I were really struggling to remember specific questions/packets/etc. known to be written by that person and then trying to remember how we felt about those questions. Obviously, someone like Jerry will know a lot about Dennis and his material, but I think everyone is somewhat limited on the number of people whose writing they're familiar with. But, with regard to any past or future tourney (say nats or this year's CO), I'm always happy to discuss with people how I felt about certain questions, when I have them fresh in my mind or can look at them.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by SnookerUSF » Sat May 10, 2008 8:23 pm

I appreciate the recognition, and hopefully the tournament this weekend, and the Northwestern and Maryland mirrors will not totally destroy it. Most interesting, is I can't disagree with the comments at all, and will work on those issues though I can't promise anything yet about the fourth tier social science but I am working on it.
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Re: The Best Writers

Post by Mike Bentley » Sat May 10, 2008 10:52 pm

Alright, here is some of the stuff I've written in the past year or so. The Titanomachy, MUT and TTGT11 pretty much reflected what was selected, while the rest of it was edited generally.

Titanomachy - Round 8 - "MAGIN"
-Tossups: Plautus, Helios, Breugel the Elder, Sicilian Expedition, Kosovo, 10th Amendment, Donkey Kong, Third Crusade, Teotihuacan, Homestead Strike
-Bonuses: Korea, European Monarch, African geography, ska bands, Sumerian myth, political party, goods, Casablanca, sacking of Rome

This Tournament Goes to 11 - "Law and Border Packet" (and editing of a lot of other ones, but that's a big pain in the ass to figure out)

ACF Fall - Maryland A
-Tossups: FISA, Fillmore I think, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Hungary, Aldehydes, Oediups Rex
-Bonuses: Ex-Colored Man, Stamp Act Congress, Prophets, Haber Process, Chartists, Entourage

ACF Regionals - Maryland
-Tossups: Symphony of 1000, Death of Ivan Ilyich (I think), Dark Energy (I think), Tannenberg, Symposium, Orozco, Sublime, Niacin, Valois
-Bonuses: American Gladiators, della Robbia, Hughes (I think), Sugar, Alexius I, Capitalism, Corvus, Hume

Penn Bowl - Maryland B
-Tossups: Lattice energy, Self Portraits, Tyler, Capitalism and Freedom, Prim's Algorithm, Paraguay, Sulla, Desert Pavement
-Bonuses: Bronzino, Mesosphere, Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms, Sneferu, Plutus, Henry VII

MUT -Maryland C packet
-Tossups: Buchanan, Franco-Prussian War, Olmec, Bubble Sort, Wittig (I think), Hurston, Napoloen, Birth of a Nation, Tom Petty
-Bonuses: Carthage, George II, Albee (if this was included, I can't remember if it was or not), Lovelace, Durer, Lost

ACF Nationals (submitted)
-Tossups: Personal Liberty Laws, Caracalla, Miranda, Virtual Memory, Dendritic Cells, Bridge on the Drina, Ion, Thorvaldsen, Catch 22
-Bonuses: Stam Act Congress, Second Crusade, Oort Cloud, Abscisic Acid, The Potting Shed, Abelard, Uccello, Eli Stone

If for some reason K&W need a larger body of work, I'll find some other stuff.

Edit: Oh yeah and there's that whole TIT thing, but that would be a pain in the ass to figure out precisely what I edited/wrote.
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