Monday, September 8, 2014

Writer's Police Academy 2014

Two fascinating days at the Writer's Police Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina which would have been three if not for my continued optimism with making good time driving. The online maps said it was a 6  1/2 hour drive. It was 7 1/2 hours with no stops. The last direction was off. I drove in circles in the dark and rain and water sheeting the road, lines in the road disappearing for about two hours.

I went from I hope the police don't pull me over for slow, wiggly driving to maybe it would not be a bad idea to get help. In complete frustration I made a guess to just head to the airport. I found the error. I told the desk clerk. She gave me a free diet mountain dew. Anyway, I missed my ride along with a police officer that night.

The conference was superb. What worked against me was that so many of the participants were published authors. Here I am struggling to even define what I am writing. Attending the conference with many mystery and crime drama writers, I learned I am writing about the human condition or literary fiction.

And yes I can define human condition. It will just take me awhile and perhaps another epiphany. But I ain't got no genre.

The local Guilford county sheriff deputies were the best. I guess being young and engaged in the work, they were more specific and concrete with what they shared.

The average streetwalker has dirty clothes, dirty hair and has not bathed for awhile. They are usually wearing jeans, t-shirts and spend a great deal of time walking back and forth in an area. Essentially fading in view from the average observer by just being there. Pretty woman are actually call girls; street hookers are crack addicts trying to earn money for more crack.

Subtle facts clicked in your mind during a re-enactment of drunk driver crashing into people sitting in an outdoor cafe. The woman walking around checking on people was actually in crisis, one woman was calling for someone to call her daughter, one was crying, others were just sitting stunned and waiting. The systemic response reduces time needed to transport victims. The emphasis on calmness.

There were different tiers of law enforcement presenting. Katherine Ramsland presented a program about how to research exotic crimes. She started by showing an airline vomit bag which really described how gross the crimes were. What caught me off guard was her ability to laugh. As I went to many of the classes, the use of humor to cope reared its head repeatedly.

 I had heard of many of the crimes on television, internet or newspaper. If it bleeds it leads. Each episode of many crime dramas is the showcase of corpse from a violent death. The macabre sells.

The stress and isolation of law enforcement was another common statement. Chief Scott Silverii of the Thibodeux police department in Louisiana did an excellent job describing the four types of cops. Not surprisingly, the realist is the survivor. The deputy dog enforcer makes lots of arrests that are dropped. The eternal optimist doesn't cope in a job that deals with the negative part of life.

I was disappointed the counselor did not work well in the career. Of course, my previous life was as a teacher. When I worked with children, reaching across the divide that made them resist learning and achieving took a lot of patience. I did draw lines in the sand for children to maintain a learning environment and create boundaries.

The hallmark of a good officer of the law is calmness. My dad used to quote the Greek proverb, "When the Gods decide to destroy you, they make you angry." My favorite clip was the officer and his K-9 partner when all hell broke loose. The officer spoke calmly like he was ordering a cup of coffee and the dog just sat down waiting with gunfire in the background.

Most of the instructors were retired. Many of the men were buff. They might have been in their fifties and sixties but they looked good. Lately, I have been surrendering to time but I think I'll try to shape up again. The mystery writers were a stylish lot. Many of them were retired and this was the first I attended where many had been published. Lots and lots of serial authors.

I asked a famous author if she was the model on the website, and she brushed me off saying her picture was on the website. Later, she gave a spiel to the entire group. I would feel dumb but you can't know everything. I slept during most of her program. Exhaustion from driving ten hours and six hours of sleep kicked in.

I missed Jack Gilstrap's programs which was a shame. I listened to one of the participants introduce himself to Gilstrap and such an affable gentleman. I chose well but this conference had more good stuff than you could shake a stick at. Alafair Burke did a great presentation about the fourth amendment. I would love to go again. Many participants are repeat visitors. If I did not have family to consider, that would be me. I'm glad I got the chance.

I had two big realizations. I miss my family. A break is miserable when I cannot get back to take care of them. The second one is that I don't need to let my opinions color the world view of the characters of my book. One of my characters is a police officer and naturally a flawed hero. I'm a retired teacher so I am a bit priggish on how people should act.

I'm writing a children's story that all my former students can read. But the book I am working on the most is definitely not a children's story. I did school programs at a number of schools and became known by children as the Science Lady. Those four year olds are eight now. They have probably forgotten me but I have not forgotten them.

Lee Lofland spearheads the event. I bought his book about police protocol so I could be right in how I write but more in that he is an interesting read. I imagine he can make how to hang toilet paper rolls exciting and change your habit at the same time. Anyway, his blog is or The Graveyard Shift

I'm not a big fiction fan. I know the contradiction in my desire to write fiction. I was a big fiction reader and then time got scarce and started moving quicker. I used to read short stories and novels at a rapid pace. I liked what Silverii said that police officers don't read. They don't have time. I understand that. I'm glad I lived long enough to slow down and explore that part of me.

Silverii has five books on Amazon. I had purchased and read the non-fiction (A Darker Shade of Blue: From Public Servant to Professional Deviant) about a year ago. I've order one of his Cajun mystery books. This further adds to I haven't gotten anything written and published complex. These people are so busy and have achieved so much. Dang.

This is a link to Silverii on Amazon.

I purchased Billy McQueen's paperback and had him sign it. I know it was cheap of me not to do the hardback. It's just that I have so many damn books that I may never read. His book is in my purse with good intentions. The light weight makes it more likely that I get to it.  Queen has a strong life force in his presence. He worked undercover as Mongol gang member. I admire the courage he possesses.

My opinion is we all live lives created for us. Some of that is my hard shell Baptist heritage but more it is from my life experience. You sort of drift into your life's work. I know some people knew they wanted to be such and such from the beginning. So many good teachers took the job because they needed one. In the psychology of cops, those that always wanted to be cops were more likely to not last.

People who taught less than ten years are much different than those that made a career. You evolve over time which is true for law enforcement officers. And yes, many know they can make better money at an easier job and take that opportunity. An opportunity that I wish I had taken. I like what I learned about life. Billy Queen said if he had to do it over, he would not have done it. It cost him knowing his children as they grew up and estranged him from them. That is an incredibly high price to pay.

And this is why I bought his book and none of the others. I enjoy storytelling whether it is true or not. First hand experience is the closest you can get to having the experience yourself.

Billy Queen's book link is

This is a 2005 Washington Post article about Queen.

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