Fiction, Process

2016 Writers’ Police Academy: A Recap

A week ago, I had the pleasure of attending my first Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  While I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow account of the weekend (blood spatter, helicopters, and Spice Girls … oh my!), here’s a rundown of the who, what, and would I return to the WPA?

2016 Writer's Police Academy

What is it:  For the past eight years, former detective Lee Lofland has hosted the Writers’ Police Academy, an “interactive and educational hands-on experience for writers to enhance their understanding of all aspects of law enforcement, firefighting, EMS, and forensics.”  The 2016 Writers’ Police Academy was recently held at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, Wisconsin, for over 250 attendees – including people who flew in from as far as the Netherlands, Bangkok, and Germany.  Although the road trip from Minneapolis seemed long, it wasn’t as long as it was for the internationals. 🙂

Why did I go:  There are a couple of stories that I’m working on that involve characters who are in law enforcement.  And while I am fortunate to have experience with law enforcement (my previous career as a cops and courts newspaper reporter) and while I still have friends who work as cops, I felt like attending this conference would help give an “authentic” dimension to my law enforcement characters.

While that was a big part of it, what put me over the edge was the announcement that Tami Hoag was keynote speaker for the conference.  (And I love me some Tami Hoag.)

The other part that I assumed, but wildly underestimated, was the ability to network at this conference.  I attended with some fellow Twin Cities Sisters in Crime members, but ended up meeting a TON of writers – folks who are at different parts of their publication journey.  While I couldn’t meet every single person at the conference and while there are some people I wish I could have met earlier or spent more time with, there are a handful of people I’m hoping will be lifetime friends.

Would I go again:  Before I give this section the emphatic, resounding YES that it richly deserves, I have a few caveats.  I think that if you’re a writer, especially one who is working on a police procedural novel or any kind of story that involves fire / police / or EMS, I cannot stress how valuable this conference is.  The instructors at WPA are veteran public safety personnel.  In many cases, the instructors “tweaked” the presentations that they give in their respective fields to either shorten an eight-hour PowerPoint into an hour-long session that highlighted the main points for writers or generated material that specifically addressed creating authentic characters or scenarios for our stories.

Also incredibly generous and valuable?  Several of those instructors gave us their emails or phone numbers, saying “hey, if you need any further information, don’t hesitate to contact me.”  I cannot say enough about the professionalism and generosity of the instructors that we encountered.  There were also several authors that gave presentations that talked about the importance of research in our writing.

So will I go back next year?  I’m not sure if I’ll make it in 2017.  And that has nothing to do with the conference itself, but more about my overall conference plans for next year.  I hope to have my novel ready for querying agents next year and want to attend a conference like Killer Nashville or New England Crimebake.  Several mystery conferences have pitch sessions and I want to go to at least one of them.  I also have plans to attend Murder & Mystery in Chicago in spring 2017.  Although these “local” conferences (i.e. – cheap plane ticket or within driving distance) are easier on the pocketbook, there’s still an expense in attending a convention.

Will I go back again?  Absolutely.  The police component is not *huge* in my stories, but I write mysteries.  During this year’s conference, I was able to fix two lingering questions / problems that I have in my current work in progress, as well as get some killer background information for another project I’ve had on the back burner.  Between the people I met / networked with at the convention, the instructors / staff for WPA itself, and the information and sources I was able to acquire this weekend – I cannot say enough about the value of WPA.

Action Plan: I’ve tried to establish a “plan” that guides my path to publication.  And it will come as no surprise to the people who really know me, that I’m pretty shittacular at actually following my plans.  (I’d blame the fact that I’m the mother of little children, but no … it’s me.)  However, if I’m going to be shelling out hundreds of dollars for a convention, I need to have an action plan at the convention’s conclusion – not just go and marvel at how hunky the hot cops were.  Here’s my action plan that I’ve developed after attending the 2016 WPA:

  • Do a search of #2016WPA and start following the folks who generated posts from the convention on Twitter (and Instagram, if applicable.) I feel a bit like a social media whore if I start trying to friend strangers on Facebook, but Twitter is a better venue for this sort of thing. I’m doing this to make my social media platform more robust and potentially attractive to future literary agents.
  • Go through the business cards gathered and follow up with those people via social media or email.
  • I received a book from a conference attendee, as well as just bought one off of Amazon by a new friend/author I met at WPA. Read those books and write reviews for Amazon and Goodreads.
  • Email the instructors that offered PowerPoints and get those for my “Research” files.

In conclusion, and to quote my mom’s and my favorite movie “Shag,” I had “the most fun.”  My experience at WPA was a valuable one for my writing career (not to mention the fact that I totally fan-girled Tami Hoag and danced like a fool to the Spice Girls.)

I heard someone refer to WPA as “a writer’s Disneyland” and honestly … that’s pretty accurate.  It was a weekend well spent.  My sincere thanks to Lee and his team for a wonderful convention.

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Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: Waitin’ for the weekend

Friday FareFriday Fare is where I post links to the random articles that have resonated with me during the week. Sometimes they make me smarter, sometimes they make me hungry … sometimes they have to do with writing and sometimes they are just plain random.

The Interwebs have been ripe with damn good articles this week:

I’ve made no secret of my adoration of J.T. Ellison.  Her (adopted) hometown paper wrote an awesome article about her path in the writing world and her recent successes.  And so yeah, I’m biased because I’m a fan of Ms. Ellison’s, but considering how the newspaper industry has gutted their editorial staffs and the tendency for “quantity over quality” I was gratified to see that the reporter did their work and contacted more than Ms. Ellison and one other person for a quote.

Brian Freeman is a Minnesota author who has a cultivated quite a following with readers through his Jonathan Stride novels.  While I always joke that I’m usually about 10 years behind when it comes to following trends, I actually hopped on the Stride zeitgeist in 2005/6 when his first novel “Immoral” came out.

If my local writers group, the Rochester Literary Guild, had a patron saint; it would be Bob Dylan.  I think a pilgrimage to Tulsa is in my future …

***

Listening to: I’m still kinda obsessed with the Dave Rawlings Machine and I’m going to be damn unapologetic about it.  This song slays me and has been added to the soundtrack list for at least one of my writing projects.

Reading: Read another Alexandra Sokoloff book.  And it was good.

Fiction Update: It’s been a crazy work week with some daunting deadlines.  I did make it to the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime meeting where I got to hang out with some of my tribe members and do burgers and beer with my writer friend Emily.  But for the sake of sanity, I’ve been focusing on work and trying to be a decent family member this week.  I’ll spend some time this weekend working on finalizing my short story for submission.  That deadline’s March 15th and I’m feeling pretty good about my story and the edits I’ve gotten back from fellow writers.

Wherever you’re reading from, I hope that you have a wonderful weekend!

Random

Seven things …

Source: morgueFile photos
Source: morgueFile photos

My fellow Sister in Crime, Sheyna Galyan, tagged me on Facebook the other day to talk about “seven things about my writing habits.”  It was a fun exercise and since I don’t have any of my craptacular pictures to share with you, I thought I’d repost this here:

Seven things about my writing habits:

1) I have to play music while I’m writing. In fact, I tend to build playlists for my books as I go along. Music is essential to my character building process, it also helps me set the scene.

2) I like to edit my stories by printing off my draft and using a pen to mark the hell out of it. I don’t have a problem creating a story on my computer, but when it comes to edits – I think better when I’m dealing with hard copy.

3) I have a terrible habit of abandoning projects in favor of “greener” pastures. So, right now, I have three fairly fleshed out stories that I’ve been working on over the past ten years or so. As you can imagine, this causes lots of problems when I come back to the projects that I’ve shelved. So, anymore I work on one thing at a time.

4) The current story that I’m working on (I call it “After Life” or “AL” for short) is the first book that I started writing in my adult life and I will be so happy to get it done. Every time I’ve set it up on a shelf, it’s the story that keeps bugging me to be written.

5) When I first think up a story, I just the story go where it will take me. But the older that I get (and the less time I have), I’ve found that I creating an outline of my story helps immensely. It helps to keep me on track and it helps when I have to switch my focus from working on fiction to other tasks.

6) Although I feel like I’ve been writing stories my entire life, I’m really awkward about admitting that I’m a writer. Which is weird, because it’s what I do in my professional life, but I’ve always worried that folks would think I’m delusional if I told them that I write novels in my spare time. Then I realized that they probably already think that, so that’s a hurdle I no longer worry about. 🙂

7) I’ve been writing since I was a kid, I’ve been a professional writer for over 15 years, but I’ve only been treating the novel as a “career” for the past three years and I’m constantly amazed at how much I learn every year that I write. I just sincerely hope that my next book won’t take so effing long to finish.

Editing, Fiction, Process

April Fools Day … Joke’s On Me

So – I have good news and I have sh*tty news. Because I’m pragmatic and my crappy news colors the rest of this narrative, I’ll start with that.

It’s April 1st. My latest round of edits for After Life (AL) is not done. I’m 3/5ths through the book and I’ve had some really great insights as I’ve been going through my story in preparation for my beta readers, but that’s not done and I haven’t hit the really scary parts of my book yet – the parts that were added later and still need some work.

I’m not happy with this news, but I’m also pretty honest with myself and the progress that I’ve made. I have a major work project that’s sucking the life out of me. I am a mom and while I think my kids fart rainbows, it’s really hard to get anything personal done during their waking hours. (Let’s not even talk about the stuff I’m happy to ignore – looking at you, laundry pile.) I have a triptych of priorities that I established after my kids were born: 1) Family/Friends Who Double as Family, 2) Fiction, and 3) Work. There are days that #3 edges over #2, but since #3 provides my paycheck, I’m not going to get too pissed off about it.

What am I going to do about this? Here’s the good news: My problem child of a work project will go away on April 13th (its due date). I’m going to take a couple days of PTO that week and ask the babysitter to stay late on a couple of days so I can power through the rest of my draft. The new deadline is April 15th.

Life is good. I am on the right track with my book. I wish sometimes it was a speedier track, but it is what it is. I also have some good things that have been happening with meeting some other AWESOME writers and my Twin Cities Sisters in Crime group, I’ll share those tidbits on Friday!

Random

VOTE

Vote!I meant to write about NaNoWriMo today (or more accurately, why I’m not participating this year.)  But work and edits got in the way!  However, a more important post is to remind my American readers that today is the day to get out and VOTE!  My coffee cups and I did our civic duty today and were #42 at the local poll.

In the fiction world – edits keep crankin’ along.  I’m also going to head north tonight for the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime meeting!