Friend of the Working Stiffs, Lee Lofland stops by to tell us about an event that no crime writer should miss: the Writer's Police Academy.
What is the Writer's Police Academy?
The Writers' Police Academy was an idea that came to me as a result of stumbling through bad police information in books written by some of my favorite authors.
I really wanted writers to have the opportunity to experience first-hand what's it's like to be a police officer, not just sit in a hotel meeting room that's that far too hot, or way too cold, and listen to a bunch of us retired cops talking about the good old days when we arrested every Joe Billy Bob that came down out of the hills on Saturday night to whoop it up. I wanted writers to see and feel things that activate their senses, not just read that when an officer sits, the flesh on his side is sometimes pinched between their Kevlar vest and gun belt. Talented people who create stories should actually see the flash of a concussion grenade and feel the heat from a burning building. They need to hear the yelling and screaming as SWAT officers kick in a door when they enter a building searching for an armed murder suspect. That's how stories come alive, from experience, not from watching Barney Miller reruns, and Castle.
Attendees of the Writers' Police Academy will be doing all those things—facing old ladies with guns, seeing burning buildings, arresting bad guys and taking them down, smelling the after-effects of explosions, seeing the effects of pepperspray and Tasers, and more. Never before has there been anything like this. We're very fortunate to have the opportunity to offer this event, especially at a real, working police/fire/EMS academy. And the classes and workshops are taught by actual police academy instructors!
I've been fortunate to have the assistance of a fantastic planning committee—Susan Greene, Nancy Kattenfeld, Lynette Hampton, and Mari Freeman, members of SinC, MWA, RWA, and local romance writers chapters. We wouldn't be able to pull this off without them.
Arranging this mega-event has been a ton of hard, hard, work, because not only do we have the usual logistics to work out, we also have the added worries of lining up real police officers, academy instructors, actual police equipment, canines, bomb experts, jail cells, police cars, weapons, lab equipment...well, you get the idea. And these people DO NOT work regular hours! This event is the real deal, not a watered down citizens police academy.
What can attendees expect to get out of the weekend?
Easy answer. Lots! I've based the majority of workshops and classes on questions and requests I've read on many blogs, writers loops and groups—the things writers want to learn. See, I've been listening to you guys! It's going to be a fast-paced weekend, but an extremely fun weekend. And the best part of the Writers' Police Academy is that it's a hands-on event. Attendees will actually be learning police techniques, such as handcuffing and fingerprinting. We'll also be spending time in an actual crime lab, investigating and reconstructing a real automobile accident, learning how to take down and arrest bad guys, extinguishing fires, conducting building searches, performing searches in real jail cells, investigating homicides, learning about weapons, training on real firearms interactive simulators...oh, the list goes on, and on. We'll also have exhibits and demos set up by local law enforcement agencies, and those officers will be on hand to answer questions about their booths.
We have an excellent staff on board for this years' event, a staff with many years of public safety instruction under their belt. In addition to our regular instructors, ATF Special Agent Rick McMahan, former CHP officer Verna Dreisbach, Rick Helms, and me, we are pleased to introduce the staff of the Guilford Technical Community College police and fire academy:
Eric Holloman, Criminal Justice Department Chair - Accident Reconstruction
Susan Pons, Assoicate Professor Criminal Justice - Crime Lab (fingerprint and impression evidence)
Mike MacIntosh - Bomb and HazMat Expert
Jerry Coble, Ass't Fire Marshall for Guilford County - Arson Investigation/Basic Firefighting
Jerry Cooper - FATS Training/Taser Demo
Deputy Catherine Netter - Jail searches
Bob Walters, BLET Coordinator; Lt. Randy Shepherd; Deputy Vic Maynard - Police Equipment and Tools
Guilford County Sheriff's Department - Defensive Tactics, Handcuffing, and Arrest Techniques
Bill Lanning, Associate Professor in Criminal Justice - Criminal Psychology
- Oh, we're leaving no stone unturned. We've also lined up a special musical guest to entertain us during the Friday night reception, after which I'll be presenting a night owl presentation that'll take you through a very chilling homicide case, complete with crime scene photos and actual statements from the murderer. I'm very close to this case and have been to the scenes and interviewed all the key players. There's even a paranormal aspect to this case that truly unbelievable!
Tell us about your keynote speaker.
What's not to tell. Jeffery Deaver is one of the all time masters of mystery and suspense. We're fortunate to have him with us as our keynote speaker for the Saturday night banquet. He's not only a wonderful speaker, he's a superb writing teacher. His messages always inspire everyone to write to the outer edges of their capabilities.
What about other speakers/teachers, etc.?
I've already listed a few of the other instructors, and we'll be adding a few more top experts as the event draws near. However, I must mention our very special guest, author and NYC senior medical examiner Jonathan Hayes. Jonathan is one of the most entertaining and knowledgeable experts around. He'll be captivating us with an extraordinary presentation on autopsy in the main auditorium on Friday afternoon. Jonathan will also be presenting other workshops throughout the event.
How can writers sign up?
It's easy. Visit our website at http://www.writerspoliceacademy.com/index.html and follow the simple registration instructions. We've extended the low early registration rate due to many request to wait until after royalty and tax checks arrive.
Anything else we need to know?
Yes. If you can only attend one event this year, the Writers' Police Academy should be it. Writers conferences come and go—they're fun and I love them, but they're the same old, same old. But you may never have this opportunity again. There's not another place in the world where writers can train like real police officers. We've put all our energy into making this event special. We want everyone to learn and have tons of fun while doing so.
This will be an action-packed weekend. In fact, we're starting Saturday off with a BANG (literally). Do yourself a favor, and be there. We'll need help putting out that fire!
The Writers' Police Academy (remember, this isn't a conference) will be held at the Public Safety Academy on the campus of Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, N.C., which is just outside of Greensboro, and very near Mayberry and Mt. Pilot. The event kicks off on Friday September 24, 2010 and ends Sunday at noon after a fun de-briefing session.
By the way, the Mayberry Days celebration takes place the same weekend—I planned it that way—so if you'd like to drive on over while you're in the area, you can see Thelma Lou, The Darlings, Otis, Floyd, Karen Knotts (Don Knotts' daughter), the old Mayberry Jail and sheriff's car, the Andy Griffith Museum, and more. You can even participate in the apple peeling contest or enjoy a pork chop sandwich in the diner while the Mayberry patrol car zips by on the street outside. You might even see Otis stumble by on his way to the courthouse. Oh, there are mule-powered wagon tours of the town, too. It's a real hoot!
We're also hosting, as part of the academy, The Don Knotts Silver Bullet Writing Contest and the Krispy Kreme Golden Donut Award for best short fiction.
The Don Knotts Silver Bullet novel contest is named after, of course, Don Knotts from the Andy Griffith Show. Don's daughter, Karen, is a good friend of my blog, The Graveyard Shift. She once wrote a wonderful article for the blog about her famous dad, and even supplied us with a couple of never-before-seen photographs.
Karen has graciously offered to let us use her father's name in connection with the contest, which is open to everyone and anyone. The Silver Bullet award will be presented for the best manuscript presented to our panel of judges—literary agent Kimberly Cameron of Kimberley Cameron and Associates, literary agent Elizabeth Pomada of Larsen Pomada Literary Agency, publisher Benjamin LeRoy of Tyrus Books, and Poison Pen Press acquisitions editor, Annette S. Rogers. The winner will not only receive the physical award, they'll also be afforded the opportunity to submit their entire manuscript for possible representation by one of the agents, or for publication by the publishers. Of course, the winning manuscript must be worthy of publication for the publishers to accept it.
The Krispy Kreme Golden Donut contest is a short story contest. Writers can submit a story about a common theme ( a photo by photographer Sunday Kaminski) similar to the monthly contest seen in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. There's a reason for that particular rule, and we'll tell all a bit later. (Sunday Kaminski's work has been featured in the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and quite frequently on my blog). Details for both contests can be found on the WPA website.
And.. The profits from the academy will be going to The Criminal Justice Foundation of Guilford Technical Community College (Public Safety). The foundation is in place to help fund basic and in-service training needs for police officers. The money we donate to the foundation will be used for equipment, teaching supplies, and other necessary items that simply aren't available through normal state funding. Times are tough for education, especially when it comes to training law enforcement officers. And this particular group of police instructors have a special connection to writers. Many of them are the experts who've answered police-related questions, either directly or through me, or they've provided some bit of information for my book and blog.
I would like to take time to thank our sponsors, if I may.
The Oak Ridge Boys
TNT's hit show Southland
Singer/recording artist Joe Bonsall, The Oak Ridge Boys
Author Deborah LeBlanc
Just Write Sites
They've all been wonderful and quite generous with their contributions, and with donations for the academy attendees. In fact, The Oak Ridge Boys have donated a really nice raffle basket containing several of their CD's, signed books, and other neat items. Joe Bonsall (the voice on Elvira) and the Oak Ridge Boys' manager/agent Kathy Harris have been simply wonderful. We've been in almost daily contact since they first signed on. What a great group of people!
Writers Digest has gone all out with their generous offerings. One of the items they've donated for the raffle is a complete set of the new Howdunit series, which includes Poisons (Serita Stevens and Anne Bannon), Police Procedure and Investigation (my book), and Forensics (D.P. Lyle). The new Weapons book may be out by that time as well. Just Write Sites designed, hosts, and maintains our fabulous website (they also take care of my website and blog), and author Deborah LeBlanc dug really, really deep into her bank account.
For details and updates, please visit the Writers' Police Academy website at http://www.writerspoliceacademy.com/index.html
Or, visit The Graveyard Shift at http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/ for more of the same.
If anyone has questions they can contact me at email@example.com.
See you in September!
(portions of this interview are a reprint from Murderati)