A year ago in September I attended the Writers’ Police Academy in Greensboro, NC and had a fantastic time. This year I’ve been reading the postings and blogs by those writers who attended the 2013 WPA. Although I knew I couldn’t go this year (my son’s wedding was last Saturday and there were too many things to do before that event) I am envious of those who did attend. From what I’ve been reading, it’s obvious that once again Lee Lofland put on a fantastic conference for mystery/suspense/thriller writers.
Every day, law enforcement personnel and members of other safety or emergency departments willingly answer writers’ questions, but having the opportunity to watch how they work (not what’s shown on TV shows) or participate in mock up situations is far better than an in-person interview (where I’m always cognizant of taking up an officer’s time) or a telephone call. And being with a group is great because someone else might ask a question I didn’t think of. (Citizen Police programs are also wonderful. I’ve never been around when one is offered.)
From the research I’ve done over the last decade, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for what the men and women in law enforcement face each day. That doesn’t mean all police officers are perfect, or that they never make mistakes, but the dangers they face on a day-to-day basis is scary. Which is probably why there are a lot of divorces, drinking problems, and suicides.
There is no excuse when a police officer shoots an innocent person, but it’s actually amazing that it doesn’t happen more often. I remember last year, when I was at WPA 2012, my roommate participated in the shooting scenario. When the session ended, she was all upset. She’d killed a child. She had to make a split-second decision, and she made the wrong one.
I just hope in my mysteries I create realistic situations and characters, that I don’t make my characters too good or too evil. And I thank all of the presenters at our writers’ conferences who help us understand what it’s like to give a lie detective test, analyze a crime scene, participate in a shoot out, and all of the other scenarios the conference organizers put into the program.
The next writers’ conference I’ll be attending is Sleuthfest, which will be held the end of February/start of March in Orlando, Florida. If you have a chance to attend, do. And if there’s a WPA 2014, make sure you sign up right away. This one conference you won’t want to miss.