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Friday, November 11, 2011

Writers' Police Academy - The Experience

So I got sidetracked by launching my mystery (Your Eight O'Clock Is Dead) and didn't get back to tell you about my adventures at the Writers' Police Academy.

First, I have to say it was a fabulous experience, and I'm so happy I had the opportunity to attend this year.  I owe a huge thank you to Sisters In Crime since they defrayed a large portion of our registration fee. 

Our first experience was a wet visit to the academy's body farm.  I have never been so wet in my life - and I had an umbrella.  I swear it was hurricane type rains.  But everyone was good sports and trekked through the woods to the location.

Fortunately, the "body" turned out to be a mannequin.  A lot of the dead body smells were washed away by the downpour.  But it was quite realistic to be out in the woods at the site of a crime scene and to be aware of what the real life investigators go through to get clues and solve murders under all kinds of circumstances.

After the body farm, I had a fascinating session with Deneen Lofland who talked to us about Bio terrorism.  We learned about the various types of labs used in our country and around the world and how bio terrorism works.  I have to say I'm very happy Deneen is on our side.

Deneen showed all kinds of slides and I left with a wealth of information.  I have a very healthy respect now for the kind of work she does and a much better understanding of how things can go terribly wrong either by accident or on purpose. 

I went to classes on trace evidence, undercover work, processing a scene, blood spatter, ATF and cyber crimes.  But one of my favorite times was the mock hostage demonstration the instructors put on for the entire 2011 class.  We came into the main auditorium and this white tent was on stage.  We'd later learn that one of our teachers was taken hostage by someone who worked for her.  The negotiators came in and tried to get the bad guy to release his hostage and put down his gun. 

But he refused.  A shot rang out.

And down he went.  Fortunately this was all a demonstration for us.  But we learned that is what happens when the negotiations aren't going well and the hostage's life is in imminent danger.  The sniper took his shot and aimed for the kill zone and that causes the bad guy to drop.  The shot takes out the control center in the brain and there is no danger of reflexes causing injuries once that shot hits.

The sniper was then brought up on stage and showed us the weapon he used and the protective gear he wears.  Sometimes he will be at a hostage situation for 20+ hours in full gear.  I was so impressed that we have these kind of people protecting us.  I also had a chance to take a separate class later from this sniper and he was very thorough and gave us a lot of detail about what it's like to do his job. 

This is from the sniper class and shows one of the protective head coverings that are used to blend into the surroundings. 

I also got to hear Katherine Ramsland, a forensic psychologist, present several cases that she worked and they were mind-blowing.  In some cases - literally.  We were not allowed to take pictures, but let me tell you, the crime scene information was just as the authorities would have seen.  She even presented a case that remains unsolved - but we all have our theories on that one.

All too soon the two days of classes were over.  My head was overflowing with details and information.  My mind was bursting with ideas for future plots.  Even though I write funny mysteries, I have law enforcement and ex-law enforcement characters in my books.  It's important for me to get the details right and to understand these men and women of law enforcement so I can write realistic characters. 

This whole WPA was an amazing experience.  I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in writing with realism.  

Although I was tired from the experience, I was really sad to leave the conference.  I can truthfully say it is one of the best experiences I've had as a writer.  My thanks to Lee Lofland, all of the staff at WPA and Sisters in Crime.  A special thank you goes to my husband for driving me to the WPA and watching me crash each day after dinner.  He didn't see much of me during these 4 days, but he sure heard all about it on the way home and for weeks after.


Lee Lofland said...

Hi Kat. Denene and I are extremely pleased that everyone had such a wonderful time. I do hope you'll join us again next year. Our keynote speaker is Lee Child.

josiekitten said...

Wow! I cannot believe just how much hard work and research goes into writing a book. I guess as technology advances, you have to keep up with all the new developments. I'm looking forward to being able to read your book, but wish there was another was rather than sat at my PC. I love to have a 'real' book to hold onto!!! (You can see that I haven't kept up with new technology!!!)

snoopydog said...

Sounds like you had a fun and very valuable time. I need to download your book and have a read. Mr Snoops will enjoy it too, I'm sure. He's a great fan of crime fiction. Have a great week. Can't wait for the next Knitspot yarn and pattern. So exciting. Ros

snoopydog said...

Hello there! Wishing you a happy, healthy and peaceful 2012. Ros