Famous authors, FATS, driving simulators and workshops run by the top people in their fields. I’d heard so many wonderful things about the Writers’ Police Academy, so I signed up. As the date grew nearer, I got a little nervous. I didn’t know anyone. Me and one hundred and fifty strangers.
I didn’t have much time to feel lonely my first night at WPA because as soon as I registered at the hotel, I ran out the door for a police ride-along. A sheriff’s deputy from Guilford County kindly answered dozens of questions as he maneuvered through traffic. We answered a few calls—a garage burglary, a neighbor complaint, and a few traffic stops—but the best part was getting to know the deputy. He had great stories, and even opened up about the romantic way he’d met his wife.
The next morning we gathered for a talk about Jaws of Life (which first responders call “The Hurst”) and then scattered for various workshops. Let me tell you…hearing about the atrocities of human trafficking is quite a wake up call first thing in the morning.
I still hadn’t connected with many people aside from a nod or “is this seat taken” conversation, but that changed once I got to FATS.
My partner and I took on the role of armed police in a simulated exchange with a criminal. We learned about the quick decisions that police must make in a crisis situation.
After saying good-bye to my new friend/FATS partner Grace, I hurried to the parking lot to check out the “Live Demonstrations” area. The firefighters welcomed me aboard the huge ladder truck, and a friendly WPA recruit named Melissa asked me if I’d like her to take my picture.
Three of us strolled around the area together, taking pictures with the bomb squad, ATV police, accident investigators, and pretty much anyone we could question or have a photo op with.
At lunch, I made even more friends. Everyone was excited about their morning, and eager to share what they thought the best workshops were. EVERY workshop came highly recommended.
After lunch, I headed to a women’s personal safety and protection workshop taught by Dee Jackson. The woman is scary, smart and friendly at the same time.
She taught us strategies for getting out of possible situations, but mostly reminded us to use safe practices and trust our guts.
Later, I made another new friend at the driving simulator. Elizabeth and I were partners and took turns maneuvering through city traffic (and vehicles that didn’t pull over for us…just like real life) while driving to an emergency scene. We gained new respect for ambulance/fire engine drivers.
Back to the hotel, with barely enough time to wash my face, I hurried out of my room and into the hall where I met two YA authors, Erin and Elle, who invited me to hang with them. More friends! After some easy conversation, we listened to the amazing Katherine Ramsland about how to train our brains to work better. I immediately put her book on my “must read” list.
The next morning, we witnessed a mock car chase, complete with bad guys, sirens, and a police-involved shooting. Very realistic!
The morning workshops flew by as I learned about processing a crime scene and drug interdiction. Amazing to learn of the hiding places criminals use for contraband. Even a baby’s car seat!
After lunch—where I recognized almost everyone around me—I met a four-legged law enforcement member: K-9 dog, Joy. She demonstrated her skills, and then mingled with the crowd of recruits and garnered a new fan base.
Ever wonder what it’s like to be an undercover cop? “Anatomy of an Undercover Cop” taught me you need a lot of guts to pull off that job. Later, Marcia Clark spoke about her experiences as a lawyer. Everything from the jury selection process to investigations. At the evening reception, we met Lee Child, author of the popular Jack Reacher series. He told us a story and assured us that suspense/mystery/thriller writers are the fast-paced center of the book industry. A special appearance by “Barney Fife” and his one bullet made the night even more special.
The next morning, lots of the workshop presenters took part in a casual question and answer session. Usually, by the end of a conference, I’m tired and ready to head home. Not this one. I was sad when it was time to leave my new friends and leave the place where I’d learned so much.
Some advice for first timers at WPA: Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, ask, lots of questions, and be prepared to make lots of new friends. Then mark your calendar for next year’s WPA because once you attend, you’ll want to go back every year. Thanks, Lee Lofland, for organizing this conference full of instructors who love what they do, and who love sharing what they know.
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Joya Fields has had over 100 stories and articles published in local and national magazines and her debut novel, BENEATH THE SURFACE, a romantic suspense, released in January, 2012. LOVE DELIVERED, a contemporary romance, is also now available.
Over the years, Joya has taught arts and crafts, worked in public relations, owned a daycare center, helped her children raise prize-winning 4-H livestock, competed in three marathons, and even spent a year as a Baltimore Colts cheerleader. Joya loves spending time with her high school sweetheart/husband of over twenty years, two very supportive children, and a pug who follows her everywhere. www.joyafields.com
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5395700.Joya_Fields