WPA melts the wall between cops

Cops are a unique breed. They dress differently. They speak differently. They’re in a class all to themselves, and it’s a “Members Only” sort of group where those on the outside looking in simply don’t understand what it is that officers do and why they do it.

Unfortunately, law enforcement is an operation that sometimes, to best protect us from harm, must do things out of public view. And that lack of understanding and wondering “what they’re up to” often leads to mistrust.

Some members of society reject any form of authority. Others distrust police officers because they’ve heard friends or family members say they don’t like cops. In some corners of cities, counties, and states, young children, even before they’re taught to read and write, are taught to hate the police. Then there are the bad apples of law enforcement who commit acts that go against the very meaning of their badge and oath.

Over time, and as a result of hatred and violence directed toward cops, police officers metaphorically circled their protective wagons in order to survive in a world populated by people who simply don’t like them. Actually, hate would be a more appropriate term in many cases. Unfortunately, the escalating hatred of police combined with the circling of those wagons transformed what was once a wedge of apprehension between citizens and the officers into a nearly impenetrable wall.

Yes, the wall is there. No doubt about it. But what many people don’t understand about the “wall” is that one of its cornerstones is fear—fear of abuse, fear of beatings, fear of racism, and even fear death. Yes, some people live their entire lives being deathly afraid of the police. And likewise, the police, too, fear injury and death.

As a detective in charge of certain operations I devoted much of my time attempting to tear down the invisible wall. I wanted people to know that police officers are human, that we do good, and that we were there FOR them, not AGAINST them. And I still try to convey that message through this blog and through my writings. I also had the same goal in mind when starting the Writers’ Police Academy several years ago.

I knew the instructors at the WPA were the best in the business at what they do, but when I received the letter below, I also knew the event had achieved far more than helping writers “get it right.”

Finally, after all these years, there was a crack in the wall. And I want to say THANK YOU to everyone involved in the WPA for merely being you. It is because you’re who you are that someone took the time to let me know the WPA had a huge and emotional impact on their life.

Here’s the letter (I’ve omitted names and locations to protect the writer’s identity and, please, if you think you recognize the author of the letter, keep the name to yourself).

Here goes…

Dear Mr. Lofland:

It’s been almost a year since I attended the Writer’s Police Academy in September and I am writing to share my experience during that weekend.

I learned about your Academy from a book on getting one’s book published (I don’t remember the title of the book) that I was skimming through in a Barnes and Noble store in early September of last year. Since I have no law enforcement background, I was looking for a way to verify that the information in the novel that I’ve been working on for some time is correct; that’s when I saw the piece on your Academy. I couldn’t believe it; especially since the Academy was being held in a few weeks. I quickly signed up and prepared to go along with my wife, my little daughter, and my mother-in-law.

The Writer’s Police Academy was a life-changing experience; but not in the way I imagined.

You see, I’ve never had a good relationship or opinion of the Police and I’ll explain why.

I was about 8 years old and it was a summer night in the mid 1970’s when suddenly I had a terrible cough just before going to bed. My mother is a praying woman and she taught us that when we’re sick God can heal us; so that night I asked her to pray for me. Quickly, the cough was gone and just before I dozed off into sleep I remember seeing the reflection of Police car lights on my bedroom wall.

The next day I awoke to find that my 16 year-old brother was missing. As my mother finished praying for me and I fell asleep, my mother saw the Police lights on the wall, too, and quickly ran to the window. Two policemen were surrounding my brother. What happened was that a car was stolen in my neighborhood and my brother was accused of being the person who stole the car.

My mother quickly ran downstairs and stood between my brother and the Police; the two men smelled of alcohol and their eyes were bloodshot. One Police officer pulled his weapon on my mother.

The owner of the car ran up to the officers and told them that his car was found by other officers and that my brother was innocent. One of the officers refused to let my brother go and wanted to take him in. My brother panicked and ran.

You see, we lived in the **** area of the **** and this was in the mid 70’s. Police abuse was rampant and crime and fires in the area were out of control. There was little trust in the Police from the community.

They shot at my brother as he ran down the park stairs and he was captured by other officers from three squad cars that suddenly appeared. They took him to the ******** and beat him to a pulp. My parents went to the precinct and were told he wasn’t there and had been released; it was a lie. Later on, the officers took him to an industrial area called *****, beat him some more and left him there in the middle of the night. My brother showed up at my house at 12 in the afternoon the next day.

Investigating officers reported that no such incident occurred and that one of the officers whom allegedly was present that night, whom my brother remembered his name and badge number, didn’t exist. An officer told my mother that she better get my brother out of the area or he would be killed by the police. She obliged.

Since then, my experiences with the Police haven’t been positive. There have been incidents in which I was treated well so I don’t want to over generalize but the bad has far outweighed the good. During the **** years, it was hell! I am of **** **** descent and although I am fair skinned, college educated and have worked all my life; I felt that I had a target on my back as I walked the streets or drove in the City. ….police brutality cases have only made me less trustful of the police. I have often wondered why I am even writing a novel related to the Police.

So, last year, when I went to your Academy, I was very uneasy. I was entering an actual Police Academy and was going to be surrounded by Police. I was nervous, apprehensive, and at times, felt like a hypocrite for even being there. But then the Academy started.

Friday morning began with a presentation on the Jaws of Life. The dedication and care for the public from the presenting officer just oozed out of him and impressed me. I then attended “Making a Lasting Impression” with Robert Skiff and David Pauly: I was blown away. The commitment from those two gentlemen to find the truth in order to protect the public blew me away. I slowly began to see that the Police weren’t necessarily out to get me but to protect me.

I then went to “Fingerprinting” and it was awesome. Next, I attended “Cold Cases and the Realities of Investigations” by David Pauly and Dr. Ramsland; this is where things really started to change. The openness of the presenters in sharing their knowledge was incredible. I could feel their passion and dedication to getting the truth and solving murders. More importantly, I could see and feel their humanity.

Friday evening after the Night Owl Presentation, I had to go to the Bar and gather myself. My head was spinning. Not only from the information I received in the classes but my emotions were everywhere. Then McMahan sat next to me in the bar and began to talk to me; my heart was racing and my palms were sweating. A law enforcement officer was sitting next to me and talking to me man-to-man. He is truly a gentleman. I found out he’s a dedicated dad and husband and I was humbled by his humility and integrity.

We were joined by David Pauly and Dr. Ramsland; they talked to me like I was a human being. You see, Mr. Lofland, in dealing with the Police in my past, I often felt less than human. David Pauly bought me a beer (please tell him I owe him one) and the four of us talked for a while. It was great. They are great people and their knowledge and dedication just blows me away.

Not long after that, Detective Conelli joined us and we had a brief talk; he was exhausted from his trip and needed rest. I couldn’t wait for his presentation on the following morning “Anatomy of an Undercover Cop”.

Saturday came and I was seated on the floor in Detective Conelli’s classroom (the room was full to capacity). He started out by showing a picture of “His Office” which was a building in the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. My heart stopped, I went cold, and I was almost brought to tears. I had been in many buildings like the one in the picture! He then showed us a picture of him while undercover. He had no weapons and was taking a huge risk in going into those buildings. It was during the Crack epidemic and I witnessed, firsthand, how it devastated neighborhoods.

Hearing Mr. Conelli talk transformed me. I began to see the other side of what it is to be a Police Officer. I began to see them as being on my side, for me, and not against me.

On Sunday, during the debriefing panel, I was struck by the Chief’s words and his assistant. I’m sorry but I don’t remember their names. They urged the writers present to write positively about the Police profession. They said it was very easy to portray cops in a negative light but we were witnesses that weekend to the goodness found among law enforcement professionals. I take that advice to heart.

On the plane on my way home I thought about my experience. I have a coworker whose brother is a **** Captain. I decided I would reach out to him in order to not only get information for my novel but most importantly, bury some painful experiences I had been carrying for many years. I realized that the experience with my brother had colored my view of Cops and I needed to change that.

Captain **** **** so happens to be the Captain of *** homicide. When we texted each other in order to set up a meeting, he told me he worked out of the ****! The same one in which my brother was abused. But the *** **** had since moved so I thought nothing of it. It turns out that the **** has indeed moved but the original building (in which my brother was abused) is used to house Captain **** and other administrative offices.

So, on a cold December night around 11pm I went to meet Captain ****. It was surreal walking into that building. I confessed my feelings about the Police to Captain **** and told him that if he felt uncomfortable with me that it was okay if he didn’t want to share and continue our meeting. He was very gracious and understanding. He confessed that the **** doesn’t have clean hands and didn’t have clean hands during those days in the 70’s in ***** but he shared his side of things.

I made peace with a lot of things that night, Mr. Lofland. It all started with your Academy and your gracious speakers. You have a very special thing going there. My mother would call it a ministry; something God-given.

My wish is that your Academy could be duplicated throughout the country and be used as a tool not only for writers but to bridge the gap between the Police and the communities in which they serve. I would like to see young people attend your Academies and receive healing just as I did.

I would also like to see you guys do a documentary on the Police. My vision is to have several Police recruits from several Police Academies from different parts of the country be followed from just before they enter the Police Academy to about five or more years into their careers. The documentary would show their everyday lives and their struggles and maturing process. I think the public would love it and gain a lot from such a program.

As for me, I don’t know if I will ever finish my novel or have it published. I am currently working on getting a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) so that I could work in the **** Schools helping kids in the inner city; kids much like me when I was younger. I can’t attend this year’s Academy because we can’t afford it and because of my studies.

However, I will forever be grateful to you and to Mr. McMahan, Mr. Skiff, Mr. Pauly, Det. Conelli, Dr. Ramsland, and all the others who were there last fall. I’m a better man for attending and am at peace now.

I am eternally grateful to you and to your partners. May you guys have the best Writers’ Police Academy yet and may God richly bless you and yours.

Thank you,

Name withheld


Details of the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy will soon be available. 2018 marks our 10th anniversary so expect the largest and most exciting event we’ve ever produced. It’s going to be BIG!

*Sisters in Crime is a major sponsor of the WPA.

Many of you have sent questions regarding what to expect next week during your thrilling experience at the Writers’ Police Academy.

I hope the following addresses at least most of your concerns and will also alleviate any anxiety you may be experiencing at attending THE most exciting event on this planet (for writers). No need for anxiety. It’s like Disneyland for writers!

For starters, the WPA is an extremely casual event where everyone is on the same playing field. No matter where a person is on their road to publication, all of your co-recruits are attending basic training right alongside you.

No agents to impress. No editors to woo.

The WPA is an action-packed and thrilling weekend of playing real-life cops and robbers.

Here are our recommendations to make your weekend go smoothly and fun:

  1. Wear comfortable clothing. After all, it is nearly impossible to duck live ammunition, crawl under loops of barbed wire, and defend yourself against twelve knife-wielding attackers while wearing heels and a skintight sequined ball gown. See, I told you it’s laid back!
  2. Bring only the things you need to the academy grounds. It’s tough to kick in doors and perform a PIT maneuver with a mini-fridge, desktop computer, and your three small kids strapped around your midsection.
  3. Speaking of kids, there are no childcare options at the WPA. We only have room in the timeout corner for misbehaving adults (those of you who insist upon breaking our ABSOLUTELY NO VIDEO rule). Again, ABSOLUTELY NO VIDEO! NONE!!!
  4. Camping is not allowed at the academy. Why not? Because we need the open spaces for hiding explosives. Yeah, you might not want to stray away from the group. I’m just saying.
  5. Please bring a photo ID and keep it with you at all times while at the police academy. Police officers are used to arresting people who have several aliases, so it’s best for them to know upfront who you really are instead of thumbing through a list of pen names and “writing as” monikers. Book covers/dust jackets do not count as official ID. We need your real names, please.
  6. When participating in the emergency driving workshops, please keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times. And no mooning your fellow recruits as your car passes by them while spinning wildly out of control.
  7. If you plan to drive to the academy, please remain inside your cars until the buses arrive and your fellow recruits begin to exit. No exceptions. Potty breaks will have to wait!! There’s a very good reason for this rule and I think it has something to do with the armed tower guards who’re trained to pick off anyone moving around outside the academy.
  8. Thursday night orientation is where and when we provide secret details about the event—where to go, when to go there, what to expect when you arrive, receive your instructions regarding what to do and say if captured, schedule changes, classroom number changes, and … You should be there, if possible. Besides, it’s fun.
  9. The hotel bars and casino are well-stocked with alcohol, so pace yourselves. They will not run out of your favorite beverage. Keep in mind, too, that the next morning will indeed arrive and it will include lots of loud gunfire, sirens, and barking, snarling police dogs. Just saying.
  10. Be prepared for whatever weather Wisconsin plans to toss our way. We are a rain or shine event, meaning if it’s raining you will get wet. So rain gear, umbrellas, etc. As of today, rain is indeed in the forecast, for Saturday. Cloudy on Friday.
  11. We are currently seeking volunteers for the following:
  • Twenty attendees to wear a fully loaded duty belt … all day (Ten will wear it on Friday and then pass them over to the next group of ten to wear on Saturday. The two groups will share their experiences during the Sunday debriefing panel. Should be interesting and fun.. We’ll ask for the twenty volunteers at the Thursday night orientation.

12. Buses will depart the hotel at 7:30 a.m. each morning.

Depart – to leave, typically in order to start a journey.

Again, buses depart at precisely 7:30 each morning. The WPA operates on an extremely tight schedule. This IS an actual police academy!

13. Please remember to bring cash and/or credit cards. You never know when you may need an extra dollar or two. Besides, you’ll want to unload a boatload of dollars at the raffle, auction, and silent auction.

The prizes are unbelievable (a cool guitar signed by the Oak Ridge Boys, a PR package worth nearly $3,000, manuscript review by a top Harlequin editor, signed Murder, She Wrote Scripts (yes, actual scripts from the show),

Indoor/outdoor pond with filter, fountain and ready for fish and plants!

a huge, super cool indoor/outdoor pond (we have one and love hearing the water sounds and watching the fish swim awhile we relax on the deck), two seats available to a “law enforcement only” gang conference (this is over the moon cool, and special). I’ll post them and others later in the weekend.

To add to the fun, we will also be hosting a live auction of a few special items. Tami Hoag (that’s right, THE Tami Hoag) is the 2017 auctioneer. She is joined by author JD Allen. This is going to be a real hoot!

Tami Hoag has donated two character names in her next book. Yes, your name and physical description could appear as a deputy or a coroner in Tami’s next release! The prizes this year are crazy good! And, if you don’t shell out at least a few dollars to support such a worthy cause, well, you’ll see Tami Hoag again. She has ways to help you see the light …

Tami Hoag

14. Waivers – Each of us, staff included, are required to sign a general waiver. Each of you should have received a copy by today. If not, please check your spam folders, or you can pick up at copy at the Radisson, just outside the door where check-in takes place. Someone will be there to assist. You must have the signed waiver with you at check-in to receive your packets.

15. Reminder – If you are scheduled in a HIT class that involves shooting (live pistol and/or rifle) you must complete a background check. Most of you have already completed these, however, a handful of you still have not responded to our messages. Without the completed background check, prior to the WPA, you will not be permitted to shoot.

16. Drivers License checks – Those of you scheduled to participate in driving sessions (PIT, etc.), you must submit your license information to us prior to the event to allow enough time to run the checks. Some of you still have not responded to our pleadings. Again, no check = no time on the driving track.

Well, it’s almost time. Are you ready for the THE most exciting event on the entire planet, for writers?

Writers’ Police Academy

 

No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Tribbles have not taken control of my computer.  Yes, Star Trek is indeed coming to the WPA, and in a big way!

With that said, those of you attending the Writers’ Police Academy this year should be ever mindful that, at any moment, you and your fellow academy recruits could be pulled deep into the Delta Quadrant, some 70,000 light years from earth.

Fortunately for us, Lisa Klink, writer and producer of the Star Trek juggernaut, has arranged for her personal transporter to “beam” her to Green Bay in time to stop any alien attacks on the event. In fact, while she’s there in Green Bay to save the day, she’s delivering an absolutely fantastic Thursday evening presentation titled, Pitching, Selling, and Writing for Television.

This is a presentation straight out of the 24th century. It’s epic. It’s … COOL!

For those of you who may not know Lisa Klink. Here’s a sample of her work:

Lisa Klink began her career in the world of Star Trek, writing for the series Deep Space Nine and Voyager before coming back to Earth for shows such as Martial Law and Missing.

Lisa Klink

In addition to her television work, she’s written short stories, graphic novels, a theme park attraction and three books in The Dead Man series, as well as co-authoring the novel “All In” with Joel Goldman. Lisa is currently writing an FBI thriller for SerialBox.com, which will be released one chapter per week starting this fall.

Lisa’s TV credits are vast, including writing and producing some of the most popular television shows in their genre, such as:

1-800-Missing

Earth: Final Conflict

Martial Law

Star Trek: Voyager

Flash Gordon

Painkiller Jane

1-800-Missing

Star Trek: The Experience – Borg Invasion 4D

Roswell

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command

Martial Law

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

Earth: Final Conflict

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Roswell

Martial Law

And, to add to her already impressive resume, Lisa appeared on Jeopardy! (Contestant and Tournament of Champions contestant).


Thomas B. Sawyer

Now, as you know, each year, we strive to bring attendees the very best instructors, presenters, teachers, volunteers, material, information, and more. Well, the lineup this is no exception to our rule. The 2017 schedule is packed to the brim with superstars in their fields. And we were over the moon excited when Thomas B. Sawyer, head writer and producer of the Murder, She Wrote television series, accepted our invitation to present three wonderful workshops.

Unfortunately, I am the bearer of bad news. My good friend Tom experienced a very serious medical event this past Saturday and was immediately rushed to the hospital. The good news is that he’s on the road to recovery and should be back at home with his wife, Holly, in the coming days.

Toms sends his best to each of you and wishes he could there wth us.

Well, we have some exciting plans in store for you in 2018 and I’m thinking Tom will be a part of at least some of it.

Fortunately, for us and you, Lisa Klink stepped up to the plate to fill in for Tom.

So thank you, Lisa. and please , all of you join me in wishing Tom a big GET WELL SOON!

*Tom sent two signed scripts for the WPA raffle/auction. Break open the piggy banks this year folks, we have some cool items up for sealed bid, auction, and raffle.

 

In the world of make believe, the place that exists in the minds of writers and readers alike, THIS is how the story begins … for the savvy writer. So go full screen, crank up the volume, and hit the play button. Oh, and please do watch to the very end (after the credits). You know how I like twists and surprises!

 

For details – Writers’ Police Academy

 

Murder, She Wrote.

Yes, we watched Jessica Fletcher solve murders all over the world. We also saw her teaching students in New York City about how the criminal mind works and how to use that sort of information to write crime novels.

We even saw Jessica at the typewriter a few times over the years. She (the character) was the fictional equivalent to the real-life, top shelf crime writers of our day, a stellar list of authors that includes Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Karin Slaughter, Kathy Reichs, Jeffery Deaver, Christopher Reich, and Craig Johnson. This is a list of superstars who, if featured at a writers conference, would certainly be exciting to say the least— Wait a second, I have seen those folks at a conference. Where was it … Hmm …

I know, it was the Writers’ Police Academy! Yes, those writers of killer fiction have all attended the WPA as guests of honor..

Anyway, wouldn’t it be cool to somehow see inside Jessica Fletcher’s mind? You know, to understand how she was able to solve so many murders without us having to sit through scenes of extraordinary violence and a gazillion “F” bombs. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to learn her secrets for penning such over the moon wonderful and compelling works of great fiction, the books that allowed her to travel the world, dine in the best restaurants, and to rub elbows with royalty (and a few spies). And wouldn’t it be cool if some of Jessica’s talent rubbed off so we, too, could jet around the globe and sign our books for queens and kings and presidents and … yeah, right. Insert a big sigh right here.

Obviously we can’t ask a fictional character to stop in to teach you her writing and crime-solving secrets. But we can do this … feature the person who wrote the Murder, She Wrote TV show, Thomas B. Sawyer. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. That’s right, you asked for him and we delivered!

Tom will first be appearing Thursday night, at the event hotel, just after the laugh-fest we call orientation (lots of important information during orientation, but our delivery is a bit quirky, to say the least).

 

 

 

Tom’s Thursday night presentation is “killer.”

How Jessica Fletcher and Murder, She Wrote Made Homicide Fun – Without Science, Crazy People, or Gore.

In this entertaining and informative session, one of this classic 12-year TV series’ original group of writers, Tom Sawyer, lays out the early history of Murder, She Wrote, from the casting of its star and its subsequent effect on one of Broadway’s megahit Musicals, to Dashiell Hammett’s influence on the show, the show’s influence on Tom’s career both as Showrunner/writer, and – inadvertently – as a lyricist – and much, much more.

Next, on Friday afternoon at the academy, Tom presents:

Cinematic Writing Techniques That Will Make You a Better Storyteller: THINK Picture/THINK Action/THINK Dialogue

An Approach to Both Screen-and-Narrative Writing

Techniques I learned in TV & Film. From that Super-Critical Opening Grabber, to creating enigmatic bad guys, to “writing to the money,” and more – stuff every writer should have in the bank.

Then, on Saturday afternoon, Tom takes you on a journey to Tinseltown, with …

Packaging Your Baby for Hollywood!

How to write loglines, Movie treatments, synopses and TV series pitches with the Sizzle that’ll convince them they’ve got to seriously consider putting your novel, story or concept on the screen.

So get busy watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote and be prepared for three extremely cool and fascinating workshops taught by TV and writing icon, Tom Sawyer, the real Tom Sawyer not …

Murder, She Wrote … He Writes

Yes, we have a couple of spots available at the Writers’ Police Academy. Sign up today to attend this one of a kind, thrilling event!

 

Writing a complete story in exactly 200 words can be a bit of a challenge, especially when the stories must contain a beginning, middle, and end. After all, that’s sort of what makes a story out of a grouping of individual words, right?

The trick is to arrange those 200 words into an order that makes them pleasing to our eyes, ears, brains, emotions, and our hearts. In other “words” (pun intended), readers want to feel what they read.

So what’s the best way to get started on these micro creations? Easy answer. You need a subject/topic/story.

Small ideas

Keep the idea small. A BIG story can be far too convoluted to cut to a maximum goal of, say, 200 words, such as the word count for the wildly popular Golden Donut Short Story Contest.

You’ve often heard me speak of police officers needing to avoid tunnel vision and that need is for a few reasons, safety being number one. Number two is to avoid missing any and all details, including details that may later prove to be unnecessary to the case.

The opposite is true when writing flash fiction. Writers need a dose of tunnel vision to help them complete their word-challenged stories. Keeping on the blinders, focusing mostly on the end, helps to avoid the use of unneeded words.

The inspiration

No inspiration? No ideas? Brain as empty as a California lake in the summertime? Easy answer.

Use a photo prompt

For inspiration, pick a photo from your last vacation. Maybe you saw a cool image on someone’s website, the newspaper, a blog.

Okay, you have an idea for a story. What’s next? Again, easy answer.

Where to start?

What about starting in the middle of the story, where the character’s conflict begins, avoiding the use of backstory, flashbacks, prologues, and other filler. Why do this? You don’t have the space for it for one thing. Every single word must count when writing flash fiction. This is even more crucial with writing micro-flash fiction. Shorter paragraphs helps when editing.

Write

This, however, is not the time to worry about the word count. Simply write the story and let the words flow. You can trim later.

Emotion

You absolutely must make your readers feel … something. It is up to you to decide what that something truly is. But whatever you select, be sure to keep it simple. There is not enough space to branch out too far, so pick a couple of focus areas and perhaps start out having your readers experience one feeling at the onset but end with a different emotion altogether. Their rollercoaster ride will be worth your effort. But DO NOT go overboard. This is not the place for emotion that doesn’t remain within the boundaries of your tunnel vision-esque story.

Characters

One or two are all that’s needed. Any more and the dialog could become confusing. Besides, too many names eats up word count like watching videos on a crappy wireless data plan chews up precious minutes. The same is true with dialog. A family of twelve all talking to a homicide detective who’s barking out orders to a 10-person CSI team along with four other detectives could wipe out the entire word count in a single, unimportant scene.

Keep in mind that your story and/or characters may develop a different appearance than the one in your mind when you first sat down to write.

Character Arc

Sure, your tale is only 200 words in length (or 50 or 1,000), but your character absolutely must grow within that confined space.

Subplots

Skip them. there’s no room. Stick to a main theme.

SHOW, SHOW, SHOW!

This goes without saying. SHOW the action in your story. Don’t tell us. For example:

“They jumped until they quit.”

The line is a bit vague. It tells us something, but it’s extremely uninteresting. How about …

“Tom and Nancy played a game, seeing who could hop up and down the longest. Tom lost.”

I know. Not the best writing in the world, but you get the idea.

Beginning, Middle, End, and CONFLICT!

Writing flash fiction is not an excuse to cut corners. Each story must have a beginning, middle, and end (a twisted ending is sometimes a nice surprise). And there must be conflict and story resolution. We must feel the struggle (be it internal or external) and then we must see relief (emotional or physical) from that conflict.

Title

The title of a work of flash fiction is extremely important (especially if it’s also part of the word count). It’s the hook. It must cause the reader to stop in their tracks to read your story. It must be THAT compelling. But do not allow it to be so doggone good that it gives away the entire story.

Okay, you’ve finished your masterpiece. What next?

Edit

Now’s the time to break out the carving knives and go to work trimming all the fat. Why? Because your 200 word tale comes in somewhere the other side of 100,000 words. Why? Because you love to hear yourself write. You love your fancy-smancy words and you love your voice and your story was absolutely far too good to tell in only … 200 words???

Okay, with red pen sharpened it’s time to cut all the “LY” words and the other stuff you don’t need.

For example, Billy needs to let his mother know he’ll be late coming home after school. That’s all she needs to know to help our story advance. So we, a group of unapologetic flowery writers, write.

Billy picked up the black phone, the one with the blue buttons and the $200 screen protector, and used it to call his mom, a server at Pete’s Possum Gut Gourmet Diner and Horse-Shoeing Parlor, to tell her that he’d be late coming home after school because he wanted to play ball with 12 or 15 of his friends at the church lot over on Elm. 

Well, we know a lot about Billy, his mom and his friends and the area. But how much information do we really need to get the point across? How’s this?

Billy called his mom to say he’d be late for dinner.

69 words in the first sentence. 12 in the latter.

Words to lose – the space wasters.

These words are very nice words. I like them a lot. They’re amazing, good, incredible, and just plain uniquely and totally and pleasantly perfect. But avoid them if at all possible. You don’t need them. They’re space wasters.

Say NO to:

a lot
absolutely
actually
amazing
basically
essentially
funny
given the fact that
good
hopefully
incredible
just
kind of
literally
many
nice
perfect
perhaps
pleasant
pretty
probably
quite
really
so
sort of
suddenly
totally
truly unique
usually
very

And other words ending in “LY.”

Now You’re Ready …

to enter the Golden Donut Short Story Contest and win the Golden Donut Award and FREE registration to the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy (prize value is well over $400). Submission deadline is July 2, 2017. This is a FUN contest!!

Here are some of the stories (and a photo prompt) from past contests.

Golden Donut 200-Word stories

 

This year I had the pleasure of attending my first Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay. This was my rookie year and for anyone worried about being a rookie, there were no initiations—just lots of fun, action and excitement.

Being a Chicago Bears fan I thought about wearing a Bears t-shirt, but decided I didn’t want to be the first crime scene of the day. So I laid low, ate lots of cheese curds and learned a ton from this fascinating conference tailored to mystery and thriller writers.

What I didn’t know is that each day started with morning announcements. I suppose at some conferences morning announcements includes coffee, doughnuts, and you know, announcements. But during my WPA rookie experience, I learned morning announcements have a whole new meaning. They set up real life crime scene scenarios so that authors can get a better feel of all the emotions and senses that go into different emergency responses.

My fictional account of day one’s morning announcements went something like this:

A driver spends all night partying with her friends. She drinks, maybe smokes a little dope, but it’s nothing big and she’s fine to drive. On the way home, there’s times where she swerves over the line, but hey, everyone does that now and then. Fighting her eyes wanting to close, for a moment she gives in and then BAM. What was that? Stumbling out of the car, the driver sees she hit a vehicle head on. There’s a person lying on the hood of the other car. Pretty soon the first responders arrive and she’s questioned and examined.

Screen Shot 2016-10-26 at 8.47.59 AM

            There’s a loud sound behind her and as the driver turns around, she realizes that the jaws of life are cutting through the car she hit. Then a white sheet reflects off the morning light as a sliver of sun peaks through the gray clouds. She realizes the person on the hood is dead. Did she do that? She doesn’t remember. A loud noise disrupts her thoughts and debris starts flying around. Papers swirl in the air as the medivac helicopter lands. A person is loaded in the helicopter and taken away.

            The driver holds her head in her hands, realizing the severity of the scene around her. She is taken away to be examined at a hospital and have tests to see what her blood alcohol level reads.

Screen Shot 2016-10-26 at 8.49.30 AM

After the car accident scenario we asked questions of the various emergency personal.

Screen Shot 2016-10-26 at 8.50.40 AM

And there really was a medivac chopper!

Screen Shot 2016-10-26 at 8.43.52 AMIMG_0601

Day two’s morning announcements started out a bit slower. We were learning about the statistics of terrorist attacks and how response has changed for situations such as school shooters. I was thinking to myself, hmmm…what’s going to happen today when the door burst open. My mind wrote the opening pages of the scene played out before the classroom:

The man had been strolling over to his first class on campus thinking about the Packer’s game that evening. Would they win? His wife interrupted his thoughts telling him she was heading off to her class. They said their goodbyes and as he turned around, a sharp stabbing pain hit his ribs. Then he heard a loud suction sound as a knife pulled out of his skin.

Screen Shot 2016-10-26 at 8.53.00 AM

            The man yelled at his wife to run and he pushed the man with the knife and ran in the same direction as his wife. He managed to find an open door and stumbled into a room of first responders who gave him immediate treatment. But he kept thinking about his wife and asking about her.

            Then, through the haze of trying not to black out, the man sees several more people run into the room holding various parts of their body, trying to stop the bleeding.

            The police show up and tell everyone to keep their hands on their heads with their fingers interlaced. The police catch the suspect fleeing from the campus.

Screen Shot 2016-10-26 at 8.54.45 AM

Yep, morning announcements are pretty interesting at WPA. Here are few more reasons to consider attending WPA, (as if you needed another reason):

  • This is one of the few conferences where you can actually tell people you played with handcuffs.
  • You learn all the steps that go into pulling someone over. Yes, it’s harder than it looks.

12740

  • You meet great teachers who have worked in various aspects of law enforcement and emergency services.
  • These amazing teachers want to share their knowledge and you walk away with fantastic contacts. These contacts will answer questions such as; what is the proper way to process this crime scene? Should I shoot the guy or just hang him? What would the blood spatter look like if I shot my character versus dismembering him?
  • You get to take extra hands-on classes like “Shoot, Don’t Shoot.”

20160813_120931

  • I would have loved to do the precision interruption techniques (PIT) driving class. However, I think my husband is happy that I didn’t take that one.
  • After going to Defense and Arrest Tactics, you can come home and say, “Honey, look what I learned,” and then hang off your 6’7” husband’s arm attempting to take him down. Once the hold is correct, it works!
  • You meet great mystery, true crime, and thriller authors including this year’s WPA guests of honor Tami Hoag and Lee Goldberg.

20160813_225126

Me with Tami Hoag

  • I also met Robin Burcell, Tod Goldberg, and fellow Coloradan Terry O’Dell.
  • I sat in the back of various police vehicles and I was free to go afterwards.

20160811_153714

  • Seeing the K-9’s in action is always fun. We tried on the canine bite sleeve without having a Malinois hanging off our arm.

20160813_150942

These are just a few of the many exciting moments at WPA. I’d say my rookie year was a great success and I’ll be back. Until then, I have some murders to commit on paper. Thanks to the “hands on” experience from this writers’ conference, I can bring my fiction writing to life in a way I never imagined.

~

Donnelly_web

About Kathleen Donnelly

Passionate about animals and the outdoors, all of Kathleen’s interests end up in the written form one way or another.  Her experiences being a part owner and handler for Sherlock Hounds Detection Canines, a private pro-active drug dog service that works primarily in schools, has been the subject of much of her writing. She is currently working on a book with a female protagonist who’s a K-9 handler for the National Forest Service. Kathleen lives in Berthoud, CO with her husband and all their four-legged friends

 

 

The 2016 WPA marked our 8th year of providing heart-pounding action and real police, EMS, and firefighting training. Our instructors are the best in their fields and our workshops (over 50 different sessions throughout the event) are second to none.

Simply put, the WPA is the best event of its type on the planet and that’s why writers from all over the world—the Netherlands, Singapore, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Guam, Ecuador, Canada, every state in the U.S., and more—travel to attend each year.

And, to top off this unique and thrilling learning experience, we deliver more fun than a room full of puppies.

Well, shooting guns, blowing up stuff, investigating murders, and driving patrol cars while performing PIT maneuvers may not be quite as cuddly or snuggly as a lap full of cute, tiny beagles, but hey, we brought in a helicopter!

Remember, the WPA is always designed especially for you and your needs as a writer! As a plus and in addition to actual academy training at a renowned international academy, we believe in pampering our attendees. Therefore, our event hotel, the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center Green Bay, is luxurious. Sleeping rooms are extremely nice and well-appointed. There are several in-house restaurants, lounges, and bars, a Starbucks, and a fantastic Noodle House. It’s situated on the Oneida Indian Reservation and it’s attached to the Oneida Casino. The hotel is the official hotel of the fabulous Green Bay Packers. We provide transportation between the hotel and the academy and to offsite training grounds and workshops, and much, much more.

If all of this sounds like we’re bragging … well, we are, and we earned the right to do so because we, along with your loyal and generous support, have worked hard over the years to be the best at what we do.

Anyway, as a recap, here’s a brief video/slideshow of the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy. So crank up the volume and hang on. It’s a thrilling ride!

See you in 2017!

*Planning for the 2017 WPA is well underway and, believe it or not, we’re going to try our best to top this year (is that even possible?).

Sisters in Crime, a major WPA sponsor, is once again offering a huge discount for members attending for the first time! Not a SinC member? No problem. Simply join SinC to receive the discount!

 

Top Ten Reasons I Love the Writers’ Police Academy

I heard about the Writers’ Police Academy from my Sister in Crime, Jessie Chandler, and  decided to go this year. It was awesome. Here’s why:

1. Road Trip

  1. Girls’ Road Trip. On Thursday morning, I took my first road trip in years (sans dog, child, and husband) with two up-and-coming crime writers, Michelle Kubitz and Emily Gorman. Although we had spoken at several Twin Cities Sisters in Crimes meetings, it was on this trip that I got to know Shelley and Emily and their writing.
  2. Beer and Cheese. You can’t shake a stick in Wisconsin without hitting a can of beer or a block of cheese. On Thursday afternoon, we ate lunch at the Great Dane Pub in Wausau. I drank a beer in something called a crowler, which is a growler in a can. You learn something new every day.

2A. Crowler

Supposedly, authentic cheese curds will make a squeaky noise when you bite into them. Did ours do that? I’m not sure because we inhaled them in less than five minutes’ time.

2B. Cheese Curds

  1. Sisters and Misters. In Green Bay, we realized we were not alone; there were Sisters and Misters everywhere. At the Sisters in Crime table, we introduced ourselves to President Leslie Budewitz and Debra Goldstein. It was a nice way to kick off Thursday night.

3. Sisters in Crime

4. Special Ops Show and Tell. At the hands-on demonstrations, we spent some time watching the K-9 officer and his police dog. Then we spoke at length with an officer on the bomb squad team who gave us insight into the challenges his team faces on a regular basis. I came away with some great ideas for my novel-in-progress, a police procedural set in Australia. We wrapped up the event with a photo on this super-humongous bear cat.

4. Bear Cat

5. Emergency Driving. On Friday morning, I took a “crash course” on Emergency Driving with driving partners, Leslie Budewitz and Karen Heines, and our instructor, Colleen Belongea. Part of what makes the WPA great is the opportunity to take note of how cops talk, walk, and hold themselves. Our instructors (including Colleen and John Flannery) were so incredibly personable, intelligent and self-assured that I’m sure they’ll end up in many of the writers’ stories. (I know they’re going to end up in mine :).

5A. Emerg Driving all

5B. Emergency Driving w Colleen

Among other things, Colleen taught us the proper way to round corners at high speed. The experience definitely made me think about what those high-speed chases would be like for my story’s protagonists, a Latina constable and her partner.

  1. Peeps. On Friday and Saturday, we hung out with Doug Dorow and Carol Huss, fellow crime writers from Minnesota. It was fun to review the classes we’d taken and to discuss our stories. We also met crime writers from Milwaukee, Toronto, Vancouver, Virginia Beach, and Seattle. I feel fortunate to have forged connections with all of these incredible writers.

6. MN Writers

7. I had no idea that Green Bay skirts Oneida tribal land. As a writer of color, it was very powerful to see diverse police officers in action at the Writers’ Police Academy. All ages, sexes, and races were represented. Also, as you can see, the “eye candy” quotient was very high. Just sayin’.

7. Diversity Looks Good

8. Real Cops for Real Writers. Retired Madison police officer, Paul Smith, tugged at my heartstrings when he explained how he developed PTSD following two fatal shootings (he was cleared in both incidents). I can’t imagine a more stressful job than that of a police officer. While the high-stress situations police officers face make for great fiction, the actual toll stress takes on officers can be devastating.

Trying to create the mental health support needed for officers is an overwhelming task. I have been following the Victoria Police’s attempts to create a safety net for its officers in Australia following a review last year which stated the department’s “suck it up” management style was its greatest weakness.

At one point, Smith considered suicide but was able to turn his life around and now works as a PTSD counselor and law enforcement trainer. The session was very moving, and Smith’s service dog had me at hello (shhh, don’t tell my black Lab, Sinjin). Here we are together—and in love.

8. We're In Love

  1. Tami Hoag and Long Gun: Live Fire. What can I say about this unbelievable experience? Shooting a .223 patrol rifle. With Tami Hoag at my side.

IMG_1015

*Mic drop.*  

*Video by Lee Lofland

IMG_1044

9. Jessica & Tami Hoag

Tami was the keynote speaker at the banquet on Saturday night. She was so open and honest with us; it was a speech I won’t soon forget.

  1. Whaaat? Dancing in Green Bay, Home of the Packers? Yes, yes, and yes. On Friday night, we danced with the enemy (Packer fans) at the Stadium View Bar, but kept our identities as Vikings fans a secret.

10A. Stadium View Bar & Grille

Then we boogied down on Saturday night with our new WPA friends (including Jill and Colleen “The Rock” Belongea) at Purcell’s Lounge in the Radisson until we shut that mother down.

10B. Dancing at Purcell's

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.45.39 AM

Overall, I had an amazing time at the Writers’ Police Academy. Many thanks to everyone who made this such an incredible experience for attendees. I will be practicing my dance moves in preparation for next year’s conference. See you in 2017!

~

51q4ff5cwiL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

Jessica Ellis Laine lives with a houseful of men. Her short story, “Safe Harbor,” is featured in the mystery anthology, Cooked to Death. Jessica’s novel-in-progress won the 2016 Mystery Writers of America-Midwest Hugh Holton award. She can be found online at http://jessicaellislaine.com.

 

 

Each year the Writers’ Police Academy sponsors a fun and challenging writing contest called The Golden Donut Short Story Contest. The rules are simple—write a story about a photograph we supply using exactly 200 words, including the title.

The 2016 photo-prompt is pictured above.

Below are the first, second, and third place contest winners selected by international bestselling author Tami Hoag.

Congratulations to each of you, and to everyone who entered the contest. Each and every story was absolutely wonderful.

 

2016 Golden Donut Award Winner!

20160824_090342

 

Click. Clack.

by A. R. Kennedy

Click clack.

That is all I have heard for days.

Click clack.

My fingers producing the only noises in the still ship.

Click clack.

We ran aground twenty-one days ago.

The penetrating waves. The driving rains. The pounding winds.

I sat at this typewriter as we rocked, as we swayed and, finally, crashed.

Click clack.

Only us four had survived the first night.

The others drowned in the high seas.

Plenty of other beds were available now.

All the other cabins were available now.

But we had stayed together.

Out of loneliness? Out of friendship? Out of fear?

I could not answer for them.

For me, I could not leave my Underwood. My only true friend.

It always told me what I wanted to hear.

Click clack.

Just us four until day fourteen.

The yelling. I could not take the bickering anymore.

The hunger. I could not take the starving anymore.

Click clack.

My bunkmates stopped talking to me seven days ago.

But their voices…their voices lingered in my head.

Their screams as I covered their mouths…They bounced around in my head.

But now, even that was gone.

And so was the hunger.

Click. Clack.

~

 

Second Place

Final Words

by Jan Utz

I slip into the room and quickly lock the door.

The sixties called, they want their dorm room back.

This is where I am going to die. I am okay with that.

I was there when history was made.

The worst mass murder on a college campus.

Everything moved in slow motion as I watched rounds of automatic rifle fire slice through young bodies. The two slugs I took to the gut were things of beauty.

I need to record something, anything, to mark this occasion.

The drawers hold nothing but receipts. The ribbon on the ancient typewriter is dry.

Ah! But an ink source oozes between my fingers as I clutch my wounds.

Sitting on the edge of the old chair, I dab blood on the ribbon.

Faint letters appear as I type my last words and remove the narrow receipt.

I hear cops searching door to door.

My frozen in time room will be next, but it will be too late for me.

As the cops break in, my rifle slides down, snagging the pink lace on my skirt.

I take my last breath as the blood soaked message drifts to the floor.

Sorry. Not sorry.

~

 

Third Place

Writer’s Getaway: Inspiration Guaranteed

by Chelle Martin 

The brochure had promised a quaint retreat, with tranquil gardens and the opportunity to relax and interact with other writers. So far, I was a party of one in an aged Victorian house that would probably collapse from a strong wind. I would have checked my weather app and prayed for a gale, but cell service disappeared fifty miles ago.

To say my quarters were cramped was the proverbial understatement. My writing desk was sandwiched between two “handcrafted” bunk beds with warped drawers. If I accomplished a draft, it would be a miracle. To top it off, my agent had recommended this place. “I have only heard good things about it,” she had said.

Anger engulfed me as I rolled a sheet of paper into the carriage of the antique Royal typewriter and pounded away on the keys like the Phantom of the Opera playing a menacing symphony on his pipe organ. Clack, clack, clack. Ding!

The story flowed with a fierce pace, opening with a badly treated author murdering her agent and then escaping to a place no one would ever look for her–a little Victorian house that disguised itself as a writer’s retreat.

 

position: absolute; opacity: 1; z-index: 8675309; display: none; cursor: pointer; top: 36px; left: 20px;”>Save