Writers’ Police Academy: A Romantic Suspense Writer’s Dream Come True

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Bomb Squad and K-9 Demonstration

At the Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, NC, WPA 2013 boasted a DNA expert and forensic anthropologist, a psychologist and scientist, a medical examiner and a nurse, a prosecutor and a judge. The Bomb Squad was there, along with EMS, an ATF agent, a federal agent, undercover detectives, chiefs, sheriffs, captains, officers—I’ve only scratched the surface, the list goes on and on. Suffice it to say, crime scene to fire investigation, emergency room to underwater recovery, felony stops to dangerous microorganisms, they have every topic covered either in class or hands-on.

A.J. Scudiere and I tried handcuffing techniques (no bedposts, people, keep it clean!), and I learned self-defense techniques, then whaled on a dummy. P.A. DePaul got to suit up in protective bomb gear, and other attendees investigated an entire criminal case and then presented it to a judge. Carey Baldwin and some other lucky writers got to “ride-a-long” on real calls with local police.

The Meggitt Firearms Simulation Training (FATS) guns are modified into lasers, though we still needed to reload the magazines. But this is the same training simulation officers receive: live-fire experience with real-world, high-octane situations. I got to feel the weight and size of a Sig Sauer. Turns out, my hand is too small. I had to twist the gun to hit the magazine release—wasting precious seconds that might matter in a life or death situation. You think an officer has to make a split second decision? Try far faster even. It turns out that I am both way too trusting and not nearly observant enough. (What? That woman isn’t only draping herself over her shot husband from grief? Really? She is REALLY picking up that gun on his chest and actually aiming it at me?) Oops, yep, I’m dead—reacting so late, that I returned fire only after the fact. Law enforcement officers, however, train, train, and train some more, learning to quickly juggle the presented facts with their instincts.

I could not have been more impressed with all the law enforcement instructors I encountered. More than once I heard, “Everyday you get beat up, cussed out, spit on, and sometimes shot at, but it’s all part of the job.” These folks accept it, as part of the job to serve and protect, and they carry on, with more compassion than you can imagine.

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Jenna Blue, ready for Building Search

Did you know a trained raid team doing a high-risk entry can sweep a residence in about 8 seconds flat? You know how long it took my writer team of five? Uh…probably about 8 minutes. But acting out the tactics and team positions, was experience I’d get nowhere else.

Beside the cool hands-on stuff, I enjoyed each and every class. My favorite was Human Trafficking, because my eyes were opened. I didn’t realize just how many kinds of modern day slavery there are, nor how prevalent it is in our society. We’re not just talking about sex slaves, here. You know those Mexicans cooking at your favorite Chinese buffet? The au pair who rarely leaves the house and still hasn’t learned English? Yes, in your town and mine. Trafficking is everywhere. And the detective presenting the material? Despite the fact that he can’t help them all, man, he’s sure doing his damnedest.

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A.J. Scudiere, Jenna Blue, P.A. DePaul, & Carey Baldwin at the Banquet

The networking is great—plenty of time to mingle with others who write in similar genres. We were so jazzed to be among friends, new and old. And all of us writers felt so lucky to have the WPA professionals’ attention for a long weekend. More than willing to answer all our varied, crazy questions, the instructors and staff were psyched to help us “get it right.” My sincerest thanks to them all, and to Sisters in Crime, who helped keep the event cost down for many of us, and the other many generous sponsors. Above all, kudos and thanks to Lee Lofland, whose baby WPA is! The 2013 event was stellar!

Readers, what part of the Writer’s Police Academy, would have interested you? Do share! And then, if you’d like to see others’ experiences, here’s a few blog links:

Lee Lofland’s blog (chock full of info) includes posts by presenters Judge Bill Hopkins and Chief of Police Scott Silverii: http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/judge-bill-hopkins-why-i-did-not-like-the-writers-police-academy/ and http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/chief-of-police-scott-silverii-who-knew/

Check out the WPA site itself: http://www.writerspoliceacademy.com. The schedule of events shows all our amazing opportunities.

Penni DePaul: http://padepaul.com/writers-police-academy-sept-2013/

Kelsey Browning: http://www.kelseybrowning.com/a-contemporary-romance-writer-at-writers-police-academy/

Thanks for visiting The Violet Femmes!

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29 Comments

  1. Kiersten Hallie Krum

     /  September 23, 2013

    Man, that looks like fun! I had no idea this event existed or I would’ve been right there with you guys! Bookmarking it for the future for sure.

    Reply
  2. Jenna Blue

     /  September 23, 2013

    Kiersten, this is right up your alley for sure! Make sure to follow or subscribe or whatever to their site so you’ll get notice when the announce the 2014 one. It sells out quickly. I definitely hope to be there, as well!

    Reply
  3. I would love to do the house raid simulation! Sounds fascinating. And I’m pretty sure I would be much too trusting as well. Lucky you, Julie, to get to do this! Can’t wait to see how it figures into your next book!

    Reply
  4. Jenna Blue

     /  September 23, 2013

    Hi Nancy! The building sweeps were super fun! I spotted a “baddie” and got her before she got us! Many authors got help with their storylines or dicey situations or fab brainstorms while they were there…me, I just soaked it all up, but am sure it’ll pop up in a future book somewhere! : )

    Reply
  5. Jenna Blue, so awesome to be part of that writer’s team who stormed the apartment building in 8 MINUTES flat with you! heeheehee. Every workshop and event I participated in was eye opening.

    Great article!!!

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  September 23, 2013

      So was yours & I got a kick of seeing how differently we all wrote about the event! Very cool!

      Reply
  6. This makes me want to write romantic suspense, just to have an excuse to go! The human trafficking is interesting to me, and I would LOVE to ride along on a police call or two. Visiting a firing range is on my bucket list, too, so I would have loved to try that.

    I’m so glad you got to participate in WPA, Jenna! Something to put on my list.

    Jaye

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  September 23, 2013

      You have had experience with K-9 dogs, haven’t you though, Jaye? : ) I bet you could write anything you put your mind too! And yes, the human trafficking was fascinating. I could have written so much more about that. When you are ready for a real firing range, I’ll join you!

      Reply
  7. Really nice recap, Jenna. And, I’m pleased that you learned just how quickly things can go wrong for officers in the field. That fraction of a split second – the brief hesitation because the gun is in the hand of a woman or child, is all it takes for a cop to die.

    Finally, yes, the WPA is my baby. But each of you seem like my children, having to be sure everyone has a seat on the bus, have their little meals tickets in hand, and, as all loving parents do…I make sure there’re plenty of guns to go around, explosives to go boom, and lots of blood spatter and fingerprint powder for everyone.

    Next thing I know, you’ll all be grown and working crime scenes of your very own.

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  September 23, 2013

      Thanks, Lee! Your enthusiam for the fun stuff shows through & we appreciate you holding our hands, too! : ) Working a crime scene in a book, for sure!

      Reply
  8. OH! I love it! I saw some of P.A.’s photos at the NJRW meeting on Saturday and completely geeked out. Now I can geek out again. So glad you found it productive and energizing and inspiring. Though I do not write RS (yet!) I would love to go to this one year. I get so jazzed by all this stuff.

    Thanks for sharing, Jenna!!

    Reply
  9. Jenna Blue

     /  September 23, 2013

    Honestly, Joanna, I do feel like there’s something for everyone at WPA. Even your lawyer character in the contemporary you’ve had to set aside would have had fodder there! Soon as you take a break from historicals, I’ll be selling this to you for sure! : ) It was the FUNNEST (not a word, but hey) conference I’ve ever been to!

    Reply
  10. samolito

     /  September 23, 2013

    That sounded incredible!!! Great recap, Jenna. So interesting….I would love to go to this!
    Chris

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  September 24, 2013

      Maybe someday you’ll join me, Chris! I definitely want to go again, and hopefully again and again! : )

      Reply
  11. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  September 23, 2013

    I could definitely see how there is something for everyone there. All the technical speak / exposure to people in law enforcement could add a lot of depth to in a minor detail in a conversation. For me, I would love to experience the weapons handling. Can’t imagine any of my characters doing anything other than almost blowing off a toe with a fire arm. I found it interesting that your hand was too small for the gun. In short, it looks amazing. I’m going to add it to my writer’s bucket list!

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  September 24, 2013

      RoseAnn, Hmmn, a writer’s bucket list! I like that idea! : ) I have been wanting to do WPA ever since I heard of it, and am just thrilled I made it there! No toes, please! Your hero’s have other strengths—Vince is good with tools, right? And somebody’s a fireman, no?

      Reply
      • RoseAnn DeFranco

         /  September 24, 2013

        Haha…the men can handle their tools and then some. I was thinking of my heroines! 🙂

  12. Jenna Blue

     /  September 24, 2013

    You’ve got strong heroines, too, RoseAnn! They can handle anything! : )

    Reply
  13. Wow, Jenna. So cool! And, what’s up with the ORANGE gun? Nothing like hands on research, and I am so glad you shared.

    Cheers, Michele

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  September 25, 2013

      Michele, I admit, I have no idea why those prop guns were orange! Maybe so we didn’t lose them? : ) Agree–hands on research make a huge difference (ahem, the grocery store tour that gave me the BEST idea–sorry all, it’d be a spoiler for this current ms!). Thanks, Michele!

      Reply
  14. This is really great, Jenna. It’s much easier to write RS experiencing things. Although I write contemporary, a couple stories have a very light suspense theme. And my next WIP’s hero is a detective. I would love to do some hands on research. We should plan a road trip to a firing range and even learn some self defense moves.

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  September 25, 2013

      I’d love to hit a firing range, Maria, and if I can drag my pals with me, all the better! : ) I’ve long wanted to return to martial arts (had a few years as a teen) and have forever missed it. Would be happy to take some self-defense, as a starter. The WPA course for that was great, but I needed hours more. Have a scene in current WIP that’s a self-defense class, as you know! Thanks!

      Reply
    • Maria,
      Not sure when exactly yet, but I believe it’s generally about the same weekend: early Sept. Tough with school starting for us at same time, but worth it.

      Reply
  15. Maria, have I got the place for you! Detectives, guns, and self defense, all in one spot.

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  September 25, 2013

      He’s not kidding, Maria! And I’d love to have my Femmes experience WPA with me next year!!! Consider it, pleeeeeaaaaasssee? : )

      Reply
  16. Diana Quincy

     /  September 26, 2013

    That looks like the most awesome writer’s field trip ever!

    A while back, in my former life as a local television reporter, I did get to go on a few ride-a-longs. During one drug bust, the undercover officer recommended I leave my purse/bag in the car so that I wouldn’t end up taking cockroaches home from the apartment where the bust was taking place.

    I also did that exercise where you go into a house where the suspect is waiting to shoot you. I lasted about three seconds. I think I squeaked and then I was a goner. So, I’m pretty sure you outlasted me. (For whatever that’s worth)

    Thanks for this great post!

    Reply
    • We heard a cockroach story at WPA, Dora! They say never lean on the walls or sit down! Definitely happens–that and so much more. You must have had many eye-opening experiences as a reporter! Very cool!

      Reply

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