Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Awesome WPA Weekend

By: Maegan Beaumont

This week, registration for Lee Lofland's Writer's Police Academy is underway. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this fantastic event last year....

I’ve had a lot of highlights in my life. Getting married. Having babies. Adopting my sons. Landing a literary agent. Getting my first publishing contract…

Attending WPA definitely made the list.

Thursday night was my ride along with Greensboro PD and I had the good fortune to be assigned to Officer Henley. It was a quiet night. Not one traffic stop. Not one call. I won’t lie, I was a bit disappointed, but he was such a great guy—very patient and easy to talk to. He answered my questions and even apologized a few times that there wasn’t more to show me. I told him that a quiet night was a good thing for him and I was just happy to be there.

And I was.

Friday brought FATs training. It looks like a video game, but the gun they give you is real (just fit with a compressed air cartridge so if feels and sounds close to the real thing). They put us through two training scenarios… scenario #1 had me chasing an armed prison escapee. I shot him in the throat. #2 had me trying to deescalate an armed man who took his co-worker hostage. He got it in the head. Good times!

The rest of my day was filled with great, informative talks on such light-hearted topics as human trafficking, analyzing blood evidence and learning how to lift fingerprints.

Every single one of my instructors was an expert in their field, and they really seemed to want to help make my writing better. The day ended in the auditorium of GTCC, with two hundred other writers, listening to a very fascinating talk given by Dr. Beth Murray, a forensic anthropologist.

Back at the hotel, we had the privilege of listening to Dr. Kathrine Ramsland give a night-owl talk on observation and how to sharpen your skills and apply them to your writing… and Lee Child was there, sitting at the table next to mine. We chatted briefly before the talk—he is probably one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. No joke.

Saturday started with a bang! Literally. As soon as we got off the bus, we were herded over to the side parking lot where a trained sniper started giving us a demonstration… but before he could get the good part—like shooting—a SUV ripped past us, followed by three squad cars, light flashing and sirens blaring! We watched as the SUV spun through the parking lot, police cruisers close behind, before it came to a sudden stop. Police piled out and began shouting commands at the driver and his passenger… it was an felony stop re-enactment.

And it was awesome.
The rest of the day brought me lectures on suicides, hanging and auto-erotic deaths (already got ideas for this one… go figure), police gun fights, handcuffing and arrest procedures and the highlight of my weekend (along with my ride along) … the shallow grave exercise.
About thirty of us were turned loose in the woods to find a body—like some sort of gruesome Easter egg hunt, and who’s the lucky girl that found him?? That’s right—me!

The day ended with another fabulous talk about the judicial system, led by Marcia Clark—yes, that Marcia Clark. She was funny and engaging—and she’s a writer herself. Sometimes other writers are a bit selfish with sharing ideas and techniques. Not Marcia Clark—she gave ‘til it hurt!
Saturday night was the big night. A silent auction, followed by a banquet and then the keynote speech given by Lee Child himself. He’s a wonderful speaker, very relatable—you can tell that he has a passion, not only for writing, but for other writers as well. It was a wonderful thing to see in someone so well-known.
Afterward, he signed books. When it was my turn, I had one signed for my mom and when asked if I wanted my picture taken with him, I declined (because I’m an idiot, that’s why.) and then shook his hand like I’d just interviewed him for a job (I’m not only an idiot, I’m a socially awkward idiot, to boot). He looked a bit confused but played along… my plans to ask him for a book blurb flew out the window.
Sunday brought me home. Close to 20 hours spent between airports and planes before I was able to crawl into my own bed in over four days…. And the last thing I remember thinking before drifting off to sleep was—
I wonder what Lee Lofland will have cooked up for next year…

This year WPA's keynote speaker is Lisa Gardner with appearances by Kathy Reichs and Dr.Katherine Ramsland, among others. This one of the greatest experiences a mystery writer can have and each year, it gets better and better!

Maegan Beaumont is the author of  Carved in Darknessbook #1 in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series available through Midnight Ink, May 8th, 2013.

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