Top Ten Reasons I Love the Writers Police Academy, Part Two

Top Ten Reasons I Love the Writers Police Academy, Part Two

Last year was my first time at the Writers Police Academy and it was amazing.  I wasn’t sure what to expect this year, but there was no need to fear: the 2017 WPA was awesome.  Here’s why:

1. Road Tripping with Me, Myself, and I. When you drive by yourself, you can roll down the windows while you blare Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again”:

“And here I go again on my own
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known,
Like a hobo I was born to walk alone”

Although with my hair blowing in the wind, I felt I was a little less “hobo” and a little more “Tawny Kitaen”.  But I digress.

Tawny Kitaen "Here I Go Again"
Giphy.com

2. Old and New Friends. That song we sang in Brownies said make new friends but keep the old so that’s what I did.  It was great to see my old buddies Shoshona Freedman, Savannah March, Tes Brown, Jim Bennetts, Josh Cejka, and Mike Riegel of the “Riegel Island” Riegels (sorry, inside joke).  Plus, I met some cool new people including Heather Wilson and Rebecca Faye Koss.

Mia Manansala, S.M. Freedman, Jessica Ellis Laine
Mike Riegel & Josh Cejka
Josh Cejka, Jessica Ellis Laine, Rebecca Faye Koss
Laine, Manansala, Bennetts, Cejka, & Riegel
Sarah Bennetts, Jim Bennetts, & Jessica Ellis Laine

I lucked out and got an awesome roomie, Mia Manansala.  Mia and I are both having an excellent year; Mia recently won the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic grant and I found out the week before the WPA that I’d won the Sisters in Crime Eleanor Taylor Bland award.  We were ready to learn a lot at the Writers Police Academy and celebrate a little, too.

Jessica Ellis Laine & Mia Manansala

3. Sisters in Crime President Diane Vallere. It was a great honor to meet SinC President Diane Vallere at Thursday’s reception.  She was amazing and very down-to-earth.  I’d like to give a big shout-out to Sisters in Crime for sponsoring the Writers Police Academy, a great resource for both aspiring and seasoned writers.  Looking forward to seeing all of my Sisters at Bouchercon in October!

Mia Manansala, Diane Vallere, Jessica Ellis Laine

4. Craig Johnson. On Friday morning, I met Craig Johnson, the author of the Longmire series.  He was very friendly and offered up a great speech at the banquet on Saturday night.  It was interesting to hear about his career as a writer and his involvement in the Longmire television series.  Plus, he said “howdy” to me on Twitter and I almost fainted.  

Jessica Ellis Laine & Craig Johnson

5. Shooting Range. I was fortunate enough to shoot both hand guns and long guns at this year’s academy.  I was incredibly impressed by our instructors who had a gentle touch with the people who were nervous about shooting.  They were also good eye candy (LOL).

Jessica Ellis Laine

6. Emergency Driving.  My instructor’s face after my emergency driving session is priceless.  He looks terrified.

Jessica Ellis Laine

7. Martial Arts for Writers. Our instructor, Esoma kung fu master, Howard Lewis, beat the crap out of me as he showed us how to defend ourselves from potential attackers and I liked it.  That is all.

Howard Lewis & Jessica Ellis Laine

8. Gifts and Prizes. As an unexpected bonus, I was given a WPA mug and patch after Saturday’s banquet for referring my roommate, Mia, to this year’s academy which was cool.  Mia and I also purchased raffle tickets and Mia ended up winning two K-9 plush animals.  She graciously gave me the Mason the Retriever doll to take home as a gift for my son.

9. Purcell’s Lounge. There was drinking and music in the hotel bar each night after the academy wrapped up.  It was great to catch up with friends and hear about the classes others had taken.  On Saturday night, we let it all hang out and danced with our favorite dance partners, Colleen and Jill.  One memory I will take to my grave is when a grown-ass man ran out of the bar while screaming these words at me: “Fine!!  You’ve proved your point!!!”  I’m not sure what my “point” was (perhaps that I’m a good salsa dancer which I am) but in any case, I will not stop dancing next year until at least *two* grown-ass men run out of the bar screaming at the top of their lungs.  #goals

Heather Wilson, Josh Cejka, Mia Manansala, Colleen Belongea
Heather Wilson, Jessica Ellis Laine, Mia Manansala, Colleen Belongea
Mia Manansala & Jessica Ellis Laine

10. Kroll’s East. Before leaving Green Bay, Mia and I met up with another mystery writer, Julia Lightbody, at the famous Kroll’s East.  My dining companions, the spaghetti with chili, and the cherry shake were all wonderful.

Mia Manansala, Julia Lightbody, Jessica Ellis Laine

Overall, I had another amazing year at the Writers Police Academy.  I learned a lot, partied a little, and came away with many great ideas for my work-in-progress, The Sundowner.  Special thanks to Lee and Denene Lofland and the instructors, staff, and volunteers at Northeast Technical College for all of their hard work and planning.  I can’t wait to see what will happen at next year’s academy!   

Jessica Ellis Laine

Jessica Ellis Laine is the winner of the 2017 Sisters in Crime Eleanor Taylor Bland award and the 2016 Mystery Writers of America-Midwest Hugh Holton award.  She lives online at http://www.jessicaellislaine.com.

 

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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. 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 Crime meetings, it was on this trip that I got to know Shelley and Emily and their writing.
    1. Road Trip
  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 & Brewing Company 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
  3. 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 Belongeo. 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).
    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.
    5A. Emerg Driving all
  6. 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 people.
    6. MN Writers
  7. Diversity. 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
  9. 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.
    Guns
    *Mic drop.*

    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.
    9. Jessica & Tami Hoag
  10. Dancing. 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 & Grille, 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” Belongeo) at Purcell’s Lounge until we shut that mother down.
    10B. Dancing at Purcell's

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!