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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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?


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
given the fact that
kind of
sort of
truly unique

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.


  • 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.”


  • 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.


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.


  • 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.


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.



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.


*Mic drop.*  

*Video by Lee Lofland


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

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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!



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



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!



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.


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I used to be terrified of flying. For 37 years, I refused. But three years ago, on a whim, I contacted Lee Lofland and lucked into a cancellation spot at Writers’ Police Academy, held in North Carolina that year. I sucked it up and conquered my fear of flying, found an inner strength I didn’t know I had, and I started to gain the confidence to begin writing what I truly loved, crime fiction.

A huge part of that genre depends on research and details. Readers are smart and will hone in on anything you wrote incorrectly. And there’s only so much a person can learn from Google and nonfiction. Writers need to hear it, taste, feel it, and smell.

Writers’ Police Academy delivers on every level. My first year, in North Carolina, I was lucky enough to win a ride along with a county sheriff’s deputy.


Just as he finished telling me his patrol area was pretty quiet, a call came in for a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Several high-speed minutes later, we were at the location and I watched the deputy breach the door. Sadly, the man inside had committed suicide, and so the deputy and his colleagues began to secure the scene. I sat in the cruiser for several hours, watching how it all unfolded. My gracious deputy apologized profusely for being stuck there, but I assured him the little details I picked up were invaluable. I saw how the various officers walked and talked, how they compartmentalized the gruesomeness of the scene and worked with the grieving family. One deputy spent long minutes bringing out cats in carriers and made it a point to have them all face in a circle in an effort to calm them. It was a raw, human side of law enforcement I will never forget.

Last year, I went on the shooting range for pistol training. We were put through the same exercises as new recruits, and learned all aspects of using the pistol, the correct stance for a police officer, and practiced deadly force. I also got my picture in the Appleton paper, right below the article featuring Karin Slaughter (who is my crime fiction hero) as the conference’s keynote speaker.


This year, I was part of group on an extensive tour of Wisconsin’s oldest maximum security prison, and I learned how to walk a crime scene and figure out blood spatter.

In three years of attending, I’ve found dozens of new classes to take: crime scene investigation, SWAT, interview tactics, constitutional law, criminal psychology, EMS, undercover work, private investigation, medical examiner and coroner presentations—the list goes on and would take up the rest of the article. Every class at WPA is taught by an experience professional, most of them full-time instructors at the police academy after retiring from law enforcement.

But the incredible classes aren’t even the best part. That’s a tie between the opportunity to pick the experts’ brains (and get their contact info for future questions) and the incredible real-life situations WPA likes to throw at us.

This year, the staff at NWTC stage two awesome demonstrations. First up, an MVA involving a drunk driver and a family.


One actor played dead on the hood of a crumpled car for 45 minutes while another sobbed with grief, all while police, paramedics, and finally life-flight—a real helicopter that landed within yards of us—worked the scene just as they would in real life.


Next day, inside a crowded lecture hall, WPA instructors and volunteers staged a terrorist act. Several people were “knifed” and we watched the public safety officials handle the situation, including triaging the injured. For a visual person like me, stuff like this is gold.


I can’t underscore how much this conference has changed my writing life. It gave me the courage to go from suspense with romance to what I truly love—the dark, gritty stuff. I forged various public safety contacts and realized I could network with other authors, that I wasn’t as much of an introvert as I believed. I learned about the psychology of cops and the day-to-day stuff they go through and gained a new respect. I’ve been able to have conversations with my three favorite authors,—Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag, and Karin Slaughter.

Last year, during Karin Slaughter’s signing, I told her I’d been struggling on my first gritty crime fiction, in part because I was afraid I couldn’t write the homicide investigation so that it was believable. She told me to face my fear and go after what I wanted.  So I got on the phone and found a cop in D.C. willing to work with me. I sold that book this spring.

This year, I got to tell Tami Hoag that her book, The 9th Girl, helped me get back into the right frame of mind to finish that same crime fiction thriller, and that just hours before she signed my copy, I found out my publisher is releasing the book in hardback in January. She was so excited she wrote “congratulations” with her signature.

How cool is that for the mom from Iowa who didn’t think she’d ever be able to branch out far enough to write what she really wanted?

It’s all because of the opportunities from Writers’ Police Academy, and it’s the one conference I won’t miss, because there’s always something new and exciting.

Thanks so much to Lee and Denene Lofland for all they do for us. I’m already marking my calendar for next year!


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Stacy Green is the author of the Lucy Kendall thriller series and the Delta Crossroads mystery trilogy. ALL GOOD DEEDS (Lucy Kendall #1) won a bronze medal for mystery and thriller at the 2015 IPPY Awards. Stacy has a love of thrillers and crime fiction, and she is always looking for the next dark and twisted novel to enjoy. She started her career in journalism before becoming a stay at home mother and rediscovering her love of writing. She lives in Iowa with her husband and daughter and their three spoiled fur babies. Her current work includes the true crime series KILLER SHORTS: Murderers Among US, and her crime fiction novel, KILLING JANE, will be available in January 2016.

Stacy is represented by Italia Gandolfo of Gandolfo, Helin and Fountain Literary Management for literary and dramatic rights.

Stacy loves to hear from readers!



Twitter: @StacyGreen26


The 2016 Writers’ Police Academy was the fifth one I’ve attended. I’m not sure I’ve been to any other conference that many times, but WPA always offers something new and different. And just when you think you’ve seen enough to get you through the next five books, Lee goes and changes the venue so there are new things to explore.

Why WPA? As authors, we want to (or at least should want to) provide as much accurate information as possible, and having a conference at a training facility for first responders with access to their instructors—well, it doesn’t get much more real than that.

Will you have a fire scenario in your book. You need WPA. Cops? WPA is a given. EMS? Ditto. Private Investigators? Courtrooms? They have those, too. Want to breach a building? Fire a patrol rifle? Try ‘shoot-don’t/shoot’? Watch a K-9 in action? Yep. WPA has it all.

This year began with a parking lot display of all the nifty cop vehicles. Attendees were climbing in and out like kids at a hands-on museum exhibit. And, as always, there were plenty of personnel around (including one of the furry four-legged variety) to answer questions.

Drug car


After that was the annual “orientation” where Lee provides valuable information about how everything will work. There’s always a critical tidbit that rises to the forefront. In 2015, the most-repeated question was “What time does the pool close?” This year, it was “How long are the bus rides?”

WPA always begins the first full day with a group welcome. This year (after a bus ride of appropriate length), we were welcomed onto the campus with a fully staged traffic accident. We observed a field sobriety test, Jaws of Life extracting victims from the crashed vehicles, and they even brought in a fricking helicopter.

Crash with helicopter

But the real value, in addition to watching how these scenarios are handled, comes from the willingness of staff to go through every detail afterward, explaining not only what they did, but why they did it. And, even more valuable is the willingness of the instructors to share their contact information so you can hound them ask them followup questions when you get home and find yourself dealing with a scene you want to get right.

After the opening demonstration, the rest of the day is filled with small classroom and hands-on workshops. There’s no way you can hit all of them (did I mention this was my 5th WPA?). Smartest move is to find a friend (and everyone will become your friend) who’s going to something you can’t get to and then share notes.

Rather than go into the entire curriculum in this post, you can look at the WPA website and find the schedule of all the different classes they offered.

My choices included firehouse life, poisoning people, the psychological consequence of being a cop, defensive arrest tactics, how cops talk, and traffic stops with a K-9 (I did that one twice—once with a drug/patrol dog, and once with a bomb/patrol dog). Oh, yes, I took a class on live-firing an AR15 patrol rifle. My takeaways from that one—I’m a granny with little or no upper body strength, and yoga classes, no matter how many downward facing dogs or sun salutations you do, you’re not using the same muscles. But there’s no substitute for learning by doing. The sounds, the smells (and it’s gunpowder, NOT cordite!) And, thanks to the instructors, we learned the safe way to do everything.

Saturday begins with a trek to a large lecture hall. Repeat attendees suspect this will be more than a talk about terrorist attacks. Many first-timers have their suspicions as well, I imagine. Sure enough a few minutes in the presentation, shouts of “Help! I’ve been stabbed!” resound from behind the door at the base of the classroom. The instructor pauses, but continues with his lecture until the call comes again. He opens the door, admitting a “wounded” victim. First aid procedures begin immediately, and soon the instructor has volunteers from the audience.


Then more attack victims arrive, and we’re now in a full-blown lockdown scenario, with police working to secure the campus and the paramedics arriving to aid the victims, and the room swarms with police (well-played by rookies at the college).


Everyone in the audience is told to place their hands on their heads, fingers entwined, and they’re not kidding. So much for taking notes.

They begin questioning members of the audience, moving them down the stairs after they’ve been cleared. Luckily, no one challenged the officer with the booming voice when he said, “For the last time, put your hands on your head!” to someone who didn’t take the scenario seriously enough. Later, during the debriefing, when someone asked what would have happened to that individual, we were told he would have been handcuffed and placed where the officers could make sure he was behaving.

One of the best takeaways from WPA is the jargon. You’ll hear “package them up,” “put the white stuff on the red stuff,” “dirty walls and clean walls,” “gunners and grabbers”—all things begging to be added to dialogue in your next book.

Add to all this talks by Lee Goldberg and Tami Hoag, and you have a weekend with enough writing fodder—the right writing fodder—to ensure you don’t have people experienced in these fields throwing your books across the room.

That’s WPA in a nutshell—a very small nutshell. Hope to see you there next year!


Click here to read more about Terry Odell.

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Terry Odell always wanted to “fix” stories she read so the characters did what she wanted. Once she began writing, she found this wasn’t always possible, as the mystery she intended to write became a romance—a real surprise, since she’d never read a romance. Terry writes mystery and romantic suspense, but calls them all “Mysteries With Relationships.” Her 20 pulbished works include the Blackthorne, Inc. covert ops series, the Pine Hills Police series, the Triple-D Ranch series, and the Mapleton Mystery series. Her awards include the Silver Falchion and HOLT Medallion, among others.

Click the cover below to read more about Terry’s latest book.

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Many of you have asked how the Writers’ Police Academy started and why it did. So, here’s a brief outline to answer those questions.

  • In November of 2007, Sisters in Crime sponsored an event in St. Louis called Forensic University. Headliners for the event were Jan Burke, Eileen Dreyer, Dr. D. P. Lyle, and me (Lee Lofland).
  • While at this fabulous event I sat in on several of the workshops and lectures.
  • Each session consisted of an instructor/lecturer who typically used Powerpoint or handouts as part of their workshops.
  • The material covered was extremely valuable to writers.
  • At the end of the second day ATF Agent Rick McMahan (another presenter) and I were sitting in the lobby discussing the overall event.
  • I suggested to Rick that while Forensic U was one of the best conferences I’d seen for writers, I thought it would be fantastic if writers could attend a hands-on event, where they touch, and hear, and see, and physically experience police and other first responder training.
  • I said I’d like to try to do just that at an actual police academy.
  • Rick said I was absolutely and without a doubt, as crazy as a loon. It would never work. No police academy in the country would permit a bunch of eager writers to storm their facilities for an entire weekend.
  • I agreed with Rick. But … I wanted to try, knowing how extremely valuable a hands-on event could be for writers. After all, I’d seen the term “Cordite” used one too many frickin’ times in too many frickin’ books.
  • So try I did. And, as expected, I heard “NO, NO, NO, and NO” dozens of times.
  • Then I approached a popular writers conference in Ohio. I presented them with my idea and they connected me with their local police department.
  • I met with local police officials, the mayor, the coroner, the prosecutor, fire officials, and they each agreed to help.
  • We put together a small program for writers, the very first but very small WPA, that included a K-9 demo, sessions on arson investigation, a tour of the morgue and police department, a fire truck demo, and more. Other workshops were taught by Rick McMahan, Mike Black, Dave Swords, and me.
  • The Ohio event was a big hit. But too big for the Ohio location. There was no police academy.
  • Denene and I took a cross-country RV trip and during one of our stopovers in a North Carolina RV park we met Andy Russell.

Andy Russell

  • During a conversation with Andy I learned that he, coincidentally, taught at a police academy.
  • DING, DING,DING! A police academy!! A foot in the door??? It was FATE.
  • Andy took our proposal to his bosses and they agreed to meet with me. And …
  • In 2010, the WPA opened at an actual police academy, with Jeffery Deaver (The Bone Collector. Remember the movie with Angelina Jolie? Yes, THAT Jeffery Deaver) as keynote speaker.

Is that Jeffery Deaver with the fully automatic rifle? It sure is!

Special Guest Speaker – Dr. Katherine Ramsland (Katherine has been with us each year since).

2011 – We expanded the event.


2011 Guest of Honor – Christopher Reich

2012 – We continued to grow.

2012 Guest of Honor – Lee Child 


Special Guest Speaker – Marcia Clark (Yes, THAT Marcia clark – OJ Simpson prosecutor). Pictured with Denene and Lee Lofland.

In 2013 we decided to take attendees on an underwater evidence recovery adventure.

World-renowned DNA expert Dr. Dan Krane offered his expertise at the Friday afternoon session.

Dr. Dan Krane has testified as a DNA expert in over 100 high-profile criminal cases worldwide, including serving as a consultant for the “dream team” in the OJ Simpson case. Dr. Krane was also involved in the review of high profile cases around the world, including: the Washington D.C. Beltway sniper, the Jaidyn Leskie Coroner’s Inquest in Australia, the Omagh IRA bombing in Northern Ireland, and the Deventer murder in The Netherlands. He work closely with the Innocence Project and has been involved with several exoneration cases, including George Gould and Ronald Taylor.


2013 Guest of Honor – Lisa Gardner

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2013 Special Guest Speaker – Kathy Reichs (producer and writer of the TV show Bones).

2014 was the year of the super-exciting police pursuit and shootout.

We also brought you a recreation of the Boston bombing where we detonated a backpack using a C-4 charge. An explosive detection K-9 alerted on the package.

The crowd was moved far away from the scene and then a bomb robot carried the backpack to a safe location.

The bomb squad did their thing.

And … now you see the suspicious backpack, and …

… now you don’t! We blew that sucker to somewhere beyond the suburbs of oblivion.

Michael Connelly

2014 Guest of Honor – Michael Connelly

And yes, we, too, had cover models, sort of like those at RWA events. Sort of …

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Rick McMahan shows his hard-earned six pack.

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Even I pulled off the shirt to help the cause …

By the time 2015 rolled around we’d outgrown the North Carolina facility, so we packed our bags and moved the entire operation to a police academy in Appleton, Wi., where we met Larceny Lori, the meanest bank robber in WPA history.


Lori didn’t do very well in a shootout with instructors Colleen Belongea and Ryan Gilbert.



2015 Guest of Honor – Karin Slaughter

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With special Guest Speaker Allison Brennan.

And that brings us to 2016 and our wonderful new home, NWTC.






Sisters in Crime president Leslie Budewitz is a wee bit excited as she prepares to execute a PIT maneuver with instructor Colleen Belongea.


2016 Special Guest Speaker – Lee Goldberg.


2016 Guest of Honor – Tami Hoag.

Next up – The 2017 Writers’ Police Academy. Bigger and Better than ever before!!