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, 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:


Earth: Final Conflict

Martial Law

Star Trek: Voyager

Flash Gordon

Painkiller Jane


Star Trek: The Experience – Borg Invasion 4D


Buzz Lightyear of Star Command

Martial Law

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

Earth: Final Conflict

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


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.


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

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!



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.


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


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!


Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 9.46.39 PM

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