It’s been a month since I attended WPA and I’m already checking the website for news on when the next one is going to be… I’m ready to go back. To tell the truth, I was ready to go back a month ago.
That’s how fantastic this conference is.
I’m relatively new to the conference circuit—WPA was my very first. I’ve been warned that they aren’t all this informative. Or interactive. Or fun. It’s like Disneyland for crime writers, and let me tell you, I was like a six-year-old hopped up on Mountain Dew and sugar cubes, strapped into the Tea Cups the entire time. I’m afraid that WPA has ruined me for all other writers’ conferences.
My plane landed and I was ready to go! My partner in crime (and fellow Lee Child mega-fan) Mary picked me up and we got settled into at the hotel—that means I tossed my suitcase into the corner and splashed some cold water on my face—before I rushed back downstairs to get my ride-along assignment.
I was suddenly nervous. I’m just a goofy writer that makes stuff up about crime and the police. These guys are the real deal—they do for a living what I write about. How are they going to feel about driving a writer around and answering a lot of silly questions?
About 5 minutes after I got my officer assignment, I realized that Officer Henley (a very nice, veteran patrol officer) had no idea who I was or why I was in his car. When I explained to him the who and why, I spent the next 15 minutes answering all sorts of writing questions—my nervousness subsided. He was not only genuinely interested in me and my writing, he answered every single one of my questions without laughing even once. If you happen to read this, Officer Henley, thank you!
The next morning kicked off the first day of the academy—FATS! I loved it! I chased a prison escapee and shot him in the throat (Confession: I also shot the lady he was trying to carjack… but I’ve managed to convince myself she was his accomplice—and I’m 99.9% positive she was going for a gun) and that factory worker that took his boss hostage? He got it in the head—don’t mess with me!
The adrenaline rush stuck with me through the next three days. Lectures on:
Human trafficking (a personal favorite!).
Auto erotic death (creepy and cool).
Finger printing (I can do it!).
Blood evidence (blood is kinda pretty when it glows in the dark). Photo – Patti Phillips
Arrest techniques (another fav!).
A felony traffic stop reenactment (funny and I’m sure scary accurate).
Sniper demo (… is this heaven?)
The shallow grave exercise was like some sort of gruesome Easter egg hunt… which should tell you how awesome it was! There were about fifty of us in the woods, beating the bushes, looking for poor ol’ Tony. And I found him! Poor guy had been tossed into a shallow hole and covered up with some tree branches. Did I mention how awesome it was?
Lectures and demonstrations (K-9s, bomb squad and SWAT EMTs—oh my!) were capped off every afternoon with a guest speaker. Dr. Elizabeth Murray gave a riveting talk on forensic identification. Dr. Katherine Ramsland led us night owls in an interesting discussion on how to sharpen our own observation skills and apply them to our writing.
Marcia Clark (yes—that Marcia Clark!) took us through the judicial process—entertaining and informative…
And then, after the banquet and silent auction (I won a boat load of SIRCHIE swag!) some guy named Lee Child (I guess he’s famous or something… wrote a few books about this guy named Jack Reacher.) took the podium—
Oh, who am I kidding? For me, meeting Lee Child was like meeting Elvis (leather jacket Elvis—not white, sequined jumpsuit Elvis). Listening to him talk—hearing what he was to say about writers and what we do made me proud to be a thriller writer.
Lee Child was gracious and generous with his time. Friendly and engaging… and utterly confused when I declined the offer to take my picture with him. I have no idea why I said no—I think I was momentarily possessed. He signed a book for my mother and I shook his hand (another embarrassing moment… I wasn’t even drunk, so I can’t even use that as an excuse for my kooky behavior!)
Sunday can too quickly. I spent my last few hours in North Carolina (which is beautiful, by the way! I was glued to the bus window each morning, staring at the green… I’m a desert girl. Trees are like unicorns to me.) sitting in on a panel discussion held by all the instructors, feverishly taking notes and writing down story ideas… I’ve got enough to last me a lifetime!
Thank you to Lee Lofland for this labor of love and to all the instructors and officers that were so generous with their time and knowledge. See y’all next year!
**Thank you to my partner in crime, Mary Edelson, for providing the photos!**
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Maegan Beaumont is the author of CARVED IN DARKNESS, the first book in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series (Available through Midnight Ink, spring 2013). A native Phoenician, Maegan’s stories are meant to make you wonder what the guy standing in front of you in the Starbucks line has locked in his basement, and feel a strong desire to sleep with the light on. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess for her high school sweetheart turned husband, Joe, and their four children, she is locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one true love, Jade.
She also writes a blog dedicated to helping writers with plot woes and answering writing questions. Check her out – maeganbeaumont.blogspot.com