A Blend of Life, Family, Awareness & Tales

Posts tagged ‘Writing’

Writer’s Police Academy

When I used to think of Police Officers, honestly, I usually thought one of two things:

  • “Oh shit, am I driving too fast?”
  • “This is a great character in this (book, movie, etc.)”

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That’s it. Kind of sad, right?

Very few things in my life have actually felt life-changing. (I’m not talking about meeting and marrying my husband, or the birth of my children, those are a given.) But honestly, the Writer’s Police Academy is one of them.

Sunday I returned home from my 2nd Writer’s Police Academy (WPA). For those of you who don’t know, or may have forgotten, my dream is to get published some day.

The WPA is a writing conference for writers who want to make their books more believable, readable, and realistic in regard to anything regarding law enforcement or other first responders.

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When I attended for the first time last year, the respect I felt for law enforcement changed from that of a ‘normal’ law abiding citizen to one of great respect, and a kinship to the men and women who wear a badge.

We learned how to load and handle a gun, how to look at a real crime scene, undercover work, arson, SWAT, blood spatter, pursuit immobilization techniques (in a real car!), etc. That was all really cool.

However there were things that I didn’t expect to learn:

  • For example, how my heart would pound so fast that I felt sick when faced with a ‘shoot, don’t shoot’ scenario. We had to decide, for example as a suspect’s hand came up, was he holding a cell phone or a gun?
  • Or how my back ached, and I got caught in doorways when I volunteered to wear the duty belt for a day, and it wasn’t even as heavy as a real one.  (And how the hell are you actually supposed to go to the bathroom with that thing on?)
duty belt

Photo credit: Mike Riegel

  • How someone reacts when a suspect ran at us armed with a knife from 20 feet away. Know how long that takes for the bad guy to reach you? About two seconds. Know how long it takes a WPA attendee to release their gun from their holster? About five seconds.

There has been a lot of bad press about the police, and I do not want to debate that here, I just want to give you my impressions. Every shift, the officers are out there, protecting us, not knowing what the day might bring. The majority of the officers are folks who really care for the people they protect, and believe me, they do not want to harm someone.

The biggest thing we attendees probably brought home with us is this: Just like you and me, a Police Officer simply wants to go home at night.

So what happened at the WPA this year?

Thursday afternoon, I attended the Kooky Cop Carnival. The conference hadn’t officially started, but we were provided with some entertainment. We had a chance to try on different equipment, pull a dummy to safety, even take fun mug shots:

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The real deal started Thursday evening with opening ceremonies. Our hosts, the Oneida Nation opened the conference with a blessing and entertainment by tribal dancers.

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Then over the next days, until Sunday at noon we participated in such cool classes. There were some that were held for everyone at once:

  • Drones
  • Writing for Television
  • Interview and Interrogation
  • Officer Down!

And there were break out classes for small groups. This year, I attended:

  • Blood Spatter (not splatter!)
  • Death Scene Investigation
  • Defense and Arrest Tactics
  • Fake vs Genuine Suicide Notes
  • Talking to Serial Killers
  • CSI: From First Responder to Evidence Collection
  • SWAT Explosive Entry
  • Long Gun: Live Fire with an AR-15

It was nearly impossible to narrow it down to those classes, there were about 40 to choose from. Time is limited though, and I wanted to take the ones that were most helpful to my current work in progress.

Finally, an unexpected bonus of the WPA for shy, introverted me was all the great people I met. The writing community is really generous and open, and it was great to feel a part of that. Whether published or not, everyone was there to learn, and we were all equals.

As Saturday night rolled around, we had a banquet, silent and live Auctions, raffle items, and a fantastic Guest Speaker, Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire book series on which the TV show is based. He was funny, warm, and inspiring to all of us there that night. If you haven’t read his books, you should!

As I sat at my table, trying to soak in every last morsel of the conference, I felt melancholy, mostly because I had made the decision that I should take a year off from WPA. As I am not yet published, attending can get expensive when you add up everything involved. Fortunately, the WPA fairy was watching over me that night, and I learned that I won the free tuition package to next year’s conference in the raffle. Phew!

Thank you to Lee Lofland (founder of WPA), and all the law enforcement, NWTC Faculty, speakers, volunteers, K-9s, police horses, and anyone else I missed.

WPA 2018, I can’t wait to return!

 

 

 

 

 

Pitchwars 2016: #PimpMyBio

Whew. Here I go. Nervous as hell. Pitchwars first timer.

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The Basics:

  • I am almost 46, having completed my first novel at age 43, so I have a bit of a late start.
  • I have a wonderful husband and two awesome kids, all very supportive of my writing. The best part of all this writing is that I have inspired both my children, ages 10 and 12, to write!
  • I have a BS in Agricultural Journalism (that is a thing) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. buckybadger.gif
  • We currently live in a small town in Southern Wisconsin, but I grew up on a horse farm near Green Bay (Go Pack Go!). I spent my childhood showing horses throughout the Midwest. What a fantastic ride!
  • I usually hide my nervousness with humor.

A Few Things I love:

  • My Family. (Duh!)
  • Books: If it’s fiction, I probably love it. Lee Child, Emily Giffin, and everything in between.
  • TV: Dexter, House, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, House of Cards, Mad Men…
  • Movies: Anything with Ryan Reynolds.

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  • Animals: Especially my stinker of a rescue dog, Cosmo and horses.

My Novel:

My Pitchwars manuscript is a Contemporary Romance, about a woman, her horse and a man.

When Willa Wray, Olympic Gold medalist, falls off her horse, she suffers a career-ending injury and a heart-breaking breakup with her boyfriend. She goes home to her parent’s horse farm in Wisconsin to heal her body, but childhood crush Shaw McAlister shows up to heal her heart.

I would love your criticism, prospective mentor, it will make me a better writer, and this story that I love, a better story. I’m a hard-working Wisconsin girl, and have a positive attitude so I think you would enjoy working with me.

I look forward to pitching to you and (crossing fingers) working with you! Thanks for taking the time to read my bio.

-Jodi

Thank you Lana for putting this together. Check out all the other great bios here.

Agents.

The past year has been an educational one for me in regard to book publishing. I am not yet published, but have no doubt it will happen. In the mean time though, I thought I would share with you what I have learned so far.

A year ago I posted that I finished my first book, a fiction novel, The Stalking Horse. I thought I knew a lot, but in reality I was an uneducated boob! I knew virtually nothing about:

  • Finding an agent
  • Query letters
  • Manuscript length, and apparently
  • Fiction genres

Twitter has become my new best friend. In my initial search for agent was spent on Google. What I quickly learned is that A LOT of literary agents are active on Twitter. I started following each agent I could find simply to learn what I could from the experts. I currently follow about 450 agents and the information I have learned from their posts has been phenomenal.

Secondly, I thought that writing the book was the hardest part of getting published. Boy was I wrong! Actually it is the query. The query letter is a one page formal letter sent to, in my case, potential literary agents to “pitch” a novel in hopes of getting representation. Now I feel I am a really good writer but this one little page has been the bane of my existence. Fortunately I was lucky enough to win a query review from a professional so I have had some guidance, but the art of describing your novel in a couple of compelling sentences is a daunting task.

Then there was the little task of lengthening my manuscript. As it is, it still might be a little short at 55,000 words, but nevertheless I feel this book is complete at that length. In the past year I have reworked my book probably 15 times, adding and paring as I saw fit.

Finally, I thought my book was a Thriller, but I learned it is actually a Cozy Mystery. I read a lot of books, and I was sure mine was a thriller, but as soon as it was identified as a cozy mystery, it seemed so obvious. Genre is really important because certain agents represent only certain genres. Send it to the wrong agent, you’ve just wasted your time and the agent’s. You don’t want to do that, the literary agents have enough to do without having to sort through a missent query.

I have learned a lot, and I have received rejections. Through it all I will keep writing.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”  Samuel Beckett

Finished!

It has been a long time since I’ve been here.

Where have I been you may or may not be asking? Well, I have been raising my kids, working a little bit, and probably wasting a lot of time. It’s been five years in the making, but I am very proud to say one thing did get done:

I finished my first novel!

I’ve been celebrating for about a week, but have a feeling the tough part is ahead of me. First of all, no one else has read it yet.

Is it good you ask? Well of course it is, and my children are the smartest, best behaved, sweetest in the world. (I may be a little biased.) So now I have the hard part, submitting it to someone who knows what is a good book.

What do I do next? I need to have an editor look it over, write a summary, find an agent, etc.

Do I know what I am doing? Not really, but I am learning quickly! I’m not naïve enough to think my first book out the gate will be a winner, but I still have fantasies that it will be! No matter the outcome though, I am really proud of myself. I finished a novel which contains 50,000 words that are all mine, written in a document that tells a story that has never been told before. I’ve created people who I sometimes forget are fictional. I even slipped up once and shared an anecdote with my family, forgetting that the person in question was simply a figment of my imagination.

The more I write, the more writing is becoming part of me. I am finished with my first book, but have only begun my life as a writer.

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Hello 2012

Happy New Year!

It’s me, Jodi.

crickets chirping.

I know, I know. It’s been a while. I started this blog and then promptly forgot about it. I’m not proud of that. However, In 2011 I did accomplish some things to be proud of:

  • I began seriously writing my book.
  • My garden looked pretty good.
  • I’m taking an occassional yoga class. This has allowed me to see my best friend at least a little bit, which is really the greatest benefit.
  • I got a job as a sub at the kids’ school.
  • I learned the basics of archery and got my own recurve bow and arrows.
  • I started a blog.

I don’t know what 2012 has in store for us this year, but I can tell you that actually blogging and not just having a blog is my resolution for 2012.

So that’s it. It’s in writing and now it must be done. It shouldn’t be that hard to keep, as long as those darn Angry Birds stay away!

Seriously, those birds are evil.

So, if you are interested in hearing the ramblings of my brain, probably written very late at night, come on back and take a read. Thanks for giving me another chance!

Do you have any resolutions you would like to share?

Happy New Year!

Saddle Up

Many of you do not know that in my previous life I was immersed in the world of horses. Even though that all ended more than half my life ago, I still think of myself as a horse person but no longer define myself that way. It wasn’t just a phase. Everything, including boys, always took second place to the horses. For several years it was a way of life for my Mom, Dad and I.

Yep, that's me 23 years ago. Photo by Jennifer Bierdz

My Mom has always loved horses, but more than that, she is an expert in pedigree, conformation and horse care. She knows more in those areas than I can ever hope to, yet we both share the love for the animal itself. My Dad was our driver, logistics expert and supportive husband/father. He was a good student of the horse show world, learning more than he probably ever wanted to about the horses.

Though my Mom had horses earlier in her life, the first horse our family purchased arrived when I was just nine years old. She was a sweet Purebred Arabian mare who took care of me as much as we did her. She was an old broodmare who really didn’t want to work, but was a kind to this clumsy young rider. She was the color of a shiny copper penny and gave birth to the first foal we ever had.  I showed her for two years at 4-H and local shows, forever hooked thereafter.

I have always felt a bit like an outsider in life. Even to this day I often don’t feel like I fit in, but high school was probably the highlight of my self-doubt and consciousness. I would have given just about anything to be part of the popular crowd, but at the time I was too shy to even approach them. What I did have though, were the horses. The horses provided me with confidence, experiences and a focus. Those four years we worked our way up through three show horses, and moved up from 4-H and local shows to the Class A Arabian and National Show Horse shows with hopes to show at the Nationals.  

Was I the best at what I did? Not even close. I have always had some apprehension when riding, even after years of doing so. Certainly the horses sensed that. But I personally defined myself as an equestrian. It was the one thing that I knew I did well, and the one place I always felt I fit in.

We travelled the Midwest with the horses, and did fairly well for our situation. I love horses, caring for them, smelling them, just scratching their necks. But the thrill of the competition was an addiction. I loved the shows, the rush of adrenaline as we entered the show ring, the lights in the coliseum at night and the cheers of the crowd. It was intoxicating. I craved to be in that show ring, not because I wanted attention, but because of the magic of the communication of horse and rider; Because of the thrill of the moment, like the montages in every sports movie ever made. It is an experience I have been unable to duplicate.

My freshman year of college was difficult for me. I was homesick, and looking back now I realize that not only did I miss my family, I missed our horses and what the horses meant to my existence. That autumn, I was to show at the National Show Horse Finals, but my dear horse injured a tendon ending our show season prematurely. I showed in a couple of classes over the next few years, but in reality, that was when my horse show life ended.

For a decade my identity was tied to the world of horses, and much like ripping off a bandage, it was gone in an instant. I was surrounded by peers who were still showing, my family would go to shows as spectators, but we were no longer “horse people.”

I am not upset that the shows did not continue. I understand why. I was a grown woman, not living at home, no longer expecting my parents to support my habit hobby. But nevertheless, it took many years to create a new identity for myself that I could love. I now sometimes share that I used to show horses, when we watch a show I am nostalgic for what I once had, but I am no longer defined by it.

Today I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a friend, a gardener and now hopefully, a writer. Some nights I still have dreams that I am showing one of my old dear show horses, dreams that once made me sad. But now I have learned to cherish those dreams as my chance to remember my old equine friends, and a way to experience the thrill of the show ring once again.

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