Turtle pursuit

I just got back from my third Writers’ Police Academy and I’m still carrying that post-conference glow. You know, the one you get when you learn new things, meet friendly people, eat yummy food and have lots of fun?

I think the most fun this year was driving a squad car around the training track at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. Our hosts for all things police academy rolled out the red carpet, and the orange traffic cones, to let a bunch of writers get hands-on experience just like they give to their actual law-enforcement recruits.

Since I’ve been home — can it really be two weeks already? — I’ve seen notes from fellow WPA’ers about their travel traumas coming and going from Appleton, Wisconsin. In my case, I have none of that. All I need to do is throw my gear in my car and take a leisurely afternoon drive from point A to point B..

My normal trips to Wisconsin are to buy gas, which is usually at least 30 cents cheaper per gallon than it is where I live in Illinois. But I do trek north for fun every now and then. WPA is one of those fun trips.

This year, I learned a lot from my first session to my last. Topics I signed up for this time ranged from body cameras to tribal policing. I also learned a lot about arms in America, how prolific they are and how assault weapons are defined in law. I stepped into a shoot-don’t-shoot video scenario, and would have been shot in real life. I’ve done it twice and been reluctant to shoot both times. And it was just a video! I understand more each time about how officers must feel when they have seconds to evaluate the threat level in any situation.

From the body cam session, I learned the lenses are the extreme wide-angle type called fish-eyes. You know that sign in your side mirror — “Objects are closer than they appear”? The same is true of body cams. I recall some video I saw on TV from an officer-involved shooting. What I took to be an image of someone at least 20 feet away from the policeman (it was a man) could actually have been someone less than half that distance away.

The instructor gave a a few examples, the most intriguing to me from a Florida arrest. The officer with the chest camera stood straight up, turning from side to side a few times, while it was clear that what was happening was on the ground. It all took place in a bank parking lot and a camera on the bank showed the whole picture. I won’t give it away, in case you decided to go to WPA next year.

I have learned so much from WPA in the three times I’ve attended. I hope to be able to go again. Many thanks to Lee Lofland, who has organized WPA and struggled through its headaches for the past 10 years or so. And thanks, too, to the Jason Weber, the public safety training director, and his team at NWTC, for sharing their knowledge, experience and equipment with all of us. Also, thanks to the other officers and agents who come to WPA every year to teach us new things.

Oh, and as for the turtle pursuit — that was my pace around the driver’s training track. My “training officer” encouraged me to speed up. “You have the skills,” he said, trying to encourage me as I wove through a slalom course of orange cones.

All I can say is, not a cone was hurt during my two trips around the course.

Not many can say that.

Way too busy

Last December I agreed to volunteer some time to do a little desktop publishing. I anticipated the job would take about a month, based on experience with similar projects. Who knew I’d end up putting in about three weeks of that month in ten days!

Part of crunch was my own fault. I went on a week-long vacation with my sisters. We didn’t do much, but it was our first get-together in nearly three years. But traveling in the middle of the project made me nervous. And I didn’t have all the materials from other volunteers before the trip.

I got home, dug in and managed to make the printer’s deadline. And I had a little fun along the way playing with pages. But I really hated cramming so much into so little time. I wanted the finished product to look nice. I wanted it to be accurate. And the rush made me change my goal simply to getting done.

Oh, sigh.

There were mistakes, and while at the moment we’re trying to find them and fix them for the online version of the program, the original printing will always have them. Corrections are coming along, but I’m about to hit the road for another conference — the Writers’ Police Academy, this year in Green Bay and Appleton, Wisconsin. It will be my third trip, and I’m looking forward to it.

And, when I get back, I’ll be making the final corrections to the program. Fingers crossed next year goes better.

Book seers

For writers, the question is never resolved, is it? Do you plot or do you start filling pages until a project is done? Which is the better approach?
Obviously there is no right answer.
But, here’s another installment in the debate. See if any of the suggestions helps you through one of your projects.

To Pants or To Plot, That is the Question. Or is it? | writingwenches

http://writingwenches.com/2014/09/08/to-pants-or-to-plot-that-is-the-question-or-is-it/

Commas, etc.

In my work, I deal with several writers who speak — and write in —  multiple languages. And that pesky comma shows up all over the place. But for the publications I work for — all intended for US audiences — I default to US grammar and punctuation rules. Here are a few reminders.

TED-Ed Blog» Blog Archive » Be a better writer in 15 minutes: 4 TED-Ed lessons on grammar and word choice

http://blog.ed.ted.com/2014/05/29/be-a-better-writer-in-15-minutes-4-ted-ed-lessons-on-grammar-and-word-choice/

Read and read aloud

No matter how many times you hear it in your head, your work sounds different when you hear the sound of your words.
One of my writing groups focuses almost exclusively on the sounds of our efforts. When we read, we hear the too-long sentences, the oft-repeated words, the misplaced modifiers and more.
Reading out loud is the top tip on this list, but it’s not the only good one.

20 Simple Tips That Will Dramatically Improve Your Writing | inspirationfeed.com

http://inspirationfeed.com/articles/blogging/20-simple-tips-that-will-dramatically-improve-your-writing/