Category: Around the Web (Page 2 of 6)

The Citizens’ Police Academy – My Experience

First hand research is a must. Nicole Wilson, a thriller author, recently went through the Citizens’ Police Academy and learned what it takes to be a police officer — and got a ton of great writing research. Here, she shares here boon.


For the last nine weeks, I have had the opportunity to be a part of a program with the Houston Police Department called the Citizens’ Police Academy. It has been an incredible experience, both from a personal and a writer’s standpoint. I’ve been exposed to new people and situations, seen buildings normally locked down to civilians, and ridden along with police officers. It has given me a new respect for the officers and what they do.

Introduction

For those that don’t know, the Citizens’ Police Academy is a ten week program that teaches civilians about different divisions within a police department. The goal of the academy is to educate the public on the inner workings of the department, so they can act as a public representative within their communities. Police these days get lots of bad press, and it’s easy to forget that, most of the time, only the bad get media attention. More often than not, the outstanding things they do aren’t publicized. This program gives civilians an inside look at what they do and why they do it.

One day a week for three hours, they give lectures, hands-on demonstrations, and field trips to the various units. Each week is a different topic, and for every topic, they bring in experts to talk to us, show us what they do, and, in some cases, teach us how to do it, too. Basically, we get to learn all of the things the cadets do in the academy, but without the homework, sweat, and tears (and the badge and gun– we don’t get those either). This program is not limited only to HPD; several students in my class have done this program around the country.

Curriculum

Week 1 – Orientation/Tactics

Orientation was just what it sounds like: introductions all around. But then they took us out in the police cruisers and had trainers drive us through the precision course (the driving course with all the orange cones around). Talk about an adrenaline rush! We hit 50 MPH a couple of times on a very short track. Then, they showed us intermediate weapons: OC spray (mace), batons, and tasers. They even let me shoot a taser! At a paper target, of course.

Fun fact I learned this week: Chevy Caprices are favored by some officers as their car because it’s lighter, more maneuverable, and has better handling than the Crown Vics.

Read the rest…


 

Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com


 

Finding (A Writing) Community

Nicole Wilson, a thriller author, has written about the importance of writer’s groups several times. Here is a fantastic post about getting involved in writing communities.

We, as a people, are social creatures. That’s how we’re built. Sure, there are personality differences that change the level of interaction needed or desired, but we still need others. Especially when your chosen craft is as solitary as writing is. It’s a lonely sport. We sit alone at home (or in a coffee shop), we outline (maybe), we write, we revise, and we edit. All of that, for the most part, is a solitary activity.

It’s also a difficult path to pursue as a hobby or career. There isn’t a guarantee of money or fame, but those are the goals a lot of us work toward. In the wake of the loneliness, these also bring heartache, discouragement, and pain. Between the length of time it takes to finish a project (start to finish, it took me 16 months to finish Deception) and the rejection letters from agents and the poor sales numbers on self-publishing sites, the heart can only take so much.

This is why community is so important. While the craft itself is fairly solitary, there are opportunities to interact with other writers. It’s important to find others to help you grow, encourage you, and to help you persevere during the inevitable lows. And there are so many existing places to connect! They can be in person or online, and most of them are free!

Some examples include writing groups (also called critique groups or critique circles), online communities, and social media. They can provide you with encouragement, answers your questions, help you make other connections, critique your work, and suggest ways for you to grow. And the best part: they’re writers just like you! They know the struggle of sifting through rejection letters. It’s not an empty “I’m sorry” but a heartfelt “I’ve been there and you’ll make it through.” (Not that those who aren’t writers can’t offer support and encouragement. It’s just different.) They have the same goals as you, so they understand when you text “can’t talk – in a writing streak”.

Read the rest…


Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com.

 


 

What I Learned From My Second Manuscript

Nicole Wilson is back with more of her sage advice. Previously, she shared her lessons from writing a first manuscript. This time she talks about her second.


Late last year, I wrote a blog post on what I learned from writing my first manuscript. Since then, I have gone through most of the editing process for Deception–the manuscript that blog post is based on–and begun the marketing process (query letters, synopses, sample chapters, oh my!). I’ve also written the first draft of my second novel, The Grudge. Here are a few things that I’ve learned in writing that second manuscript.

Writing well is still hard. Sigh Deep down, I think I’d hoped that after conquering that first manuscript, magical words that would make agents and editors come knocking my door down would flow from my fingertips effortlessly. Sadly, that is not what happened. I haven’t had one single agent or editor even say hi. In fact, I think writing The Grudge was harder than Deception. Probably because I expected it to be easier, and because The Grudge is about 20K words longer than Deception was at this stage. That’s an extra full month of writing for me. Long time to gruelingly trudge out every word.

Character outlines are a God-send. I wrote a blog post on the importance of character profiles, but I didn’t start using character profiles until halfway through Deception. Oh my gosh. Writing the full manuscript with a simple packet for each character made life so much easier. No more game-time decisions that affected other parts of the manuscript.

Research first. I don’t typically do a lot of research for my stories (none of my short stories required any research), but The Grudge dealt heavily with a lot of topics I wasn’t familiar with: Volgan Germans, Unmanned Ground Vehicles, and robotic tanks are just some of them. Before I started writing, I did internet research on all of them, printed out several pages, and had them handy for my writing. That way, I didn’t spend thirty minutes searching for the right information and another two hours getting lost down the rabbit hole of clicking on links that looked interesting.

And, if you do nothing else before you start writing, back up your outline! Back up your outline. Oh yeah, and back up your outline. I had one of the worst days of my writing career when I misplaced my scene cards. I keep a stack of an index card per scene, handwritten, bound with a binder clip while I’m writing. Not very big. Easy to lose, I learned. I couldn’t find them in my backpack one Friday. Convinced I’d left them at work, I didn’t think much of it until I got to work on Monday and couldn’t find them there either. I was devastated. Over halfway through with my novel, I’d lost about 25 cards that I hadn’t yet typed. That’s a whole lot of lost words. I was lucky. My husband found them under our stove (courtesy of one of our cats). But I went straight home and scanned them all into my computer. Lesson learned.

Read the rest…


Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com

Resources for Educators: Digital Educational Games

Educational gaming is important to me. I believe that any way we can engage students and have those students engage a variety of processes, senses, and intelligences, the learning will be cemented much more effectively.

This is one of my favorite sites for open to use, digital educational games.

http://cttl.rice.edu/ProjectsGames/

 

Resources for Visual Artists: Public Domain Images

As a blogger and artist, I am constantly struggling for high quality images to use in posts and pieces. Royalties can bleed you dry, especially for something as trivial as a rant or simple blog.

BlenderDiplom has come to my rescue. These sites are filled with royalty free, public domain images that are actually high quality.

Resources For Public Domain CCO Images

Share the love in the comments and let us know some of your favorite image houses.

Obscure Folklore and Inspiration

One of my favorite quotes goes something like, “a writer is just someone who has trained his mind to misbehave.” I love that. Storytellers take bits and pieces from all the things we know and mash them around to create something new and cool.

For those of us who write fantasy, this means we have a wide buffet to choose from. Still, it can take some work to find those little-known bits of awesome. I’ve done some of the legwork for you. Here are a couple articles about obscure fairy tales and mythological creatures.

  • http://screenrant.com/grimm-fairy-tales-movies/
  • http://listverse.com/2013/03/16/10-unusual-little-known-fairy-tales/
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maria-tatar/10-lesserknown-fairy-tale_b_6755354.html
  • http://www.wonderslist.com/lesser-known-folklore-creatures/

Share your own in the comments below.

Personalized Learning With Richard Culatta

In this TED talk, Richard Culatta speaks about innovative learning and personalized education. It’s truly inspirational and gives some great, practical tips.

Richard Culatta is an internationally recognized leader in educational innovation with experience in k-12, higher education, and workplace learning environments. Culatta is known for his thoughtful approach to bringing new ideas and collaborations to the education ecosystem. Culatta is currently serving as Senior Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education and as the Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

MMI Revolution: A Personalized Children’s Book

This. Is. Incredible.

I advocate, fight for, and bleed the mixed-media, interactive revolution, but I seem to always think of this as a digital-only field. It’s not. By definition, MMI is all kinds of media, and this digital-only thinking hinders the very revolution we are trying to spark.

One of my favorite MMI projects is The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home, a “magical, personalized storybook.” The user (a parent) inputs some basic information about the child, and orders a personalized picture book about a trip through the universe. Each trip is personalized, including finding the child’s name in a constellation of stars.

This really is worth checking out — for the revolutionaries, and especially for anyone who has children in their lives. https://www.lostmy.name/en-US

Resources for Artists: Be More Productive

We’ve all been there, needing that extra nudge to actually get something good done. Twitter and Facebook can suck you into a vortex and never let you go. We, as artists, need inspiration, tools, resources, and help with things we may not do so well (like social media marketing).

The good folks over at Creative Shrimp have put together a wonderful, catch-all list of 19 Useful Resources to Help You Get More Productive at Art. I use several of these regularly. You should really check it out.

Resources for Educators: Open Educational Material

When at all possible, let others do the work. Yeah, that may sound lazy, but I prefer to think of it as efficient. Truth be told, there is a LOT of quality educational material out there that is free to use. A lot of it is for more advanced users (college courses and the like), but some of it is perfect for any age.

Here are a few of my favorite Open Educational Material sites

Open Stax

This initiative from Rice University provides dozens of best-of-breed college courses free for the public.

MIT Open Courseware

From MIT, another exceptional site. This one includes actual MIT courses that are streamed. You can interact with other students, ask the professor questions, and even do the assignments

Udemy

Udemy is a commercial site where users upload courses on every topic imaginable. There are a lot of these kinds of sites, but I chose this one to post about because it has high quality standards and a wide variety of courses

EdX

The Holy Grail of free online courses from top-of-the-line Universities. Some are always open, others run at the same time as the class on campus. Interact with students and professors and even take a credited route.

What have I missed? Share your favorites in the comments.

 

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