Saturday, October 23, 2010

Meet the Spirits

Last Sunday I attended the Meet the Spirits program at the Columbia Cemetery in Boulder. Actors recreated the lives of a number of the celebrities buried there. The victim of a 1954 murder, who remained buried as “Jane Doe” for many years, was only recently identified after her body was exhumed and DNA testing performed to match with a relative. This case was documented in Silvia Pettem’s book, “Someone’s Daughter.” As an aside, Silvia gave an excellent presentation at the last Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America dinner in Denver about her research into finding the identity of Jane Doe. Some other reenactments included Tom Horn, a gunslinger; Rocky Mountain Joe Sturtevant, a photographer who took pictures of Boulder at the turn of the nineteenth into twentieth century; Mary Rippon, the first woman professor at the University of Colorado; and Dorothy Gardiner, mystery writer. This was a great preparation for Halloween and an excellent way of learning more of the history of Boulder.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Citizens Police Academy

I attended the Boulder Citizens Police Academy several years ago, and the alumni group meets once a week. Last night the speaker was Mark Beckner, chief of police, discussing current and future issues in policing. With the current budget crunch one area of emphasis is doing more with less. In 2000 the police department had 64,289 calls for service, and in 2009 there were 77,735 calls. This represented an increase from 371 calls per officer to 454 calls per officer. The challenge going forward will be to maintain service with reduced staff and funding, which will require improved online reporting, better use of data and crime analysis, regionalization of some functions such as the bomb squad and SWAT and improved technology. He expected immigration and language issues will require more multi-lingual officers. With the graying of America, there will be fewer young violent criminals but an increase in white collar crime such as fraud, identity theft and internet crime.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What I Learned This Week

I continue to pick up new tidbits of knowledge when I give presentations. Here’s what I collected this week:

Rotary International has a goal of eradicating polio. There are four countries to go: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. This will be the second disease eradicated, the first being smallpox.

From the exalted to the mundane. Here are three facts I heard: 1. A flink is twelve or more cows. 2. Duct tape was originally called duck tape. 3. It’s illegal to carry ice cream cones in your pocket in Kentucky. Go figure.

But my favorite for the week was this. After a presentation, a man came up to me and said he had graded my talk. He held up a piece of paper with a large zero on it. My first reaction was thinking to myself that people had laughed and enjoyed my speech, so I asked him to explain. He said, “I keep track of how many times a speaker says: um . . . ah . . . and . . . You had zero. Good job.”

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Author Fest of the Rockies

Yesterday I attended the Author Fest of the Rockies in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and lead a workshop on Mixing Humor, Mystery and Older Characters. I had a chance to catch up with other author friends and attend several workshops.

Esri Albritton led a session on high concept and defined it as having two elements: 1. It quickly and clearly communicates what your book is about, and 2. It makes people go “ooh.”

Ann Parker discussed the six elements of fiction: 1. Action, 2. Dialogue, 3. Physical Description of Setting, 4. Physical description of character, 5. Internal thinking, and 6. Internal physical sensations. An interesting exercise was to think of two characters in conflict and then to quickly write a sentence each using the six elements in this order (using the numbers above): 2, 1, 2, 4, 3, 5, 6, 2, 1. All the participants did this and read the results and it was very intriguing how well the sentences flowed. Give it a try.