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Posted April 25, 2010


When Vickie Ryan first contacted me to teach Christian Fiction and Creative Nonfiction classes at the 5th Annual Mad Anthony Writers Conference in Hamilton, Ohio, my first question was who is Mad Anthony and why is he mad. I found out he was the founder of the town and perhaps slightly eccentric. Of course I said, "You can count on me."

I soon discovered Hamilton was called the "City of Sculpture." It's also one of the friendliest towns I've ever visited - incredible people coming together as volunteers to help raise money for the YWCA Family Literacy program.

Since I wasn't teaching until Saturday, I spent Friday learning about murder and mayhem from the mayor, judge, criminal investigator, and county coroner - just in case I wanted to include a murder scene in a book. Attorney Fiehrer told us that mayhem meant: the criminal act of disabling, disfiguring or cutting off or making useless one of the members (leg, arm, hand, foot, eye and I think yanking out someone's tongue was mentioned as well) of another either intentionally or in a fight, called maiming. To commit mayhem is to cause gross harm in an uncontrolled fashion.

I also learned how to investigate a fire and how to drive a police car on a fast paced chase using a simulator. Okay, I was a granny at driving fast because I was trying to be careful. There was a lot of play in the steering wheel and I didn't want to kill any pedestrians or plow into the bank building's front doors like one of the members of my group - I'm not mentioning any names. And I forgot to turn on my siren and flashing lights which meant that while I was looking down to find the switches, I lost my traffic offender. As you can see, I'm throwing up my hand and asking, "Which way did he go?"

Later, taking someone out with a real .45 automatic rigged to shoot laser beams was more my speed when faced with animated character criminals who were trying to take me down in real life scenarios. I was hearing shouts from behind of, "Yes! I'd want her as my partner - she'd have my back!" Move over Dirty Harry. I guess that means DH would make a better driving partner especially on days in the spring when I was on antihistamines to offset the effects of a high pollen count.

Visiting the county morgue raised goose bumps while Dr. Burkhardt allowed us to step into the cooler. I discovered it would hold 10 more bodies than the two who were temporarily residing there.

Touring through the S.W.A.T. TEAM truck was informative and Craig Bucheit instructed us on proper weapon usage.

I was allowed to hold a 25 lb. Kevlar vest to get a feel for just how strenuous the job was and also the reason for staying in top physical condition.

The K-9 dual purpose dog, Catcher, was my favorite instructor. Officers John and Lori Cresap put him through his paces and he showed us how to effectively take off a bad guy's arm using teeth as a lethal weapon.

Saturday classes went without a hitch. Later, I dined at Ryan's Tavern where the meal was superb and service excellent. My server, Opie Taylor Barnett, gave me a personal tour of the historical building, pointing out the antique chest that had at one time belonged to his ancestors though he didn't realize a part of his history was ensonced there until his parents visited and spotted the family treasure.

While touring Ryan's Tavern, I'd mentioned I was looking for a church to attend the next morning. Mr. Barnett invited me to go with him and his friend Audrey to her church for Sunday School, and then to his - Park Avenue United Methodist Church - for Worship Service. It was after worship that Pastor Dafler had us write down everything on a card that was keeping us from serving the Lord. After tying balloons to our past sins, guilt, and hang-ups, we released all.

"...to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up..." - Eph 4:12

The people of Hamilton, Ohio bonded together to help the YWCA Family Literacy Program and do that very thing - serve one another. I can honestly say it was one of the best writers' conferences I've ever had the pleasure of attending - the people of Hamilton were phenomenal. Presenting there was the sauce on my bread pudding.

There were many others who presented and volunteered their time. For more information, please visit www.madanthonycbf.org/

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Email to....:vmoss@livingwaterfiction.com