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A Visit With Author Jay Padar

My guest today is Jay Padar. Jay, a Chicago police officer, and his dad, James, retired CPD, have written an anthology of interesting and compelling stories about their time on the job.

Please introduce yourself and tell the readers about your background, where you live, and when you began writing.

My name is Jay Padar and I’m a married father of four-year-old boy/girl twins.  I am also a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department where I’ve worked for the last fifteen years.  I’ve written short stories ever since I can remember.  My most serious writing came when I was a brand new rookie cop just starting my career.  You see, I had lived in Chicago my whole life but I consider my youth and young adulthood to have been somewhat sheltered.  I went to private grade school, private high school in the suburbs, and went to college in a small Midwestern town.  The next thing I knew I was chasing dope dealers into high-rise public housing projects.  The things I experienced as a rookie cop were new and exciting.  I didn’t really have an outlet at the time so I started writing emails to my father after my tour of duty detailing my night’s activities.  I knew he’d understand.  He was contemplating retirement after having served nearly thirty years as a Chicago police officer.  “Keep writing, son,” he emailed back.  “For every story you write, I’ll write one.”

Jay Padar
Jay Padar

It’s evident that your law enforcement background has influenced your writing. Do you think you will ever move toward the fiction genre, and will your writing continue to be police related?

At this point I’m still writing police related non-fiction.  I enjoy my career and still see something new every day.  I’m a believer in the saying, “The truth is stranger than fiction.”  So many times I’ve ended my stories with, “You can’t make this stuff up!”  I would never eliminate the possibility of writing fiction, but I’m excited to share what a big-city cop experiences day by day. 

What/who inspired you to begin writing? Do you write every day?

No one person inspired me to begin writing but I have to say my parents always encouraged me to continue writing.  My dad still tells me to “put it down on paper.”  Even if I don’t have a complete story I still jot down notes that I can go back to and transform into a story.  Unfortunately I never find enough time to write.  Between working 50+ hours a week and spending time with my family there never seems to be enough hours in the day.

I know you have a book that’s just been released. Please tell my readers about it.

I’m very excited to have co-authored “On Being A Cop” with my father, Jim Padar.  This book contains 53 short stories written by father and son detailing over forty-five years of combined police experience.  These are all true stories of laughing, crying and clinging to family, before and after moments of humor, loss and profound tragedy.  Our goal was to try to change the negative perception some people have of police.  We wanted the public to know that police officers suffer tragedy in their own lives, have good days and bad days and that police officers aren’t emotional robots.  What we see day in and day out affects us and changes who we are.On Being A Cop cover

Tell us about your publishing experience. Was it difficult finding a publisher?

My father and I were completely new to this world of book writing.  We had more questions than answers when we started.  Both of us consider ourselves very lucky to have found a wonderful publishing coach, Patrick Snow, who guided us through the ins and outs of this industry.  Our coach helped us create a book that he felt would stand out and get the attention of publishers.  Shortly after completing our work we signed with Aviva Publishing.

What is your most rewarding writing experience?

“On Being A cop “definitely tops the list.  I am truly honored to have been able to share this experience with my father and create something that I can show my kids years down the road.  How great will it be to sit down with my twins years from now and show them the book that daddy and grandpa wrote together?

Do you belong to any writing groups, or critique groups?

I am a recent member of the Public Safety Writers Association.  It’s a wonderful organization that I highly recommend.  Their members have been extremely helpful and encouraging.

Are you working on any new projects?

Right now I’m focusing on joining my father as a writer on his blog “On Being A Cop.”  New police stories are being added on a regular basis.  It’s a wonderful way to keep me focused on my writing and develop more material for a possible upcoming book.

James & Jay Padar
James & Jay Padar

Is there anything you would like to share with our readers?

Any one in law enforcement knows that this career is filled with danger.  Two organizations that provide tremendous help to Chicago police officers are the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation (CPMF) and the Police Chaplains Ministry (PCM).  The CPMF provides financial support to officers who have been catastrophically injured and to the families of officers who have given their lives on this job.  The PCM provides constant emotional and spiritual support to officers struggling in their personal lives.  My father and I are proud to be sharing a portion of the profits from this book with these two organizations.  We are also proud to have donated copies of our book to be included in holiday care packages for all active-duty Chicago police military personnel.

Please provide the readers with a link to your website, and a link to your book.

Our book and blog can be found at www.OnBeingACop.com

 

 

 

 

 

Dialogue Tips

English: Exclamation Colon
English: Exclamation Colon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dialogue Tips

 

  • Dialogue should do one of two things: move the plot along or reveal character
  • “Said” and “asked,” are better than the multitude of other dialogue tags such as responded, agreed, etc.
  • Better still, use the character’s action as a dialogue tag instead. “No way.” Dan pulled out his gun.
  • Or use description as a dialogue tag. Cynthia’s silk skirt swirled around her long legs. “Are you coming or not?”
  • Go easy on the exclamation points. If the dialogue is exclamatory enough, an exclamation point is unnecessary. An Exclamation point should never be used in narrative. Elmore Leonard said, “Use only one exclamation point in a novel.”
  • Don’t ever have a character tell someone something that they already know to get information across. Maybe it is something that ought to be in narrative, but be careful of an information dump.
  • Though you want dialogue to be realistic sounding, don’t copy how we really talk such as: “Hello, how are you.” “I’m fine, and you?” Leave all this greeting stuff and comments about the weather out (unless it’s important to the plot).
  • When writing, start a new paragraph every time a new person speaks or does something. This will help the reader follow what is going on.
  • Even if the conversation is between two people, put a dialogue tag in every so often so the reader knows who is talking.
  • Never have one person speak for long periods of time. When we’re talking to one another, we interrupt, change the subject, etc.
  • Be sure the reader knows where the dialogue takes place.
  • Lastly, beware of talking heads. We need to see the characters and what they are doing during the conversation. No one sits or stands perfectly still while talking, and this brings you back to the fact that you can use an action as a dialogue tag. “Phil scratched his head. “What do you expect me to do about it?”

Courtesy of Marilyn Meredith, author of the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, under the name F.M. Meredith, and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. http://fictionforyou.com

 

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

"Writing", 22 November 2008
“Writing”, 22 November 2008 (Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

I’m a member of the PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association), which means all of the members share a connection with public safety. As a result, we write about things we know, things we’re comfortable with, e.g., police work, firefighting, dispatching, etc. And while it’s not easy to write a novel, an article, or short story,being intimately familiar with the topic about which you are writing is certainly a plus.

There’s an old axiom advising writers to “Write what you know.” Good advice? Maybe. While writing about things you are familiar with makes the task less arduous, it also makes your writing more predictable. I think a better piece of advice to writers might be, “Write what you feel.”

In the past couple of years, I’ve been travelling that path. Having written several thrillers and dozens of training articles, I began to realize my writing was becoming too pre-packaged. It all seemed to reflect the same theme. Therefore, I started to experiment. I discovered a genre called flash fiction. This particular short story template limits the word count to a paltry sum of less than 1,000 words. Some formats, I found, were even more stringent, allowing less than 500 words.

Daunting as it seemed, I nonetheless accepted the challenge. To my surprise, the words flowed quickly and easily on to the page. Being constrained to a word count made my writing much tighter. My prose was crisp, my characters and scenery fresh and vivid. I wrote about love and hate, about loss and renewal. My endings were sometimes happy and other times sad and unpredictable.

In short, if you find yourself in a writing slump and everything begins to look the same, try something different. Write a love story, a poem, or a piece of science fiction. Tackle a topic you never thought you’d ever write about. This past year I even wrote several technical manuals—boring, but challenging nevertheless, and the exercise took me out of my comfort zone.

Writing is a gift we should never take for granted. This unique craft gives rise to emotion and passion, not only in those who write, but also in those who read. As with any living thing, writing needs nurturing. Don’t ignore your muse. Tend to it; baby it. Don’t ever let the writer in you become apathetic or comfortable. Challenge yourself, you won’t be sorry.

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