Monday, 28 January 2013

Human Library Experience

Our local library had a very interesting special this weekend.  You could "borrow" people from the community for a 20 minute interview.  I took advantage and had a wonderful conversation with a local police officer.

Now, I enjoy Castle, Law and Order, Criminal Minds and many other fine cop dramas.  But I don't make the mistake of assuming they reflect reality any more than ER was an accurate record of hospital visits.

He had some great stories about hair-raising arrests and his journey to becoming a police officer.  It was something he worked very hard to do and it wasn't a straightforward accomplishment.  As someone who has also struggled (and is struggling) to achieve my dreams, it's a story I can connect with.

As we're speaking, I have plot points and character ideas dancing in my head, trying to come together to form a coherent story.  But I had to force myself to concentrate and not fly off into creative-land.  There were only 20 minutes, after all.  Not a lot of time for an in-depth revelation.

He generously offered to let me get in contact with him again to ask him more questions.  He even offered to let me to a ride along (and the thought of that had me grinning for most of the afternoon.  I mean, come on, how cool is that!).

My big impression was of someone who recognizes how fragile life and plans can be.  He's worked hard but hasn't lost his sympathy for those who haven't made it.  He's passionately committed to protecting the community but equally committed to upholding the law.  He's found a balance between work and home, keeping the nastiness separate from his home life.  He was someone who is living their dream and found it to be even better than they could have imagined.  That's a rare thing in life.

On a logistical side, I had a few challenges with how the interviews were organized.  I wasn't allowed to take notes.  Forbidding audio or visual recordings I get, but I think CBC got a little paranoid on that front.  So I ended up scribbling notes in my car for twenty minutes after the interview, trying to recapture everything.  I got three pages and very cold, stiff fingers.  The other major problem was that I wasn't allowed to sign up for more than one interview, which meant I missed out on some other interesting conversations I'd hoped to have.  (A lot of the interview slots filled up in the first fifteen minutes, making it impossible to sign up for another one.)

Overall though, I think this is a great idea.  As a writer, it's a huge opportunity for me to make contacts and learn about people I don't necessarily come into contact with.  As a community member, it's a way to make the community more inclusive and less judgmental.  I'm all for that.

As much as I'd love to sign up immediately for that ride-along, I think I'll pause and let myself finish Revelations first.  But I think he would make an amazing base for the police officer in the story who is helping Michael, my main character.  Assuming he would be okay with that, of course.

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