Cold Cases at Virginia Tech. I was invited as guest speaker in the professional writing classes from Jennifer Sano-Franchini, Asst. Professor of Professional Writing at the English Department of Virginia Tech.
After a short introduction, I told the students what I do and especially why. For both the morning and the afternoon session, I used the case of Sharron Prior to explain where I start reading and in what order. I showed them the mind-maps that I made in Sharon’s case. Mind-maps help me to get a grip on the materials to filter what it is that bothers me in a case.
In both sessions, the students had very good questions related to evidence, my working routines, and when I would consider my work done or “case closed.” Until someone is convicted and that conviction is supported by hard evidence (e.g. DNA, memories of the crime scene or the victim found at the suspect’s home or in their possessions, etc) I do not think we are done.
Some of my routines include reading everything in random order first and then putting everything away. Later, I organize the materials, read in order, draw time lines, make mind-maps, and highlight where I think that the gaps are. This order also becomes the order of posting: setting the scene, describing the victim, the crime, and finally what is bothering me in the case.
Projects for the students to consider should definitely include unsolved cases. Even if they do not wish to dig into those cases or research them, they can still contribute to the case. Materials online are not always reader friendly. Examples are long stories without bullet point summaries or, the author explains the case from too many perspectives without first giving the reader the overview. The risk that those materials do not get read is huge so these professional writing students could contribute by writing a clear case overview.
Another option is to collaborate with local start-ups and entrepreneurs to blog about their businesses. Many companies are now using social media and have added blogs to their websites. Guest bloggers are always a good addition to any blog so that is another option to explore in the NVR area!
I had a great time talking to the students and I wish you all the very best with your studies.
One of my upcoming talks is posted here.