Chatting Over Cyber Coffee with Kregg Jorgenson
Marilyn: Today I'm talking with Kregg Jorgenson over cyber coffee. Hi, Kregg.
Kregg: Ah, good cyber coffee! Any Half-n-Half?
Marilyn: What brought you to PSWA?
Kregg: I heard about PSWA from an editor for the police publication 24/Seven, Cop to Cops News who thought I might want to look into the organization to find like-minded folks. In the past I belonged to several writer’s or press associations and at times felt like a duck out of the water since I mostly wrote about law enforcement issues or concerns.
Marilyn: Tell me about your background.
Kregg: My law enforcement career began in the 80s when I became a U.S. Customs Inspector. Later, I was selected for the Contraband Enforcement Team (a special team assignment), and then spent five additional years as a K-9 enforcement officer, which, by the way, was the best job in the world. My dog was so smart that I let him drive! Okay, maybe not, but working with several wonderful dogs was great. Their loyalty was amazing and even when you’re having a bad day the dog brightens things up considerably. After that I went into various aspects of the service when we became Customs and Border Protection under the Department of Homeland Security. With 30 years of government service I’m looking at retiring soon since Starbucks doesn’t offer tall lattes with Geritol.
Marilyn: I know there's more because I read your bio when I asked you to be a speaker for the PSWA conference.
Kregg: In the 90s I was invited by the Chief Law Enforcement Instructor of the Tactical Tracking Operations School to work part time as an Associate Instructor. Over the years I have helped train various police agencies, Tribal tracking teams, SWAT and even a Royal Canadian Mounted Police tracking team. I think I learn something new each time out and enjoy the interaction with other agencies and groups.
Marilyn: I know we don't have time for everything, but sounds like you've had some wild adventures. Would you share a bit about that?
Kregg: As for adventuring, well, way back in the Stone Age (1968) I joined the army right out of high school. Then, in 1969 I served in combat Vietnam with the 1st CAV Division as a LRRP/Ranger and later as a Point man with a Recon Platoon. LRRP meant Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol- five man teams working behind the lines. I was shot through both thighs, received a concussion, some minor shrapnel wounds, and contracted malaria. I discovered that adventuring at times comes with a price. Fortunately for me though l served with some good people who helped me survive the war in spite of myself. Some of the best moments then came from rescue and recovery operations for downed helicopter crews and several wounded LRRP/Rangers that were missing in action after their team was ambushed.
Marilyn: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Kregg:So when did I begin writing? Let’s see, I began writing in high school where I served on the school’s newspaper staff. I got hooked when the staff photographer and I managed to sneak backstage during a Beach Boys concert and we interviewed several members of the rock group as well as several members of the Buffalo Springfield. We got the story. Then we tried it again the following week at a Jimi Hendrix concert and promptly got tossed out.
Marilyn: And then?
Kregg: After Vietnam I studied writing in college (fiction, non-fiction, journalism) and then re-enlisted in the army in the mid 70s where I spent four years as an Army Journalist in Germany. I had seven years in the Army- three in the Infantry and the last four as a journalist, figuring that paper cuts didn’t hurt as much as bullet wounds. It was during that time I discovered that rejections slips don’t hurt all that much either. I was sending out short stories and poetry, getting regularly rejected while occasionally getting published in literary magazines, newspapers, or other publications, which only fed this writing addiction.
In the 80s I began freelancing to a variety of magazines. With the old adage of ‘write what you know’ I sent articles to Soldier of Fortune magazine and that led to my first book on the Vietnam War for Random House. Eventually there were five books.
Marilyn: Wow! That's really impressive. Tell us more about the magazine writing.
Kregg: Because I had been involved with the martial arts since I was 16 I began writing for national martial arts publications. That led to Contributing Editor positions with Tae Kwon Do Times magazine and Inside Kung Fu magazine. Those titles, by the way, were more honorary than function but probably made it easier to get my foot in the door with the editor when it came to placing more articles. The military writing led to becoming a Senior Editor with Behind the Lines magazine- journal for U.S. Military Special Operations, again, this was still a freelance position. From this I discovered that few magazines can afford full time staff writers and rely heavily on freelance contributions. The best part is that you can still keep your day job that pays the bills!
Before I got into law enforcement I spent three years as a professional writer working for a production company selling scripts to Kenworth Trucks, Boeing, Olympia Beer, Bardahl Oil, Nordstroms, and other companies. During this time I learned more about the business side to writing and what it took to make a living at it. Writing, as most writers will agree, is work and the pay isn’t always the best when you have to do foolish things like, say…eat on a regular basis.
Marilyn: Anything else you want to tell me and my readers about your writing career?
Kregg: Somewhere in between all of this I wrote jokes for disk jockeys, travel articles for various publications, sold cartoons to The Army Times, and turned out two small books of fiction. I discovered that it was okay to try out different markets and had some fun in the process. Most, by the way, paid horribly…again, a great reason to keep your day job but it was fun to see what doors could be opened and what avenues there were to take.
Marilyn: What do you do for fun?
Kregg: What’s fun? I dunno, I think I like doing research. The opening scene for a novel I’m working on takes place at Plum Run at Gettysburg and I recently had an opportunity to walk the battlefield to get a better feel for the actual ground. Written material only gives you so much while boots on the ground offers another perspective.
Marilyn: Anything else you'd like to share?
Kregg: Writing also offers up some interesting opportunities as well. Awhile back, I helped do some research for mystery writer, Robert Crais for his book, The Last Detective. Bob’s a great guy, a talented writer, and it was impressive to see how someone of his caliber works. He has a great sense of humor and that shines through along with his remarkable talent.
Marilyn: Love Crais' books--he's not bad to look at either. Met him years ago at a mystery writing conference--at the beginning of his career.
Kregg: While I have been lucky enough to have sold five books to Random House I’ve also published a few small press novels and have a few more in the works. I didn’t have an agent and went through the ‘slush pile’ route with the Vietnam books while with the small press or POD route I got a chance to learn more about the publishing and marketing process. Over the years I’ve come to learn that most of us can write anything if we’re willing to put the time and effort into it and learn how to target our manuscripts towards the right audience. The Internet has been a great boon for writers because it offers new avenues and markets in publishing.
Marilyn: Kregg is going to tell us how to target our manuscripts towards the right audience at the PSWA conference.
Kregg: I’ve also discovered that critics and nay-sayers are a dime a dozen so keep writing and don’t lose sight of the brass ring. Will you find a lucrative market and get rich in the process? Who knows? It’s a crap shoot and the odds are seldom in our favor. But if you’re pleased with what you write then that may the real prize anyway.
Besides, if you wanted to get rich wouldn’t you have taken up plumbing instead?
Marilyn: You're right about that. This was great, Kregg. Thanks for sharing so much with me and my readers today.
Kregg: Thanks for the interview and I look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas! Bring several editions of your favorite magazine to the seminar and let’s dissect them!
Marilyn: So folks, if you're wanting to get published in a magazine be sure to sign up for the PSWA conference http://www.publicsafetywriter.com