Your Host and Instructor

Karen Dionne

Back in1999, I signed with my literary agent for a novel that he felt had potential, but that needed to be rewritten, and no wonder: I was so green, I was querying agents with a first draft. As soon as he explained where I’d gone wrong, I knew that he was right, and so for the next 3 ½ years, I rewrote the novel 3 times under his direction. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my literary agent taught me how to write.


That novel never sold, but the next one did. After having been helped so greatly by my agent, naturally, I wanted to pay it forward. In 2004, I co-founded Backspace, an online writers community dedicated to helping one another reach our publishing goals. For the next 12 years, I also organized the Backspace Writers Conference in New York City and the week-long Salt Cay Writers Retreat on a private island in the Bahamas. (It’s a dirty job . . . )


During this time, I published two environmental thrillers in mass-market paperback with Berkley and an original tie-in novel based on a Fox television show. While these books saw modest success, my writing career didn’t take off as I had hoped. The conferences, however, were so well received, and helping other writers was so satisfying, there were many times that I thought about quitting writing altogether to focus on conference organizing.


Then I woke up in the night with the first sentences of The Marsh King’s Daughter fully formed in my head. The response to this novel was extraordinary. The Marsh King’s Daughter sold in a 12-way auction in the U.S., a 7-way auction in the U.K., a 5-way auction in Germany, a 3-way auction in Korea, and was eventually published in 28 languages. The Marsh King’s Daughter was chosen as one of the 10 best fiction books of 2017 by iBooks, got a rave review in The New York Times, won the Crimson Scribe and Barry Awards, became a #1 bestseller in Sweden and was a bestseller in several other countries, and was released in theaters in November 2023 as a major motion picture. And these are only the highlights!


I’ve thought a lot about why The Marsh King’s Daughter broke out while my other novels did not, and I love sharing what I learned at writers conferences and MFA programs across the country. I created the Muskrat Lodge Writers Retreat to share these lessons in a more intimate setting, and as an opportunity for both published and aspiring writers to study with bestselling authors in the peaceful, restorative place that I find so inspiring: my home on a small lake surrounded by forest in the middle of Michigan.


Because I love helping writers almost as much as I love writing.

Join Karen and her guest instructors for a weekend of writing, instruction, and inspiration.

Sign up for an upcoming retreat today!