The caliber of the instructors

Each retreat session features a maximum of four students and two bestselling author instructors: your host, Karen Dionne, and a guest instructor.


Karen has carefully selected guest instructors who are not only successful authors and excellent teachers, they’re warm, constructive, and supportive, and share her goal of helping you make your manuscript the best that it can be.


Your Host and Instructor

Karen Dionne

Psychological suspense, thrillers, commercial and book club fiction, literary fiction, young adult

Karen Dionne is the USA Today and #1 internationally bestselling author of the award-winning psychological suspense novels The Marsh King’s Daughter published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in the US and in 28 other languages, and The Wicked Sister, also from G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 


The Marsh King’s Daughter was named one of the best books of 2017 by iBooks, Hudson Booksellers, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Irish Independent, Library Journal, Shelf Awareness, and many other booksellers and reviewers, and was released by Lionsgate in 2023 as a major motion picture starring Daisy Ridley and Ben Mendelsohn. 


Both The Marsh King’s Daughter and The Wicked Sister were selected as Michigan Notable Books by the Library of Michigan. The Wicked Sister was also chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Thrillers of 2020. 


Karen has been a guest lecturer at Cambridge University in England and is a popular speaker and teacher at writers conferences and MFA programs across the United States. She enjoys nature photography and lives with her husband on a small lake surrounded by forest in the middle of Michigan, where she spends far too much time exploring the natural world when she should be writing.

June 5-9

Guest Instructor Stephen Mack Jones

Mysteries, series fiction, crime fiction

Stephen Mack Jones is a published poet, an award-winning playwright, and a recipient of the prestigious Kresge Arts in Detroit Literary Fellowship. He worked in advertising and marketing communications for a number of years before turning to fiction. His novels include August Snow, Lives Laid Away, Dead of Winter, and Deus X.


Stephen has received many accolades for his August Snow crime/thriller series. August Snow won the Nero Award, and Stephen has been shortlisted for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and a finalist for the Shamus Award as well as the Strand Critics Award. August Snow was named a Michigan Notable Book by the Library of Michigan. He received that honor again for Dead of Winter. In 2018, the International Association of Crime Writers presented Stephen with the prestigious Hammett Prize for literary excellence in the field of crime writing. 


Stephen was born in Lansing, Michigan, and currently lives in Farmington Hills, outside of Detroit. 

July 31 - August 4

Guest Instructor
Steven James

Mysteries, thrillers, series fiction, storytelling

Steven James is a critically acclaimed author of eighteen novels and numerous nonfiction books that have sold more than 1 million copies. His books have won or been shortlisted for dozens of national and international awards. In addition, his stories and articles have appeared in more than eighty different publications, including the New York Times. He is also a popular keynote speaker and professional storyteller with a master’s degree in storytelling. 


He also hosts the weekly podcast The Story Blender, on which he has interviewed more than 150 of the world’s leading writers and storytellers. In 2020, he was inducted into the Christy Award Hall of Fame for excellence in fiction writing. Publishers Weekly has called him “[a] master storyteller at the peak of his game.”


When he’s not writing or speaking, you may find him playing basketball or disc golf, or hiking near his home in the Appalachian Highlands of East Tennessee. He may or may not watch too many science fiction movies while eating bottomless bowls of chips and salsa. 

August 14 - 18

Guest Instructor Jacquelyn Mitchard

Women’s fiction, suspense, commercial and book club fiction, young adult

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the New York Times bestselling author of 23 novels for adults and teenagers, and the recipient of Great Britain’s Talkabout prize, The Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson awards, and named to the short list for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. 


Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, with more than 3 million copies in print in 34 languages. It was later adapted into a major feature film starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Her novel Still Summer has also been adapted for a film still in production, and her teen trilogy The Midnight Twins, is in development for a limited series by Kaleidoscope Entertainment. 


Mitchard’s essays have been published in magazines worldwide, widely anthologized, and incorporated into school curricula. She served on the Fiction jury for the 2003 National Book Awards and was editor-in-chief of Merit Press, a Young Adult imprint under the aegis of Simon and Schuster. She is a Distinguished Fellow at the Ragdale Foundation, a DeWitt Clinton Readers Digest Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, and has taught in MFA program for Creative Writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Miami University of Ohio, and Western New England University.


An avid Italian cook, she lives on Cape Cod with her husband and their nine children.

September 11 - 15

Guest Instructor
Jean Kwok

Commercial and book club fiction, literary fiction, romantasy, memoir, young adult

Jean Kwok is the award-winning, New York Times and international bestselling author of The Leftover Woman, Searching for Sylvie Lee, Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown. Her work has been published in twenty countries and is taught in universities, colleges and high schools across the world.


The Leftover Woman was a Good Morning America Book Club Buzz Pick, CBS New York Book Club Top 3 Pick, Book of the Month Pick, and a LibraryReads Top 10 Pick selected by library staff across America. It was featured in The New York Times, Time, Elle, People, NPR, The New York Post, Variety and more. An instant New York Times bestseller, Searching for Sylvie Lee was selected for the Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club. Jean has been chosen for numerous honors and all of her books are in development for film and television. 


Jean immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn when she was five and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood while living in an unheated, roach-infested apartment. In between her undergraduate degree at Harvard and MFA in fiction at Columbia, she worked for three years as a professional ballroom dancer. Jean is trilingual, fluent in Dutch, Chinese and English, and studied Latin for seven years. She divides her time between the Netherlands and New York City. 

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

Sign up today!