Friday, October 01, 2010

Fiction Friday: The Storycrafter's Retreat

Today I am featuring an interview with my friend Susan May Warren. She's an accomplished author and a champion of other writers. She was just named ACFW's 2010 Mentor of the Year, an award that she definitely deserved!! Plus she's funny. And sweet. And she helped me through a very difficult time during the editing of Mailbox, for which I am eternally grateful.

Through her expert training Susie is helping many beginning writers achieve their dreams of becoming published novelists. I asked her to drop by today to talk about the Storycrafter's Retreat she's got coming up in MN in a month. There's still time to sign up, which I think you're going to want to once you read what she's got planned and the heart behind this amazing time!

Susie, I love your heart for helping writers! Can you tell me what you offer via My Book Therapy?

I started My Book Therapy because I was already working with so many authors who needed foundational help on their writing, and thought perhaps I could help them more by starting a teaching blog/writing community. I also began working with people on a more dedicated level, partnering with them through the writing process. I designed the book therapy program to teach people how to write their own stories – I’m a firm believer that an author should be able to edit their own work into publication.

The tools we teach through My Book Therapy are designed to equip the author for their current WIP and every one after that. Our core values are community, craft and coaching. We offer community through the free forum/club at, craft on the blog, via our Monday night chats and My Book Therapy store. Our annual Frasier contest, our one-on-one mentoring, as well as our retreats are part of our coaching vision. We also have an ezine that captures all of this in one place. Our goal is to be the one place where writers go to learn how to be breathtaking novelists.

I particularly want to focus on the Storycrafters Retreat, which is coming up in a month! Why did you start this particular retreat?

Writing a book doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds, if you understand story structure and how to build characters. I have a process that I find organic and logical and transferable, and I have been privileged to teach it at conferences around the nation over the past few years. However, I always walked away with a desire to help new authors on the journey – to help them apply the things they’d learned, to encourage them along the way. I wanted to invest in a handful of dedicated writers to see them accomplish their goals. So, I created the MBT Continuing Education program.

The Storycrafter’s retreat is the first step on that journey. It’s an intimate, intense story-crafting weekend where people come with an idea (or an entire story, if they’d like – they’ll learn all the foundational tools they need to make sure they’re building it correctly) and leave with their story plotted and the first scene written. It’s strategically scheduled right before NaNoWriMo (The National Write your Novel in a Month – November), so authors can return home and get busy!

In February, we have the second retreat – designed to check in with those writers, to make sure they have their story structure correct and then to teach them wordsmithing. We talk about Emotional layering and Character change and widening their plots and I sit down with each of them to talk through their stories. It’s called the Deep Thinker’s Retreat and is in Florida in February. Teaching time is in the mornings – with one on one and writing coaching in the afternoons. (And fun in the evening!) It’s a limited group, but we get a lot done.

Then, we prepare people to pitch and sell their stories with a by-application-only Summit Conference where I bring in an agent who teaches them about crafting the perfect proposal, and we sit down and write their synopsis together and take them through the pitching process. It’s a weekend where they see all their hard work come together when they are allowed to give a sample pitch to that agent and get solid, usable feedback. I’m proud to say that every one of the attendees who went through the program this year and pitched at ACFW had great responses from agents and editors – most of them requesting a proposal or a full ms.

An author doesn’t have to attend the Storycrafter’s retreat to attend the Deep Thinker’s retreat. Or vice versa. But it’s My Book Therapy’s way of helping both the wordsmiths and the storycrafters write a compelling novel. And, it satisfies my teachers heart to walk with them on the journey.

People can find out more about all the retreats at:

What can a participant expect?

Attention. Creativity. Support. Empowerment. I talk through every person’s story with them and we define the big pieces. And, when it comes to writing a scene, I get right in there with them, helping them draw it out in their voice. The best part is…leaving the retreat is the beginning of the journey. We start a private mentoring loop online at Club Voices where the participants encourage each other and continue to receive help on their story.

What was last year's experience like?

Amazing. God-breathed. Honestly, I ventured forward with a bit of fear (my friend Jennifer Anderson, who helped me organize it, had to practically push me off the ledge to make it happen)..I didn’t know if it would work. God gave me an amazing group of women who encouraged ME right back to believe in this program and God’s blessing on it. I learned tons, and most of all was so blessed when so many of them walked away with smiles after the ACFW conference. I can’t wait until we can start feature THEIR books on the MBT Blog!

What are you looking forward to this year?

God surprises me every year, but I know it’s going to be an awesome retreat because of the prayer behind it. Already, the group of women who came last year are praying for the group this year! Is that the body of Christ at work or what? I’m going armed to teach, ready to pour out and invest, and anxious to see what God will do. And, I’m bringing my talented college kids. Can’t wait to see what stories they come up with!

Your tagline is "come with an idea, leave with a story." Did you find that was true for participants?

I believe so – a number of them came with nothing but an idea, and one of them took that idea, created a story and finalled in the Frasier Awards! And, she has an agent looking at her story. Another woman didn’t even have an idea…and she left with a book plotted. I work hard at asking the kind of questions that find the story already brewing in a participant’s heart. Most likely, God has already put that story inside them…and it’s a nudge from Him that has gotten them to the retreat. My job is to help them find that story and teach them how to tell it.

Thanks so much for dropping by for Fiction Friday Susie. I wish you continued blessings as you endeavor to help writers craft excellent novels. You sure helped me when I needed it and I know that anyone who goes to this retreat will be glad they did!

Thank you for letting me share about My Book Therapy!
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Zibilee said...

This is such an amazing idea, and it's very inspiring to see that Susan has made herself and her talents available to new authors. Thanks so much for sharing this!

Rachel Olsen said...

This sounds so awesome. Makes me want to jump the genre fence just so I can go and experience such fabulous mentoring with Susan!