Sold Out (For waiting list, contact Susan)
Stay on after the San Miguel Writers Conference for an intensive six-day post-conference memoir writing retreat with sought-after writing coach and book proposal specialist Susan Brown.
Arrive with an idea or a full manuscript. Leave with the tools to begin or improve a memoir project by creating a vehicle with which non-fiction writers approach agents and/or publishers–a compelling five-part book proposal.
Memoir projects in all stages of development welcome
(from vague concept to work-in-progress)
Schedule a complimentary consult with Dr. Brown before signing up!
Spend a week of interactive workshops, private consultations, evening feedback sessions, and the stimulation of working with other writers.
Bring your memoir project to the next level (which may mean first draft) by gathering the tools to prepare all five parts of a book proposal.
• three-page overview (the general description and pitch for an agent /publisher)
• detailed outline with chapter summaries
• sample chapter (usually the opening chapter(s)
• marketing (comparative titles & sales, marketing plan, social media)
Not only is a formal five-part book proposal the necessary document to attract an agent and/or sell a book, but preparing a proposal elevates your project to its highest potential in the shortest amount of time. Because preparing a book proposal mirrors the pre-drafting steps used by the great writers—this approach prompts writers to clarify the logic, significance, depth, structure, and cohesiveness of a project before they spend a year writing it. In this unique retreat, Dr. Brown combines the secrets of the greatest writers (she’s a James Joyce scholar) with her successful format (an impressive 70 percent sales record) for a dazzling and competitive book proposal.
Workshop participants will also have a mini-workshop the first morning with cutting-edge literary agent Andy Ross who will speak on the marketing component of a book proposal.
Ross, an agent with his finger on the pulse of contemporary publishing, represents books in a wide range of non-fiction genres including: narrative non-fiction, science, journalism, history, popular culture, memoir, and current events. I also represent literary, commercial, historical, crime, upmarket women’s fiction, and YA fiction. Shooting Stars, the memoir of his client, former Paparazzi, Jennifer Buhl, was recently optioned to a major Hollywood studio and is currently in development for a scripted series.
The world’s greatest writers—for example, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf–spent months planning and outlining before they began to draft a writing project. Preparing a book proposal mirrors this process, and in the end you not only have a concept and an outline for a unified and meaningful literary memoir, you’ll have what you need to market your book. The fact that non-fiction books traditionally can be sold before the full book is written is the great advantage over novels which are only agented and sold with a finished manuscript. Take advantage of this!!
But what will you have at the close of the six-day retreat?
The tools to prepare a compelling five-part book proposal
Drafts and/or outlines for three of the five components of your book proposal—the overview, chapter outline, and sample chapter(s). The retreat will give you the inspiration, tools, professional feedback, skills, and jumpstart to prepare a proposal.
Collect essential guidelines for preparing the final two parts of a book proposal—marketing section (with agent Andy Ross) and the biography.
Using the coincidentally identical model for preparing the needed book proposal, learn to apply the devices of the master writers for planning the most meaningful, complex, and engaging version of your proposed memoir. What’s the real story and how do you shape it into an engrossing page-turner? Preparing a book proposal takes you there.
Bring your narrative writing to the next level by applying the secrets of the masters. Learn and practice new skill sets borrowed from the greatest writers (Dr. Brown is a James Joyce scholar) to create:
efficient drafts (save months, even years)
a charismatic and accessible narrative voice using interior monologue (witty, metaphysically perceptive, trustworthy, self-examining, and verbally original).
a dual plot structure which merges the external and internal events in a literary narrative (as in non-celebrity memoir)
relevant 3-part dialogue which forwards the dual plots and the theme
a seamless sophisticated style (that reads like butter) using efficient techniques to edit and polish (paragraph by paragraph)
a version of your story which accesses the most meaningful, complex, and original themes beating at the heart of your memoir
a unified and logical structure using plot points and a leitmotif
And that’s before lunch!!!!
Tentative Schedule for the Retreat
(All meetings will take place in our classroom at the Hotel)
Feb. 15: 4:00 p.m. Welcome reception followed by an hour introduction to the retreat.
Susan will briefly discuss the four categories of memoir and describe the literary value and simultaneous marketing advantages of preparing a five-part book proposal–the vehicle necessary to approach an agent and /or publisher—in conjunction with beginning, revising, or polishing a literary memoir. In addition, Dr. Brown will review the format for the daily morning workshops, the evening feedback sessions, and the private consultations. Cutting edge literary agent Andy Ross will make a guest appearance to discuss market trends in memoir publishing.
Feb. 16-21 Daily Schedule
10:00 to 1:00: Morning workshops
In interactive workshops, Dr. Brown will introduce critical concepts in the planning, drafting, and revising of a memoir as well as the complementary tools for preparing a compelling book proposal. To approach your new or existing project, learn and practice the techniques used by James Joyce and other great writers for brainstorming and planning that will save you months–even years–and potential heartbreak. To introduce concepts and skills, each interactive workshop includes models, prompts, exercises, and daily assignments.
1:00 to 5:00: Free time
This is free time for writing, individual consultations, shopping for shoes, and enjoying Mexican food. While Dr. Brown will be available throughout the workshop day to answer all questions, she will also schedule one formal hour-long consultation with each writer.
5:00 to 7:00: Evening Feedback sessions.
Writers will share a maximum of three pages of new or revised writing based on assignments made in the morning workshops. No old or unrevised material, please.
Detailed Description of Daily Workshops
Morning Workshop Feb. 16: 10:00 to 1:00
Answering the Essential Big Picture Questions: The Book Proposal Overview and Pre-draft Planning
Pre-draft planning replicates and process and information essential to a book proposal overview, the first component in your proposal. Follow the lead of the great writers. Before beginning to write or revise a book, make several crucial decisions. Writing exercises: world of the story and projection.
Concepts: premise, parameters, theme, plot, relevance, and structure
Skills: brainstorming and drafting, techniques for curing writer’s block
Morning Workshop, Feb. 17: 10:00 to 1:00
Developing Plot and Structure Using a Dual Plot Chart
Learn how much you know and need to know about your own motives and deepest secrets before you turn yourself loose in a well-structured plot that employs the secret handshakes of the masters. Based on prompts and models, writers will be encouraged to choose a potential narrative structure and two plot lines (external and internal) for their literary memoir.
After making a tentative choice between one of the four basic plots, writers will create a series of lists (characters, settings, and scenes), produce a chronological plot chart of scenes (not yet chapters) which are critical to the external and internal plots in your narrative. Using models and prompts, Susan will instruct writers in how to create the most efficient and insightful first outline: a chronological dual plot chart of all the critical scenes in the proposed book. Overview discussion Continued.
Concepts: internal and external plots; interior monologue, narrative voice, scene versus chapter, and the unforgettable, all-important tit
Skills: developing a compelling and complex narrative voice using interior monologue, and identifying narrative arc, and setting up a plot chart
Morning Workshop, Feb. 18: 10:00 to 1:00
Developing a Compelling Structure for Your Memoir by Preparing an Outline of Chapter Summaries for the Book Proposal
Using the plot chart, writers will group the scenes into logical and balanced chapters. Allowing for the effective placement of flashbacks, the chapters will then be organized in in an order that reflects the story’s time frame. Using models, prompts, and exercises, writers will then practice writing a compelling chapter summary.
Using Dr. Brown’s format, writers will learn how to telescope the chapter’s key scenes into one compact sentence dense with details. Preparing a detailed outline (with chapter summaries of one paragraph to ¾ page) for the book proposal creates a well thought-out outline with which to ultimately write the book.
Concepts: chapter templates, narrative threads, plot points, frame and medias res structures, and summarizing
Skills: writing a chapter summary, applying plot points to make the chapter prepositions, and creating seamless sentence variety.
Morning Workshop Feb. 19: 10:00 to 1:00
Writing the Best Chapter of the Book as the Book Proposal’s Sample Chapter
After choosing the sample chapter(s) to be included in the proposal, writers will study how to draft a book as the masters did–scene by scene in random order as opposed to chapter by chapter from the beginning. To write or revise a draft for a stunning sample of their writing in the proposal, writers will learn and apply some of the narrative techniques of the greatest writers. As we shall see, for effective scene building, each scene is developed as a mini-narrative with its own thematic point, dramatic event, imagery, and plot relevance.
Concepts: the narrative scene, effective three-part dialogue, dramatic narration, unity, leitmotif, symbolism, setting, and secondary characters
Skills: building a dramatic scene in layers; producing effective figurative language, creating unity with a leitmotif, and writing sophisticated dialogue (without tags)
Morning Workshop, Feb. 20: 10:00 to 1:00
Writing the Best Chapter of the Book as the Book Proposal’s Sample Chapter Continued
In this workshop, writers will combine separately written scenes into a coherent chapter, which will have its own logic, theme, and structure. Discussed in this workshop will be how to draft a potential opening chapter of your memoir, the chapter which may or may not end up as the opening of your memoir and which may or may not be a logical choice to include as a sample of your writing. The opening is often written, rewritten, and changed as new structural, plot, and thematic changes shift during the first drafts of crucial scenes from the central sections of the story.
The tools for editing the content, organization, and style of your evolving project will also be introduced. Editing in steps and layers is an art. Practice the real craft of writing: revising, reorganizing, modifying, amending, and deleting scenes. Learn and practice how to polish the smooth flow and style of each paragraph once you’re committed to the content. This involves revising paragraphs in layers: diction, imagery, verbs, and, as a final step, sentence variety.
Concepts: chapter unity and structure, the eight moving parts of an effective opening in literary narrative, plot points revisited, and what is an engaging writing style
Skills: drafting a chapter using a story board, outlining an opening for your memoir, and editing and polishing paragraph by paragraph with the focus on sentence variety
Morning Workshop, Feb. 21: 10:00 to 1:00
In this final workshop, Dr. Brown will tie up loose ends and continue to elaborate on the concepts and skills introduced during the week. At this time writers can request a workshop segment on specific topics. How to write a sex scene? How to create a compelling villain? Using literary allusion? Etc.
Leave the retreat with endless new tools in the craft of great writing, a clear plan for a book proposal, and a clear plan and structure for your memoir. In other words, leave with a lot of work ahead of you but a clear notion of what that work needs to be.