Novel Retreat

For over thirty years, emerging and established writers have gathered on our campus to hone their craft and join a legendary community of like-minded artists. In keeping with its nationally recognized commitment to the literary arts, VCFA will host its fourth annual VCFA Novel Retreat in May 2017.

Imagine a week of uninterrupted writing time—no running to a job, no meals to cook, no errands to attend to—amid the beauty of Vermont’s Green Mountains. Retreat participants enjoy the peace and solitude needed to create while enjoying the added benefit of working with our world-renowned faculty.

With abundant writing time and opportunities for building friendships among fellow writers, the Novel Retreat allows participants to handcraft the experience to meet their own needs: full immersion in the writing process or emerge from time-to-time into the Retreat community.

For those wishing to partake in the Retreat’s broader scope, readings, presentations, faculty mentorships in which full-length manuscript critiques are available, and one-on-one consultations augment this special week. 

The Retreat offers an excellent working and creative environment. In addition to the verdant VCFA campus nestled amid the vibrant New England spring, participants have individual, private writing studios to which they enjoy 24-hour access. 

Each afternoon and evening offers a variety of different experiences, all of which are optional, including craft and process discussions, generative writing sessions, and page clinics. For those who would like time away from campus, springtime Vermont affords a wide variety of outdoor activities, including hiking and kayaking. A short walk away, downtown Montpelier is a vibrant enclave of unique, privately owned cafes, bookstores, movie theatres, galleries, boutiques, and more. 

Throughout the Retreat, impromptu sessions spontaneously bloom, inspiring insights and discoveries rarely forged. This is perhaps one of the Retreat’s greatest gifts: the invaluable encounters one experiences when living among a collective of writers.

Unique Features

  • Focused solely on prose-based literary long forms such as novels, memoirs, and short story or essay collections
  • Abundant writing time
  • Access to distinguished VCFA faculty who will also be working on their own individual projects

A Typical Day

The day starts with breakfast during which a faculty member gives a short reading from a favored text and speaks briefly about what they most admire in the piece. A lively discussion ensues. The breakfast reading is designed to wake the writers' muses and mentally prepare them as they retreat into their work.

The morning is devoted to writing. Participants disperse across the campus to their private studios in order to create in solitude.

Craft presentations, panel discussions, generative sessions, conversations with faculty mentors, the Page Clinic, and more writing time take place after lunch. The afternoon sessions are optional, allowing participants to remain focused on their work or take advantage of the ancillary Retreat offerings. 

After dinner, the writers gather for craft, process, and casual conversations, and faculty and participant readings. 

Finally, after a full day immersed in writing, it’s off to bed for a well-deserved rest under the clear moon of a Vermont spring night.


For an additional fee, participants are invited to apply for Novel Retreat Mentorships. Participants will submit a book-length novel (not to exceed 350 pages, double-spaced, Times New Roman font). A faculty member will read the novel, provide a three to five-page critique, and conduct two private conferences with the novelist during the course of the Retreat. Writers with manuscripts over 350 pages will be accommodated at the discretion of the Director and Faculty. An additional fee will apply based on the number of pages submitted.

Tuition & Fees

The fee includes accommodations (single or double occupancy) in the dorms at Vermont College of Fine Arts for six nights. The full meal plan is prepared by a local caterer and the New England Culinary Institute.

  • Retreat tuition: $922.00
  • On-campus, room & board: $430.00 (single room); $245.00 (shared room)
  • Meal plan (May 23rd dinner through May 29th breakfast): $300.00
  • Mentorship: $800.00 for manuscripts under 250 pages; $1100.00 for manuscripts over 250 pages and a maximum of 350.
  • Non-refundable deposit, due at time of registration: $200.00
  • Balance of payment due March 17.

Special Note: Retreat participants may extend their writing retreat by coming early or staying longer for a nominal additional daily fee.


Most attendees opt for on-campus housing, both for the convenience and the camaraderie. These are simple dormitory accommodations, with a choice of single or shared rooms, and shared baths except in special-needs situations (and subject to availability).

For those who don’t care to stay in the dorm, Montpelier offers a range of hotels, inns, motels, and guest houses (listing available upon request).


  • Writers may enroll for the Retreat as of September 1, 2016; first priority will be given to VCFA MFA in Writing alumni and Novel Retreat alumni.
  • After October 1, novelists who are not graduates of VCFA or who have not attended previous VCFA Novel Retreats may apply as follows:

Submit for review an approximately ten page, double-spaced, excerpt from a novel-in-progress and a statement of intent, not to exceed one page, regarding the project. Email the materials to Upon review, applicants will be notified as to the status of their application.

Once the Retreat is full, interested writers will be placed on an active waiting list. We welcome and encourage late inquiries. Spaces often reopen due to emergency cancellations.

Cancellation Policy

If you need to withdraw from the Retreat, inform the director no later than March 17. You will be refunded any payments to date, minus the non-refundable $200 deposit. If you cancel your participation after March 17, the program will refund all fees for room and board as applicable; the program will refund your tuition (minus $200) only if a new participant fills the space. Late cancellations create a hardship for the Retreat organization; while we understand that emergencies arise, please inform the program at your earliest opportunity.


Thanks to the generosity of a small group of private donors, we have limited funding available for partial Novel Retreat scholarships, which we work to spread among many deserving applicants.

If you require tuition support to make your participation possible, please email Connie May Fowler, Novel Retreat Director, at, to request a scholarship. Please state your level of need, related background, and aims for attending the Retreat, along with a brief (five-page) sample manuscript, if you’re not already submitting these materials due to your status as a VCFA MFA in Writing or Novel Retreat alum.

Scholarships are awarded on a rolling basis; therefore, early requests are encouraged.


Connie May Fowler

Retreat Director

Jericho Parms

Associate Director, MFA in Writing

Retreat Dates

May 23 - 29, 2017

Register Now

Registration Deadlines

  • Registration is still open. APPLY NOW!


Visit here for the best traveling planning information.


The VCFA Novel Retreat is proud to announce its 2017 faculty. The College brings in highly lauded novelists, who are also dedicated educators, from VCFA and beyond in order to offer a rich body of knowledge and experience to our participants. Our 2017 faculty are award-winning novelists whose work has been translated into languages from across the globe.

  • Connie May Fowler
  • T. Geronimo Johnson
  • Jacquelyn Mitchard

Read faculty bios here

Participant Testimonials

"Without exaggeration, this retreat has changed my life as a writer. I came away with new writer friends and also with Clint and Connie offering on-going connections as my new-found teachers. The manuscript consultation that I did with Clint was the most valuable part of the week for me. His discussion of the strengths in my writing gave me much-needed validation and encouragement after way too many years of working alone."

"The retreat was an invaluable experience. Although it is always great to interact with fellow writers, this experience allowed for ample writing time, writing time that was only more inspired by the leaders as well as the attendees."

"The atmosphere was uplifting and the sense of community made me want to write. I loved the dedicated time to writing."

"Having big blocks of uninterrupted time to write was a godsend. Because of that, I had a couple of major breakthroughs, not only with my work, but with some deep soul searching about who I am as writer."

"It was a powerful and transformative week for me as a writer."

“The retreat provided a beautiful opportunity to get re-immersed in my novel and my writing life. The conversations about craft and process nourished my apparently starving artist. There was no stress—except the mild anxiety of facing the page every day. Which I did: three hours every morning and two every afternoon, I sat down in my beautiful writing studio and thought and wrote and did the work. I also loved the feeling of all being in it together, participants and faculty all working. This retreat model is exactly what post-graduate writers need to continue to grow and form community.”

“The peace and quiet and beauty of the campus was a balm to my tired body and spirit so that I could connect my creative voice again.”

“The seeds of the craft sessions that were sown at VCFA have helped me create new passages and improve ones that had already been written. The sessions, prompts, conversations (formal or informal), and social events during the retreat have informed my work since then. In other words, I brought the retreat home with me.”

“I value the fact that the carefully chosen participants went well beyond the newly-minted MFA students of so many of the workshops I have attended. These were mature writers who had established themselves in the world. They brought with them their life experience, as well as their technical knowledge, and shared them generously. Their readings showed them to be committed artists with years of thought and consideration infusing their work with honesty and polish. Finally, the informal nature of the retreat created a wonderful teacher/student relationship in which instructors made themselves available, sharing their personal interests and literary tastes with us throughout. It was fascinating to hear them offer us selections of some of their own favorite writers.”

“I learned from everyone. The faculty was extraordinary and it seemed that every word was divined to be spoken at the moment it would impact us all in such a positive way. The time set aside for writing was well placed. We all commented on how much we were on a roll.”