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 third annual VCFA Novel Retreat in May 2016.

Readings, presentations, faculty mentorships in which full-length manuscript critiques are available, and one-on-one consultations are the centerpieces of this special week devoted solely to full immersion novel writing. The Retreat is specifically designed to provide participants with concentrated blocks of writing time in an environment that fosters and sustains emerging novelists.

Each afternoon and evening offers a variety of different experiences, including craft and process discussions, time off to enjoy a walk through the springtime Vermont woods, or a visit to vibrant downtown Montpelier. Participants have private writing studios with 24 hour access.

A Typical Day

The day starts with an early 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, conversations with faculty mentors, the Page Clinic, and more writing time take place after lunch.

If a writing break is in order, Montpelier is a lovely town situated in the Green Mountains. The afternoons afford the opportunity to enjoy Vermont’s natural beauty, including hiking and kayaking in beautiful Wrightsville Reservoir. If retail therapy is in order, Montpelier’s eclectic mix of independently owned stores, including a plethora of bookstores, is a short walk from campus.

Participants gather again in the evenings for dinner, craft and process 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.

In addition, throughout the Retreat, participants gather together in impromptu sessions inspired by living among a collective of novelists.


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. Meals (May 24th dinner through May 30th breakfast) will be prepared by Le Petite Gourmet.

  • Retreat tuition: $895.00
  • On-campus, room & board: $471.00 (single room); $295.00 (shared room)
  • Meal plan (May 24th dinner through May 30th breakfast): $200.00
  • 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 18.

Special Note: Retreat participants may extend their writing retreat by coming early or staying longer for an additional daily fee of $55.00.


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). VCFA also offers a full meal plan catered by Le Petite Gourmet.

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 October 1, 2015; first priority will be given to VCFA MFA in Writing alumni and Novel Retreat alumni. After November 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.


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Cancellation Policy

If you need to withdraw from the Retreat, inform the director no later than March 18. You will be refunded any payments to date, minus the non-refundable $200 deposit. If you cancel your participation after March 18, 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.

Praise for the VCFA Novel Retreat

"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.”


Connie May Fowler

Retreat Director

Jericho Parms

Assistant Director, MFA in Writing

Retreat Dates

May 24 - 30, 2016

Register Now

Registration Deadlines

  • Registration opens October 1 and continues until the Retreat is filled. Early applications are encouraged.


The VCFA Novel Retreat is proud to announce its 2016 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 2016 faculty are award-winning novelists whose work has been translated into languages from across the globe.

  • Laurie Alberts
  • Connie May Fowler
  • Ru Freeman
  • Clint McCown

Read faculty bios here

Unique Features of the Novel Retreat

  • Focused solely on the novel form
  • Abundant writing time
  • Access to distinguished VCFA faculty who will also be working on their own individual projects.