Nineteen years ago, Vermont College set out to create a new kind of summer immersion for experienced writers, with MFAs or equivalent preparation. Today, the annual Postgraduate Writers’ Conference at VCFA thrives as a haven for serious, emerging practitioners seeking to connect and recharge, and lift their process and craft to new levels.
At the heart of the Postgraduate Writers' Conference's unique model is the small workshop size, with groups led by acclaimed faculty limited to five or six writers. The intimate format allows for an extraordinarily in-depth, far-reaching discussion of participants’ work. Beyond the daily group sessions, each member has an individual consultation with the workshop instructor. The schedule also features a rich menu of readings by faculty and participants, craft talks, generative writing sessions and forums on issues facing the Postgraduate Writer.
The Postgraduate Writer
The majority of PWC participants have MFAs, including returning graduates of Vermont College of Fine Arts and alumni of other distinguished programs all over the country. Others have PhDs, or MAs, or have done graduate study in other disciplines. PWC also welcomes writers who haven’t gone the conventional grad-school route but have garnered their experience along other avenues. While the Conference is ready to applaud an applicant’s publishing credits, they’re not a prerequisite. For us, it’s about the work, and a writer’s desire to take it to the next level.
Each PWC workshop is led by a single faculty member and limited to six—or, for Poetry Manuscript groups, five—participants. Workshop meets every morning, for a total of five daily sessions. Manuscripts are due in to the Conference office on July 1 and distributed a few weeks in advance of our starting date to facilitate thoughtful preparation for the group discussions. Submissions go up to 25 standard manuscript pages of prose and six pages of poetry; members of the Poetry Manuscript workshops submit drafts of book-length collections.
Depending on the group and instructor, workshop sessions may include other activities beyond the critiques, such as in-class exercises and consideration of additional texts and pertinent, broader craft topics. Some groups take on “homework” during the Conference week, including revision work on their manuscripts, or generation of new material.
Most days after breakfast, we start with a session that features guided generative writing, for participants who like to tap into that fresh morning flow. The rest of the morning is devoted to workshop group meetings. After lunch, there are one or two craft talks or classes presented by PWC faculty. The extremely well-attended and high-energy Participant Readings take place in the late afternoon, organized according to workshop groups. Readings by faculty follow dinner, with the evening capped off by a reception or special social gathering. Post-reading highlights include a private party at a favorite Montpelier night spot, and an open-mic session with the terrific Vermont-based improvisational “Po-Jazz” ensemble. The Conference also takes a night off from readings for a soiree and campfire at the nearby home of the Conference director.
For some participants, personal writing time is a priority. Others prefer to soak up as much stimulation and interaction as possible during the Conference week. We don't leave large, unstructured blocks in the PWC schedule. Instead, we present a full calendar that leaves each writer to pick and choose which events to attend. Participants sometimes find it difficult to skip any offerings, but we view that as a good problem to have as a Conference.
Location & Accommodation
For writers making the pilgrimage to VCFA, Montpelier and the surrounding Green Mountains are themselves a real draw. Our peaceful, hilltop quadrangle is a short walk from “downtown” in the nation’s smallest, and arguably most charming, state capitol. Visit here to learn more about Montpelier and getting to and from VCFA.
Most attendees opt for on-campus housing, for the convenience and camaraderie. These are simple, dormitory accommodations, with a choice of single or shared rooms, and shared baths except in special-needs situations (and according to availability). Full meal service is provided by the resident staff and students of the New England Culinary Institute. For those who don’t care to stay in the dorm, Montpelier offers a range of hotels, inns, motels and guest houses.
Tuition and Fees
- Conference tuition for all workshops (except Poetry Manuscript): $915
- Poetry Manuscript tuition: $1,045
- On-campus room (six nights): $330 (single room); $180 (shared room)
- On-campus dining: $185
- Non-refundable deposit due at time of registration: $200
- Tuition balance due June 15th
Participants not on the meal plan can purchase individual meals as they go.
If you have an MFA or PhD in creative writing, you are automatically eligible to enroll in the Conference. Links from this webpage to our online registration form will be available as of January 15, 2014. If you’d care to pre-reserve a spot in a specific workshop group, please contact the Conference director.
If you do not have a graduate degree in creative writing but would like to attend the Conference based on your equivalent experience, please send a detailed letter of interest describing your writing and related background along with a five-page sample of your work (by file attachment) to Ellen Lesser, Conference Director at email@example.com. Please note that as a non-degree-holding candidate, you must complete this admissions process before you register.
Thanks to our small workshop size, Conference groups fill quickly once registration is open. We suggest you contact us early to avoid disappointment. As registration progresses, we will post enrollment updates at the top of this page; you can also check with the Conference Director about availability before proceeding to register.
Once specific groups or genres are full, we continue to place interested writers on an active waiting list. Spaces often do reopen thanks to cancellations as the Conference approaches, so it’s definitely worth checking in and taking a spot on the waiting list even if you’re late in inquiring.
We have limited funding available for partial Conference scholarships, which we work to spread among many deserving applicants.
If you require tuition support to make your participation possible, please email Ellen Lesser, Conference Director at firstname.lastname@example.org, to request a scholarship and state your level of need. Please also attach a description of your writing and related background and aims for attending the Conference, along with a brief (five-page) sample manuscript, if you’re not already submitting these as a non-degree holding candidate for Conference admission.
Scholarships are awarded on a rolling basis, so early requests are encouraged.
PWC is part of the Writers’ Centers & Conferences branch of AWP (The Association of Writers and Writing Programs), which sponsors an annual competition for two $500 scholarships to support attendance at member conferences. Submissions must be postmarked between December 1 and March 30. For guidelines, go to awpwriter.org/contests and click on "WC&C Scholarship Competition."
- 19th Annual Conference: August 11-17, 2014
Each year, we pride ourselves on assembling a luminous roster of Conference instructors, featuring but also reaching beyond our own award-winning MFA in Writing faculty. Writers are selected not only for the brilliance of their own work, but for their devotion to teaching and support of the PWC philosophy. VCFA is pleased to announce the lineup for August, 2014:
- Rigoberto González
- Sue William Silverman
- Anthony Swofford
- Joan Wickersham
- Carol Anshaw
- Andre Dubus III
- Lee Martin
- Steve Almond
- Ellen Lesser
- Michael Dickman
- Kathleen Graber
- Patricia Smith
- David Wojahn
- Kevin Young
Special Guest: Cheryl Strayed
in conversation with VCFA President Thomas Christopher Greene
We’ve had a busy and exciting 2014 sign-up season, and most of our small-group workshops are currently full. Please contact the Conference Director for up-to-date information about possible openings. (Our online registration system does not reflect the actual availability of workshop spaces, so please DO NOT proceed to register until you have confirmed that we have a spot for you.)
Please also note that some spaces typically reopen due to cancellations over the spring and early summer. We are now taking names for our active waiting list in all genres, and will continue to do so in the months leading up to the Conference. It’s definitely worth taking a spot on that list if you’re interested and can stay flexible.
If it turns out we are not able to offer you a space for this summer, we hope you’ll get in touch earlier about the Conference for August, 2015. Registration opens in January, and given our small-group structure, workshops fill quickly. (We also take pre-reservations once the new faculty is announced and posted here, around the first of November.)
"What a wonderful experience. It really felt like a conference of peers." —Nathan Long, PWC participant
"Of the many workshops I've attended in almost two decades, the VCFA conference beats all the others put together." —Bren McClain, PWC participant
"Once again, the atmosphere was charmed. I thought last year had to be as good as it gets, and guess what? It got better. I think you have perfected the writers’ conference as we know it."—Lisa Hartz, PWC participant
"Simply put, the Conference changed my writing life." —Bernard Lumpkin, PWC participant
- Read more participant comments here.