Postgraduate Writers' Conference

Twenty-four 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 social events that galvanize our vibrant, inclusive community.

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 related 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 in early July and then distributed about four 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 targeted revision assignments or generation of new material.

Typical Day

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 social gathering or special event. Nighttime highlights include an open-mic session with the Vermont-based improvisatory ensemble, Po-Jazz. The Conference also takes a night off from readings for a house party 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 select 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 & Accommodations

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 capital.

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). Dining service is provided in VCFA’s house-run cafeteria, available on a full meal plan or flexible, pay-per-meal basis. Participants also enjoy beverages and light food offerings in our popular campus Café. The conference schedule features a few special, outdoor catered dinners, for a taste of Vermont’s localvore artisanal food movement.

Click here for Maps & Directions


If you have an MFA or PhD in creative writing, you are automatically eligible to enroll in the Conference. The link from this webpage to our online registration form will be available as of January 15, 2019.

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 protected]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. As registration progresses, we will post enrollment updates on the right side of this page; please be sure to 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. Some spaces typically reopen due 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.

Tuition and Fees

  • Conference tuition for all workshops (except Poetry Manuscript): $995
  • Poetry Manuscript tuition: $1,175
  • On-campus room (six nights): $370 (single room); $200 (shared room)
  • On-campus dining: $230*
  • Non-refundable deposit due at time of registration: $200

*Participants not on full meal plan can purchase meals as they go.


We have funding available for partial scholarships, including to support and encourage diversity and inclusion within our Conference community.

If you require tuition support to make your participation possible, please email Ellen Lesser, Conference Director at [email protected], 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 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 three $500 scholarships to support attendance at member conferences in creative nonfiction, fiction and poetry.

Click here for guidelines.

Conference Dates

  • 24th Annual Postgraduate Writers' Conference: August 12-18, 2019


Ellen Lesser

Conference Director
[email protected]


Registration for August 2019 is NOW OPEN. 

Thanks to strong, early interest, our small-group workshops are filling rapidly. BEFORE proceeding to register, please contact the Conference Director to check on available spaces.

Once we confirm that we have a spot for you, OR if you reserved in advance, click below to access the online registration form.

Register Now

Information for 2019 Participants


Each year, we pride ourselves on assembling a luminous roster of Conference instructors, featuring as well as reaching beyond VCFA’s 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 2019:

Creative Nonfiction

  • Sonja Livingston
  • Dinty W. Moore
  • Sue William Silverman
  • Clifford Thompson


  • William Giraldi
  • Lee Martin
  • Tiphanie Yanique

Short Story

  • David Jauss
  • Ellen Lesser


  • Eduardo C. Corral

Poetry Manuscript

  • Matthew Dickman
  • Kathleen Graber
  • A. Van Jordan
  • Patricia Smith

View Faculty Bios

Participant Feedback

“Best week of my writing life.” —Ann Carson DeWitt

"What a wonderful experience. It really felt like a conference of peers." —Nathan Long

“There is something magical going on up there. I think you have perfected the writers' conference as we know it.” —Lisa Hartz 

“I love that there is no border between students and teachers. A true creative community.” —John Hudson 

“One of the most positive experiences I've ever had, and definitely the most valuable conference I have attended.” —Rebecca Caum 

Read more participant comments here!