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About the Program

Key Information

Residency Dates

  • TBD: September 8–14, 2021
  • TBD: March 9–15, 2022

Faculty Co-Directors
Xu Xi & Evan Fallenberg
[email protected]


International residencies for the 2020-2021 academic year include Lisbon, Istanbul, and Kuala Lumpur.

The International MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation brings you into intimate contact with world literature and international writers while honing your skills as a writer or translator.

Each residency takes place in a different part of the world, enabling students to immerse themselves in a region’s writing culture and literature, and provides meaningful interaction with local writers for an unparalleled global experience.

The program offers three areas of study—fiction, nonfiction, and literary translation—taught at brief residencies and by distance mentoring. Students are required to attend a total of four residencies over the course of their degree: three international and one at the VCFA campus in Montpelier.

Students must also complete four semesters of creative and critical writing, during which they work one-on-one with a faculty mentor remotely, followed by a final creative thesis in the fifth semester. The extremely low student-to-faculty ratio allows for close mentorship and personal attention unparalleled in other MFA programs.

The International MFA combines the high quality and prestige of VCFA’s writing experience with the opportunity to engage in creative writing and literary translation in a wholly international context.

When VCFA realized in March that we would not be able to gather for residencies on campus, staff and faculty came together to create remote residencies, making sure students would not miss either the intense learning and sharing that happen during residencies or the meaningful opportunities to connect. Visit our Remote Residencies page to learn more!


Mark Polizzotti

Faculty, International MFA

Jason Grunebaum

Faculty, International MFA

Tabish Khair

Faculty, International MFA

Madeleine Thien

Faculty, International MFA

Robin Hemley

Faculty, International MFA

Sybil Baker

Faculty, International MFA

By the Numbers

students enter the program with published books
nationalities represented among inaugural class
books (creative work, translations, and edited work) by faculty

World Lit Blog

Blog posts by four students—Thammika Songkaeo, Will Hagle, Michaela Anchan, and Alizah Holstein–have been featured on World Literature Today. Read on to learn about our past residencies in Montpelier, Hong Kong, Banff, and Reykjavík!

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens during residency, i.e. what is the schedule?

Each residency in locations around the globe is different, but all include a welcome session on the Wednesday evening followed by five full days and evenings of daily workshops, meetings with local authors, panels, readings, and a tour to places of local literary interest. The schedule for each residency is provided to participants in the month prior to the residency. See above for a sample schedule from the Reykjavik residency in September 2018.

Who are the students who enroll in your program?

The average age of our students is 30-45, but we have younger (as young as 21-22) and older (including retirees over 60). Some have published books, others are writing creatively for the first time. Our student population is currently more female than male and working in a mix of professions: professors, lawyers, doctors, bankers, teachers, journalists, full-time homemakers, writers, and editors.

Do I work with the same mentor every semester?

No. During each of your five mentored semesters you can expect to work with a different mentor, unless by specific request you and your current mentor both feel an additional semester would be most beneficial to your work. We want our students to learn from varied responses to their work by different mentors so they learn to be their own best editor, closely approximating the editorial realities of the world of publishing.

What do you want to see in the personal essay? What's a critical essay, and how long should it be?

For the personal essay, tell us who you are, honestly, and why you think you will be a good fit in this program. Tell us why you want to write or translate literary work and any background that led to that interest.

The critical essay for the application should be around 3-4 pages. You may approach it however you wish, but here are a few options:

  • Focus on a particular aspect of writing craft, (e.g., plot, point of view, imagery, metaphor, rhythm, sentence construction, character development, etc.), select a story or essay that does this well (or badly), and show, through examples cited from the piece, why that is the case. You can compare and contrast more than one piece.
  • Write about the writing process and analyze how a creative piece succeeds (or fails) – you can draw from your own experience as a writer and compare that with, for example, what established writers say about their process.
  • For literary translators, we are looking for some critical insights or analysis on the art and craft of translation, which could include process, comparisons of different translations, or how we evaluate the “success” of a translated work.

We would prefer the critical essay to engage with the genre you’re applying for, but you may draw upon examples from other genres if you feel this is relevant to the point(s) you wish to make.