Novel Retreat

Vermont College of Fine Arts has long been an acclaimed center for excellence in the fine arts. For over thirty years, emerging and established writers have gathered on our campus to hone their craft and join a legendary community of likeminded artists. In keeping with its nationally recognized commitment to the literary arts, in May 2015, the College will host its second annual VCFA Novel Retreat.

Readings, presentations, and faculty mentorships in which full-length manuscript critiques are available, are the centerpieces of this special week devoted solely to full immersion novel writing. It 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 twenty-four 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 then 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 various nooks, crannies, and dorm rooms in order to create in solitude.

Craft presentations, panel discussions, conversations with faculty mentors, and more writing time take place after lunch. Montpelier is a lovely town situated in the Green Mountains. The afternoons afford the opportunity, if desired, 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 and conversation. After attending a faculty reading, writers take part in casual group discussions about that day’s writing. Anything is up for grabs in these sessions. For instance, what problems did you encounter with structure, plot, or character development? What solutions or surprises did you discover within the manuscript that day? How does one efficiently get the character across the room? How do you know when your novel is finished? Should you rewrite the entire novel from a different point-of-view? After the discussion, participants conclude the evening with voluntary five-minute student readings. Then 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 can make time to gather together for their own discussions, exercises, or to explore other opportunities inspired by a collective of novelists.

Mentorships

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.

Tuition & Fees

The fee includes accommodations (single or double occupancy) in the dorms at Vermont College of Fine Arts for six nights. Meals, from dinner May 19th through breakfast on May 25th, will be prepared by Le Petite Gourmet.

  • Retreat tuition: $895.00
  • On-campus, room & board: $355.00 (single room); $205.00 (shared room)
  • Meal plan (May 19th dinner through May 25th breakfast): $185.00
  • Mentorship: $750.00 for manuscripts under 250 pages; $1000.00 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 20.

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

Accommodations

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). 

Registration

Writers may enroll for the Retreat as of September 15, 2014; first priority will be given to VCFA MFA in Writing alumni and 2014 Novel Retreat alumni. After October 15, novelists who are not graduates of VCFA or who did not attend the 2014 Retreat may apply as follows:

Please 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 novel.retreat@vcfa.edu. Upon review, applicants will be notified as to the status of their application.

Registration Coming Soon

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.

Directions

Visit here for the best traveling planning information.

Cancellation Policy

If you need to withdraw from the Retreat, inform the director no later than March 20. You will be refunded any payments to date, minus the non-refundable $200 deposit. If you cancel your participation after March 20, 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 and while we understand that emergencies arise, please inform the program at your earliest opportunity. 

Scholarships

Thanks to the generosity of a private donor, 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 novel.retreat@vcfa.edu, 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 2014 Novel Retreat alum.

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

PRAISE FOR THE 2014 RETREAT

“The May 2014 Vermont Novel Retreat was without a doubt the best experience I’ve had in my 15 years of attending writing conferences and workshops. The activities--inspirational readings, writing time, craft discussions, writing prompt sessions, shared meals, and fun activities--were nicely balanced. I found the craft discussions and spontaneous conversations among participants and between participants and leaders inspiring. My novel critique and the ensuing discussions pointed me in a new direction and gave me the insight and confidence I needed to forge ahead.”

“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.” 

Contact:

Connie May Fowler

Retreat Director
novel.retreat@vcfa.edu

Jericho Parms

Assistant Director, MFA in Writing
Jericho.Parms@vcfa.edu
802-828-8839


Retreat Dates

May 19 - 25, 2015


Registration Deadlines

  • Starting registration: September 15, 2014
  • Final registration: Please check back soon

Registration Coming Soon


Faculty

The VCFA Novel Retreat is proud to announce its 2015 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. This year our faculty, cumulatively, have written over twenty acclaimed novels, many of which have been translated into languages from across the globe.

  • Laurie Alberts
  • David Anthony Durham
  • Connie May Fowler
  • Clint McCown

Click here to read faculty bios.


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.