Novel Retreat

Vermont College of Fine Arts has long been an acclaimed center for excellence in the fine arts. It is here where emerging and established writers come to hone their craft and join a legendary community of likeminded artists. In May 2014, the College will extend its nationally recognized commitment to the literary arts with the creation of the first annual VCFA Novel Retreat. 

Readings, presentations, and faculty mentorships in which full-length manuscript critiques are available, are the centerpiece 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 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.  

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. The breakfast reading is designed to wake the writers' muses and mentally prepare writers as they retreat into their work. 

The morning is devoted to working on writers' novels. Participants disperse across the campus to various nooks, crannies and dorm rooms in order to write in solitude.

Craft presentations, panel discussions, yoga, 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 in nearby locations, visiting downtown Montpelier or nearby sites of interest, and kayaking in a nearby 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 early 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 that a collective of novelists can bring to the table.


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 meet with the student two to three times during the course of the Retreat.

Please note: Novel Retreat Mentorships are currently full for May 2014.


The fee includes accommodations (single or double occupancy) in the dorms at Vermont College of Fine Arts for six nights. Meals, from dinner May 20th through breakfast on May 26th, will be prepared by Le Petite Gourmet.

  • Retreat tuition: $850.00
  • On-campus, room & board: $355.00 (single room); $205.00 (shared room)
  • Meal plan (May 20th dinner through May 2th breakfast): $150.00
  • 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 21.

Special Note: Retreat participants may come early or stay longer for additional personal writing time for an added daily fee (contact Louise Crowley if interested).


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 September 16, 2013; first priority will be given to VCFA MFA in Writing alumni. After October 15, novelists who are not graduates of VCFA may apply as follows:

Please submit for review approximately ten pages, double-spaced, excerpt from the novel-in-progress and a statement of intent, not to exceed one page, regarding the project.  Email to; we will then review it and let you know if it’s accepted for subsequent registration.

Click here to Register

Once the Retreat is full, interested writers will be placed on an active waiting list, as spaces sometimes reopen due to emergency or other late cancellations. It’s definitely worth checking in and taking a spot on the waiting list even with late inquiries.


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Cancellation Policy

If you need to withdraw from the Retreat and inform the director by 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 the space gets refilled (with every effort made to do so.) Please understand that late cancellations create a hardship for the Retreat organization.  Of course, emergencies arise, but please inform the program at your earliest opportunity. 




Connie May Fowler

Retreat Director

Louise Crowley

Program Director, MFA in Writing
866-934-8232, ext. 8840

Retreat Dates

May 20 - 26, 2014

Registration Deadlines

  • Starting registration: September 16, 2013
  • Final registration: Please check back soon
  • Click here to Register


    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.