STUDY IN PUERTO RICO
NEW! Click here to read dispatches from the 2012 residency in Puerto Rico.
Writers enrolled in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts may choose to attend a winter residency on the island of Puerto Rico, in lieu of Vermont. These residencies are scheduled at the same time as the Vermont residency and are open to all but those entering their first semester, including our alumni and postgraduate writers. The group typically consists of 14–20 people, including 2-3 MFA in Writing faculty.
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The trip begins in Old San Juan in the nation’s capital. This walled colonial city boasts blue cobblestone streets, two historic forts, a plethora of museums, shops and restaurants, and a long literary history. The group stays in gorgeous, well-appointed18th buildings, with a communal kitchen, laundry facilities and an open courtyard for lectures and readings. Some of the best cuisine on the island is found in Old San Juan, with restaurants on every block for traditional Puerto Rican cuisine, vegetarian fare or fast food.
The second half of the residency takes place in El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. forest system. The group stays at an eco-resort in an untouched part of the rainforest surrounded by lush green forest, waterfalls and at night, singing tree frogs.
The Puerto Rico residency includes all those components that are part of the Montpelier residency, such as workshops, graduating student and faculty lectures, and readings. In addition, we will take several excursions that support and enhance the academic experience.
While in Old San Juan we meet with established and well-known Puerto Rico writers in all genres. These writers give readings, talk about the writing life on the island, about their careers and process, and attendees have the opportunity for a stimulating exchange of thoughts and ideas. There are also readings from students, faculty, graduates and attendees. Lectures, workshops and more, all taking place within the Colonial Caribbean setting.
The philosophy of the Puerto Rico residency is to introduce you to the culture of another country known for its rich, literary history in the hopes that such useful collisions will occur in the context of a basic workshop atmosphere. To that effect, we plan a number of excursions, usually in the afternoons after morning workshops and lectures, though one or two may involve an entire day. These excursions include the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico, El Morro Fort, The Poet’s Passage and more. These trips help solidify important themes that are encountered in the literature of the island and the discussions with local writers.
In El Yunque we take hikes in the untouched and tourist-free section of the rainforest in the town of Cubuy. Through a knowledgeable guide we learn about the flora and fauna of this pristine locale. Just steps from the hotel attendees can swim in waterfall-fed pools and find quiet writing time beneath the green canopy. Faculty members hold generative workshops exploring nature writing in the most idyllic of settings. On the last evening the residency culminates with a special dinner honoring graduating students in Fajardo.
This experience has been termed "life-changing" by some participants. The more open and adventurous you are, the greater effect you will gradually see in your own writing.
“The opportunity to be in PR and listen to local writers has been an invaluable experience. We’ve discussed so many topics – from race to gender to history to language and class. Doing the residency in PR and listening to local writers has really put this literature in context and connected it to their and our lives. The discussions were relevant and inspiring.” Becky Sernett, ‘11
“I learned more in this 9-hour hike/adventure than I’ve ever learned in my life. Period. No Joking.” Adam Love, poetry, ‘13
“I have had such a fabulous, educational, spiritual, beautiful week. Met amazing, intrepid faculty & students, been welcomed by all the writers and tour guides. Seriously, that rainforest hike changed my life and I would never have come to PR on my own...now I want to return and bring friends and family to show them this magical place, and perhaps even spend time living/writing here; it’s that good. Thank you for hosting this trip!” Giovanna Marcus, ‘12