When Your System Needs An Update- Reboot HERE

Lots of us have developed writing habits and techniques, even shortcuts.   (there’s a big contest at the end of this post but don’t take the short cut and scroll right to it– read the post first!)


(Personally I work best with a beehive and plenty of hairspray, staring at my rotary telephone. Call me analog.)

But one of the beauties of the practice of writing is there’s always something new to learn. There’s always a different way to approach your craft and hone your art. There’s always a way to reboot your system.

The trick is finding a program that won’t crash your manuscript and your writing practice. My favorite source is Sarah Aronson and my favorite site for growing and experimenting as a writer and creative person in general is the Writing Novels For Young People Retreat at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Next year’s retreat will be March 17-19, 2017, with early arrival March 16.

It’s incredibly popular, an instant sell out, and registration will open soon, at 9 am on November 1. Unless you win the contest at the end of this post. Then you’re golden.


Curious? Sarah Aronson, who, along with Cindy Faughnan, has guided this retreat since the start dropped in to tell us more. Hi Sarah! Tell us more about the retreat.

At the retreat, you can sign up for the kind of weekend that will help you take the next step with your novel. If you need feedback (and learn most from offering feedback), the critique track is for you. In the critique track, you participate in a small workshop of 4 writers. (We send you the submissions and critique guidelines ahead of time.) We also make sure that there is at least one VCFA grad or published writer in every group. This year, we are also offering a guided workshop with Jill Santopolo (and me)! It will be a great opportunity. Part of the critique track is also receiving a one on one critique from one of our master writers–our faculty. These meetings are always really informative. It’s your chance to talk to an expert specifically about your manuscript and the process.

But as great as that sounds, some people need time. And if you want to come and take the inspiration from lectures and WRITE, you can do that. That is what the writing track is all about. 

The bottom line: VCFA is a magical place. No matter which experience I sign up for, I learn something new. I come home with new ideas. I get pages written. The participants are all generous and knowledgable. There is so much to gain from this supportive community.


What can a new writer expect to get out of the experience? How about an experienced writer?

In my mind, if you have written a novel and revised it, you are experienced. Whether we have been lucky enough to be published, or not, we are all writers. We are all on a creative journey. Every writer that attends will go home with new tools, new insights, and a stronger spirit for the work. I always leave energized and excited. You leave with friends who understand that the craft of writing means sitting down and putting words on paper. It means taking risks. It means re-imagining and re-thinking and playing. 

What tips or lessons have you learned (as a writer) from being at all the retreats over the years?

I love this question!

Over the years, I’ve learned to play more! To enjoy my writing and experiment. I’ve learned that writing well takes a whole bunch of C’s: character, conflict, connectivity, and most of all, creativity. I’ve learned about world building! And the structure of story. I’ve learned that if I work very very hard, the answers are in my manuscript and my subconscious. 

I’ve also learned that writers are great people! And that I learn best when I am engaged in the conversation of craft. (That’s two more C’s.)


What has surprised you most?

Honestly, nothing surprises me anymore.


No! Writers are amazing. VCFA is a magical place. This is our 14th year. It gets better all the time.

What are your top tips for attendees– for registration, preparation, at the retreat and afterwards?

Be ready to fill in your online application at 9 am on 11/1 (but remember the contest at the end of this post. Comment to win.)   You can find out more on my Facebook page or the VCFA website. Email me if you have questions. 

Be ready to call yourself a writer! This is a place where we tell FEAR to take a hike!

Don’t feel you have to bring your most polished work. Bring the manuscript that energizes you–the one that you are open to explore. 

If you think you are ready for the MFA, make an appointment with program director Melissa Fisher. 

Come ready to learn, to listen, to talk about the craft. This is the place to do all those things. This is a weekend where writers grow and discover new things about their stories. 

Sort Merge and Restart your writing. This retreat changed my life! No joke. It can change yours, too.

OK now for the contest.

This retreat fills lightening speed FAST and every year dozens of hopeful writers miss the cut off.

So here’s the deal– The winner skips to the front of the line! Guaranteed retreat registration!

To enter leave a comment below about what writing skill you’d reboot at the novel writing retreat. Enter again by linking to this post on Facebook or Twitter.

The winner will be selected randomly from comments and links posted before 9 am EST next Thursday, October 6. You won’t be obligated to attend (you will still pay tuition and fees) but this retreat is too good to pass up. We know we’ll see you there!

xo  tami lewis brown


2 thoughts on “When Your System Needs An Update- Reboot HERE”

  1. Sarah Tomp says:

    I have always always wanted to attend this retreat! It always sounds so amazing and magical. And this year I need it more than ever!

  2. Rachel Smoka-Richardson says:

    As someone who primarily wrote picture books at VCFA, I’m particularly interested in how to edit a full novel without getting bogged down. Thanks!

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