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A Guatemalan Writing Adventure

with Mary Jo McConahay
Inquire about 2025 dates.


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The gift of time to write. The gift of inspiration, and of experienced support. That is what we will have together at magical Lake Atitlán.

Re-Kindle Your Creativity during our writing retreat in the picturesque highlands of Guatemala. We’ll journey from the colonial-era town of Antigua to the majestic waters of Lake Atitlán, its shores dotted with traditional Mayan villages. Once nestled into Casa del Mundo in Jaibalito, our work will begin. Perched on a secluded cliff and only assessible by boat, this stunning property is a source of inspiration and a sea of tranquility.

Working with Mary Jo McConahay

Mary Jo loves this part of the world and knows it well. She raised her daughter in Guatemala and has worked at writing from Mexico to Argentina.  In all the hemisphere, she says, "Lake Atitlan has a unique spirit of place, perfect for drawing out feelings, narratives and ideas, and for working hard at the craft of writing them down."

Mary Jo is the author of Maya Roads, One Woman’s Journey Among the People of the Rainforest, winner of the prestigious Northern California Book Award for Best Creative Nonfiction, and named a Book of the Month by National Geographic Traveler Magazine. She was named the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year, an award equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize in the genre. Her ebook, Ricochet, Two women war reporters and a friendship under fire, received rave reviews. Mary Jo's new book, Tango War, The Struggle for the Hearts, Minds, and Riches of Latin America during World War II is now available.

A full-time writer, Mary Jo has worked as a journalist for newspapers, environment, politics, personalities and women’s issues. Her magazine pieces have appeared in Vogue, Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times Magazine and many others.  She has worked as an editor, and teaches magazine writing at the University of California Extension in San Francisco. Her stories are featured in Best Women’s Travel Writing, and Best Travel Writing 2011, both from Travelers‘ Tales.  Her coverage of the Guatemala genocide trial received the first place award for Best News Writing, International Event, from the Catholic Press Assn. of the United States and Canada.

What do you write?  What do you want to write?  Good travel stories?  A memoir or a novel? Stories about food that tell us something about the world, or ourselves? Creative nonfiction?  A legacy history for your family, and yourself?  Is your aim to publish what you write?

If you already have pages you want to work on, you can send them to Mary Jo ahead of time, so we can hit the ground running. This will be a small group -- ideal for Mary Jo as facilitator to give individual attention to each writer. We will work on structure, and voice. Feedback and thoughtful critique are central to developing the craft. We can give that to each other too, in these days, as much or as little as each writer wants. Already have a book-length manuscript?  Ask about advanced writers options.

Let the stirring landscape and colorful culture stimulate your senses and bring life to your written words.

Learn more about Mary Jo here.


Day 1

Bienvenidos! Arrive to the Hotel Cathedral in Antigua. In the evening, we'll meet on the patio for drinks and introductions before visiting with a Maya priest who will perform a ceremony petitioning for good work–-an indigenous custom for new endeavors. Afterwards, we'll dine on traditional Guatemalan fare at one of the town's best restaurants. Get acquainted with your fellow students and learn about the week's exciting activities.


After breakfast, we'll meet to discuss everyone's projects and goals. Free time at lunch to explore Antigua, peak into a few stores or visit the market. Afternoon departure to Lake Atitlán and the lovely Casa del Mundo, our retreat center. Candlelit dinner on the terrace.


A day of writing perched above the tranquil water. After a 3-hour morning class, you'll have the rest of the day free to incorporate what you've learned into your work. Explore the nearby village of Jaibalito when you're in need of a break. Lunch and dinner at Casa del Mundo.


We’ll board a boat and head to Santiago de Atitlán for a guided tour, meeting Maximón, the area's colorful saint, along the way. Then on to San Marco where you'll have time to wander the alleyways and lunch on your own. Afternoon writing class. Dinner at Casa del Mundo.


After a morning class and lunch, take time to work on your own project. In need of a break: canoe on the lake or schedule a massage. Dinner at Casa del Mundo.


Morning class followed by some free time to hop a boat to Panajachel to explore or lunch at one of their many cafés. Drive through the majestic mountains to Chichicastenango and the Mayan Inn, one of Guatemala's oldest and most famous hotels. Dinner at hotel.


Market Day! Explore one of the world's most fascinating markets where villagers from all over Guatemala gather to sell their work: textiles, carvings, clothes, jewelry, as well as fabulous food stands with homemade blue corn tortillas. Lunch on your own. Mentoring sessions with Mary Jo will be scheduled throughout the day. Evening cocktails and readings. Farewell dinner.


After breakfast, we'll travel back to Antigua where you can catch a shuttle to the airport or stay a few extra days and enjoy more of Guatemala.



$2800 per person
Single supplement: $400
Balcony room at Casa del Mundo: $150
Extra night at Hotel Cathedral: $140

The retreat price includes seven nights deluxe accommodations–double occupancy, all meals, except for three lunches during free times, day trips and local transportation starting and ending in Antigua. Also included are 15 hours of writing class and 1 hour of private time with Mary Jo.


Not included: transportation to and from Antigua, but we'll be happy to help you with the arrangements.

We can also accommodate a friend or spouse who wants to join the tour but not attend the writing classes: The cost is $2000 with double occupancy.

If you'd like to arrive a day early to see more of Antigua, we'll be offering a guided walking tour and lunch followed by a chocolate making class on August 14.



A $1000 deposit is needed to secure your place in our Guatemala Writing Retreat. Since the number of participants is limited and accommodations vary, early registration for the writing workshop is advised. The balance is due 90 days prior to departure. If not received by that time, EAT-WRITE-TRAVEL reserves the right to cancel your reservation.

*itinerary subject to change depending on local festivals and markets.