Lake atitlan alumni retreat 2020


For years now, I’ve been hearing from writers who’ve attended my workshops in the past, asking if I’d consider hosting a gathering of advanced writers.  “I’ve loved working with you,” one of them wrote to me. “But after attending three workshops, I’d like to do something a little different.”

Well, here it is. I want to tell you about a way you can join me at the lake, for half the cost of the Write by the Lake (WBTL) workshop, with quiet time alone to work in a gorgeous setting along with the structure and support of a writing community, nearby.  And unlike the Write by the Lake workshop, which is for women only, the Alumni Retreat is open to men, too, if they’ve worked with me in the past. 

This year, for the first time, I’m offering an experience to writers who have attended one or more of my workshops in the past (in California, New Hampshire, New Haven, or somewhere else), to join me at Lake Atitlan, without the teaching aspect, and a lot more time open to work on your writing.  

When you come to the lake, you’ll have your days free to write, but with some support from me, and a small community of others with the same goal in mind.  I’m calling this The Lake Atitlan Alumni Writers’ Retreat. We tried this out last year with a very small group of invited writer friends. They all loved the experience so much, I’m opening it up this year for applications from all former writing students. 

Same lake. Same volcanos. Same perfect weather. Same firm but loving writing mentor, standing by. (And the same great food, from our chef Henry Lehr.) Only instead of joining the group in our writing circle every day, you’ll have your days mostly free to pursue your writing on your own.  Because you’ve got the tools now to do that. 

How it works  

As with WBTL, you’ll fly into Guatemala City and take a taxi to Antigua, where we’ll have a hotel room booked for you in a small boutique hotel shared by the other writers in your alumni group. You’ll arrive one day before the main WBTL group, spend one night in Antigua (but now that most of you are experienced, we’ll let you arrange your own dinners, though I’m guessing you may want to meet up with the others, and we’ll make sure you know how to do that, and offer restaurant suggestions.)

Next morning, you’re off to the lake on a shuttle we’ve arranged for you, with a private boat to bring you to the village of San Marcos that most of you will know well now. (And if you remember, the village offers an array of great massage and body work, as well as charming, inexpensive cafes that serve great local coffee and fruit smoothies, among other things.)

Instead of staying at Posada Schuman, as the WBTL group who arrive the next day will be doing, we’ve rented three lovely villas on the shore of the lake, all within easy walking distance of the village, and my house. You can choose a private room at one of the villas or, if you’d like to keep costs lower, share a room with another writer. (My guess: you won’t be spending much time in your room. Even when you’re writing, you’ll probably want to be outside.) The villas each have 2-3 bathrooms, lake views, kitchens, and loads of great spaces to write. (You’ll find links to a couple of them at the bottom of this page.)

Because you arrive a day before the main WBTL group, I’ll have a chance for a nice long meeting with everyone, to talk about your work and the week ahead. I won’t be workshopping your manuscripts this time, but I will have read an excerpt from each of you, and will be scheduling a brief conversation with each writer over the day and a half before the other group arrives. 

Then you’re on your own. But not entirely. You’ll have each other. You can choose to make simple meals at your villa, or walk into town for meals—alone, or in smaller groups.  In the evenings, the occupants of each of the villas may want to gather to share their work, or invite members of the Alumni retreat staying at the other houses to join them. This will be your choice. And of course, you’re always welcome to join the WBTL group at the fire circle next to Posada Schumann every night, where they’ll share their work. 

Because I’ll be focusing my primary attention on the WBTL group, and they’ll need time to bond with each other, you won’t be attending the big opening night party at my house.  (You may have a party at your own house, however.) But each writer in the Alumni Retreat will be invited to attend lunch at my house EVERY OTHER DAY. (Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday for some.  Monday, Wednesday and Friday for others.)    

I’ll also be meeting with the Alumni writers on Wednesday, during the WBTL group free day.  And…you will have a session with a terrific literary agent, Nicole Tourtelot, from the DeFiore Agency in New York. Nicole will also be looking at samples of each Alumni Writer’s work.  

On the last night of your time at the lake, you’re invited to attend any of our afternoon craft talks at my house (usually starting around 4:30 pm, in my garden.)  And I want everyone to come to our last-night party there and share in the final blow-out meal with wood-fired pizza and an amazing spread of other great creations from Henry and his wonderful kitchen crew, with  music, dancing, and swimming under the stars for those who choose. If you’ve been to WBTL in the past, you know what a great night we’ll have.

Unless you have made plans on your own to stay on at the lake, you’ll be leaving with the rest of the group the following morning. We’ll have private boats and shuttles to the airport arranged for you. 

Technically speaking, we could call this the conclusion of your Lake Atitlan Retreat, but one of the things I’ve learned from observing what happened with last year’s group: you will have formed an invaluable community of fellow writers and friends. You’ll be seeing and hearing from each other again. And of course, I’m not going anywhere either just yet. So you may even want to come back the next year, to finish that book.

Although first priority for participation in the Alumni Retreat will be given to writers who have studied with Joyce in the past, she encourages those who have not taken a workshop with her, but are strongly moved to be part of the retreat, to send her a letter outlining his or her reasons for wanting to come, and telling something about what they would hope to work on at the retreat. 

Cost: $1500  


  • One night hotel stay in Antigua

  • Transportation to and from the lake by shuttle and private boat

  • First day welcome and conferences at Joyce’s house

  • Three lunches at Joyce’s house over the course of the week

  • Invitation to all craft talks at Joyce’s house

  • Session with literary agent

  • Invitation to the goodbye party

  • Support from my right hand woman, Peggy Cook and, at the lake, from my OTHER right hand woman, Rebecca Ginnever

NOT included in the price of the retreat:

  • Air transportation to Guatemala

  • Your fist night dinner in Antigua

  • Meals in San Marcos, except as noted above.  (Expect to pay between $5 and $15 for dinner at a restaurant in the village.  Of course you can also prepare food at your villa.)

  • The cost of your room at one of the three villas for nine nights.  Depending on whether you choose a private room, a shared room, or one of the limited number of very simple beds in the four-bed bunkhouse at one of the villas, this will range from $1000 for private room with balcony, to roughly $600 for shared room, to $400 for shared bunkhouse. Once you send in your deposit, my assistant Peggy Cook will tell you more about your options. 

Available villas:

Interested? Contact Joyce care of Peggy Cook at

Want to save $100 on your tuition?

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