2014 SBWC Award Banquet Congratulations!

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Every year, we hear wonderful pieces throughout the five days of workshops and late nights of pirate. We were honored to recognize a few writers at the closing night award banquet for the work that they shared at this year’s SBWC.


First Place: Cat Robson 

Honorable Mention: Hector Javkin 



First Place: Mari Larangeira 

Honorable Mention: Erin Dougherty

Honorable Mention: Tom Huth 



First Place: Kaya Fried

Honorable Mention: Robin Burrows

Honorable Mention: Mike VanBlaricum


Finally, in the tradition of Barnaby Conrad, congratulations to the winners of Worst First Sentence, which is always a hilarious highlight of our closing night awards banquet!

Worst First Sentence

First Place: Margaux Hession

Honorable Mention: Mike Takeuchi


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Marla Miller’s Marketing the Muse: Daily Workshop Schedule

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SUNDAY Workshop: Memoir-centric read-and-critique workshop w/memoir presentation by Linda Joy Myers. Q/A

  • Linda Joy Myers, President/Nat’l Assoc of Memoir Writers & author Don’t Call Me Mother

MONDAY Workshop: Ebook publishing: Nuts & bolts that won’t break the bank w/Jason Matthews. Q/A

  • Jason Matthews is the author of bestselling How to Make, Market & Sell eBooks. He delivers webinars at conferences, and recently launched video series, a companion to How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks – All for Free

TUESDAY Workshop: HOOK ME! Read opening 2 pages to see how many in workshop are hooked enough to turn to page 3. Very useful feedback.

  • Read & Critique: Read opening 2 pages only! All genres! Fiction & nonfiction

WEDNESDAY Workshop: Read & Critique, Sonia Marsh: Author/Marketer, whose know-how includes how to get books into Costco. Q/A

  • Freeways to Flip-Flops, Marsh’s debut memoir spawned small press, My Gutsy Story® Anthology series & Gutsy BookCoaching.

THURSDAY Workshop: Carla King: Indie publishing options from veteran indie publishing pro & author/travel writer. King began self publishing in the 1990s. Q/A

  • Carla King is a travel writer & noted indie author/coach. King’s self publishing ‘bootcamp’ series is offered at conferences, webinars, and seminars.
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2014 Graduation-Themed Essay Winner

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By Courtney Lund


I didn’t think I’d graduate. Of course, I hoped I would, like every other eager teen that ships off to college. But things happen. Really big things that can, you know, change your life, forever.

When I was nineteen, a sophomore at UC Santa Barbara, I was given some news. Not just any news, but big news. My parents called me on a normal Thursday afternoon and told me that my only brother, Gavin, at four months old, was dying. He had been diagnosed with a rare terminal illness, called Aicardi-Goutierres Syndrome (AGS), with forty known cases in the world. It took two and a half months to even get a diagnosis.

“We’re putting him in Hospice care,” Mom said. “The doctors have given him a year to live.”

I remembered the conversation like I remembered a lot of unfortunate events that have happened, like being stung by a bee, getting my period for the first time and so on. But this was different. This was a punch in the face; worse, it was like being kicked off the planet.

A week later I found myself back where I started: home. I was now a college dropout with a terminally ill brother, and a family that was falling apart because of it. Ambiguous chaos was what the whole scene looked like. There I had been two weeks earlier, trying to figure out ordinary existential questions like, what was my place in the world? What career path should I take? But this – this threw me. Now, I found myself cradling a sick baby, picking up empty bottles of morphine from the counter, opening sympathy cards, and finding Tupperware full of food in the fridge that people had dropped off. I performed a sprint to answer the question that tormented me: how was I going to love a dying baby? How could anyone truly? Love, the most deepest, sacred act, that we do out of faith, was going to be stripped from me in under a year.

Gavin’s disease was scary in those early days. It would show up for weeks at a time, causing high fevers, jitters and an upset stomach. AGS triggered brain calcifications, causing permanent brain damage, in which Gavin would shriek uncontrollably, turn a pasty gray, and ogle his eyes in distant directions. Mom called these episodes, visits from the Monster.

As time went on, I eventually returned to college and even graduated. Gavin was taken off Hospice on his first birthday. And next month, he will be seven years old. Although he is physically handicapped, meaning, he cannot eat on his own, walk, talk, crawl or ask when he has to pee. He is a pleasure. He is inspiring.

Though it was not initially easy, I have learned to love him in the deepest way, much deeper than I have ever loved myself. He has inspired my boyfriend to go back to school to become a Physical Therapist. He has brought our family, my two other sisters, my mom and dad, and me closer together. And above all, he has moved me to the core, to live unapologetically and passionately. In two weeks I will be finishing up my three-year stint at an MFA program, where I have written my first book, Monster Love, which is a moving account of my journey with Gavin. In two weeks I will be walking across the stage with a new confidence, one much different than I had four years ago. A belief that one story can change the world, because, ultimately, that’s all that ever has.

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Win a Scholarship: Graduation-Themed Essay Contest!

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Dear Writers,

Enter to win a tuition scholarship to the 42nd Annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference! Entries will be judged on originality, use of language, and story. The word count is limited to six hundred, and all genres are welcome.

  • Theme: “Graduation”
  • Word Count: Up to 600
  • All genres welcome
  • This must be your original work, published or unpublished
  • No entry fee
  • Email all entries to:  SBWC.Graduation@gmail.com
  • Please paste your entry into the body of the email and include contact information: name, phone number, email address, & mailing address
  • Winner receives a tuition scholarship to the 42nd Annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference, June 7 to 12, 2014**
  • Contest Begins: Today!
  • Deadline: Friday, May 23rd, Midnight (PST)
  • Winner Announced: Sunday, May 25th

Write On!

Nicole Starczak
SBWC, Director

“I didn’t go to college. Thank God for that. You can’t learn writing in college. You learn writing by writing every day and by having good friends surrounding you, who love you and who love writing as much as you do.” – Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, speaking at SBWC 2008

**In the event that the winner cannot attend the 2014 SBWC, June 7 to 12, the scholarship will go to the runner up.

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Literary Salon: Marla Miller Interviews Jane Smiley

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SBWC Best Opening Contest Thanks & Congratulations

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Dear Writers,

Thank you to those of you who entered our Annual Best Opening Contest. After reviewing over 200 entries, we’d like to congratulate our winner and three runner-ups.

First Place: Baxter Clare Trautman
Lieutenant L.A. Franco glanced at her Timex. Eight fifteen and already ninety in the shade. She watched her rookie detective prowl the scene. The kid’s first homicide, and wouldn’t it have to be a dead man sitting naked in an ’88 Caddy with a headless chicken in his lap.

Runner-ups (in alphabetical order): Barbara Bagwell, Nancy Klann & Malu Paradise

From Barbara Bagwell: My Name is Sheila. I’m fifteen and have yet to kiss a boy. Not that it bothers me. They’re all kind of gross. The girls at school wear makeup to impress them, but Mom said I looked like a streetwalker and won’t let me. I stole her mascara to look awake.

From Nancy Klann: I looked at the lime green walls of the Wash-O-Rama and wondered who on God’s earth would have picked such a color. That’s when an orange flyer taped to the far wall caught my eye. The bold, black letters screamed: URGENT, PLEASE HELP ME FIND MY MISSING LEG.

From Malu Paradise: Willie isn’t a bad person. He’s just a bad boy. The summer before he was suspended for selling pot and cigarettes in the girls’ bathroom, Willie shot a bottle rocket at Nancy Lavello’s prom dress. It was funny at the time, but nobody knew the consequences it would have.

We’d also like to name several honorable mentions, listed in alphabetical order:

•Tim Kelly
•Sandra McGee
•Stacy Ryan
•Ruth Wire
•Laurie Young

First place will receive a tuition scholarship to the 2014 SBWC, June 7-12th. The three runner-ups will receive partial scholarships to this year’s conference.

Opening night is nearly six weeks away, and we are approaching the end of sign-ups for Advance Submission. If you haven’t already registered, now is the time! www.sbwriters.com

Write On!

Nicole Starczak
SBWC, Director

“Eavesdrop and write it down from memory—gives you a stronger sense of how people talk and what their concerns are. I love to eavesdrop!” – Jane Smiley, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her novel A Thousand Acres and 2014 SBWC opening night speaker

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Enter to Win a Scholarship to the 2014 SBWC: Annual Best Opening Contest!

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Dear Writers,

Enter to win a tuition scholarship to the 42nd Annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference! Send us your BEST OPENING, up to 50 words — a beginning most likely to compel a reader to turn the page. 

  • Email all entries to: sbwcBestOpening@gmail.com
  • Please include contact information: name, phone number, email address, & mailing address
  • Paste your entry and contact information into the body of the email
  • Word Count: Up to 50
  • All genres welcome
  • This must be your original work, published or unpublished
  • Winner receives a tuition scholarship to the 42nd Annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference, June 7 to 12, 2014**
  • No entry fee
  • Open: Today!
  • Deadline: Thursday, April 17, Midnight (PST)
  • Winner Announced: Tuesday, April 22

Please share this opportunity with writers you know.

Write On!
Nicole Starczak
SBWC, Director

“I think your opening is enormously important. You’ve got to write a first line that will haunt you. It’s got to be magic.” – Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina, and keynote speaker at SBWC 2012

**In the event that the winner cannot attend the 2014 SBWC, June 7 to 12, the scholarship will go to the runner up.

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Sid Stebel’s Morning Workshop Challenge: Stump the Savant!

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Stump the Savant

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Marla Miller’s 2013 Daily Workshop Schedule with Special Guests

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Marla Miller’s MarketingtheMuse Workshop Schedule: 1PM—3:30PM

Workshop Overview:

Most sessions begin with Read & Critique, 1-2 pm– Openings only, Fiction/nonfiction, Query Letters &/or Book Proposal Overviews.

2-3:30 pm– Special Guests, All Guest Speakers  are creatively BUILDING PLATFORMS!



1-2pm: Read & Critique: OPENINGS only! Fiction/nonfiction, Query Letters &/or Book Proposal Overviews

2-3:30pm: Publishing Options & Essential Ingredients of Platform Building.  Indie Author & Google Indie Author TV host Jason Matthews joins Marla Miller 


1-2pm: Read & Critique: OPENINGS only! Fiction/nonfiction, Query Letters, Book Proposal Overviews

2-3:30pm: Marketing Your Muse: Muse Harbor Publishing’s marketing Director/Indie marketer, Margaux Hession & Indie author, Nancy Klann join Marla for lecture/discussion. Margaux will include a power point presentation of marketing strategies & Nancy will discuss how to get Indie books reviewed.


1-2pm: Read & Critique-OPENINGS only! Fiction/nonfiction, Query Letters, Book Proposal Overviews

2-3:30pm:  Published Authors with Sturdy Platforms: How they built them and how you can, too. Madeline SharplesEleanor Vincent and **Linda Joy Myers.

**Memoirists should NOT miss this workshop.


1-2pm: Pitch Witch Workshop, Jennifer Silva Redmond & Marla Miller-Perfect your elevator pitch!  To watch us ‘in action’ click here for 4 minute Pitch Witch video

2:10-3:30pm:  The Editor/Author Relationship: How to find one and what to expect. Editor/Indie screen writer, Jennifer Silva Redmond & Indie author Gayle Carline discuss their working relationship.

6/13/13- THURSDAY

1-3:30: The Essentials of Manuscript Editing: What every writer must know. Amazon & traditional publishing editor Tiffany Yates Martin delivers ‘in-workshop’ critiques of opening 2 pages. Watch her ‘eagle editor eye’ zoom in on your opening pages! Writers, BRING your opening pages for on-the-spot critique! Our goal is to accommodate ALL. Sign ups begin at 12:55


4- 5 pm: Platform Building Panel: For all SBWC conference attendees.

Platform Building Panel guests: Marla Miller moderates Blog/social media experts Ninety Degrees Media/Lisa Angle,  eBookSuccessforFree/Jason Matthews  and BooksAreMyBoyFriends/Kit Steinkellner

Q/A panel/discussion so bring your questions!

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2013 Best Opening Thanks & Congratulations

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Dear Writers,

Thanks to those who participated in our 2013 Best Opening writing contest. After reviewing over 200 entries, some clever, others funny, many thrilling, and a few lyrical, we’ve selected the winner of this year’s competition and recipient of a 2013 SBWC tuition scholarship.

First Place: Diane Winant
When Mom drove around with Grandma Schmidt on Tuesdays and Grandma Toots on Thursdays, I heard from the back seat of our Pontiac sedan that Aunt Alice didn’t wear underpants, Uncle Herman never paid income tax, and Cousin Cathy’s “appendicitis” was really a baby girl.

We’d also like to name several honorable mentions, listed in alphabetical order:

  • Lorie Brallier
  • Ann Doyle
  • Christina Gessler
  • Peggy Kassees
  • Stuart McElderry
  • T. Patrick Mulroe
  • Shelly Parker
  • Chris Westphal

Again, thank you for sharing your words!

Write On!

Nicole Starczak
SBWC, Director

“Your best move is to start everything you write fast. That means, something highly unusual that’s distinctive to you and your voice should happen on the first page, so that people are compelled to read the second, and the third, and the fourth.” – Gar Anthony Haywood, author of Cemetery Road, speaker at SBWC 2012 and teaching at SBWC 2013

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