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An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

A short distance South of Santa Barbara, the 2nd Annual SBWC got underway with Ray Bradbury as Keynote Speaker, Kenneth Rexroth conducting a poetry workshop, and Mel Torme promoting his new book, “I’d Rather Write than Sing.”

Building on the success of the first year, the Conrads produced a line-up of speakers that would be the envy of any well-established conference:

Budd Schulberg showed his landmark film, “On the Waterfront.” James Michener (Hawaii, the Pulitzer Prize winning Tales of the South Pacific and others), gave an evening address and Mel Torme explained why “I’d Rather Write Than Sing.”

Ross MacDonald (Ken Millar) spoke about “Writing, Mystery & Suspense,” and the afternoon speakers included Joan Didion (Slouching Towards Bethlehem and others), John Gregory Dunne (Vegas: A Memoir of a Dark Season and others), Alex Haley (Roots), Clifton Fadiman (Mathematical Magpie and others), and James Sheldon (radio broadcaster, “We, The People”).

By the end of the conference the SBWC had become an institution in Santa Barbara County, and in the world of writers and conferences, but not everyone was convinced.

After the second conference in 1974, Barnaby’s boyhood friend Headmaster Clark left Cate School and the new headmaster was concerned that the school was losing money on the deal the previous headmaster had made with the Conrads.

As a result of the new headmaster’s erroneous impressions of the conference, the SBWC moved to the Miramar Hotel in 1975.

James MichenerAlex Hailey

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An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

Held from June 22nd to June 29th, the first Santa Barbara Writers Conference featured Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451, and others), Clifton Fadiman (The Mathematical Magpie, and others), Ross MacDonald (The Zebra-Striped Hearse, the Chill, and others), Don Freeman (A Rainbow of My Own, Corduroy, and others), John Leggett (Ross and Tom: Two American Tragedies, and others), Budd Schulberg (On the Waterfront), Niels Mortensen (Endangered, with Barnaby Conrad), and Jessica “Decca” Mitford (Hons and Rebels, The American Way of Death, and others), and Jerry Hannah.

In total there were six workshop leaders and 37 students.

By the second night, Bill Downey wrote, “You could tell the students by the glazed look in their eyes.” Their countenances were attributed to the Pirate Workshops, a device invented of necessity. Rather than lying awake with comments and critiques from the published writers torturing their sleep, students stayed up most of the night reading and re-working the endings or beginnings of their Great American Novels to each other, and those workshop leaders young enough to participate without a full night’s sleep.

It was a grand experiment off to a promising start, if only in the minds of the conference organizers and attendees, but the experience was successful enough to encourage Ray Bradbury and others to return the next year, because unlike most writers conferences, there was something tangibly different from other conferences. When they made their way from the Cate School Campus each looked forward to the next year, as if to a beloved family gathering. Thus began a long-standing tradition of Ray Bradbury making the opening remarks every year until failing health caused him to miss the annual event in 2005.

Barny, Ray Bradbury, and friends

Barny, Ray Bradbury, and friends

Words of wisdom from Ray Bradbury

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An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

The following news clipping from May 31 1986 was published prior to the 14th annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference which took place from June 20-27, 1986. By then, the SBWC was fully established in the cottages and confines under the landmark blue roofs of the Miramar Hotel in Montecito, where legends were both celebrated and created.

Over the space of a quarter of a century, for one magical week a year the SBWC took over the old fashioned resort and became a world unto itself. There was a piano bar where you might walk in to find Steve Allen, Barnaby Conrad, or Cliff, the black house piano man tickling the ivories, and a long hallway that connected the registration desk to the bar and restaurant, aptly nicknamed “Peacock Alley” where people strutted their stuff, and a huge conference hall where the keynoters spoke.

In a smaller hall nestled beneath the main hall, Pirate Workshops were held after the evening speaker, ending when the last person read, almost always after midnight, and often into the wee hours of the morning. Night or day that setting was bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful Miramar beach front facing cottages, with tennis courts, and railroad tracks that sent locomotives and rattling box cars through the middle of the property at all hours of the day and night, past a stationary railroad club car restaurant beside the tracks. It was a perfect setting for a gathering of creative talent of all levels and genres, all dedicated to nurturing and celebrating their shared love of writing with varying degrees of angst, anger, fear, passion, and hope.

Beginning article


Beginning article 2

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An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

2004 was the last year that the Conrads owned the SBWC and it was the conference’s last year at Westmont College.

Gayle Lynds who is one of this year’s keynoters for 2017, was a keynoter that year.

“I am here,” Gayle stated, “to talk about plotting, because Barnaby asked me.” She directed the students to look in their SBWC packets for The Writer Magazine. “There’s an article written by a very fine writer — the one with plotting, or plotting a thriller or plotting suspense, or something like that — with interviews written by Julian Abbott. Interviews with me, and Dennis Lehane, and Stuart Woods, and so Barnaby took it into his head that it would be a good thing for me to talk about.”

Gayle talked with the audience about her experience plotting and said that everything has a plot. “Even when they say it doesn’t have a plot, it’s got a plot.” She read from a 1939-40 book by Jack Woodford that discussed plotting. He wrote that in any other profession you can put relatives to work, but novels require a special skillset.

“‘Publishers’ relatives can’t write them. No matter how devoted the publisher is to his relatives, he can’t chisel them in on this one profession. It’s an honor left fairly free from nepotism.

“‘Of course publishers’ relatives do write novels, or have them written by ghost writers, but it’s one place where the nepotism game won’t really work, because you’ve got to have some brains to be a writer, and relatives never have brains. All the brains in the family run to one guy, in a given generation.’”

Gayle spoke again about the difference between a thriller and a mystery. She used the same Alfred Hitchcock example of a bomb place underneath a table that Andrew Klavan had used the previous day, “but I want to come to it from another direction.” She used the example of 9/11 in 2001 — acknowledging that it was a terrible event, but that in a thriller the story would start a few days before 9/11, perhaps with the terrorists preparing for the planes crashing, then build up to the moment of the crashes.

For this particular lecture she took the time to give the subtleties of plotting and story elements, interweaving her personal experience with the novels that she has written. “Two key words, for any novelist, are, What if?”

This was how she created a second novel to follow up on an earlier one. For years her publishers were after her to do a sequel, but Gayle could not see the story until finally she had her character go back to school and start a new way of life. At this point she admonished the audience to be in love with the story, because if they weren’t, then they could not credibly write for their audience, and once she came up with the new life for her character, she needed to develop plot elements to move the character into and through the story.

Gayle Lynds

Gayle Lynds

Gayle Lynds - Coil

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An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

In the aftermath of the Miramar closing and the transition and adjustment to the SBWC’s new home at Westmont College, workshop leader Matt Pallamary wrote an article that Mary Conrad included in the welcome letter that went out to returning conferees and new attendees.

2003 Welcome letter 3 2003 Welcome letter 4

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An excerpt from the upcoming book by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

By the time the 30th Annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference opened on June 21st in 2002, it felt as if it had always been at Westmont College. Because of the influx of new students due to  regular attrition, hills too rigorous for some old-timers, and overall expanded enrollment because the Westmont College campus was bigger than the Miramar Hotel, the SBWC had the same air of a freshman’s first day at any university campus. It also helped that Mary Conrad doubled and at times tripled the number of Westmont College-student-staff-driven golf carts that criss-crossed the campus offering rides to any students challenged by the college’s hills.

Dorm accommodations enhanced this impression, where endless conversations filled the dorms with tales of the “old days” at the Miramar Hotel. The regularly scheduled meals in the campus cafeteria far exceeded the quality of the food at the Miramar and the new setup of dormitories and dining hall reminded workshop leader Matt Pallamary of his time in the Air Force, prompting him to nickname them the chow hall and barracks.

After the workshop leader introductions and business of logistics on Friday night, Saturday saw the familiar pattern of morning and afternoon workshops. Late Saturday afternoon, SBWC workshop leader Charles Champlin introduced two Hollywood legends, Eva Marie Saint and her husband and director/actor Jeff Hayden, in a reprise of their previous year’s reading of Willa Cather, On the Divide.

The converted for the conference gymnasium turned auditorium echoed with the words of Willa Cather from the sweeping plains of Nebraska as her work was read aloud by the consummate actors.

2002 News

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Posted on by SBWC

An excerpt from the upcoming book by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

In 2001, the 29th Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference found a new home at Westmont College in the hills behind Santa Barbara. The Miramar era was over, and the Westmont Campus was a dramatic change from the beachfront blue-roofed Miramar Hotel. With no ocean near the campus, Barnaby said, “There’s no beach to tempt the people away from their typewriters.” Duly noted. “They shouldn’t be on the beach; they should be writing!” he added laughing, in an interview with Santa Barbara News-Press reporter Ann Shields.

Tuesday night veteran newsman Sander Vanocur moderated a “Behind the Headlines” panel of journalists, including Ann Louise Bardach (Troubled Waters, Cuba, and others), Lou Canon (President Reagan — The Role of a Lifetime,) and Martha Smilgis (Time Magazine, People Magazine, and others).

In typical Barnaby style, he introduced Vanocur by saying “There has been altogether too much frivolity around this place,” so he read a piece by Dave Barry about the founding of America, with the hope of instilling some gravitas before hearing from the distinguished panel.

“Hundreds of years ago, America was different,” Barny read. “The only inhabitants were Indians who formed tribes and gave rivers hard to spell names. Meanwhile, in Italy, Christopher Columbus spent hours gazing out to sea and thinking, ‘someday I will be the cause of a holiday observed by millions of government workers.’ Columbus assembled a group of mariners and set out across the storm-tossed Atlantic in three tiny ships, the Ninja, the Piña Colada and the Heidi Ho.

“After numerous storm-tossed weeks they came to an island where Columbus had this conversation with the local chief.

“Columbus: You guys are Indians, right?

“Chief: Ramanona, jaway, which means, ‘No, we came over from Asia 20,000 years ago by the land mass bridge.’

“Columbus: Listen, we’ve spent weeks looking for India in these three storm-tossed ships and we have canons pointed at your wigwams, and we say that you’re Indians.

“Chief: Banama kawowi saki, which means ‘Welcome to India.’

“By the 17th Century the English had started a colony on an estuary and called it Jamestown. Their leader was John Smith, under whose direction Jamestown engaged in numerous activities primarily related to starving, then just when the colonists were about to give up, they discovered a vast untapped market for a product that consumers would set on fire and they’d inhale, gradually turning their lungs into malignant lumps of carbon.

“Meanwhile, the Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock. The new world was harsh and desolate and they would have starved, if not for a friendly native named Squanto. A year went by and the Puritans held their first Thanksgiving. They invited Squanto for turkey. ‘Next time,’ he advised, ‘try cooking it,’ then they watched the Lions/Bears game. Ultimately the Puritans built New England, part of it which can still be seen.

“Next came the revolution, the single most important historical event to occur in America with the exception of Super Bowl IV. Amid this climate the first Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. Its members realizing their actions could determine the fate of the new world, voted to give themselves a raise. The Continental Congress also knew that they would need an army and they knew just the man to lead it. A man who was respected and admired, a man who had experience, and the leadership needed to organize men and lead them into battle. That man, of course, was Dwight D. Eisenhower.”

“None of this stuff,” Barny added, “has anything to do with Sander Vanocur, a man who you all recognize from television news. I give you Sander Vanocur.”

2001 News Article

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February Newsletter

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February 5, 2017
SwirlEarly Bird Registration 

Party in Hyatt bar
 $575–full conference!
This price is good through February 15  
Register here.
Improve your craft. Find your tribe.
Make lifelong connections.

Spend your conference week beachside at the charming Santa Barbara Hyatt.
Take advantage of early bird pricing and register for the conference by February 15.

We’re pleased to announce that our list of 2017 agents is complete, and you may register for an appointment with an agent and advanced submission of a 5-page manuscript to be read before your appointment on June 20. Register for an agent here.

If you wish to register for an appointment with an agent,  you must already be registered for the conference.

We have a great group of agents to choose from:

Annie Bomke 
Annie Bomke in San Diego

Amy Cloughley  
Kimberley Cameron & Associates

Paul Fedorko 
N.S. Bienstock, Inc.

Julie Hill 
Julie Hill Literary Agency in Del Mar

Toni Lopopolo 
Lopopolo Literary Management

Eric Myers
Dystel and Goderich Literary Management

Patricia Nelson
Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Angela Rinaldi
The Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency

BJ Robbins
BJ Robbins Literary Agency in North Hollywood

Ken Sherman 
Ken Sherman & Associates

Over the past 45 years, SBWC has provided a learning environment that can transform beginners into bestselling authors … well, that and a lot of hard work on the part of the authors.

One of the best things about the Santa Barbara Writers Conference is the faculty. Our 30 teachers cover a broad range of genres.

The 2.5-hour workshops allow time for learning craft, as well as getting individualized feedback on your work.

We have a special room rate at the Hyatt Santa Barbara:

  • $199 (single occupancy) per night and free parking: 24 rooms in Santa Barbara House, a separate building, but adjacent to hotel
  • $209 (single occupancy) per night and $38 overnight parking, (or free parking close by on the street) in the hotel

For reservations call (888) 421-1442, or visit this reservation link: Santa Barbara Hyatt.

If you wish to register for an appointment with an agent,  you must already be registered for the conference to signup.

Since its origins in 1972, SBWC has given writers an oasis of time, place and focus to hone craft and connect with mentors, agents and publishers.

The Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook, a history of the conference, written by founder Mary Conrad and longtime friends of SBWC, Y. Armando Nieto and Matthew J. Pallamary, is now available on Amazon.

For SBWC fans in the Santa Barbara area, there will be a book signing at Chaucer’s bookstore on February 9 at 7PM. Meet all three authors.

There is a documentary film of the same title debuting June 18, 2017 at SBWC.

The film and the book are labors of love, and both reflect the special nature of this conference.

New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore says:
“I went into the Santa Barbara Writers Conference a foundering insurance man and came out a writer. I wouldn’t have made it without the camaraderie and enthusiasm for the craft I found there.” 

We invite you to be a part of this ongoing literary legacy.

I hope to see you June 18-23, 2017.

Grace Rachow
SBWC Director

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