Posted on by SBWC

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

In the June 17, 1994 welcoming Friday issue of Write Right ON! Jan Curran quoted Ray Bradbury:

If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life.

 “I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories. May you be in love for the next 20,000 days, and out of that love, remake a world.”

Ray opened the 22nd SBWC, as he had for the previous 21 years, and waxed eloquent on the subject of “Why Aren’t You Home Writing?”

By 1994 the SBWC was a well-established, premiere event for west coast literati, across the country and in other parts of the world. Australia was always well represented as well as England and the far east, but if you were to ask any of the participants, students, staff, or featured speaker you would get a variety of explanations for success.

In a Santa Barbara Independent article on June 16, 1994, Bill Greenwald wrote, “There’s something about the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference — a feeling, an ambiance you can’t describe. It’s a sense of being right there in the   middle of the literary swirl.” Greenwald continued, “It’s not intended for dilettantes who want to impress themselves by going to a writer’s convention, but the 22 year-old Santa Barbara institution is so multifaceted that even they will get something they didn’t expect.”

Barnaby Conrad, SBWC director and cofounder said, “We try to make it so no one who can write gets away unnoticed. Most beginners feel they have no chance to meet other writers. Here they have a chance to rub shoulders with famous writers and get professional advice.”

Columnist and former Los Angeles Times arts editor Charles Champlin said, “First, it gives you a chance to think about what you do and why you do it. It renews you. Writing is a lonely business. It [the SBWC] engenders a family feeling. There’s a terrific spirit throughout the conference.”


 Chuck Champlin  – Veteran SBWC Workshop Leader

 Ray Bradbury had this to say: “I think what makes the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference different is that it’s more relaxed than others, not as pompous and self-conscious.” When asked how he prepared for each of his 22 appearances as opening speaker he said, “I just get up there and explode and have a lot of fun.”

Ray was quoted as saying, “Last year I told you to stop watching the local news,” gesticulating with a finger the size of bratwurst. “Today I tell you to fire the people standing in the way of your writing!”

Sparky Schulz, returned from a one-year hiatus to follow Ray on Sunday afternoon, speaking on the topic “Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Me.” It was a homecoming for frequent SBWC attendees.

Sparky was always asked where he got ideas for Snoopy and Charlie Brown. “An idea comes from your whole life. You don’t just create characters out of nothing and force ideas out of them. It has to come from your own life.”

He told the audience about a memory of reading that crunching wintergreen flavored Lifesavers candy would produce sparks. He said it followed that if one chewed them in the dark, the sparks would be visible.

“This is where cartoon ideas come from,” said the Peanuts creator, because although he was unsuccessful in making sparks, he still used the idea in a strip with Snoopy and Charlie Brown. “It takes maturity. You have to live. You have to suffer before you can cartoon these things.”



1994 was the year that Bob Kane, creator of Batman, became a friend of the SBWC.  He passed through workshops, parties and SBWC events always accompanied by a bevy of devotees and a stunning companion who turned out to be Elizabeth, his wife. Although not scheduled as a speaker it was obvious that he loved being part of the maelstrom of creativity at the Miramar, and would be wooed to return to tell the Batman story at a future conference.


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  1. Emilie Winthrop says:

    Ray Bradbury was the greatest influence in my becoming a writer. Charles Champlin gave me the push I needed to add Feature writing. Sparkys presence always was a joy. Then add Sue Grafton, and her generous advise and the pleasure of getting to know Domenick Dunne, a true gentleman.

    Mary and Barnny supplied the best memories of learning the craft, I shall always be grateful

    And Matt, we both owe a debt to Joan Oppenheimer, for introducing us to such joy, as well as each other.

  2. Thank you for my Christmas Eve Facebook visit with some of the people I met at the 1987 Santa Barbara Writers Conference that I attended as a Day Student, while visiting my daughter Phyllis Nordstrom (also a writer) who used to live in Santa Barbara.

    A few years ago, I volunteered to talk to SBWC writers about the urgent need for writers and editors for classical music websites throughout the country now that major news media are replacing their writers with pop entertainment coverage. The opening page of my website shows me this past September on and 91st birthday; I have aged out of wanting to travel from Maine.

    In 1987, I was pleased to enjoy a session with Perie Longo in which I learned to write haiku and created the best one among all I have written since:
    you bedevil my daytime,
    turn it to playtime.

    I attended in 1987 and 1988 hoping to find a second publisher for periodic updates of “Outdoor Drama” (Books in Print, 1985).

    At last, now that it is 2016, I have found a middle-aged self-publisher who may take on that project. It is a niche book for sure and that is why publishers are not interested in it. “Everything comes to him who waits.”

    I remember reading the Introduction to “Outdoor Drama” in Charles Champlin’s class. He gave the project encouraging comments. He even remembered me the next year. The fifty individual dramas will now have to be updated. There are always about 100 summer amphitheaters active across the USA. Every five or 10 years at whatever interval is decided for publication, some would be dropped and replaced by new ones. Many have run for more than 50 years.

    People have enjoyed my December post at the website about Christmas at the Cathedral. I have wondered whether a collection of my reviews would allow readers to enjoy these experiences vicariously. Comments have been that my writing makes the reader feel that s/he was there.

    Being a compulsive writer, this is much too long so “Ciao” and happy holidays.

    Mary Elizabeth

    (Registered at SBWC in 1980s as plain Mary Nordstrom from Chapel Hill, NC. Widowed a year ago giving me more time to write.)

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