Register to attend the 2017 S.B. Writers Conference

Find the distinctive voices of your characters and then allow them the freedom to lead you through your story.

- Walter Dallenbach

From Our Blog

SwirlPanels and Panelist Bios

2016 Panels will Include:

June 6 • First Book Panel
June 7 • Agent/Editor Panel
June 8 • The Road to Publication: The Rest of the Story
June 9 • 10 Writing Tips from the Trenches
June 10 • Building Your Author Platform Panel


First Book Panel
Monday, June 6 at 4 PM

Moderated by Lorelei Armstrong

This panel focuses on the excitement, the investment, and the trials and tribulations of being a first time novelist. What would you have done differently had you only known? Panelists, whether working with a major publishing house or small press, will discuss their experiences throughout the publishing process: agents, editors, publicity, book signings, and reviews. Panelists include: 


Tom Huth

Tom HuthTom Huth is a newspaperman by education and training, who started in his hometown of Detroit as a copy editor at the Free Press. He moved on to the Washington Post as a foreign-desk editor and feature writer during the Watergate years.

In the 1980s he began freelancing, writing long-form articles for magazines such as Conde Naste Traveler, Travel & Leisure, GQ, Esquire, Outside, Men’s Journal, Islands, Fortune, Historic Preservation, American Way, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. 

His memoir, 40 Years Stoned: a journalist's romance was published by Heliotrope Books, a small New York press, on April 20, 2016.

Stephen Vessels

Stephen VesselsStephen Vessels, a long-time SBWC attendee has, for many years, read his works-in-progress in late-night Pirate workshops. The stories in his first collection, The Mountain and the Vortex show us strange creatures from fantastic worlds who are all recognizable as quintessentially human.

Elizabeth Engstrom, author of Lizzie Borden, The Northwoods Chronicles, and Baggage Check, has called Stephen "one of those rare artists who comes along, effortlessly (or so it appears) cruising through genres, equally comfortable in science fiction, dark fantasy, and his own brand of emotionally-charged weirdness." 


Howard Paar

Howard Paar

Howard Paar is a Grammy® nominated music supervisor, born and raised in London before continuing his career in Los Angeles. Paar first worked in LA as a club creator/DJ/promoter with such legendary artists as The Specials, The Clash, The English Beat, The Go-Go’s, The Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, The Bangles, Echo & The Bunnymen, and Lydia Lunch. A member of the Board for The Guild Of Music Supervisors Paar values opportunities to elevate music and visual media. Once Upon A Time In LA is his first novel, although he threatens more.

"My favorite mysteries don't just solve a murder, they introduce me to a new world. In "Once Upon A Time In LA," veteran LA music insider and expat Brit Howard Paar takes us on a joyride through the vanished world of 1970s to 90s LA rock n roll. Authentic, fierce, gritty and moving, with loads of local color and scenes along the Sunset Strip, Malibu and Hollywood record offices and nightclubs, this is a welcome addition to LA's mystery literature and Paar is an author to watch."  

- Denise Hamilton, LA crime writer and editor of the short story anthology 'Los Angeles Noir'


Lida Sideris

Lisa Sideris

Like her heroine, Lida Sideris worked as an entertainment attorney for a film studio. Unlike her heroine, she was not blackmailed into investigating the suspicious death of a co-worker. She lives in Santa Barbara with her family, their rescue shepherds, and a flock of uppity chickens. She was the recipient of the Helen McCloy/Mystery Writers of America scholarship award for Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters. To learn more, please visit


Agent/Editor Panels
Tuesday, June 7 at 4 PM

Moderated by Fred Klein and Michael Larsen

Agents and Editors will discuss querying etiquette, finding the right agent/editor, tips on attracting an agent. Also, what should the writer know before becoming a client or “writer bewares.” They will also touch on trends and changes in the marketplace, the future of publishing as they see it, and how the role of the agent/editor has evolved. 

Corinna Barsan—Senior Editor, Grove Atlantic
Paul Fedorko — N.S. Bienstock, Inc.
Lucas Hunt — Orchard Literary
Jill Marr—Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency
Toni Lopopolo — Toni Lopopolo Literary Management
Jennifer March Soloway—Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Angela Rinaldi — The Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency
Erin L. Cox—Rob Weisbach Creative Management
Annie Hwang— Folio Literary Management
Eric Myers—Dystel and Goderich Literary Management

Look for Agent/Editor bios on the Advance Submissions & Agents page


The Road to Publication: The Rest of the Story

Wednesday, June 8 at 4 PM

Moderated by Matt Pallamary

Want to understand how to navigate the sometimes chaotic road to publication? It's like the Wild West out there, but in 2016 there are many viable options to see your work in print. In this panel, four SBWC workshop leaders will discuss the stories behind how their recent books found publication. Panelists include: 


Ernie Witham

Ernie WithamErnie Witham has been writing the syndicated column, Ernie's World, for the Montecito Journal for the last 17 years. He's also the author of three humor books, Ernie’s World the Book, A Year in the Life of a ‘Working’ Writer, and his newest, April 2016, Where Are Pat and Ernie Now? A book of humorous travel adventures. Ernie's humor has appeared in magazines and many anthologies including more than twenty Chicken Soup for the Soul books. He has led humor workshops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Whidbey Island, and on Cape Cod. He finds great pleasure in helping people to get their funny stories onto the page and into circulation.


Dale Griffiths Stamos

Dale Griffiths Stamos

Dale Griffiths Stamos has written plays, screenplays and non-fiction books. Her plays have been produced and published in the United States and abroad. One White Crow had a six-week run at Edgemar Center for the Arts in 2013. An evening of Dale's one-acts about love, Love Struck, opened in 2012 at the Beverly Hills Playhouse and starred three-time Emmy winner, Barbara Bain. Her full length drama, Dialectics of the Heart, was produced at Edgemar Center for the Arts in 2006 and starred three time Emmy-nominated actress Sharon Lawrence. As a screenwriter, Dale has adapted two of her one-acts into short films. The first, Match Made, has been featured at four film festivals, winning Audience Award twice. The second, Lost Music, has also been featured at four film festivals, winning a Jury Award at one. Her book coming out in May is RenWomen: What Modern Renaissance Women Have to Teach Us About Living Rich, Fulfilling


Janet Rendall

Janet RendallJanet Rendall attended the Santa Barbara Writers Conference for ten years, crafting and honing her debut novel and earning several writing awards in the process. Janet has melded the mystique of the Mother Road with the minds of visiting aliens to produce her debut novel, Route 66 to the Milky Way, her imaginative, light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek journey across the iconic highway that is peppered with observations about the American lifestyle that only outsiders to the culture could make.



Melodie Johnson Howe

Melodie Johnson HoweMelodie Johnson Howe always wanted to be a writer but began her career as an actress. After quitting acting she wrote her first mystery novel, The Mother Shadow, which was nominated for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allen Poe Award. The second mystery novel, Beauty Dies soon followed. Turning to the short story form she created a new character Diana Poole, an actress verging on middle age. The stories were published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.  Two have been nominated for the Barry Award. They are now collected into one book, Shooting Hollywood: The Diana Poole Stories. City of Mirrors, Howe’s latest novel also features Diana Poole and brings her acting life and writing life together.



Ten Writing Tips from the Trenches

Thursday, June 9 at 4 PM

Gerald DiPego, Afternoon Speaker

Gerald DiPego’s afternoon talk to the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference contains 10 hard-won tips from his 45-year career as a writer.  Each is a headline, followed by an explanation and how-to gleaned from his new book “WRITE! Find the Truth In Your Fiction.”


Gerald DiPego

Gerald DiPegoGerald DiPego is the author of five novels, including Cheevey and Keeper of the City, and 33 produced screenplays, including “Sharky’s Machine,” “Phenomenon,” “Message in a Bottle,” “Instinct,” “The Forgotten,” “Angel Eyes,” and “Words and Pictures.” 

His new book is a personal, conversational text on creative writing, and is available now at most e-book retailers.  For more information about DiPego and his work, visit:


Building Your Author Platform Panel

Friday, June 10 at 4 PM

Moderated by Marla Miller


Q/A session focused on writers building a social media presence to promote books.  Panelists include: 


Matt Pallamary

Matt PallamaryMatt Pallamary has taught for more than twenty years at the SBWC, the SCWC and other venues. He has published award-winning short stories, novels, and a memoir, as well as a screenplay, and nonfiction publications. 





Ernie Witham

carla kingErnie Witham has been writing the syndicated column, Ernie’s World, for the Montecito Journal for 17 years. He is the author of three humor books: Ernie’s World the Book, A Year in the Life of a ‘Working’ Writer, and my newest, April 2016, Where Are Pat and Ernie Now? A book of humorous travel adventures. My humor has appeared in magazines and many anthologies including more than twenty Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I have led humor workshops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Whidbey Island, and on Cape Cod. I find great pleasure in helping people to get their funny stories onto the page and into circulation. 

Gail Kearns

Gail KearnsGail Kearns began her career in publishing in 1995 when she founded GMK Editorial & Writing Services. For the next several years Gail helped dozens of authors shape their books for publication.

Currently, she is the president of To Press & Beyond (, a full-service book shepherding agency she established in 2001, which grew out of numerous requests from clients. Gail calls herself a Book Sherpa to underscore the fact that with all the complexities involved in the trek to producing a successful book, every author needs help climbing the publishing mountain. Gail and her team guide projects from inception to completion and support clients by implementing innovative plans for marketing and PR, including the ever changing landscape of social media marketing. Ghostwriting, copywriting, writing for the web, and crafting marketing materials that bring results are all within the realm of their expertise.

Books of all genres, shepherded by To Press & Beyond have garnered such awards as the prestigious IPPY, the Benjamin Franklin Award, Foreword’s BOTYA, Next Generation Indie Book Awards, USA Best Book Awards, Pinnacle Book Achievement Award, and Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. 

Gail is a longtime member of IBPA and APSS. Her editing and publishing consulting has taken her throughout the U.S. and abroad. She lives in Santa Barbara, California, and when she’s not playing the role of wordsmith, publishing consultant, or PR lady, she likes camping, hiking, and taking road trips.