Lorelei Armstrong Blogs: Observations and Advice

Douglas Adams defined the three stages of civilization with the questions:  How can we eat? Why do we eat? Where shall we have lunch? These are, of course, also the most important questions about any writers conference. I thought I’d wade in with some practical advice for attendees. The Santa Barbara Writers Conference is being held for the second year at the Hyatt Santa Barbara. Well, technically it’s the first year, since last year the hotel had a different name, but bear with me.

Previous SBWC venues had some problems. Trains ran through the Miramar. Westmont had rather more mountain lion warnings than you might expect. The Fess Parker Doubletree was slightly larger than Delaware. No similar troubles at the Hyatt. Trains and wildlife are mostly kept off the property and the scale is perfect for our purposes. You will actually encounter your fellow writers whether you want to or not.

Some observations for your conference experience:

1. Bring a Sweater. Bring a sweater for your sweater. London’s winter weather spends its summer holidays in Santa Barbara. If you like drizzle, you’re in luck. But as often as not there will be one day that is clear and hot. That’s usually Agent Day, and we all get heat stroke in a courtyard. Plan accordingly.

2. The Restaurant and Bar. I confess I never ate in the restaurant. I did, however, manage to eat in the bar next to the restaurant most days. After five they have happy hour specials. Last year the $5 fish tacos were excellent. I also have fond memories of the onion rings. The bar is the place to hang out, make friends, and talk story. Pull up a chair and don’t be a stranger. Over the course of the week, more and more writers gravitate to the bar. Go figure.

3. The East Beach Grill. Right across the road and just a bit east on the beach is the East Beach Grill. They are justifiably famous for their blueberry wheat germ pancakes. The Grill is visible most days through the fog.

4. Snacks. Yes! Bring snacks. You may be too caught up in what you are doing to make it to any of the fine dining establishments mentioned. Carry survival rations.

5. Your Room. The Hyatt will not allow you to take the mattress home. I asked. It is a wonder. I am going to tell you to spend as little time as possible enjoying it. Over the years, I’ve spoken (briefly) with many conference attendees who were rushing from workshops to their rooms, most claiming they were going to do some writing. Writing? At a writers conference? No! Seriously, how often do you get to hang out with other writers? How often do you get to stroll the beach, even if you do have to wear a parka? You can sit in your room and write at home. Come on out and make friends.

6. No sleeping allowed. I shouldn’t have mentioned the mattress. It really is far too tempting. They should bring down the plastic-wrapped bedbug- and urine-resistant dorm mattresses from Westmont for the duration. Get up from that comfy Hyatt mattress. Try the late-night pirate workshops. You don’t have to read or critique if you don’t want to. Just show up. Listen to folks read their stories. It’s the best show in town.

7. No, I don’t know if the “writers” in “writers conference” should be “writers,” “writers’,” or “writer’s,” and it just makes me (sic).