An excerpt from the upcoming book by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary: The Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook  — Words of Wisdom from Thirty Years of Literary Excellence 1973 – 2003

1982 was the year that Ray Bradbury opened the conference saying, “For God’s sake, be in love with something madly! Don’t talk to friends—they won’t understand. Trust your intuition. Let yourself go!”

Bradbury was big on intuition that year. “Put all your loves together and try to make sense of it.”

“Make lists of your memories—turn trivia into metaphor; build on your past—create the instant now,” he said. “Care so much it makes you want to live forever.” His advice was given with passion, and those unfamiliar with him could be forgiven if they came away befuddled, confused, or convinced he was drunk or worse.

On writing, he modified something he recalled from Hemingway: “Never go to bed with someone sicker than you.” Bradbury's version was, “Never go to bed with anyone you’re afraid of, but if you do, write about it later!”

Ted Berkman, himself an accomplished writer and SBWC workshop leader, captured the flavor of all the workshops in his 1982 piece on the conference.

“A typical workshop finds some 35 women and men crowded around novelist Phyllis Gerbauer, a slim, calm literary rendition of Carol Burnett. The novices sit on camp chairs, kitchen bar stools, and the floor of a summery hotel suite, listening raptly to a student reading (strict limit: six pages at a time). At the end, hands shoot up, comments fly. ‘Terrific suspense.’ ‘Needs more personal emotion.’ The instructor is last to speak. She suggest more specific details — ‘the type of perfume your protagonist uses tells us something about her character’—and greater attention to the sensory elements generally. ‘But those are only suggestions; the decision is yours.’”

Local resident, Laugh-In, and Candid Camera writer Fanny Flagg was an early SBWC workshop attendee and in 1979 won the Fiction Award for a thousand-word story that was adapted into a television movie. Subsequently, she expanded the story to the novel Coming Attractions, which was published in 1982.

Fannie Flag letter



June 1982 Alex Haley