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
On January 7th - Saddam Hussein prepared his troops for what he said would be a long violent war against the United States and on January 8th "Davis Rules" with Jonathan Winters & Randy Quaid premiered on ABC-TV.
On January 10th US Congress began its debate on the Persian Gulf crisis and on January 11th - Congress empowered George Bush Sr. to order attack on Iraq following up on January 12th by giving Bush authority to wage war against Iraq. Operation Desert Storm began against Saddam Hussein on January 17th.
On March 3rd the Los Angeles Police severely beat motorist Rodney King, which was captured on amateur video and on March 15th Four Los Angeles, California police officers were indicted for the videotaped March 3rd beating of motorist Rodney King during an arrest.
From thirty-six students at the Cate School in 1973, the students attending the 19th Annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference now numbered 300 plus, 60% of whom were returnees and 26 faculty members. All the elements that made the conference a premiere event were coordinated by Mary Conrad, assisted by her cadre of volunteers.
A late addition to the conference was Joseph Wambaugh, The Onion Field, The Blue Knight, and many others. Returning speakers included Elmore Leonard, Cat Chaser, 52 Pick-Up, Killshot, Get Shorty, and others, and longtime SBWC favorite Sue Grafton, A is for Alibi, and the rest of her alphabet series, and perennial favorite Charles (Sparky) Schulz.
Before introducing Ray Bradbury on Friday night, Barnaby Conrad read a few examples of what could be submissions for the annual “Worst Opening Sentence” contest which was open to all conference attendees.
“He’d always hated being bound and gagged…”
“The sun rose slowly, like a fiery fur ball coughed up uneasily onto a sky-blue carpet by a giant unseen cat…”
“While the riddle of the long intestine cannot be unraveled here, we can at least allude to the romance of digestion…”
“The sun fought like a tiger to escape from its cage of dark clouds and finally emerged gently as a lamb, bestowing its soft warmth upon Leanne, her golden hair blown by the wind which swept across the high, rocky hill overlooking her ancestral home, once threatened by fire and flood, now owned by the man who killed her father, raped her grandmother, and was soon to become her husband.”
Arguably, only Ray Bradbury could comfortably follow Barnaby at his best, and Ray started the 19th SBWC lecturing on “Tomorrow the Universe.” In the welcoming Write Right On! Jan Curran quoted from Bradbury’s book, A Complete Guide to Writing Fiction:
“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that Gold ever turned out and 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.”
Joe Wambaugh and Chuck Champlin