An excerpt from the upcoming book by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary: By the time the 30th Annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference opened on June 21st in 2002, it felt as if it had always been at Westmont College. Because of the influx of new students due to regular attrition, hills too rigorous for some old-timers, and overall expanded enrollment because the Westmont College campus was bigger than the Miramar Hotel, the SBWC had the same air of a freshman’s first day at any university campus. It also helped that Mary Conrad doubled and at times tripled the number of Westmont College-student-staff-driven golf carts that criss-crossed the campus offering rides to any students challenged by the college’s hills.
Dorm accommodations enhanced this impression, where endless conversations filled the dorms with tales of the “old days” at the Miramar Hotel. The regularly scheduled meals in the campus cafeteria far exceeded the quality of the food at the Miramar and the new setup of dormitories and dining hall reminded workshop leader Matt Pallamary of his time in the Air Force, prompting him to nickname them the chow hall and barracks.
After the workshop leader introductions and business of logistics on Friday night, Saturday saw the familiar pattern of morning and afternoon workshops. Late Saturday afternoon, SBWC workshop leader Charles Champlin introduced two Hollywood legends, Eva Marie Saint and her husband and director/actor Jeff Hayden, in a reprise of their previous year’s reading of Willa Cather, On the Divide.
The converted for the conference gymnasium turned auditorium echoed with the words of Willa Cather from the sweeping plains of Nebraska as her work was read aloud by the consummate actors.