An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary: Held from June 22nd to June 29th, the first Santa Barbara Writers Conference featured Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451, and others), Clifton Fadiman (The Mathematical Magpie, and others), Ross MacDonald (The Zebra-Striped Hearse, the Chill, and others), Don Freeman (A Rainbow of My Own, Corduroy, and others), John Leggett (Ross and Tom: Two American Tragedies, and others), Budd Schulberg (On the Waterfront), Niels Mortensen (Endangered, with Barnaby Conrad), and Jessica “Decca” Mitford (Hons and Rebels, The American Way of Death, and others), and Jerry Hannah.

In total there were six workshop leaders and 37 students.

By the second night, Bill Downey wrote, “You could tell the students by the glazed look in their eyes.” Their countenances were attributed to the Pirate Workshops, a device invented of necessity. Rather than lying awake with comments and critiques from the published writers torturing their sleep, students stayed up most of the night reading and re-working the endings or beginnings of their Great American Novels to each other, and those workshop leaders young enough to participate without a full night’s sleep.

It was a grand experiment off to a promising start, if only in the minds of the conference organizers and attendees, but the experience was successful enough to encourage Ray Bradbury and others to return the next year, because unlike most writers conferences, there was something tangibly different from other conferences. When they made their way from the Cate School Campus each looked forward to the next year, as if to a beloved family gathering. Thus began a long-standing tradition of Ray Bradbury making the opening remarks every year until failing health caused him to miss the annual event in 2005.

Barny, Ray Bradbury, and friends

Barny, Ray Bradbury, and friends

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Words of wisdom from Ray Bradbury