An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary: The Fourth Annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference returned to the Miramar Hotel from June 18-23rd in 1976. In addition to the now ensconced regulars and the return of Eudora Welty, new speakers included Rolling Stone Magazine co-founder and publisher Jann Wenner, Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and others), Los Angeles Times book review editor and Book Talk columnist Digby Diehl, and Irwin Shaw (Rich Man, Poor Man, and others).
Ken Millar, the Santa Barbara resident known world-wide as Ross Macdonald, introduced Eudora Welty saying “It seems kind of a miracle that she came from Jackson, Mississippi to speak to us.”
Beverly Jackson recorded Welty’s opening words in a 1976 article in the Santa Barbara News-Press.
“I’d like to clear the air about symbols,” Welty began reading. “The novel exists within the big symbol of fiction, and not the other way around.”
She elaborated, “One way of looking at Moby Dick is that his task as a symbol was so enormous, he had to be a whale.”
Welty continued to pass along other words of wisdom.
“Communication is going on when you can believe the writer. Belief doesn’t depend upon plausibility, but it’s a quality that makes reliability.” Later on she said, “Style is the product of highly conscious effort that is not self-conscious.”
When asked about writing as a woman in the question and answer portion of the lecture, Welty said, “It doesn’t bother me a bit,” to the titters from the audience, then added, “I don’t really feel limitations in writing as a woman. I feel I can see the point of view of a man. Once you’ve leaped into looking at the point of view of another person, I don’t think it matters whether it’s a man or a woman.”