An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

1982 was a time of remembering, the “old timers,” reflecting on the ten years that made the SBWC arguably the best writers conference in the country.

Alex Haley returned to discuss life before and after Roots. Paul Lazarus told the story of how Haley got an agent for his book. Louis Blau was Barnaby’s agent at the time and agreed to give Haley fifteen minutes. After listening to the story of Roots for three hours, Blau told Haley, “If you can write the story you just told me you will change the world.”

Lazarus brought Danielle Steele to the podium to introduce the Roots author.

“Well, earlier today I came to speak to you as Danielle Steel. Now I’m back as the real me, a lady named Danielle Traina, and I’m here to talk about one of my very favorite people, my very best friend. You all know who he is, and what he does. Very rarely in a lifetime you meet someone, that a big piece of your soul goes out to them and stays there forever, and Alex Haley is that kind of person to me. He’s my dearest fiend, he’s one of the most special people in the world. You’re very lucky that he’s here tonight. Thank you.”

Alex Haley took the stage and wrapped author Danielle Steele in his arms. “I am sure glad,” he said in his booming voice, "that John Traina is so understanding. He just looks at us hugging each other and smiles, and that’s great.”

Haley began his remarks saying that as he walked into the Conference center he was thinking that he still found it odd to be standing at a podium or on a dais to address a room full of writers. “For so long, I used to dog-ear the Writers Digest and other magazines, to find a writers conference that I could get to.

“And, sitting somewhere near the back of the room, and feel a kind of vicarious something, but never ever did, seriously think about it happening as such, to me. I guess I thought that if I kept plugging, at something to which I was very very devoted, I would be able to write magazine articles such as that, but I never thought that in terms of books, and that it kind of came as a surprise.

“Some of the things, and I have no notes or anything, whatever I say will be off the top of my head. Trying to communicate, share with others as colleague writers.

“So much that Danielle said this afternoon, from my own experience, is absolutely right on target. Just plucking some of them from the air, I know she was saying that being a writer doesn’t mean that you necessarily have sold, or you’re a best-seller, or this and that. The fact that you are writing, and I would add only one word to that, that you are ‘seriously’ writing, that is what makes you a writer.”

Starting June first you may sign up for single day or 1/2 conference!

The 45th Annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference opens on June 18 -- less than three weeks away! We still have some spaces left. If your schedule or budget does not allow you to attend the full conference, please consider signing up for a partial conference. Beginning June 1, you may register online for: $125 for a day Available for online registration now: $575 student rate (email info@ for promo code) $650 for full 6-day conference To register: For more information: Group rates available too.


  An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

Judith Kranz joined the list of featured speakers in 1981, and talked about writing Scruples and Princess Daisy. Saying that she was too busy at work on a new-not-to-be-revealed-novel to prepare a speech, she entertained the afternoon audience with tips on fashion as well as how she managed to pen two successful books, and how she handled the sex scenes.

Ms. Kranz reported that she had not realized how erotic the sex scenes in Scruples appeared to the American public when she started her book tour, so she decided that there would be no four letter words in Princess Daisy.

“And I think those sex scenes were better than Scruples,” she stated. “Writers have to feel comfortable with the words, just as readers do.”

One of the more fascinating speakers that year was Barbara Goldsmith, who spent five years researching her book, Little Gloria…. Happy at Last. Ms. Goldsmith was already an accomplished writer and editor when she came across a reference in research for her Straw Man book project to the proceedings of Vanderbilt vs. Vanderbilt.

With persistence she was able to access previously sealed court documents including 80,000 pages of testimony, details, and conversations related to the case. The Politics of 1934 were the historic background for the court case, and for her book, Little Gloria… Happy at Last.


  An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

William Styron was back, overheard at the Conrad’s party to say, “I love California in a perverse and unique way. It always seems both non-American and more American than America.”

Though the star-studded parties were in full swing, the real action remained at the Miramar Hotel. 1980 was the year William Styron told the conference how he came to write Sophie’s Choice which held the number one spot on the best-seller list for 47 weeks.

“In the early ‘70s I fell into that moment of creative impotence in which something goes haywire with the creative process, and one struggles and struggles with the obdurate word, with the intransigent paragraphs, with the hopelessly unyielding sentence, word, comma — and one wants to give it all up and go to Peru and fish sardines or something like that — anything but write.”

Questions from the assembled writers poked into those places most personal to any writer, such as, “You talk a lot about loneliness.” Styron said he didn’t think there was any way out of it — “Its self-flagellation.” and “was ‘Nathan’ (a principle in Sophie’s Choice) based on someone you knew?” Nathan was based on a composite of people he knew.

Students at the SBWC wanted to know everything about writing, and the smorgasbord of authors at the conference provided many opportunities to learn from masters in many fields.



  An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

The 1979 conference was dedicated to Erskine Caldwell, the shy and low-profile writer of Tobacco Road and God’s Little Acre whose 50 books had been translated into 43 languages with a circulation of an estimated 80,000,000 copies in print.

Earlier in his career Mr. Caldwell was anything but shy when the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice instigated legal action against him, bringing about his arrest when he attended a book-signing for God’s Little Acre in New York. With his exoneration at trial, the novel The Bastard was deemed “not obscene” by Magistrate Greenspan. Caldwell promptly counter-sued for false arrest and malicious prosecution.

Barnaby met Erskine Caldwell when they both resided in San Francisco, joining with one another in the fecund hotbed of writers who comprised the Bay Area writing community, and who also frequented Barnaby’s El Matador Bar. When the Conrads moved to Carpinteria, Caldwell made his way to Paradise Valley, Arizona, where he lived until his death on April 11, 1987.

Deemed so by James Michener, the SBWC was “now known as the best [conference] in the nation,” and the Santa Barbara and Montecito society circles took notice.

Friends of Mary and Barnaby Conrad held parties in conjunction with the SBWC, including Mrs. Leinie Schilling of the Schilling Spice fortune. Attendees to Leinie’s legendary Mexican Buffet supper included workshop leaders, speakers, and visiting writers who met permanent and part time local residents including Jane Russell, Robert Mitchum, John Ireland, Dame Judith Anderson, and Priscilla Presley, but, as with Mary Conrad’s fabled cocktail party for friends of the SBWC in their Rincon home, the Leinie Schilling and every other SBWC associated party had a sharp curfew of 7:30 pm when party attendees were encouraged to “drink up and eat up” because the evening speaker started the lecture at 8:00 pm. Setting a good example, by that point Mary herself was absent from the festivities, ensconced at a table in the entrance to the Miramar Conference Center, checking name badges or collecting admission fees.

1979 marked the seventh year in a row that the Conrads convened the SBWC which had grown from 36 students and 7 workshop leaders and speakers, to 175 students and 31 speakers and workshop leaders.


  An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

A newcomer to the SBWC in 1978, Colleen McCullough was riding a wave of publicity for The Thorn Birds which included a $1.9 million price tag for the paperback rights. “I worked on it for five years,” McCullough said of The Thorn Birds. “I rewrote the whole thing 10 times. Whole chapters were added and dropped, new characters were created and others were ‘unborn.’ I stayed up for four or five days in a row sometimes without sleeping at all.”

Like Colleen, for some, it wasn’t about the money and glamour. In fact she shocked conference attendees and guests by saying, “I hate the book. I’m not just saying that — I hate it [The Thorn Birds] with a passion.

“I think it’s flat, dull, uninteresting, ghastly, and a complete embarrassment to me. I can’t see any virtue in it at all.”

As incredible as that may sound, it is exactly those kind of insights into the life and craft of writing that many conferees came back to glean from the conference workshop leaders, speakers, and published authors.

For many, there was something deeply moving about such raw honesty delivered succinctly, and although Ms. McCullough was featured speaker on the first full day of the conference, the audience felt her pain as if they’d already spent a week baring their own souls, scars, and open sores to the creative process. In truth, all writers share that toll that writing takes — some just wear their experiences more gently.



Congrats!!! SBWC Scholarship Contest Results

  Dear Writers,

Thank you to those of you who entered our annual writing contest. After reviewing a massive stack of entries from all over the United States and Canada, we’d like to congratulate our 3 winners and 3 runners-up.

There were many excellent entries…but there could only be so many winners.

Winners: Full scholarships to SBWC 2017

Mikko K. Cook Kim Cromwell Jeff Wing

Runners-up: Partial scholarships to SBWC 2017

Joy Allen Lorie Brallier Ann Doyle

Finalists: Entitled to a free agent appointment if they desire, and if they are able to attend SBWC 2017.

Claire Hsu Accomando Sharon Brown Suzanne Cardinal Christina Gessler Cherie Kephart Nancy Klann

We appreciate every writer who took a chance and submitted writing to be considered. We know that is an act of bravery.

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”              — Ernest Hemingway

There were many excellent entries, but the above writers were the ones who, this time, around rose to the top with this year’s judges.

Congratulations, all. Grace Rachow

SBWC Director


  An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:

By the fifth year of the Santa Barbara Writers conference the cadre of workshop leaders continued to evolve. Gwen Davis (Kingdome Come, The Motherland, and others), Don Freeman (Corduroy, Inspector Peckit, and others), Herb Harker (Dragon Hunter, Goldenrod, and others). Paul Lazarus, former Vice President of Columbia Pictures joined the ranks of Barnaby Conrad, Niels Mortensen, John Leggett, Jerry Hannah, Bill Downey, and Sid Stebel. Jerry Hannah brought in poet Charles Edwards who gained conference fame for a wildly successful poetry workshop at the beach house of Rosabel Cowper.

 Perennial speakers now included Charles “Sparky” Schulz, Clifton Fadiman, Ross MacDonald, James Sheldon, Eudora Welty, and Don Congdon in addition to the inimitable Ray Bradbury. William Styron (Lie Down in Darkness, The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice, and others) was on hand in 1977 along with Clive Cussler and Barnaby’s friend, William F. Buckley, Jr. (Saving the Queen, Airborne, and others), who Barnaby had met through Buckley's younger brother when they had been friends at Yale.

Eric Myers will be at SBWC 2017, June 20

As an agent, Eric Myers has a strong affinity for young adult and middle grade fiction, as well as adult nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, biography, psychology, health and wellness, true crime, performing arts, and pop culture. He also represents thrillers, urban fantasy and historical fiction. He’s open to memoir from writers who already have a strong platform. He does not represent poetry, literary fiction, plays, screenplays, short-story collections or children’s picture books.

Eric Myers founded Myers Literary Management in 2017, following two years with Dystel, Goderich, & Bourret LLC and thirteen with The Spieler Agency. A graduate of UCLA and the Sorbonne, Eric entered publishing as a journalist and author.

He is proud to be a member of both the Authors’ Guild and the Association of Authors’ Representatives. His own books include Screen Deco: A Celebration of High Style in Hollywood, Forties Screen Style: A Celebration of High Pastiche in Hollywood, and Uncle Mame: The Life of Patrick Dennis, all published by  St. Martin’s Press.

His writing has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Arts and Leisure sections, Time Out New York, Opera News, Art and Auction, Variety, and Quest. 

Among his authors are Chris Grabenstein (Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library), Lydia Kang (Controland Catalyst), MAD MEN cast member Bryan Batt (She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother), David Neilsen (Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom), Bridget Hodder (The Rat Prince), Simon Gervais (The Thin Black Line), Tracey Goessel (The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks), financial advisor Erin Lowry (Broke Millennial), former Soviet spy Jack Barsky (Deep Undercover), and World War II Resistance fighter Justus Rosenberg, whose autobiography will be published by William Morrow in 2018.


BJ Robbins will join us at SBWC 2017 on June 20

BJ Robbins Literary Agency represents quality fiction, both literary and commercial and general nonfiction -- mystery, suspense/thriller, biography, history, health, travel, sports, African-American, science, pop culture and memoir. She currently represents more nonfiction than fiction, but is open to any project that is fresh, original and well written. However, genres that her agency does NOT represent are: sci-fi, westerns, romance, horror, poetry, or screenplays.

She has much experience in many aspects of the publishing industry and is able to offer this range expertise to her clients. She opened her Los Angeles-based agency in 1992 after a multifaceted career in book publishing in NYC. She began in publicity at Simon & Schuster and then marketing director and later senior editor at Harcourt.

Her clients include NY Times bestselling authors and award-winning writers such as J. Maarten Troost, James Donovan, Deanne Stillman, Chris Erskin, John Hough, Jr., Max Byrd, Nafisa Haji, Renee Swindle, Stephen Graham Jones, and the late James D. Houston.

Ms. Robbins has led workshops at UCLA Extension, UC Irvine Extension, the Writers Pad, and at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Fiction Workshop. She is a member of AAR and Pen USA West. She has been a guest speaker in numerous cities in the West as part of PEN’s Writers Toolbox programs.

She works with both established and first-time authors and is looking for projects with strong literary merit. Her advice to potential clients is to learn how to write an effective query letter, because no matter how fantastic your manuscript is, it is unlikely to be considered without a great query to introduce your project.In her opinion, a good emailed query letter and follow-up sticks with the agency’s guideline for submission. The query should be addressed individually to the agent and should not feel general or generic.





Paul Fedorko will be at SBWC for Agents Day June 20, 2017

Paul Fedorko catching rays poolside at the wine & cheese party at SBWC 

SBWC is pleased to say that Paul Fedorko will travel from NYC  this June to be at SBWC 2017. He is a welcome and experienced addition to our agent lineup. Paul is a popular choice, not only because he's interested in a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction projects, but he is both knowledgeable and kind.

He's looking for contemporary and literary fiction, mysteries, thrillers, suspense and historical fiction from turn of the 20th century through WWII.

He would like to see WWII thrillers, British-style mysteries plus any fiction set in NYC midcentury.   His contemporary fiction interests include mysteries with a female PI, young adult and adult literary fiction.A special interest of his is little-known true stories. He will consider business-related projects, humor, sports, travel and biography.

Paul has a wealth of experience in the publishing industry and understands transactions from both sides, as he has worked as an agent and as a publishing executive. Prior to joining N.S. Bienstock, Inc. Paul was a literary agent at Trident Media Group, ran the Paul Fedorko Agency, and before that was a publishing and marketing executive at Bantam Doubleday Dell, Simon & Schuster and William Morrow. He worked with many well-known names as well as first-time authors.

His passion is helping authors develop their projects and partnering them with the right editor and publisher.

Julie Hill will be at SBWC for Agents Day June 20, 2017

To sign up for an appointment with an agent:

SBWC is pleased to announce that Julie Hill will be with us for agents day on June 20.

Julie Hill Literary Agency’s specialty is nonfiction. She handles movie and TV rights as well as books. She seeks unique, innovative but market viable projects in the following subjects: reference, biography, history, religious, mind/body/spirit, health, travel, lifestyle, science as well as memoir, self-help, and advice. She’s also interested in anything in regard to Jewish titles, such as books about the Holocaust.

She especially appreciates authors who have an established audience already and a strong platform or active plans for building one. She advises all nonfiction writers to be able to write a great book proposal.

While she specializes in traditional publishing in nonfiction, she considers viable nonfiction publishing projects of all kinds, including self-publishing. She’ll oversee editing, cover design, printing, and promotion for self-published authors. She consults on contracts and agreements between entities, example: co- authoring agreements.

Julie Hill Literary agency has been in business since 1990, first in La Jolla, and now in Del Mar, CA. The agency's most recent release was in March 2017, titled Leadership Secrets of the Wizard of Oz by BJ Gallagher, author of over 30 business and self-help books. Oz has been granted full rights by Warner Brothers for movie characters and genuine images, an uncommon granting in the book world.

Should I Register for an Agent Appointment at SBWC?

Many of our attendees have gone on to publish their work because of the agents they met during the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. If you are determined to see your project find publication, it makes sense to begin building in-person relationships with agents.

Even if an agent you meet with turns out not to be the agent who represents your work, you will find that agents tend to be a friendly helpful bunch…if you approach them in a friendly open manner seeking their professional opinions.

Literary agents are not the primary gatekeepers in the publishing industry. They are experts full of information that can help you find a publisher.

If you have a viable project, and if you can make a personal connection with an interested agent, that person will be your ally in approaching publishers.

Meeting with an agent at SBWC is your chance to separate yourself from the thousands of emailed queries agents receive each year. The “no thank you” responses that come back might make it seem as if agents are not particularly friendly or helpful.

In reality agents tend to be very nice people who are genuinely looking for clients. Literary agents have valuable industry knowledge, and they will share that with you, if you ask.

The question most writers want to ask an agent is:

“Will you represent my manuscript?”

Better questions might be:

“Are you or any of your colleagues interested in a project like mine?”

“What would it take for you to be interested in taking me on as a client?”

Think in terms of what the agent might be looking for, rather than just what you are hoping for, and the answer you receive will be more valuable to you and will improve your chances of eventual publication.

If your manuscript is complete and polished, and you think you are ready for an agent to represent your work, consider registering for agent appointments with agents who are interested in your genre or already represent clients whose work you think is similar to your own.

If your manuscript is not yet complete, or it needs a lot of polishing, you might still want to speak with an agent. Agents tend to build relationships with their clients. Almost every manuscript that is accepted by an agent goes through a vetting process prior to acceptance. And usually there is at least some work needed before an agent approaches publishers on your behalf.

Even if your manuscript is 100% and ready to go, it can pay off to approach talking to an agent with an open mind and a sense that you understand that you will be on the same team during the time of finding a publisher for your work.

Although SBWC has had many success stories in the past, we make no promises that an agent appointment will immediately result in representation.

We do, however, hope your agent appointments will a rewarding and enlightening experience and that it will be a positive step toward building strong personal connections with experts in the industry.

Scholarship Contest for SBWC 2017

April 21, 2017
Santa Barbara Writers Conference June 18-23, 2017 

Dear Writers,

Enter to win a scholarship to the 45th Annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

No entry fee.

You may share this opportunity with others.

There are three categories to this contest. You may enter one, two or all three.

You are welcome to enter each category, once, but please only one entry per email. 


  1. Opening sentence: Limit 50 words
  2. Prose: This can be a short essay, a short story, or the opening to your novel or nonfiction project. Limit 500 words
  3. Poem: Limit 50 lines

The judging team will look for writing excellence appropriate to each category.

The judges are award-winning, published authors who are associated with SBWC.

We do not announce the names of the judges.

To enter:

  • Email all entries to
  • Put the category of your entry in the subject line.
  • This must be your original work, published or not.
  • Paste your writing entry and contact information into the body of the email. No attachments, please.

Contact information should include:

  • Name
  • Phone number where you can be reached if you are a winner
  • Email address
  • Mailing address

There will be a full tuition day scholarship to the 2017 Santa Barbara Writers Conference awarded ($650 value) for each category.

  1. Scholarship recipients must be able to attend the conference this year
  2. If not, the full scholarship will be awarded to the runner up
  3. No entry fee
  4. Contest opens:  NOW April 21, 2017
  5. Submission period closes MIDNIGHT, Friday, April 28
  6. Submission period is one week only

Winners will be announced Monday May 1, 2017.

SBWC reconvenes at the charming, seaside Santa Barbara Hyatt, June 18-23. For reservations  use the reservation link below. Reserve your room soon as we are nearly sold out of our special rate block. Santa Barbara Hyatt. $209 (single occupancy) per night SBWC Register here.

$650 -- full 6-day conference $100 -- deposit with balance due May 15 $40 each -- agent appointments with advance ms. submission* *If you wish to have appointments with agents,  you must be registered for the conference.

Please email for group rates and special prices for registered high school and college students.

I hope to see you June 18-23, 2017.

Write On! Grace Rachow SBWC Director


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.”

April 2 SBWC Newsletter

April 2, 2017 SwirlSBWC Register here.

Dear Writers, Excitement is building for the 2017 Santa Barbara Writers Conference, June 18-23. We have a great line up of speakers, teachers, panelists and agents. Our schedule goes from 9:00 AM every day into the wee hours of the morning.

Speakers: We're pleased to announce that the very talented Shanti Sekaran has been added to our list of speakers for SBWC 2017. Her latest novel Lucky Boy was named an "IndieNext Great Read" and an "Amazon Editors' Pick."

Other featured speakers are Fannie Flagg, Angela Rinaldi, Tracy Daugherty, David Brin, Lesley M.M. Blume, and Catherine Ryan Hyde Workshop Leaders: One of the best things about the Santa Barbara Writers Conference is the faculty. Over 30 workshop leaders cover a broad range of genres. 2.5-hour workshops allow time for learning craft, as well as getting individualized feedback on your work.

Panels: We'll have three panels during the week: Agents Panel New Book Panel Navigating the Amazon (Author Platform Panel) Agents: You may register for appointments with any of our 10 agents and advanced submission of a 5-page manuscript to be read before your appointment on June 20Register for an agent here.

Manuscript consultations: All registered students are eligible for a free manuscript consultation with some of our conference workshop leaders. To take advantage of this option, send no more than 10 pages of the opening of your manuscript to:

Santa Barbara Writers Conference 27 West Anapamu Street, Suite 305 Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Include a cover letter briefly describing your project. Hotel: We have a special room rate at the Hyatt Santa Barbara:

  • $199 (single occupancy) per night and free parking: 24 rooms in Santa Barbara House, a separate building, but adjacent to hotel
  • $209 (single occupancy) per night and $38 overnight parking, (or free parking close by on the street) in the hotel

For reservations call (888) 421-1442, or visit this reservation link: Santa Barbara Hyatt. SBWC Register here.

$650 -- full 6-day conference $100 -- deposit with balance due May 15 $40 each -- agent appointment with advance ms submission* *If you wish to have appointments with agents,  you must be registered for the conference. Please reserve your space soon so that you do not miss out.

Special prices: $600 -- group rate for 2 signing up together $575 -- rate for registered high school or college students or 3 or more signing up together

Please email for promo codes for special pricing. Since its origins in 1972, SBWC has given writers an oasis of time, place and focus to hone craft and connect with mentors, agents and publishers.

New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore says: "I went into the Santa Barbara Writers Conference a foundering insurance man and came out a writer. I wouldn't have made it without the camaraderie and enthusiasm for the craft I found there." 

Over the past 45 years, SBWC has evolved a learning environment that can transform beginners into bestselling authors ... well, that and a lot of hard work on the part of the authors.

We invite you to be a part of this ongoing literary legacy.

I hope to see you June 18-23, 2017.

Grace Rachow SBWC Director


An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary: In 1975 the Santa Barbara Writers Conference opened for the first time at the Miramar Hotel in Montecito, just South of Santa Barbara, beginning a twenty-five year Santa Barbara literary tradition. It was the first year that Charles (Sparky) Schulz came to the SBWC and not only decided to stay the entire week, but became a fixture of the conference, returning and staying for the entire week all the way through to the end of his life in the year 2000. With Sparky's blessing, his Peanuts character Snoopy became the SBWC logo and official conference mascot, and Sparky gave generously of his time and characters without thought of compensation for the next twenty-five years.

SBWC Banner

 The Last SBWC Banner hanging in Barnaby Conrad's art studio

The SBWC became synonymous with Snoopy typing away on the roof of his doghouse, set on the canvas of a sea of blue roofed cottages glimpsed from the 101 Freeway against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. It was the SBWC at the Miramar Hotel era.

How it came to be held there was because of the Cate School's new headmaster's unwarranted concerns about profitability. Mary Conrad had enough of the school's politics and contacted James Gawzar, a friend whose father owned the Miramar Hotel.

“Can we hold the conference there?” Mary asked.

“Sure,” came the answer from the elder William Gawzar.

With those prophetic words the Miramar Hotel became home to the SBWC for a quarter of a century, and birthed more stories than can be included in this volume of the history of the SBWC, or which the lawyers will allow us to relate, but it would not be a true reflection of the history if the book did not contain a generous sprinkling of the tales birthed and passed on along the way.



1975 flyer0003


An excerpt from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference Scrapbook by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary: A short distance South of Santa Barbara, the 2nd Annual SBWC got underway with Ray Bradbury as Keynote Speaker, Kenneth Rexroth conducting a poetry workshop, and Mel Torme promoting his new book, “I’d Rather Write than Sing.”

Building on the success of the first year, the Conrads produced a line-up of speakers that would be the envy of any well-established conference:

Budd Schulberg showed his landmark film, “On the Waterfront.” James Michener (Hawaii, the Pulitzer Prize winning Tales of the South Pacific and others), gave an evening address and Mel Torme explained why “I’d Rather Write Than Sing.”

Ross MacDonald (Ken Millar) spoke about “Writing, Mystery & Suspense,” and the afternoon speakers included Joan Didion (Slouching Towards Bethlehem and others), John Gregory Dunne (Vegas: A Memoir of a Dark Season and others), Alex Haley (Roots), Clifton Fadiman (Mathematical Magpie and others), and James Sheldon (radio broadcaster, “We, The People”).

By the end of the conference the SBWC had become an institution in Santa Barbara County, and in the world of writers and conferences, but not everyone was convinced.

After the second conference in 1974, Barnaby’s boyhood friend Headmaster Clark left Cate School and the new headmaster was concerned that the school was losing money on the deal the previous headmaster had made with the Conrads.

As a result of the new headmaster's erroneous impressions of the conference, the SBWC moved to the Miramar Hotel in 1975.

James MichenerAlex Hailey


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