Our 2019 speakers are booked. We will be posting details in the next few days.

2018 Ross Macdonald Literary Award

On opening night of the 2018 Santa Barbara Writers Conference, author Pico Iyer is slated to receive the Ross Macdonald Literary Award. This award is a U.S. book prize given some years by the Santa Barbara Book Council to "a California writer whose work raises the standard of literary excellence." The award is named in honor of California mystery novelist, Ross Macdonald, whose novels were set in a fictionalized version of Santa Barbara, California.

Past Recipients

  • 2002 - Ray Bradbury

  • 2003 - Dean Koontz

  • 2004 - Sue Grafton

  • 2005 - Mark Salzman

  • 2006 - Robert Crais

  • 2007 - T. C. Boyle

  • 2008 - James Ellroy

  • 2016 - Dennis Lynds

  • 2017 - Fannie Flagg

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Pico Iyer

Sunday June 17, 7:30 PM, El Cabrillo

Pico Iyer has published two novels and ten works of nonfiction, including such long-running reader favorites as Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, and The Global Soul. His books have been translated into 23 languages, and he has also been a constant contributor, for more than twenty years, to The New York Review of Books, Harper's, The New York Times and more than 200 other periodicals around the world. Since 2013 he has given three talks for TED, seen more than 7 million times, and over the years he has also written introductions to more than 60 other books, a film-script for Miramax and many liner notes for Leonard Cohen.


Steven J. Ross

Sunday June 17, 8:00 PM, El Cabrillo

Steven J. Ross is Professor of History at the University of Southern California and director of the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life. His most recent book is Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America, a  finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History for 2018.

His other books include Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics, recipient of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Film Scholars Award and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. The New York Times Book Review selected Hollywood Left and Right as a "Recommended Summer Readings" for 2012. His book, Working-Class Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America, received the prestigious Theater Library Association Book Award for 1999 and was named by the Los Angeles Times as one of the "Best Books of 1998."

His articles and Op-Ed pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, International Herald-Tribune, Newark Star Ledger, Washington Independent, HuffingtonPost, Hollywood Reporter, and Politico. Ross was recently profiled in the "Talk of the Town" section of The New Yorker. He has lectured throughout the U.S. as well as in London, Paris, Sydney, and Auckland.



Eric Puchner

Monday June 18, 8:00 PM, El Cabrillo

Eric Puchner is the author of the novel Model Home, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and two collections of stories, Music Through the Floor and Last Day on Earth, which came out last year. His work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including GQ, Granta, Tin House, Zoetrope, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, and The Best American Short Stories 2012 and 2017. He has received a California Book Award, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A professor at Johns Hopkins University, he lives in Baltimore with his wife, the novelist Katharine Noel, and their two children.

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Simon Van Booy

Tuesday June 19, 8:00 PM, El Cabrillo

Simon Van Booy is the author of The Secret Lives of People in Love, Love Begins in Winter (winner of the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award), Everything Beautiful Began After, and The Illusion of Separateness (a national bestseller).

His latest collection of stories, Tales of Accidental Genius, was published in November 2015, and a new novel, Father's Day, was released in February 2016.

He is the editor of three philosophy books, Why We Fight, Why We Need Love, and Why Our Decisions Don't Matter. His essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Financial Times, The Guardian, and ELLE Men (China)--where he writes the monthly 'New Yorker' column. He has also written for the stage, National Public Radio, and the BBC.

Simon teaches part-time at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and frequently hosts creative writing courses. In 2013 he founded Writers for Children, a project which helps young people build confidence in their literary abilities through annual writing awards.

His fiction has been translated into seventeen languages. He lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

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Starshine Roshell

Wednesday, June 20, 4:00 PM, El Cabrillo

Writing With Courage: Exposing Yourself on the Page

Starshine Roshell is an award-winning journalist, beloved local columnist and writing coach. 

She has been a columnist for the Santa Barbara Independent since 2006, when she ran shrieking from that other local paper. She graduated UCLA cum laude and wrote for the Hollywood Reporter before joining the Santa Barbara News-Press as a news reporter, theater and rock music critic, Sunday columnist and deputy features editor. She resigned with dozens of colleagues over the publisher’s breaches of journalistic ethics. 

Starshine has a first-place award from the California Newspaper Publishers Association has and has been voted Best Columnist by Indy readers for the past 10 years in a row. Her column, which has also been published on TheWeek.com and in the Ventura Star and Roanoke Times, reveals the absurd truths about sex, family, politics and culture. Her work is collected in her books, Keep Your Skirt On, Wife on the Edge, and Broad Assumptions. 

She has taught news, feature and travel writing at UCSB and Santa Barbara City College, and is a featured writing instructor on LinkedIn Learning at lynda.com


Janet Fitch

Wednesday June 20, 8:00 PM, El Cabrillo

Janet Fitch is an American author and teacher of fiction writing. She is the author of the #1 national bestseller White Oleander, a novel translated into 24 languages, an Oprah Book Club book and the basis of a feature film. Paint It Black was also widely translated and made into a 2017 film. Her latest is an epic novel of the Russian Revolution, The Revolution of Marina M.

Additionally, she has written a young adult novel, Kicks, short stories, essays, articles and reviews, contributed to anthologies and regularly teaches at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She taught creative writing for 14 years in the USC Master of Professional Writing program, as well as VCFA's Writing and Publishing program, A Room of Her Own (AROHO), the UCLA Writer's Program, and Pomona College. She lectures frequently on fiction writing

Fitch was a 2009 Likhachev Cultural Fellow to St. Petersburg, Russia, a Helen R. Whiteley Fellow, a Research Fellow at the Huntington Library and a Moseley Fellow at Pomona College. Fitch graduated from Reed College in Portland, Oregon in 1978 with a BA in History.

She lives in Los Angeles and travels whenever she gets the chance.

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Dara Horn

Thursday, June 21, 8:00 PM, El Cabrillo

Dara Horn is the author of five novels. Her latest, Eternal Life, is an ingenious tale about what it would mean to live forever.  The award-winning author earned her Ph.D. in comparative literature from Harvard University in 2006, studying Hebrew and Yiddish. She was chosen by Granta magazine as one of 20 “Best Young American Novelists” in 2017. 

Her first novel, In the Image, published by W.W. Norton when she was 25, received a 2003 National Jewish Book Award, the 2002 Edward Lewis Wallant Award, and the 2003 Reform Judaism Fiction Prize. Her second novel, The World to Come, published by W.W. Norton in 2006, received the 2006 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, the 2007 Harold U. Ribalow Prize, was selected as an Editors’ Choice in The New York Times Book Review and as one of the Best Books of 2006 by The San Francisco Chronicle, and has been translated into eleven languages. Her third novel, All Other Nights, published in 2009 by W.W. Norton, was selected as an Editors’ Choice in The New York Times Book Review and was one of Booklist’s 25 Best Books of the Decade. 

Her fourth novel, A Guide for the Perplexed, was published by W.W. Norton in September 2013, and was selected as one of Booklist‘s Best Books of 2013 and was long listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. 

She has lectured at over two hundred universities and cultural institutions throughout North America, in Israel and in Australia. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.