Write On

By Lynda Millner   |   July 4, 2019
Author and keynote speaker Lisa See with Fannie Flagg at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference
Mary Conrad, co-founder of the SBWC, at the Stamos supper

It’s that time of year – every June since 1972 the Santa Barbara Writers Conference (SBWC) commences for six days. Until the demolition it was held at the old Miramar Hotel and with a few stops in between it is finally at the Santa Barbara Hyatt at 1111 Cabrillo Boulevard.

Mary and the late Barnaby Conrad founded this one of a kind event and one of the best conferences in the United States. Until his death, author Ray Bradbury gave the keynote speech to open the event every year. Since then hundreds of famous folks (authors) have spoken and mentored newbies. This year opened with The New York Times best-selling author Lisa See talking about writing in general with her 12 tips and informing us about her newest novel, The Island of Sea Women. She is part Chinese so has an Asian theme to many of her books. Some of you may have read her late mother’s, Carolyn, works, equally as famous as her daughter. Lisa’s grandfather was also a writer. He wrote 75 hard-core porn books. After reading a couple he declared he could do better. I don’t know if he used the old adage, “Write what you know!”

Grace Rachow is the SBWC director, but Monte Schulz owns it. You may remember his father, Charles Schulz, who created the Peanuts comic strip. Monte always knows if you were really a friend of his father’s because his nickname was Sparky. If you called him Charles you weren’t a true friend. Monte was there to welcome all. He quoted writer Joan Didion who told him at this conference years ago, “Remember, doing this is fun!” Monty’s advice, “Don’t let agents tell you to write what they want. Make them want what you write.”

Writer Steph Post and columnist and humor writer Ernie Witham with SBWC director Grace Rachow
Hosts for a get together for workshop leaders Greg and wife Dale Griffiths Stamos

Fred Klein, who was at Bantam books for 30 years, and columnist Susan Miles Gulbransen presented the Ross MacDonald Award to Lisa. It is named after this California mystery novelist whose novels were set in a fictionalized version of Santa Barbara, as were Sue Grafton’s mystery books. It 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 Fried Green Tomatoes lady, Fannie Flagg was on hand to introduce the audience to Lisa. Fannie was a great friend of Lisa’s mom. Fannie always credits SBWC for her writing career. She wrote a piece at her first conference, it won first prize and the rest is history. She told us how Lisa is such a great researcher. “She goes to China. She eats what they eat.” Even pig’s you-know-what. As Fannie said, “Lisa’s been published in 38 different languages. I can’t even get to Goleta.”

Workshop leaders Marilee Zdenek and Susan Miles Gulbransen at the supper

Later in the week, Greg and Dale Griffiths Stamos hosted a cocktail supper for workshop leaders in their Mountain Drive abode overlooking Santa Barbara. It was a chance to relax between the afternoon panel and the evening speaker. This was Jeffrey C. Stewart, who has won a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and the Mark Lynton Prize for History. He is our own local professor of black studies at UCSB.

If you’d like to be part of this 12-ring circus you may attend single events for $15 or go for the whole week. That would be in 2020. The phone is 805.568.1516 and web is www.sbwriters.com or info@sbwriters.com. For snail mail, 27 West Anapamu Street, Suite 305, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.


You might also be interested in...