Santa Barbara Writers Conference Releases Historical Scrapbook

Posted on Apr 7 by SEASONS Magazine

The Santa Barbara Writers Conference (SBWC) has held a deep and rich tradition within our community. Since the 1970s, SBWC has been a pioneering force in developing writers’ skills, providing access to agents and editors, and recruiting guest authors to speak before aspiring—and developed—writers. In fact, in their first year, SBWC attracted Ray Bradbury, Budd Schulberg, Clifton Fadiman and Alex Haley; however, this stunt was not pulled off without duplicity from Barnaby Conrad (SBWC founder), who convinced individual authors to attend by faking the attendance of the other great writers. In the end, Conrad convinced all four to come to Santa Barbara, and thus began the annual event that is The Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

And though the Santa Barbara Writers Conference is a thriving event, its history is quite turbulent.

Ray Bradbury in 1980. Photo courtesy of Matthew J. Pallamary.

The organization’s many ups and downs, like the engaging narratives the event spurs on, is a story unto itself. Because of its unique, story-like past, authors Mary Conrad, Y. Armando Nieto, and Matthew J. Pallamary converged to document its impressive past. “The SBWC Scrapbook is a compilation from 30 year’s worth of photo albums and conference memorabilia kept by conference founder Mary Conrad that documented the time that she and her husband Barnaby founded and ran the legendary conference. The SBWC Scrapbook project is also multifaceted in that there is the print and e-book version, laid out in a scrapbook format, with each year chronicled in its own chapter, an accompanying narrative, written in an observer’s perspective, and cultural references that give it a historical context. Additionally, there is the documentary film with about 25 interviews, among them, Fannie Flagg, Catherine Ryan Hyde and Chris Mitchum, as well as others who are part of the conference’s rich history. There are also photos and audio of many of the conference’s famous supporters and speakers like Ray Bradbury, Charles (Sparky) Schulz, Jonathan Winters and many more,” notes Pallamary.

Alex Haley in 1984. Photo courtesy of Matthew J. Pallamary.

There is no better time to read up on the fascinating history of the conference as it approaches its 45th year. The SBWC Scrapbook takes an in-depth look at the multi-faceted unfolding of one of the nation’s most successful writers conferences; from Ray Bradbury’s towering presence, to the demise of the Miramar Hotel as a hosting entity, the scrapbook contains approximately 30 years of SBWC history. As Pallamary concludes, “The SBWC film and scrapbook document a special time in the literary history of the last quarter of the 20th century, giving glimpses into a unique creative conclave, where movie stars, leading literary lights, the rich, and the famous converged along with writers from all walks of life dedicated to their craft for one magical week every year in an enchanted place.”

The SBWC Scrapbook documentary will premiere at the 2017 Santa Barbara Writers Conference on June 18 at the Santa Barbara Hyatt (1111 E. Cabrillo Blvd.), and is open to the public. But for those that enroll in this year’s SBWC, the scrapbook documentary will represent only a slice of the event’s full offerings; writers in the course will experience professional talks from some of the nation’s best authors, full agent panels with opportunity for publication and personalized writing workshops with dozens of additional authors. To sign up for the conference, visit SBWC’s website. To own a piece of SBWC history, visit Amazon.

—Toby Qualls

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