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Mar Monte Hotel

50th Anniversary Santa Barbara Writers Conference

By Bonnie Carroll

The long awaited 50th Anniversary Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference came back bigger and better than ever, attracting a record number of participants from around the US, including members who have attended for over thirty years, as well as many first timers.

The 2023 Santa Barbra Writers Conference was officially opened by Grace Rachow, SBWC Director at the orientation meeting where members and writers from around the country settled in to experience a week of writing adventures from June 18-23.  The schedule for this year’s conference was overflowing with impressive authors, poets, agents, film makers and a bevy of specialty magazine writers and newspaper columnists who shared their expertise in workshops, panels, private meetings with attendees, as well as sharing their personal writing experience as speakers at group banquets and gatherings. 

A 2023 kick-off dinner offered a delicious and congenial gathering place for attending conference writers to enjoy old friends, new introductions and compare notes. The dinner was followed by a keynote address in the Pacific Ballroom by Monte Schulz, author of six novels, and a former teacher of College Creative Studies at UCSB.  

His latest novel Metropolis provided an interesting focus on style and voice in workshops he led throughout the week and his book was among the many available for sale on the Chaucer’s Book Store table in the Fireside writer’s lounge. I felt honored to have my copy of Metropolis signed by the author during the 2023 conference. Author Monte Schulz, son of renowned cartoonist Charles m. Schulz, said he grew up and learned he was a writer at SWC gatherings, and shared some surprising changes he experienced while writing his recently released novel. He welcomed all in attendance to take full advantage of the many opportunities available to them during the conference. 

“Most writers and authors spend much of their time alone and work into the night in the hope their story or manuscript will be appreciated, possibly win an award, or earn the funds to keep going to the next project.” “Writing is a lonely journey, and one should not have expectations about getting rich at it,” said Schulz. He shared he was genuinely happy he pursued his wish and worked to become a writer.” 

SBWC was founded 50 years ago by Barnaby and Mary Conrad for the purpose of bringing together a society of writers pursuing the ongoing dream of the written word, speaking, living, breathing, writing for a week on the beach in Santa Barbara, and that is exactly what goes on at the conference annually. 


Sojourner Kincaid Rolle Reading "Free at Last" A Juneteenth Poem

The Monday evening speakers included Elinor Lipman, Ms. Demeaner and Sojourner Kinkaid Rolle, poet/playwright, and Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Emerita (2015-2017) who presented a beautiful history of Juneteenth and read Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem released May 2022 to great acclaim, in time for the first national celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the USA. Her book made the New York Public Library’s list for Best Kids/Books 2022, the School Library Journal’s best kids’ books for Black History Month (2023), and Booklist’s Editor’s Choice in the youth category (2022). Her other books include The Mellow Yellow Global Umbrella, Common Ancestry and Black Street. 

The inviting Fireside Lounge was a main meeting zone throughout the conference for checking-in, getting information, purchasing the books of workshop and panel authors from the Chaucer's Book Store table, enjoying conversations over coffee, and refining daily schedules for conference events throughout the week. Kudos to the Mar Monte Hotel staff who provided wonderful banquet style dinners, lunches in their restaurants, a sunbathing reading zone every afternoon, and a fun atmosphere surrounding the pool for the annual SBWC cocktail party. I'm always amused while attending events at this hotel remembering it was once considered the 'Western White house Press Center' during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan. 

So many authors and so little time, but I so enjoyed workshop participation with Dale Griffith Stamos, Catherine Ann Jones, Ernie Witham, Barnaby Conrad III, Jervey Tervalon, Perie Longo and Monte Schulz. The panels this year were also outstanding and packed with author information and advice. Kudos to Director Grace Rachow, all the speakers, panels, workshop leaders, coordinators, and the many volunteers for 'bringing it' to the 2023 Santa Barbara Writer's Conference. You were all amazing! 

Grace Rachow did a fabulous job, especially as emcee for the closing awards, where winners read their honored works, shared their excitement, and thanked SBWC for recognizing their efforts. 2023 Winners included Gretchen Lehtonen 1st Place Fiction, Jay Lehmann Honorable Mention Fiction, Cat Robson 1st Place Non-Fiction, Paige Kaeje Honorable Mention Non-Fiction, Emily Bernhardt 1st Place Poetry, Audrey Sabol Honorable Mention Poetry.

Winners of “The First Time I Saw You” competition went to Shira Musicant 1st Place Fiction, Jessica Scalise 1st Place Non-Fiction, Clayton Clark 1st Place Poetry, Dean Opperman 1st Place Humor, Noah Lashly Honorable Mention Humor. Such a wonderful experience to see the respect shared by this group of writers, and the priceless tips for success being offered.

The SBWC staff are a dedicated team of professionals who love the world of writers and show up each year to make a difference and help attendees have a successful experience. They include Lisa Angle, Media Coordinator, Marianne Dougherty, Write On! Editor in Chief, Ned Bixby, Onsite Events Manager, Matt Palamary, Ombudsman, Jim Alexander, Grace Rachow, SBWC Director and Mary Conrad founder of SBWC, who had been an ongoing advisor over the years. Making the conference happen requires the effort of an army of dedicated volunteers who love the conference. Making the conference happen requires the effort of dedicated voluteers who love BSWC and give it their all. 

Kudos also to the fantastic members who worked to ensure everyone was happy, kept everything running smoothly, as well as all the advance work, photography, and promotional extras required. What an outstanding Job!

Volunteers include Steve Beisner, Toni Lorien Bixby, Steve Brown, Cathy DeLaurentis, Hannah Holbrook, Karen Kerstin, Penny Madden, Melinda Palacio, Joan Vignocchi, Jackie Weaver, Rachel Sarah Thurston, Bob DeLaurentis, Hector Raul Javkin, Jane St. Clair, Roberta Nadler, Gabriel Porras, Trisha Maas, and Dusk Weaver.

The dates June 16-21 have been selected for 2024 Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and if I'm not cruising down the Nile on a Viking ship, which is another big one on my bucket list, I plan to once again be at this inspiring conference. For detailed information visit: www.sbwriters.com.

 

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© 2008 Bonnie Carroll, All Rights Reserved