Santa Barbara Writers Conference Reborn

It’s Back!

Confab in June: After a two-year hiatus due to financial problems, the Santa Barbara Writers Conference is back, June 18-23 at the beachside Mar Monte Hotel.

Monte Schulz, son of the late Peanuts cartoonist and longtime conference headliner Charles Schulz, bought the conclave out of bankruptcy last year.

Guest speakers will include thriller author Clive Cussler and best-selling Santa Barbara novelist T. C. Boyle. But the heart of the conference is the workshops and panel discussions, Monte said today. Emcee will be Barnaby Conrad III, son of conference founders Barnaby and Mary Conrad, who sold the conference to Marcia Meier, who, despite good intentions and hard work, declared bankruptcy, leaving unpaid bills flying like falling autumn leaves.

Barney Brantingham

Conrad III, who will also teach a workshop, is the author of The Martini: An Illustrated History of An American Classic. (Clip from one review: “A great martini should be like skinny-dipping in a Nordic lake with Greta Garbo. Teeth-chatteringly cold.”) He’s also the author of Absinthe: History in a Bottle and The Cigar.

The staff list seems to include just about all the old gang, mostly Santa Barbarans. “I just thought I should have everyone back,” Monte said. Conference director will be Monte’s finance, Nicole Starczak. “She has done an amazing job,” he said. Nicole has degrees in business and psychology from UC Berkeley, both of which are likely to be needed getting the stalled 39th conference off to a running start and keeping it going.

It was questionable whether the conference would ever see life again after the 2009 conference was called off amid bankruptcy, controversy, finger-pointing, and complaints from those who had signed up only to lose their deposits. Current signups are going well, Monte said. He’s limited to 230 students due to the size of the meeting rooms. He said he’s trying to get as many local writers involved as possible.

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