Given the state of the world these days, sometimes a little comic relief is in order, and Center of the Heart delivers on Saturday, September 19, with a visit from cosmic comic Swami Beyondananda, who will lecture on such topics as FUNdamentalism and the Right to Laugh Party. On a slightly more serious note, Mind & Supermind ( brings journalist and essayist Pico Iyer to the Lobero Theatre on Monday, September 21, to discuss the Dalai Lama and his wide-ranging influence.

Santa Barbara has long been a writers’ haven, but it’s also a destination for visiting authors and speakers of international repute. This year, both the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and the Book & Author Festival take a sabbatical, but they team up for one evening of panel discussions, readings, and tributes on Friday, September 25, at the Downtown Public Library’s Faulkner Gallery. The event is free and open to the public.

September 25 also marks the kickoff of Santa Barbara Reads, a month-long community reading program. The chosen book this year is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and in addition to film screenings, discussions, and staged readings, the author himself will make an appearance at the Lobero on Sunday, October 11.

While the Writers Conference itself is on hold, it still is offering a workshop series for writers, beginning this Sunday, September 13, with The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Narrative Poetry with Perie Longo. On Sunday, September 27, Marcia Meier leads Facebook and Blogging and Tweeting, Oh My!, and on October 18, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate David Starkey offers At Your Best: Cultivating Your Poetic Strengths. These workshops and more are held at Blue Agave.

Thanks to the Walter H. Capps Center, some of the great minds of our time come to Santa Barbara to discuss issues of ethics and religion. Among this season’s speakers are former Catholic nun Karen Armstrong, who will discuss The Case for God on Tuesday, September 22, at the Marjorie Luke Theatre, and human rights activist Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert, who will Speak Truth to Power on Thursday, November 5, at UCSB’s Campbell Hall.

Speaking of UCSB, Arts & Lectures celebrates its 50th anniversary with a star-studded lineup this fall, beginning with the cast of Wait Wait : Don’t Tell Me on Thursday, September 24, at the Arlington Theatre, followed by a visit from The Kite Runner author Khaled Hosseini on Tuesday, September 29, also at the Arlington, and an evening with comedian John Leguizamo on Wednesday, October 7, at Campbell Hall. A few weeks later, beloved Prairie Home Companion creator Garrison Keillor returns to the Arlington on Tuesday, October 27.

For talent grown a little closer to home, check out the inaugural event of the Mission Poetry Series on Saturday, September 26, at the Mission Renewal Center, where Lois Klein, Perie Longo, and Peg Quinn will read and discuss their work. And over at Chaucer’s Books, readings and book-signings for the month of October range from the light and fluffy to the hard-hitting with Melissa Mellot’s What I Learned from the Cat: 101 Stories of Life & Love on Thursday, October 22, and Michael Bobelian’s Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-Long Struggle for Justice on Tuesday, October 27.


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