Sunday, June 26, 2011

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Santa Barbara Writers Conference 2011
"The Exhilaration and the Exhaustion!"

Owner Monte Schulz and Director Nicole Starczak
Founders Barnaby and Mary Conrad

I’ve had many friends over the years ask me exactly what happens at a writers conference. Do we merely sit and listen to Harry Potter readings? Do we rate our favorite classics

or compare our wish lists for our dream publishers and book tour stops? I mean, what could we possibly find to fill a week’s worth of a conference?

Writing is after all, a solitary pursuit, isn’t it?

The conference takes place for five days every year but what happens between the Saturday opening night and the closing awards dinner on Thursday is a universe unto itself. Founder Barnaby Conrad once declared on an opening night “You will begin this conference as one person and end it as another.” And indeed the conference will change your life in many unexpected ways.

The nuts and bolts of the week are this: There are morning, afternoon, and evening workshops on everything from poetry to non-fiction magazine writing to screenwriting and literary fiction. There are panels of publishers, editors, and agents, meetings with manuscript consultants and mind-blowing readings by internationally renowned writers like Clive Cussler, T.C. Boyle and in years past Ray Bradbury, James Michener, and Fannie Flagg. There’s the annual Talent Show which once began as a renegade group of writers looking to let off some steam but which has now grown into a sanctioned smorgasbord of unexpected talent (the only rule being that no one read their work). Then there are all of the social events throughout the week: the wine and cheese party, the opening and closing dinners and roaming about in the conference bookstore.

But the most indelible moments of the conference are truly the moments stolen between….that chance meeting with another kindred spirit whose feedback you truly admire in one of your favorite workshops who just happens to live in your same town and who is looking to start a writers group. Or that amazing conversation with a new friend about the latest vampire craze over carne asada burritos and a horchata for lunch on Milpas. Or it’s that shared can of Pringles with that dry-witted fiction writer from Hawaii whom you adore but you only manage to see once a year.

We manage to steal hours of sleep when we can and we remember to eat only when our blood sugar reaches dangerously low levels and we realize that filled cups from Starbucks can’t sustain a human for longer than a day or two.

I’ve found over my past seven years with the conference that writers will only surprise you. I’ve seen a young guy from the Bronx recite children’s poetry, a grandmother read surprisingly titillating erotica, and a late 40-ish schoolteacher share her horror short story to a rapt class.

There are no rules among writers. You can be any shape, shape, size, or age. We are drawn together by our love of the craft and our friendships are forged based on these connections.

In fact, I met one of my best friends (who continues to travel here for the conference from Connecticut) during a lecture at the conference many years ago. (She happened to have sat beside me at one of the public lectures many years ago and I convinced her in true Rachel-Fashion that if she truly considered herself a writer that she needed to commit to coming to the conference the following year as an attendee. She came the next year and has only missed one year since then.)

I am also quite sure that many romances have come about because of the conference. A few break-ups and strained marriages as well. ;)

By mid-week the days have begun melting into each other and the microverse of SBWC has managed to consume us completely. Sure our pets still need to be fed, our partners are beginning to feel neglected (*see above) but our bills can wait and so can those inboxes that seem to be filling up without end.

We don’t know it right away but at some point towards the end of the week when we realize we have to leave and that our world is coming to a close that we have indeed changed. Sure the caffeine, the sleep deprivation, and the copious amounts of Cheetos and Cliff Bars have taken their toll on our reserves. But something else has shifted. We’ve spent one precious week dedicated to our craft. We’ve surrounded ourselves with an incredible group of men and women—many of whom would never have met without the conference--and reminded ourselves for that short, fluid moment in time that we’re not alone and that we do have a community.

But more importantly, we are reminded of something even more precious. That we are writers. And that we are all striving for perfection….One. Word. At. A.Time.


Enjoy the Slideshow!!

*If the music doesn't come on when the slideshow begins, try "refreshing" your webpage and clicking "play" again.

If you'd like to download any of the pics for personal use follow these steps:
1) Click on "Play" for slideshow.
2) Click on upper banner of slideshow to "Visit Gallery."
3) Once in gallery, click on picture you'd like to download. In upper left corner of picture is a drop-down menu. Click on "Download" and "Original." Voila! Your computer will download the image.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

"From Ink To Internet: Honoring Visionaries In Communication"
Honorees Starshine Roshell (Award-Winning Journalist) and Lynda Weinman (Co-Founder and Executive Chair of

The Association For Women In Communication (AWC) Luncheon
Santa Barbara, CA
President, Kathleen Barry

"Sure God created man before woman. But then you always make a rough draft before the final masterpiece."
~Author Unknown

Don't be intimidated by the long title. All you need to know about the event is this: There are some truly incredible movers and shakers in this overwhelming number of which are women. This gorgeous luncheon (held at the sweet and intimate Mar Monte along the ocean) was a powerhouse of extraordinary women and men from throughout Santa Barbara. Although the main purpose of the luncheon (besides the customary networking) was to honor the multi-talented, local media celebs Starshine Roshell (award-winning journalist) and Lynda Weinman (of among many other achievements)...both of whom are incredibly warm, funny, and magnetic, the room seemed to be brimming over with talent, drive, creativity, and passion.

Former Women of Achievement Honorees, Deborah Hutchison (2008 honoree and Founder of Gutsy Gals) and Marcia Meier (2010 honoree, award-winning writer and former director of the S.B. Writer's Conference) introduced Starshine and Lynda for their awards. However, it was hard not to be awed by the extraordinary women and men throughout the room (in no particular order): Sharon Siegel, (District Director from Congresswoman Lois Capps' office), Helene Schneider (beloved mayor and awesome woman herself), Marianne Partridge (Editor-In-Chief of The Independent), Roman Baratiak (Director of UCSB Arts & Lectures Series), Patty DeDominic (Women's Festivals Founder and Founder of PDQ Careers Group), Janet Wolf (Second District Supervisor), Jerry Roberts (prize-winner journalist and former Editor and Publish of the SB News Press), Jennifer Jaqua (Founder and CEO of Jaqua Beauty)...and oh-so-many more!

As the old adage goes, "Life is short and art is long." So go to it, Ladies!

A big thank you to Lisa Angle (videographer) and Kathleen Barry for bringing me on board this year to photograph this event!

Enjoy the slideshow! *If the music doesn't come on when you begin the slideshow, please refresh your web page and click "play" again.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

June 1st, 2011

Women's Economic Ventures (WEV) Fundraiser at the Montecito Country Club

It's been an absolute joy becoming involved with local non-profit WEV. Created twenty years ago by Midwestern raised (woohoo!) and Santa Barbara local Marsha Bailey, WEV has provided loans and support to thousands of men and women business owners who have flourished throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura County. Together these businesses have created countless employment opportunities throughout the area and enriched businesses with steady support in our community.

To say I'm proud to be a part of the WEV community is an understatement. During a recession, organizations like WEV are more important than ever as they play an essential role in supporting small business owners to not only survive but to thrive and prosper. This past week they held their annual fundraiser breakfast at the ever-so-posh and gorgeous Montecito Country Club. Gorgeous! The main ballroom was bursting with an extraordinary group of men and women as Marsha presented awards to two of WEV's latest stars. Gail Zannon (former Board Member, Major Donor and Entrepreneur) was honored with the Trailblazer Award and Jill-Marie and Jean-Michel Carre (owners of Chocolats du CaliBressan) were given WEV's Business of the Year Award.

My mother who was visiting from Flagstaff, Arizona for the week was blown away by the inspiring stories that many WEV alumni shared with the audience about their personal trials trying to get their businesses off the ground. Many of them would not have survived or been successful without the support of WEV.

I am grateful to Marsha Bailey for sticking it out through two recessions in the past twenty years since WEV's inception and to the many extremely hard-working staff members who have worked their butts off to provide this beacon of hope and inspiration for so many local entrepreneurs.

We are truly blessed to have WEV in our midst here in Santa Barbara!

Enjoy the slideshow! I

*If the music doesn't come on when the slideshow begins, try "refreshing" your webpage and clicking "play" again.