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BOOK BEAT : Writers Bloc : An energetic book about writing bestsellers has been compiled from lectures at a prestigious Santa Barbara conference.


Every June, 350 writers from around the world converge on the Miramar Hotel in Montecito for the weeklong Santa Barbara Writers' Conference. It's a hectic seven days of classes and lectures that last nearly around the clock, if you count the "pirate workshops" that go on into the wee hours. Hundreds more local writers pack the conference hall every afternoon and evening to hear the keynote lectures by agents, publishers and an illustrious list of guest speakers who have included many famous writers.

Now in its 19th year and touted as one of the more prestigious events of its kind, the conference has generated "The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction, by Barnaby Conrad and the staff of the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference."

Conrad, the founder, guru and director of the conference, is a longtime resident of Rincon Beach who has written 22 books, including the bestseller "Matador."

The best of the new guide contains selections from past conference keynote speakers such as James Michener, on "How to Become a Writer"; Eudora Welty, on "Characters"; Ray Bradbury, on "Getting an Agent"; William F. Buckley Jr. on "Style and Language"; Jessamyn West on "Criticism"; and Colleen McCullough on "Rejection."

For those who want tips on how to write a bestseller, advice is offered by Irving Stone in "Publicizing Fiction"; Jackie Collins in "The Obligatory Sex Scene"; and Sidney Sheldon in "Action and Narrative."

The book includes 20 other excerpts from lectures at the conference.

And there is advice from many of the conference's perennial workshop leaders, including local writers Bill Downey, on writer's block; Ted Berkman, on style; and Frances Halpern, on marketing.

Altogether more than a hundred writers are quoted, including some literary greats from previous centuries. This is a lot to pack into a 304-page book, but an attempt has been made to accommodate extremes of taste.

Those who really don't want to be taught to write by Jackie Collins and Judith Krantz can find literary advice from Jorge Luis Borges, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Flaubert. However, the bulk of the book is weighted toward the nuts and bolts of "bestseller" fiction.

There are chapters on the publishing business, marketing without an agent, and the importance of knowing how to publicize your work.

Conrad introduces each chapter in the same charming, witty style he utilizes when introducing speakers every year at the conference.

What sets this book apart from some other guides to fiction writing is the same kind of energy found at the conference. You might find that you want to put the book down and write some fiction instead.


"The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction, by Barnaby Conrad and the Staff of the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference." Published by Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio. 304 pages, $17.95. Available at local bookstores.

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