Founder of Santa Barbara Writers Conference, Barnaby Conrad, Dies Aged 90

Barnaby Conrad at home in Carpinteria, Calif. Photo: New York Times


When I started research on my book about the morals of bullfighting I traveled to Seville, the capital of Andalusia in Spain, where I met a wonderful American self-published author, Kitty Witwer. She wrote a book about being a female bullfighting fan, “Divine Addiction“, which is basically hailed as the “Almost Famous” of the taurine literary world, journaling her trips to Central and South America and her beloved Spain, following handsome bullfighters, then treated like rockstars, across country in trains, planes and automobiles – whatever you think of bullfighting this book is a great “road dog” book. But she never would have written it if it hadn’t been for Barnaby Conrad, founder of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, where she grabbed all her courage to speak to this literary legend, who kindly offered to write her foreword.  And today the sad news comes to light he has passed:

Barnaby Conrad, the San Francisco-born author who founded the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, died on Tuesday morning at his home in Carpinteria. He was 90 years old.

Born in 1922, Conrad became a mid-century renaissance man, enjoying boxing, painting, and a brief career in civil service for the United States government in Spain, which led him to bullfighting. As the only American to ever battle bulls in Spain, Peru, and Mexico, Conrad was well equipped to pen Matador, which John Steinbeck declared the best book of 1952.

In 1973, Conrad founded the Santa Barbara Writers Conference at Cate School, and grew that into a renowned annual event, drawing famous authors from around the country. He ran that conference with his wife, Mary, until they sold it in 2004.

Conrad’s death was not unexpected, as he had been in hospice care for three weeks.

You can read more about Barnaby Conrad here