Be careful what nasty things you scribble in a letter to a writer. He just may publish them in a book.

Author Steve Almond did exactly that in his “Letters from People Who Hate Me.” In the book, Almond shares hate mail he’s received in response to his liberal political opinion pieces, published mostly in the Boston Globe, and pairs them with his humorous responses.

“Those letters are very important documents to me, because they represent the very angry, violent way in which some people are perceiving reality,” said Almond, 45, who lives outside Boston.

“That anger, that rage, is controlling a significant amount of the discourse of the country,” he said. “The civic discourse about the issues of the day are Rush Limbaugh calling a women a slut rather than an adult conversation (about sexuality and contraception).”

Like Limbaugh, these letter writers prefer name-calling over using facts to argue a point.

“One letter says, ‘I wish you died in the World Trade Center and your daughter looks like a maggot,’ ” Almond said. “I say (in response), ‘There’s someone who would agree with you — Osama Bin Laden.’ “

Sponsored by the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, Almond, the author of 10 books of fiction and nonfiction, will bring his brand of in-your-face writing to Portland on Saturday with two writing workshops and a free talk titled “A Night of Patriotism & Perversion with Steve Almond.”

The title is a reference to two of Almond’s books. The first is his latest work, “God Bless America,” which is a collection of short stories exploring the current state of the American dream.

And the second is “My Life in Heavy Metal,” an earlier work that contains explicit sexual content.

“I’m fairly well known as an author who doesn’t cut away when my characters are going to have sex,” Almond said.

Almond said he is compelled to write such scenes because “those are moments that are emotionally dangerous.” And uncertain emotions lend themselves to character development.

“Part of the purpose of the title is that I’m not an author quietly reading from a short story,” Almond said. “I’m more interested in having an event that’s a happening.”

Prior to the evening talk, Almond will lead two writing workshops: “How to Make Your Prose Sing (and Why it Should)” and “How to Use Your Obsessions to Jumpstart Your Writing.” Each workshop will include an introduction and a series of short readings followed by a writing exercise.

“In the workshops, I talk about getting better as a writer, and that means you have to get better at disclosure,” Almond said. “You have to get better at radical disclosure even when you know it’s going to disturb your mother or your significant other. It’s tough in life, and it’s tough on the page.”

What’s not tough is writing about what you know and love. Almond used his own obsession with sweets to write the book “Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America.”

“I wrote that book as a way to write my way out of a depression,” he said. “Visiting a chocolate factory will get me out of bed. It was the only thing I could do.

“The book is partly about candy but also about the history of this culture — late-model capitalism. What we consume literally. Fifty or 100 years ago, every town had its own brewery and bakery and confectioner. That’s really changed so much, and it left people feeling rootless.”

Due to his rising cholesterol levels and the fact that he has two young children at home, Almond no longer eats as much candy as he used to. But apparently, the sweets he does consume have a more grown-up — and even healthful — veneer.

“I’ve got a Luna bar in my pocket right now,” Almond confessed.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila


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