UNCW Writers Week welcomes Steve Almond

by Zack Cyrus
Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The University of North Carolina Wilmington welcomed Steve Almond to campus Thursday night, Nov. 17, as a keynote speaker for this yearís Writers Week. Almond is the author of the story collections "The Evil B.B. Chow" and "My Life in Heavy Metal," "Which Brings Me to You" and the nonfiction books "Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life," and "Candyfreak." His third book of short stories, "God Bless America," was published by UNCWís Lookout Books in October. Glenn Beck recently appeared on Bill OíReillyís show on Fox News and endorsed the book, which catapulted it to a level of book sales that Almond never expected.

As the lights dimmed, a figure from behind the side curtain appeared wearing blue jeans and a sweater. This was none other than the humorous and talented fiction writer Steve Almond.

"You guys are here and I couldnít be more grateful, but this is pretty much us," Almond said. He looked up to the audience and gazed from left to right. "The serious readers on this campus who read because it enriches their lives are here, this is us, out of an entire campus or university," Almond said.

"Story writers and essay writers and certain poets are determined to push their characters toward the things they donít want to confront," Almond said. His short stories and novels are centered on this dilemma. He read a selection from his anthology. In one, a character suddenly finds out that she is pregnant.

"Short fiction is about just finding the character in the situation and pushing them into danger," Almond said.

Almondís stories have appeared in Playboy, Zoetrope, Ploughshares and Ecotone, among other magazines. Other stories have also been printed in "Best American Short Stories" and "The Pushcart Prize."

"I have uncoupled financial expectations from the creative process," Almond said. He believes there is much more to writing than a paycheck at the end of the day.

"But the biggest part is in the trenches with the character, and not as many people find that stuff, but man itís awesome when they do," Almond said.

"There is nothing like feeling like you reached across; you threw the rope of love and somebody caught it," Almond said.

Currently, he is serving as a visiting fiction professor in UNCWís MFA program in creative writing. Almond lives outside of Boston with two real life characters, his two children.

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