When a girlfriend of mine turned me onto Dear Sugar, an advice column turned into a podcast, I was immediately hooked. I started from the beginning to catch up and probably listened in record time. Here’s why:
Dear Sugar was born by a man named Steve Almond. Steve is a best selling author of Candyfreak and Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto. He was answering letters and giving advice, but doing so pretending to be a woman with a troubled past. Yes you read that correct- responding as a woman would with a pen name of ‘Sugar.’
After he read Cheryl Strayed’s work, he realized that she was the real, living, actual Sugar. Cheryl is also a best selling author of Wild, turned a film starring Reese Witherspoon and Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of her essays as Sugar, as well as her newest fiction piece, Torch.
With their similar careers and backgrounds they teamed up and both serve as Sugar, answering anonymous letters from all types of writers; men, women, teenagers, lesbians, gays, transgenders, addicts. Though most letters are deeply personal, the scenarios and questions reach and relate to many people.
I highly recommend listening to this duo. Together they give an honest but calming, real but sometimes scary realization to the troubled writer as they answer his/her questions, all with grace. The Sugars are so on-point and carefully spoken. They are both sympathetic while giving tough love and cautious while encouraging what they think is the right thing to do – and I would agree, it often is the right thing to do. If I were ever a writer, I feel as though both of their experiences bottled into one bit of advice would serve me well.
After reading and watching Wild, I appreciate Cheryl’s perspective even more: a twenty-something who lost her mother, got married, divorced, and hiked over 1,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself, doing so all at a young age. She had overcome major obstacles along the way and this story was a clear depiction of it.
Dear Sugar comes out with episodes about every week (you can find them online as well). For more letters, pick up Cheryl’s book Tiny Beautiful Things. I have it and enjoy the written form as well. I promise even if you don’t love it like I do, you will learn something from it.