WRITER Cheryl Strayed’s unusually apt last name was self-selected in the wake of her mother’s premature death from cancer and after her first marriage collapsed under the weight of grief-stricken infidelity in 1995. Anguished and reeling from loss, then-26-year-old Strayed, a novice hiker, picked a new name for herself and took off on a 1,100-mile solo hike up the Pacific Crest Trail. In three months, she hiked from the Mojave Desert in California to the Washington state line in an attempt to heal. In her new memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Knopf), she recounts her bold trek into the wilderness and her restorative journey home.
Strayed is also the wildly popular advice columnist for the online culture magazine The Rumpus (therumpus.net), writing under the pen name Sugar until she revealed her true identity in February. A collection of her “Dear Sugar” columns, Tiny Beautiful Things (Vintage), will be published in July.
Brittany Shoot: Your stint as Sugar on The Rumpus has been wildly successful. How do you feel about the fact that many readers take so seriously advice from ordinary people? How does it feel to be treated as a life experiences expert?