Frequently Asked Questions
How can I get review copies of your books, request an interview, or book you for a reading or lecture?
Please contact my publicists or lecture agent. You'll find their names and email addresses on my "Contacts & Inquiries" page.
My book club is reading one of your books. Will you visit, Skype or call-in to discuss it with us?
I'm so busy doing events these days that I need to reserve the few evenings I'm home each week for my family, so I must decline. Thanks for reading my book!
How can I get a personalized and/or signed copy of your book(s)?
Do you teach writing?
I teach writing at conferences and retreat centers throughout the year. Please see my "Workshops" page for details and links. I add more as they come along, so check back later if you don't see anything that appeals now.
Do you do individual manuscript critiques or mentorships? Or can I send you my manuscript to read just for fun?
I'm not currently taking on private students. As much as I love to read for fun, I'm not able to read unsolicited manuscripts. If you're interested in taking a class with me, visit my "workshops" page.
Will you blurb my book?
Sorry, but I'm all blurbed out. I've blurbed books nonstop for the past three years (and I still have a few more in the pipeline to blurb--books I've not yet read, but told people I would blurb). Because of this, I seldom get to read a book of my own choosing, which makes me terribly grumpy. I love to champion other people's books and I'll continue to do so in a number of ways, just not in the form of a blurb right now.
I wrote something that was published online. Would you please post it on your Facebook page/Twitter feed for me?
I curate my page based on my own idiosyncratic tastes and interests. I don't tend to post things because someone asked me to promote their work--though in fact I very often promote people's work on my social media pages. But not because I was asked to.
I have a great story to tell. Will you help me write it? Or can I just pick your brain about how I might write it?
Thanks for your inquiry, but I'm not interested in ghostwriting or co-writing books. I do help people write their stories in my capacity as a teacher and mentor (see my "workshops" page for details), but I'm not able to meet/call/email people about their writing projects. Good luck!
Will you continue to write the "Dear Sugar" column on TheRumpus.net?
I think so, but I've been so busy I can't say when.
Can I take over writing the "Dear Sugar" column?
The "Dear Sugar" column isn't something that can be passed off to another writer at this point. I made it so very much my own that I *am* Sugar and Sugar is me. Having said that, if you feel moved to write an advice column, do so. You don't need to be called Sugar to offer your truth.
Is Strayed your real name?
Yes. Strayed is my real, legal name and it has been since May 1995. I chose it for myself.
Did you keep a journal while you were on your PCT hike? How did you write such vivid details?
I kept a journal all through my 20s and 30s, and I kept a particularly detailed one on my PCT hike, which I noted passingly in WILD. My journal was enormously helpful to me as I wrote the book, often providing me with details I'd have forgotten. I also researched facts and consulted others about their recollection and interpretation of some of the events I wrote about in WILD, but, like any memoir, WILD is based primarily on memory. I re-conjured moments, conversations, feelings, landscapes, and the people I met as I remembered them from my own point of view.
Do you still hike and/or backpack?
Yes. It's one of my favorite things to do.
Have your feet recovered from your PCT hike?
Yes! Entirely. But it took a few years for my toenails to be normal again.
You hiked the PCT in the summer of 1995, but you didn't write about your hike until many years later. Why did you wait so long?
I didn't wait. I wrote Wild as soon as it occurred to me to do so. Wild is not in the "I did an interesting thing so I wrote a book about it" genre. It's a literary memoir. I didn't write Wild because I took a hike; I wrote Wild because I'm a writer. By which I mean until I had something to say about the experience, I didn't have any reason to write about it. After I completed my hike on the PCT the story I most urgently had to tell was the one I told in my first book, Torch. It was published in 2006. In 2008, I began to write about my experience on the PCT and I realized I wanted to write a book about it. I think the years between my hike and writing about it made for a better book. I gained perspective that I wouldn't have had if I'd written about it immediately.
Are your siblings and ex-husband okay and did they like Wild?
Yes and yes.
Where can I see photos from your PCT hike?
Watch the Wild book trailer (below).
Who is your literary agent?
Janet Silver of the Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Agency.
Who is your film/TV agent?
Shari Smiley of The Smiley Group LLC
Can you please direct me to your Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr pages?
What advice do you have for beginning writers?
1. Write a lot.
2. Don't be in a hurry to publish.
3. Find the work that moves you the most deeply and read it over and over again. I've had many great teachers, but the most valuable lessons I learned were from writers on the page.
4. Be brave. Write what’s true for you. Write what you think. What about what confuses you and compels you. Write about the crazy, hard, and beautiful. Write what scares you. Write what makes you laugh and write what makes you weep. Writing is risk and revelation. There’s no need to show up at the party if you’re only going to stand around with your hands in your pockets and stare at the drapes.
How long did it take you to write your first book, Torch?
There are three answers to this question and they are all true: four years, seven years, and thirty-four years. I found it to be both very fun and difficult to write my first book. It takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline, determination, and magical thinking to keep the faith with a project such as novel--what is it anyway, aside from a story you made up while sitting alone in a room? The reason I finished Torch is that I finally came to understand that the only thing worse than having to really, truly write the whole damn thing was having to live with the fact that I didn't. The day I wrote the final sentence I bawled my head off for an hour.
How long did it take you to write your second book, Wild?
About two and a half years. It was hard to write too, but hard in a way that felt familiar to me. Writing Torch taught me how to write a book, and most importantly, it taught me that there are good writing days and bad writing days and you simply have to ride through them all the way to the end, so I had that in me as I wrote Wild and it helped me keep the faith, even when I doubted my abilities. When I finished the first full drafts of both Wild and Torch I was away from home, in landscapes foreign to me (in the Warner Valley of Oregon for Wild and on the island of Itaparica, Brazil for Torch), and I think it had to be that way. I had to be entirely locked away inside myself to make it through that final hard push. The days I finished the first solid drafts of each book are among the most joyous and meaningful of my life.
What do you think about MFAs in creative writing? Yes? No? Maybe?
You don't need a MFA to be a writer, obviously, but it can be a useful experience, one that may or may not turn out to be important to your success. Having an MFA will allow you to teach in a wide range of settings, so it's a key credential if you hope to earn your living as a teacher at the college level. MFAs get a ridiculous amount of unfair criticism, often from people who have never been in an MFA program or from people who are making judgments about all programs based on their experience in one. My advice to anyone considering an MFA in creative writing is first to get clear about why you want to get an MFA. Is it because you have nothing else to do and you sort of like to write? Is it because you're just finishing college and nervous about getting a "real job"? Those are not terribly good reasons to get an MFA and you'd be better served by waiting or doing something else until you have a clearer sense of purpose. I'm glad I got my MFA when I did--at 30, after I'd been writing seriously for a decade (with lots of time off to mess around and be a knuckleheaded twentysomething). I decided to go to graduate school because I'd been writing seriously for years and I needed a community and a program that would support me in my efforts to once and for all finish a book. I didn't go to become a writer. I went because I already was a writer and I yearned for the temporary shelter an MFA program would provide in the form of money, community, and time. I knew I would not go to an MFA program that didn't offer full tuition remission plus either a fellowship or a teaching assistantship, so I applied only to schools that offered significant funding to their students (there are a good number of them, though they're very competitive). This doesn't mean I think it's a bad idea to go into debt for an MFA--it might be a good idea, depending on your situation--but it's wise to consider what you're willing to do on the money front and apply to schools accordingly. I learned so much in my years at Syracuse University--from my teachers, my peers, and also myself (as I spent all those hours and months typing away or not typing away on my computer). There were hard things about graduate school, weird things, sad things, appalling things, interesting things, lovely things. I treasure that time now. Contrary to what you hear about MFA programs pushing writers to write "the MFA story," I was exposed to all sorts of writing styles and a diverse range of ideas about what is considered "good writing." I wrote the first half of Torch while I was a graduate student and the second half in the year after I graduated (running on the momentum grad school gave me). I learned how to listen to the opinions of others and also to get to those opinions out of my head and trust my own instincts.
What's VIDA: Women In Literary Arts?
VIDA: Women In Literary Arts is a nonprofit organization that seeks to explore critical and cultural perceptions of writing by women through meaningful conversation and the exchange of ideas among existing and emerging literary communities. VIDA was founded in August 2009 by poets Cate Marvin and Erin Belieu to address the need for female writers of literature to engage in conversations regarding the critical reception of women’s creative writing in our current culture. VIDA’s structure is “grass-roots.” The individuals presently involved in creating VIDA are spread across the country, represent different identities, work from within a range of aesthetics, and share the common goal to create a forum at which all women writers may engage in much longed for conversations about literature being produced by women and its reception by the larger culture. I currently serve on VIDA's Board of Directors.
I have a question for you that I don't see here.
I plan to add more questions over time, so check back in a few months. You may also send me a message and ask your question for possible use on this page by clicking the link below.