Name at birth: Cheryl Nyland
Writer Cheryl Strayed's fame rests on her best-selling 2012 memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which was made into the 2014 movie Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. Born in Pennsylvania, Strayed grew up in rural Minnesota; a graduate of the University of Minnesota, she earned her graduate degree in writing from New York's Syracuse University in 2002 and began publishing essays while working on her first novel, 2006's Torch. While anonymously writing an online advice column called "Dear Sugar," Strayed wrote Wild, the story of her journey back in 1995, when she hiked 1,100 miles by herself from the Mojave Desert in California to the Columbia River Gorge between Oregon and Washington. It was a tale of struggle and redemption that captivated critics and readers, and actress Witherspoon bought the film rights before the book was even widely known. Novelist Nick Hornsby was such a fan of the book he wrote the screenplay. After the success of the book Wild, Strayed announced that she was, indeed, a voice behind "Dear Sugar," and a collection of columns was released, Tiny Beautiful Things (2012); in 2014, a "Dear Sugar" podcast began, featuring Strayed and the original "Sugar," Steve Almond.
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