Woman of Letters

How Wild author Cheryl Strayed became the queen of advice

Holly Andres for TIME

Cheryl Strayed

When Cheryl Strayed was 25, she wrote a fan letter to Alice Munro. Strayed had just received two copies of her first published story--"One for you, and one for your mum," the publisher told her--but her mother was dead, and "Alice Munro was my god," she says. So she sent the second copy off to Canada with a note. She didn't expect a response, but the doyenne of short fiction wrote her back. "You must continue writing but you do have lots of time," Munro said. "I wasn't writing nearly so well at your age."

Munro's letter, a page of looping...

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