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Author brings trail experience to the page

William Sullivan will read from his book of stories in Hillsboro


William Sullivan has been hiking from one end of Oregon to the other for years, and his best-selling hiking books are well known to casual and veteran outdoorsmen alike. 

Along his way, he’s also written novels, adventure stories and now, a book of short stories. “The Oregon Variations” is a collection of stories set in Oregon counties, including three that take place in Washington County.

“Beaver Clan,” a modern day Pied Piper story, and “Bird Song,” a poignant tale that draws on Sullivan’s interest in linguistics, are both set in Washington County.

Though his father was editor of the Salem Statesman Journal, Sullivan chose to leave Oregon to study writing at Cornell University. There he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Alison Lurie, to whom he dedicated his book of short stories. “She taught [that] short-story writing can be different. It’s been hijacked by creative writing programs with characters you don’t like,” Sullivan said. Instead, “short stories can be told with magic, realism and metaphor. This book is my shot across the bow.”

Sullivan has published a book every year on April 1 for the last 15 years. It keeps him humble, he said.

Much of Sullivan’s writing stems from his outdoor escapades, travels and woodsy lifestyle.

Sullivan backpacked across Oregon in 1985 and wrote a memoir based on that sojourn, “Listening For Coyote,” which was named one of the Top 100 Books by the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission.

Sullivan said his hikes have led him to the state’s extraordinary scenery as well as adrenaline-filled adventures. There was the time he was held up at gunpoint when he wandered onto a marijuana farm, and another time he ate mistakenly-identified mushrooms and became ill during a snowstorm 18 miles from the nearest road. 

Sullivan now writes mostly on a typewriter at the cabin he and his wife built by hand in the Coast Range. After returning one spring to begin looking for cedar they could use for a roof, they found a cedar log their farmer neighbor had salvaged for them from a nearby river. “It was a very risky and generous thing to do,” said Sullivan. “I bucked hay for three seasons to pay him back.” 

Sullivan will be at Jacobsen’s Book Store, 211 E. Main St. in Hillsboro, at 7 p.m. Friday, April 18. He’ll show slides of his travels as well as read a story or two from his latest book. 



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