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A fifth-generation Oregonian, Sullivan began hiking at the age of five and has been exploring new trails ever since. After studying at Deep Springs College in the California desert, receiving an English degree from Cornell University, and studying linguistics at Germany's Heidelberg University, he earned an M.A. in German literature from the University of Oregon. He has been happily married to the artist Janell Sorensen for 40 years.
Lane Library League, a citizen group with the goal of extending library service to the 80,000 people in Lane County who currently lack service. He was recently a board member of the conservation group Oregon Wild and is a past president of the Round Table Club of Eugene.
Sullivan organizes three author events in Eugene each year -- the Oregon Authors Table at the Art & the Vineyard Festival on the 4th of July weekend, the Oregon Authors Table at the Lane County Fair in late July, and the Authors & Artists Fair, a fundraiser for the Lane Library League at the Lane County Fairgrounds on the first Saturday in December.
He and his wife live in Eugene, but they spend summers in a log cabin (tour the cabin in this 1-minute video) they built by hand on a roadless stretch of a remote river in Oregon's Coast Range. Sullivan's memoir, Cabin Fever: Notes From a Part-Time Pioneer (1-minute video about the book) tells the humorous and dramatic story of the 25 summers that he and his wife spent building the cabin. Some years he leads a 3-mile hike to the cabin on the second Saturday of September for the Salem Chemeketan outdoor club. If you'd like to go, see his calendar to check if the trip is available this year.
In 1985 Sullivan set out to investigate Oregon's wilderness on a 1,361-mile solo backpacking trek from the state's westernmost shore at Cape Blanco to Oregon's easternmost point in Hells Canyon. His journal of that two-month adventure, published as Listening for Coyote (1-minute video), was chosen in by the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission in 2005 as one of the 100 most significant books in Oregon's history.
Sullivan hiked every public trail he could find in Oregon for his popular 5-book series of "100 Hikes" guides to Oregon's trails. He continually rehikes those trails, keeping his guidebooks up to date. Each new edition features a dozen new trails, updated information on museums and rental cabins, and a 32-page color section that includes a wildflower identification guide. All of his "100 Hikes" books are updated every year or two to keep pace with changes due to storm damage, fires, construction, and changing fee systems. Titles in that series include 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & SW Washington (1-minute video), 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades (1-minute video), 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (1-minute video), 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon (1-minute video), and 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range (1-minute video).
Sullivan's series of mystery novels began with The Case of Einstein's Violin (1-minute video). In the book, an Oregon schoolteacher sells Einstein's violin case on eBay and finds herself pursued through Europe by international spies in search of a
missing formula for quantum gravity. The second in the series, The Case of D.B. Cooper's Parachute, is a thriller set in Portland. Read an interview with Indie Bookstore staff about the creative process behind this book. It is based on the notorious unsolved 1971 hijacking, when a man parachuted with $200,000 from a jet into the Northwest forests. The third book in the series, The Case of the Reborn Bhagwan, brings back the popular fictional Portland detective Neil Ferguson and his prescient, autistic daughter, to solve a murder mystery related to a revival of the Rajneeshee religious movement in Oregon.
The Oregon Variations, include at least one story set in every county in Oregon. Like the counties, these tales are all over the map, ranging from flash fiction to science fiction.
Sullivan's third work of fiction is The Ship in the Hill (1-minute video) a historical novel based on the true story of the excavation of a Viking longship on a Norwegian farm in 1904. To research the book he and his wife took five trips to Norway, learned the language, and translated the sagas about the ship from Old Norse.
Sullivan's most colorful guidebook is Oregon Trips and Trails (1-minute video), a guide to the state's most beautiful places, illustrated with 800 color maps and photographs. The book has details for visiting 100 star destinations worth a journey, 65 hiking trails, and 250 places to stay -- including campgrounds, bed & breakfast inns, and quaint hotels.The book Oregon's Greatest Natural Disasters (1-minute video) is an entertaining and provocative examination of the floods, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions that have affected people in Oregon during the past 13,000 years. Sullivan shows that these events are actually part of larger natural cycles -- some more regular than others. Understanding the cycles can help reduce damage in the future. The final chapter in the book is fictional, set 12 years in the future when a massive earthquake and tsunami devastate the Oregon Coast.
Sullivan's first novel, A Deeper Wild (1-minute video), is based on the true adventures of Joaquin Miller, the swashbuckling Oregon Country gold miner, editor, pony express rider, horse thief, and county judge who won international renown in 1872 as the "Poet of the Sierras."
Sullivan's other books include Hiking Oregon's History (1-minute video), the Atlas of Oregon Wilderness (1-minute video), and Oregon Favorites: Trails and Tales, a collection of the outdoor columns he has written featuring favorite hikes and adventures for each month of the year.
Sullivan also edited three books by his father J. Wesley Sullivan, the late editor of Salem's Statesman-Journal. These books are Jam On the Ceiling (a collection of columns about life in Oregon), To Elsie With Love (a memoir of his 40-year marriage), and My Wife Has Alzheimers (a memoir of his wife's three-year battle with Alzheimers). All three books are being kept in print by William L. Sullivan's niece, the Eugene science fiction author Mary E. Lowd.