Poet, essayist, and novelist Annie Dillard is born on this day in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1945.
At age 28, Dillard became the youngest American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, which she was awarded for her collection of essays Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974). The book, often compared with Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, collected her meditations during a year spent living on the shores of a creek. She also wrote a collection of poetry, Tickets for a Prayer Wheel, the same year.
Dillard began reading avidly as a child and studied writing at Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In 1965, she married her creative writing professor, R.H.W. Dillard. Between 1975 and 1978, she was a scholar-in-residence at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. She moved to Connecticut in 1979 and became a professor at Wesleyan University after her second marriage. She began writing prolifically, publishing five more books by 1989 and writing essays, poems, memoirs, and reviews.
Dillard’s first novel, The Living (1992), a detailed chronicle of Pacific Northwest pioneers, was a critical success. Her second novel, The Maytrees (2007), which follows the courtship, marriage, and later years of a Cape Cod couple, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2008.