Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard
"The teacher in me says, ‘The way to learn about a writer is to read the text. Or texts."
- Annie Dillard

Induction Category:
Writers & Journalists

Born: 1945

Inducted: 1997

Town: Middletown

Award-winning author Annie Dillard was born Annie Doak in Pittsburgh, Pa., to affluent parents Frank and Pam Doak.  Raised in a privileged lifestyle, during her high school years she rebelled against her parents and began reading Ralph Waldo Emerson and writing her own poetry. She went on to study English, theology, and creative writing at Hollins College in Roanoke, Va., where she earned both a B.A. and a Master’s degree in English, graduating in 1968. It was at Hollins that she met and married her first husband, Richard Dillard, who was also her writing teacher. Though the couple later divorced, Annie has kept her first husband’s name throughout her writing career.

After several years of teaching at Western Washington University, Dillard moved to Middletown, Conn., where she was a professor of English and a writer-in-residence at Wesleyan University from 1979 to 2000. In her words “it was time to come back East—back to that hardwood forest where the multiple trees and soft plants have their distinctive seasons and their places in sun and shade.” Though she may have come to New England for the forest, during her time in Middletown, Dillard preferred to live on a residential street near the campus with her husband, biographer and professor Robert Richardson, and their daughter Rosie.

In 1974, Dillard published a small book of poems, Tickets for a Prayer Wheel, and her nonfiction Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. The latter was an overnight success, meeting with immediate critical and popular acclaim. The work contains observations, meditations, and reflections on the natural world Dillard experienced during a period of time spent at Tinker Creek in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Praised for its graceful prose, its astute observations of the natural world, and the meditative reflections of its author, Pilgrim is often compared to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (on which Dillard wrote her Master’s thesis). In 1975, Dillard received the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She went on to publish numerous essays, poetry collections, memoirs, works of literary criticism, and novels. Respected for her narrative style, Dillard is the author of Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (1982), An American Childhood (1987), and The Living (1992), her first foray into the world of the novel. Her most recent publication is The Maytrees, a novel published in 2007. The Maytrees was named one of the ten best books of 2007 by the New York Times.

In addition to writing and contributing to over a dozen books, Dillard herself is the subject of many studies, including a full-length book in the Twayne U.S. Authors Series. The Annie Dillard Reader, a collection of her best known narratives, uncollected essays, and several new pieces was published by Harper in 1994. Dillard’s many honors include a New York Press Club Award, Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts grants, the Connecticut Governor’s Arts Award (1993), a best foreign book citation (1990) in France, and honorary doctorates from Boston College, Connecticut College, and the University of Hartford.

During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice