AKA Meta Annie Doak
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, PA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Author Annie Dillard rose to prominence in 1975 with the publication of her Pulitzer Prize winning book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Often compared to Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, she is best known for ecotheological, or ecospiritual, essays. She has produced assorted other material however, including a book on writing and one novel, The Living. Dillard's writing has also appeared in a number of magazines including Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor, and Cosmopolitan.
Dillard developed a great love for nature at an early age, and although her parents were members of the country club set, they encouraged her creativity and quest for knowledge. Her mother set an example of non-conformity and her father tutored her a broad array of non-traditional topics that included economics, plumbing, and the beat literature of On The Road. As a teen she rebelled against her Presbyterian upbringing, but was eventually won over, partially, by the efforts of her minister who introduced her to the theological work of C. S. Lewis. Later she explored a wide range of spiritual traditions, incorporating concepts from Buddhism, Sufism, Judaism, Christianity, and native Eskimo belief systems into her own eclectic outlook.
It was also in her teen years that she became especially interested in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and began writing poetry. After high school she attended the all-girl Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia, where as a sophomore she married her writing professor, poet R. H. W. Dillard. Ten years her senior, he is credited with giving her tremendous help with her writing. She graduated from Hollins in 1968 with an M.A. in English. Her thesis was a 40 page rumination on Thoreau's Walden, the book he wrote about his time living in seclusion with nature.
Dillard soon made her own exodus into woodsy seclusion after a near-fatal bout of pneumonia in 1971. Her health at last recovered, she retreated to Tinker Creek for an entire year, where she lived immersed in nature. Her Pulitzer Prize winning book arose out of the journal that she kept that year, a journal in which she recorded her insights and observations about nature, spirituality, and religion. So absorbed did she later become, in developing her various notes into a book, that she began writing 16 hours a day, living on coffee and Coca-Cola, and sometimes going without sleep; accordingly, she lost some 30 pounds and, Dillard reports, her houseplants all died. But when the resultant work came out in print in 1974, it earned her immediate acclaim and success. That same year, although to considerably less fanfare, she also published her book of poetry Tickets for a Prayer Wheel.
Dillard's subsequent work has included two additional books of essays, Holy the Firm and Teaching a Stone to Talk; a book of literary criticism, Living by Fiction, and a book on the craft of writing entitled The Writing Life; plus a travelogue, Encounters with Chinese Writers; an autobiography, An American Childhood; and even a novel, The Living. The latter tells the tale of Native Americans and emigrant settlers in Washington State and has been compared to the works of Willa Cather and James Joyce.
Dillard has been the subject of a number of studies, including a book in the Twayne U.S. Authors Series. Honors accorded her, in addition to the Pulitzer, include a New York Press Club Award, Washington Governor's Award for Literature, the Connecticut Governor's Arts Award (1993), the Western Pennsylvania Historical Society History Makers Award (1993), Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts grants (1977), a best foreign book citation in France (1990), as well as honorary doctorates from Connecticut College, Boston College, and the University of Hartford. The Bellingham Review offers the Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction, which brings a cash prize of $1,000.
Father: Frank Doak
Husband: R. H. W. Dillard (professor at Hollins College, div.)
Husband: Bob Richardson
University: BA, Hollins College (1967)
University: MA, Hollins College (1968)
Scholar: Scholar in Residence, Western Washington University (1975-78)
Professor: Wesleyan University (1979-81)
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Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction 1975 for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Author of books:
Tickets for a Prayer Wheel (1974, poetry)
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974, essays)
Holy the Firm (1977, essays)
Teaching a Stone to Talk (1982, essays)
Living by Fiction (1982)
Encounters with Chinese Writers (1984)
An American Childhood (1987, memoir)
The Writing Life (1989)
The Living (1992, novel)
The Annie Dillard Reader (1994)
Mornings Like This: Found Poems (1995, poetry)
For the Time Being (1999, essays)
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