Annie Dillard was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
She attended The Ellis School throughout her childhood and first began writing poetry while in high school there. She earned her B.A. and M.A. at the all-female Hollins University (then Hollins College) in Virginia where as a sophomore she married her writing professor, the poet R. H. W. Dillard. After nearly dying from pneumonia, Dillard began writing regular, lengthy diary entries, which would later form the basis of her Pilgrim At Tinker Creek.
She won the Pulitzer Prize (non-fiction) in 1975 with her first book of prose, Holy the Firm