Ellen Gilchrist

Ellen Gilchrist Biography

Poet, Radio Personality, Journalist, Author (1935–)
Ellen Gilchrist is an award-winning writer known for her poetry, novels and story collections, including Victory Over Japan and The Age of Miracles.


Born on February 20, 1935, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Ellen Gilchrist studied under Eudora Welty before becoming an acclaimed writer in her own right, winning the 1984 National Book Award for her second book of stories, Victory Over Japan. Many more works have followed over the years, including a memoir, the novels Anabasis and Starcarbon, and other story collections like Flights of Angels.


Ellen Louise Gilchrist was born on February 20, 1935, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Moving often with her family due to her father's Army engineering work, Gilchrist had an active imagination and a passion for reading, going on to pen her own column as a teen in a Kentucky newspaper. She later attended both Vanderbilt University and Millsaps College, being taught by fellow writer Eudora Welty at the latter.

Gilchrist was twice married and twice divorced to Marshall Walker, with whom she has three children.

Wins National Book Award

Gilchrist published her first book in 1979, The Land Surveyor's Daughter, a work of poetry. She followed up with her fiction debut in 1981, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, a book of stories which earned the writer critical buzz and was published under University of Arkansas Press. After having released her first novel The Annunciation (1983), Gilchrist offered up another assortment of stories, Victory Over Japan, a highly esteemed outing which earned the writer the 1984 National Book Award.

'The Writing Life'

Gilchrist has released a plethora of titles over the decades. Additional story collections include Light Can Be Both Wave and Particle (1989) and The Courts of Love (1996), accompanied by novels like Net of Jewels (1992), Sarah Conley (1997) and A Dangerous Age (2008). In terms of nonfiction, 1987's Falling Through Space: The Journals of Ellen Gilchrist collected her yearlong commentary for NPR's Morning Edition, and in 2005 she released the memoir The Writing Life.

Having a distinctive, wit-fueled style, much of Gilchrist's tales have focused on women of the South, with some figures returning in successive works. Particular arcs around single characters have been presented in the "Life in Stories" collections of Rhoda (1995) and Nora Jane (2005).

Gilchrist's next book of stories, Acts of God, is slated to be published in 2014.

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