Annie Dillard sent an unsolicited manuscript to Harper’s Magazine in 1973; it was included in the August issue of that year under the heading “Monster in a Mason Jar: The lethal liturgy of the praying mantis,” which, along with two other Harper’s articles, would appear as chapters in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974). The book received the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction when Dillard was twenty-nine, and led one critic to call her “one of the foremost horror writers of the 20th Century.”
Dillard’s article in the May 1975 issue of the magazine, “Innocence in the Galapagos,” received the New York Press Club Award for Excellence. Among her other non-fiction works are Living by Fiction (1982), an excerpt of which appeared in the August 1980 issue of the magazine; Teaching a Stone to Talk (1982), three excerpts of which were published in the magazine between 1975 and 1977; An American Childhood (1987), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and For the Time Being (1999), an excerpt of which appeared in the January 1998 issue of the magazine. Dillard also wrote two novels: The Living (1992), excerpts of which were published in the November 1978 and August 1991 issues of Harper’s, and The Maytrees (2007), which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was selected by the New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of the year.
Dillard was a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine from 1973 to 1985, with a brief hiatus in 1982. She taught at Wesleyan University in the 1980s and ’90s, and currently serves on the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. In 2015, President Barack Obama presented her with a National Humanities Medal, two years before President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.