Ellen Gilchrist was born on February 20, 1935, near Vicksburg, Mississippi, in Issaquena County. At the age of fourteen, she wrote a column called "Chit and Chat About This and That" for a local Franklin, Kentucky, paper. She attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she received a Bachelor's degree in philosophy. At nineteen, Gilchrist married Marshall Walker, an engineering student, and they had three children. When she divorced Walker, she enrolled in a creative writing course at Millsaps College in Jackson, where she was taught by Eudora Welty. She also studied creative writing at the University of Arkansas.
Gilchrist's first collection of short stories, In the Land of Dreamy
Dreams, was published by the University of Arkansas Press in 1981
and reissued in hardcover and paperback by Little, Brown and Company in
1985. Her first novel, The Annunciation, was published
in 1983, and her second collection of short stories, Victory Over
Japan, for which she received the National Book Award for Fiction, was
published in 1984. She now has more than seventeen books of her work published.
Ellen Gilchrist has received numerous awards, including the Mississippi
Arts Festival Poetry Award; the New York
Quarterly Craft in Poetry Award; the National Endowment of the Arts Grant in Fiction; and the Mississippi Academy of Arts
and Science Award for Fiction. In addition, she has received the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Literature Award
three times, for In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, Victory Over Japan, and I Cannot Get You Close Enough.