Ellen Gilchrist, the author known for fiction featuring independent Southern women, has died at 88, the Associated Press reports.

Gilchrist, a native of Vicksburg, Mississippi, was educated at Millsaps College and the University of Arkansas; at Millsaps, she studied under legendary author Eudora Welty. She made her fiction debut in 1981 with the story collection In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, which was a bestseller for the newly formed University of Arkansas Press, and followed that up two years later with the novel The Annunciation.

In 1984, she published Victory Over Japan, a story collection that won the National Book Award. Her other books included the novels Net of Jewels, Sarah Conley, and A Dangerous Age, as well as the story collections Light Can Be Both Wave and Particle, Flights of Angels, and I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting With My Daddy.

In a 2016 interview with the Clarion-Ledger, Gilchrist talked about her early love of books.

“I read anything I could get my hands on, at the library, or at home,” she said. “We had so many books at home, and we had encyclopedias. It didn’t matter what it was. I loved reading stories the best. My father wouldn’t let us watch TV, but I was just always reading.”

Gilchrist’s admirers paid tribute to her on social media. On X, formerly known as Twitter, poet and television writer Tony Tost wrote, “Ellen Gilchrist was a National Book Award winner, a proudly untamed prof in the University of Arkansas MFA program, & the source of countless bewildered anecdotes that I’m sure will be told over drinks across the literary South for decades. I’m sorry to hear she’s left us.”

And lawyer Blake Rutherford wrote, “Ellen Gilchrist was an American treasure. I still return to her journals, including reflections on her time spent living in Fayetteville and teaching at the [University of Arkansas].”

Michael Schaub is a contributing writer.