An American writer of six novels and three collections of short stories, she is best known for Beasts of the Southern Wild and Other Stories (1973). Her popular short story, The Ugliest Pilgrim, was made into both an Academy Award-winning live action film and a stage musical.
After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she worked for several years as a newspaper reporter. She later taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
She won a Guggenheim Fellowship.
She married judge Lowry Betts. The couple became parents to a son named Erskine.
She and Theodore C. Blegen both received Guggenheim Fellowships.