In 1975, she and Richard Dillard divorced amicably, and she moved from Roanoke to Lummi Island near Bellingham, Washington. She taught at Western Washington University part-time as a writer-in-residence. She later married Gary Clevidence, an anthropology professor at WWU's Fairhaven College, and they have a child, Cody Rose. She has been married for over two decades to the historical biographer Robert D. Richardson, whom she met after sending him a fan letter about his book Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind.
Dillard taught for 21 years in the English department of Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut.
After college Dillard says she became "spiritually promiscuous". Her first prose book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, makes references not only to Christ and the Bible, but also to Judaism, Buddhism, Sufism, and Inuit spirituality. Dillard converted to Roman Catholicism, and in 1994 won the Campion Award, given to a Catholic writer every year by the editors of America. However, her personal website lists her religion as "none."
Her website sells her paintings to benefit a charity called Partners in Health. Dr. Paul Farmer founded the charity to rid the world of infectious disease.