WHERE THE HEART IS Author Billie Letts Dies at 76

WHERE THE HEART IS Author Billie Letts Dies at 76

Best-selling author Billie Letts has died in Oklahoma at the age of 76. She died on Saturday in Tulsa of acute myeloid leukemia. Arlene Johnson, her publicist, confirmed her death.

Her 1995 novel "Where the Heart Is" was selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club and then adapted into a movie

Letts taught English and creative writing at Southeastern Oklahoma State University for years, and while she was there she wrote poetry and screenplays of her own. She found success when she turned a short story about an unwed pregnant teenager who finds refuge in a Wal-Mart into the novel "Where the Heart Is," which was published in 1995, when Letts was 57. In 1998, the novel was chosen as an Oprah's Book Club selection and in 2000 it became a film starring Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing and Joan Cusak. Letts followed "Where the Heart Is," with three more novels - "The Honk and Holler Opening Soon" (1998), "Shoot the Moon" (2004) and "Made in the U.S.A." (2008).

Letts was born May 30, 1938, in Tulsa. She received a bachelor's degree in English and education from Southeast Missouri State University and a master's in behavioral studies from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She married Dennis Letts in 1958. They both held teaching positions in the Midwest before settling in Durant, Oklahoma, where they both taught English at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Letts left teaching behind to write full time after the success of her first novel. Her husband also retired and became an actor. He died in 2008.

She is survived by three sons - Dana Letts, musician Shawn Letts and playwright and actor Tracy Letts, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his play "August: Osage County."

Photo Credit: Reneé W. Nicolo