|Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood Mississippi, the daughter of Don Tartt, a service station owner and local politician, and Taylor Tartt, a professional secretary. She began writing poetry at age 5 and at 13 she had her first sonnet published, in a Mississippi literary review. In 1981 she attended the University of Mississippi in Oxford, where her short stories made lasting impressions on Willie Morris, then writer-in-residence, and novelist and fellow Mississippian Barry Hannah. In 1982, Tartt transferred to Bennington College, Vermont, where she became close friends with Bret Easton Ellis. According to Ellis, Tartt's dormitory room was the salon for all the aspiring writers on campus. She dressed in tailored boys' suits and continued to write what her professors and peers considered "flawless" short stories. She also became the only female member of a group of classics students clustered around an eccentric and demanding professor, Claude Fredericks. Paul McGloin, one of her fellow students from this scholarly cabal, became her companion after graduation and supported her while she lived first in Boston, then in Manhattan, finishing her novel. Ellis closely followed the progress of her work throughout the eight years it took to write THE SECRET HISTORY, and was instrumental in obtaining Tartt's first literary agent who, in turn, negotiated a $450,000 advance from Knopf. While it was an unqualified commercial success, the literary merits of Tartt's widely reviewed first novel were met with everything from heraldic praise to indifferent dismissal to bald censure. Her second novel, THE LITTLE FRIEND, was published in 2002.