Ann B. Knox, who was in her 50s when she launched a successful career as a writer and teacher of poetry and short fiction, died May 10 while participating in a benefit poetry reading at Cacapon State Park in Berkeley Springs, W.Va. She was 85 and had a stroke.

Ms. Knox spent much of her adult life as a Foreign Service wife hopscotching from one U.S. embassy to another, raising six children at posts including Moscow, London and Karachi in Pakistan. She often grappled with life’s moments of crisis and ecstasy through writing poetry but said she did not really consider herself a writer until midlife.

When her children were grown, Ms. Knox bought a patch of land in southern Pennsylvania, in the foothills of the Appalachians. She built a one-room cabin, dug an outhouse and spent much of her time outside of Washington in that simple place, devoting herself to writing. She called herself a “recovering hostess.”

Ms. Knox’s work reflected her close observations of the natural world. She produced two full-length, award-winning poetry collections, “Stonecrop” (1988) and “Staying Is Nowhere” (1996), as well as a 1995 book of short stories, “Late Summer Break,” which won praise for capturing fleeting and delicate moments of transition in the lives of parents, spouses and lovers.

Ms. Knox was particularly interested in exploring the lives of women, and many of her stories featured mothers and daughters “on the cusp of change,” according to a Booklist review, “when they are open and available to new sensations, ideas, and lives.”

A fixture on the local literary scene, Ms. Knox taught writing seminars at venues including the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, the University of the District of Columbia and Johns Hopkins University. She also taught further afield at conferences such as the Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

She was editor for 18 years of the old Antietam Review literary journal and was a longtime employee of the nonprofit Washington Writers’ Publishing House, where she was serving as poetry editor at the time of her death.

Ms. Knox had recently finished two chapbooks, “Reading the Tao at Eighty” and “The Dark Edge.” Her latest book, “Breathing In” with photographer Rona Chang, was published in April. Her poems and stories also appeared in a number of literary journals, including Alaska Quarterly, Nimrod, Poetry and Green Mountains Review.

“There’s something good about starting late in life because you’ve acquired information,” Ms. Knox told the Santa Fe New Mexican in 1995, “and things are starting to come together.”

Ann Brewer was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and grew up surrounded by literature. Her father, George Brewer, was a playwright who co-authored “Dark Victory,” which was later made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Bette Davis and George Brent.

Ms. Knox graduated from Vassar College in 1946 and later received a master’s degree in education from Catholic University. In 1981, she received a master’s degree in fine arts from what is now Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C., where her adviser was the acclaimed writer Raymond Carver.

Ms. Knox was the recipient of numerous grants and awards for her work from organizations including the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Ucross Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

She married Foreign Service officer M. Gordon Knox in 1947. They divorced in 1989.

Her daughter Joanna Knox died in 1965. Survivors include five children, Ronald Knox of Berwyn, Pa., Annie Velletri of Bethesda, Marion Knox of Portland, Maine, Gordon Knox of San Francisco and Andrew Knox of New York; a sister; and five grandchildren.