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Joan was born to New Yorkers in Phoenix, Arizona. She studied with author Thaisa Frank (no relation) at the University of California in Berkeley, CA, and holds an MFA in creative fiction from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC.

She is a MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Ragdale Fellow; a Pushcart Prize nominee, and recent winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize for Short Fiction.


Her pending collection, WHERE YOU'RE ALL GOING: FOUR NOVELLAS, will be published in February 2020 by Sarabande Books.

Past prizes include the Juniper Prize for Fiction (the Novel) ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award, Richard Sullivan Prize, Dana Award, and notable others. Joan has received grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and Sonoma Arts Council; been a two-time nominee for the Northern California Book Award in Fiction, and named a San Francisco Library and Berkeley Public Library Literary Laureate. She has taught creative writing at San Francisco State University, and in private consultation.

Joan also regularly reviews literary fiction and nonfiction for the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives in Northern California.