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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, recent winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize for Short Fiction and of the River Teeth Nonfiction Book Prize.


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


TRY TO GET LOST: ESSAYS ON TRAVEL AND PLACE will be published in the same month, by the University of New Mexico Press.

Past honors 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 continues to offer private consultation.

Joan has also reviewed literary fiction and nonfiction for ALTA, the San Francisco Chronicle, Antioch Review, and similar venues. She lives in Northern California.