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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, Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Ragdale Fellow; a Pushcart Prize nominee, and winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize for Short Fiction and the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize.


JUNIPER STREET: A NOVEL won the C&R Press Ficton Award. Author Jacob Appel calls it "Part gem, part amulet, all magic." Poet and author Lee Upton: "This extraordinary novel is meant for all of us."


LATE WORK: A LITERARY AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT I WAS READING [Essays] is called, by author and translator Joel Agee, "one of the best books on writing and the writing life I have ever read." 


Author Helen Sheehy: "I received LATE WORK yesterday, read the first essay ["What Would John Williams Do"], stopped reading and am now at my computer ordering 2 gift copies for dear friends of mine. Not a wasted word; everything tells—as if she's in my living room talking only to me. A beautiful, seamless book...in her unique and compelling and funny and wise and scathing voice. Brava, brava!"


Of THE OUTLOOK FOR EARTHLINGS [Regal House Publishing], ForeWord Reviews declared: "With technicolor period details, intense reflections, and devastating acuity about women's compromises in love, Earthlings is an elegant elegy."


Bob Wake called EARTHLINGS "a puzzle-perfect narrative...arguably Joan Frank's finest work to date." 


WHERE YOU'RE ALL GOING: FOUR NOVELLAS won the Gold Medal, 2021 Independent Publisher Book Awards and the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. TRY TO GET LOST: ESSAYS ON TRAVEL AND PLACE won the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize. 


Joan's 2017 novel, ALL THE NEWS I NEED, won the Juniper Prize for the Novel.


BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO: A WRITING LIFE, won the ForeWord Reviews Silver Book of the Year Award.

Past honors include the Richard Sullivan Prize, Dana Award, Iowa Writing Award, and notable others. Joan has received grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and Sonoma Arts Council; she has been nominated twice 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 also reviews literary fiction and nonfiction for The Washington Post and Boston Globe. She lives in Northern California.