Introducing Francesca Lia Block
We are thrilled to announce this year’s fiction judge, Francesca Lia Block.
Francesca writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories, and poetry. A prolific storyteller, Francesca has authored over 25 books and has had stories, poems, essays, and interviews published in the Los Angeles Times, the L.A. Review of Books, Spin, Nylon, Black Clock, The Fairy Tale Review, and Rattle, among others. She has also adapted her work into screenplay form and interviewed powerful creatives such as Tori Amos.
Francesca’s debut novel, Weetzie Bat, (published by HarperCollins in 1989) launched her acclaimed Dangerous Angels Young Adult Series. Considered a classic, Weetzie Bat still resonates as a genre-bending mastery.
She has received the Spectrum Award, the Phoenix Award, the ALA Rainbow Award, and the 2005 Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as other citations from the American Library Association, the New York Times Book Review, School Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly.
A beloved and devoted teacher of fiction for UCLA Extension and Antioch Los Angeles’s MFA in Creative Writing program, her lifelong passion for writing and her dulcet voice make Francesca highly sought after.
She was named Writer-in-Residence at Pasadena City College in 2014 and in 2018–19 became a Visiting Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Redlands where she was a finalist for Professor of the Year award. She also teaches privately in Los Angeles where she was born, raised, and currently still lives.
You can find her work and more at on her website.
Get to Know Francesca
WNBA: What appeals to you about fiction writing? And what do you look for in a good short fiction story?
FLB: Fiction shows us the world in new ways. It can transport, inspire, entertain, and even heal. At its best, it makes us feel less alone. A good short story can do all of these things at once.
WNBA: How did you discover fiction writing is a passion? Whose fiction, old or new, do you admire?
FLB: I’ve been writing stories since I could put words on paper, and I have known since first grade that I wanted to be a writer “when I grew up.”
My list of favorites is so long! I’m including a partial sampling in alphabetical order: Isabel Allende, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Sandra Cisneros, Mark Z. Danielewski, Joan Didion, Louise Erdrich, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Zora Neale Hurston, Kazuo Ishiguro, Shirley Jackson, D.H. Lawrence, Jhumpa Lahiri, Carson McCullers, Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, Vladimir Nabokov, Anais Nin, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, Arundhati Roy, John Steinbeck, Donna Tartt, J. R. R. Tolkien, Alice Walker, Edith Wharton, Joy Williams, Jeannette Winterson, Virginia Woolf, Richard Wright, Banana Yoshimoto, and Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
WNBA: Two favorites: what is your favorite short story of all time? And because WNBA members love books, what is your favorite book ever?
FLB: “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates are two favorite short stories.
I can’t pick one favorite book, but I do often use Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Beloved by Toni Morrison in my seminars and classes.
WNBA: We’ve been experiencing a pandemic, a racial reckoning, and wildfires. How does writing contribute to your social justice pursuits? How has this changed in these unprecedented times?
FLB: In the face of all this, it makes it hard to believe that my work has meaning. I try to write about relevant topics in a sensitive way.
It’s different when someone else comes to me with doubts about their work. I always tell my students that we need stories; we need your story! I truly believe that. So, I try to tell that to myself, too.
But teaching has been a great way to stay connected to writing and also feel that I am contributing to helping others rather than just focusing on myself.
WNBA: What’s next for you?
FLB: I just got my MFA after a 30-year career. In my program, working with Stephen Graham Jones, I wrote an adult myth-based mystery called House of Hearts set in the Salton Sea and some contemporary fairy tale retellings.
We thank Francesca for being our fiction judge this year.
The 2020 WNBA Writing Contest has four categories: fiction, creative nonfiction, flash prose, and poetry.
The contest is open to everyone.