Francesca Bell was born in Spokane, Washington into a family with deep, hardscrabble roots in the Northwest. Her maternal great-grandfather, the son of a prostitute and her client, was raised in a brothel. He raised his own six children, including Bell’s grandmother, on a 160-acre homestead in Plummer, Idaho. On her father’s side, the Norwegian Wikum family, when traced 700 years back, was already renowned for its spectacularly heavy drinking. The hard living continued in America where the clan was referred to around Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho as “the fighting Wikums.”
Bell was raised in Washington and Idaho and settled as an adult in California. She did not complete middle school, high school, or college and holds no degrees. She has worked as a massage therapist, a cleaning lady, a daycare worker, a nanny, a barista, and a server in the kitchen of a retirement home.
Bell’s writing appears in many magazines including ELLE, Los Angeles Review of Books, New Ohio Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, and Rattle. Her translations appear in Arc, Circumference, Mid-American Review, The Massachusetts Review, River Styx, and Waxwing. Her first book, Bright Stain (Red Hen Press, 2019), was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and the Julie Suk Award. In 2023, Red Hen Press will publish her second book of poetry, What Small Sound, and a collection of poems by Max Sessner that she has translated from German. She is translation editor at the Los Angeles Review.
Also to her credit are three luminous and eccentric children, a half-trained beagle, and some very nice blackberry jam.