The first time Francesca Biller wrote a poem, she remembers exactly where she was and whom she read it to. About seven years-old and nesting in a Spanish-style home by the sea, she ran with a crumpled piece of paper in hand towards her father, who was busy painting on a tall canvas near a window that let in an enormous amount of light and fresh ocean air.
About six lines in, her father looked up as he tucked a small paintbrush by his ear and said, “You’ll need to work on that some more,” after which he swished various brushes in turpentine and turned his head back towards his painting of a robust nude woman lounging on a silk kimono flocked with orange-fired flying cranes.
This was the only childhood she knew; one that was strange and interesting- and impossibly filled with cultural richness and an inspiring wonder of creative chaos. As the mixed-race daughter of a Japanese-American mother from Hawaii who designed clothing for stylish-bohemian types and celebrities in Hollywood, and a Russian-Jewish, Irish and Welsh father who was a writer, painter and professor, Biller assumed that everyone grew up as she did.
This assumption indeed both protected and inspired her, as she grew up with the belief that anything in life was possible, and that no experience was too difficult, so long as she could create authentic and meaningful works of art in the process. In a sense, she grew up believing in the optimistic philosophy that “creativity is indeed akin to the pursuit of happiness”, a subject that has inspired much of her work.
Biller spent her early years as a singer, ballet dancer, artist and writer, as her family encouraged each creative pursuit, as long as it was honest and heartfelt. But somewhere in her empowering years as a young adult, she discovered that writing poetry and stories about her own exotic and adventurous life, as well as people she met along the way was what most inspired her.
Writing is what has inspired her to get through difficult experiences she has endured, and her calling, so to speak is now to inspire other people who face similar challenges and obstacles that seem impossible to get through. “It is through the act of writing when we often discover what we believe about ourselves and who we wish to become,” she said.
She also gives credit to having a consistent sense of humor with the ability to see the ironic and funny side of circumstances as her greatest gift insofar as being able to sustain an interesting and bearable life, in addition to comedy as a force in her writing. A great admirer of Jewish Borsht-Belt comedians, she has flirted with being a stand-up comedian and is influenced by comics and humorists including Mark Twain, Art Buchwald, The Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and the writing and performances of the English group Monty Python.
Biller has enjoyed nearly 20 years as an investigative award-winning journalist, reporter and columnist in Los Angeles and San Francisco for print, radio, television and the web, including special reporting for The Huffington Post, The Chicago Sun Times, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, CBS, KCSN News, numerous magazines, newspapers and journals.
In recent years, she has happily shifted her career to writing thoughtful, humorous and inspirational articles and short stories, as well as poetry. Some of her work is based upon her more than lively and exotic autobiographical stories and adventures as a woman of mixed-race Hapa identity and a product of enthusiastic artists and colorful characters on both sides of her family.
Recent essays, short stories and poetry have been published for The Japanese American National Museum, including for a historic Exhibition for the museum called “Hapa-Japan, Visible and Invisible” which explored and celebrated the identity of people who are of mixed heritage of Japanese and other ethnicities and cultures.
Other personal and narrative work has been showcased in The Jewish News Weekly of San Francisco, Elephant Journal.com, Open Salon, My Jewish Learning, The Lakeview House International Journal, Discover Nikkei, Be’chol Lashon, Shalom Life, Empowering Parents, Senses Magazine, Colors Magazine, USA on Race, and others.
Biller is also part of a growing community of writers who are passionate about telling their stories of ethnic and cultural truths, authentic and sometimes as raw and politically incorrect as this may be, but never assaultive or angry in nature. With one of her great inspirations in the late great Maya Angelou, she writes also about the struggles and often-confusing beauty of being a mixed-race woman that can be described as intricately diverse and harrowing at times.
She is also beginning her career as an inspirational speaker, with her first engagement at the “Mixed-Remixed Festival” to be held at the Japanese American National Museum for a Panel Discussion “Global v. Universal: Otherness & Writing the Female Writer of Color” in which she will explore the provocative experiences as a female writer who writes about her stories in an authentic and unapologetic way.
Writing awards include the Edward R. Murrow Award, two Golden Mike awards, four Society of Professional Journalists’ First Place Mark of Excellence awards, and the Los Angeles Press Club award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism, Hard News Series Reporting and Documentaries.
Biller is currently working on two books that will be published by Zorba Press. The first is a compilation of short stories and inspirational-themed essays that will be based upon her often humorous and colorful experiences as a multi-racial daughter, artist and mother. The second will be a collection of poems and verse.
Biller’s most important “works-in-progress” are her talented and creative daughters, who she is raising to be as passionate as she is about the arts. She delights in watching them flourish as responsible and integral young women who believe that anything is indeed possible, with enough imagination and strength of spirit.