Born in East Los Angeles, Leilani Clark spent her early childhood on Oahu and Kauai. She attended elementary and high school in Los Angeles, and college in San Diego, before settling in Northern California.

Leilani was previously published at Mother Jones, The Guardian, The Press Democrat, North Bay Bohemian, Civil Eats, KQED, Sonoma Magazine, Time Magazine.com, and Edible Marin & Wine Country. Her essays have appeared at The Rumpus, Fw:Riction Review, and in the anthologies All of Me: Stories of Love, Anger, and the Female Body and Sunshine/Noir: Writing from Tijuana and San Diego. She was the editor of Made Local Magazine from 2016 to 2019. 

After graduating with a BA in English Literature from University of California San Diego, Leilani earned her MFA in Writing from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. She won a California Newspaper Publishers Association award for Best Feature Writing in 2013. In 2014, she was a California Endowment Health Reporting Fellow. She is the recipient of a 2019 Discovered Award for Emerging Literary Artists from Creative Sonoma.