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The Unexpected Shape Café

Public • 407 • Free

TUS Writing Intensive

Private • 61 • $97/m

19 contributions to The Unexpected Shape Café
Debut Novel Available for Pre-order!
Hi folks, I'm happy to announce that my debut novel Dear Haider is scheduled for publication on June 1, 2024, by Baraka Books! It's one of those stories that came to me fully formed in a flash, as I was recovering from a severe mental health crisis. I was at the time in school, but had a break between undergrad and grad school, and wrote most of the first draft in that two month period. I wasn't fully satisfied with my draft however, and due to the demands of grad school, left the manuscript alone for almost 5 years. Then, a close friend of mine, who works as a medical copywriter, generously offered to edit my manuscript with me. It was the pandemic, so we went on Zoom every Sunday and worked on 2-3 chapters for a few hours at a time, for a period of four months. I will be forever indebted to her. Then, I think I did things quite backwards. Instead of trying agents and big publishers first, which I didn't have confidence to shoot for, I submitted to two small presses. One of them, whose founder happened to be my parents' friend and neighbour, immediately made an offer. And the rest is history. I'm happy to share more about my writing/publishing journey, so if you're interested, let me know and feel free to ask questions!
New comment Jun 6
1 like • Feb 6
So proud of you!! Well done, Lili!
1 like • Jun 5
Congratulations on your book release, Lili!!
What are your main writing struggles right now?
I'd love to get to know you and your current work-in-progress! What's your current writing project, and what are your main struggles right now with that project? Struggles could be creative, could be life-related, could be body, mind, heart, soul — anything that's keeping you from making your envisioned progress.
New comment Jun 20
0 likes • Feb 9
@Patrick Willumsen What do you feel is keeping them from being compelling, Patrick?
1 like • Jun 5
@Kier Gray That sounds like a tremendous approach, Kier. Identifying the problems to solve and solving them is exactly what developmental editing is (I work for an editor as well) so by doing this you're definitely not ignoring the big picture. So proud of you!!
WINS. I want your WINS!
The past couple of weeks I've been working 4.5 jobs and my head has been spinning; this week is marginally less hectic, thank goodness. So what I really need right now is to check in with my superstar authors here in the Café and find out: What are your WINS for the past week? Triumphs! Tales of Success! Share your glories with me! YOU ARE MIGHTY! <3
New comment Mar 13
2 likes • Mar 12
@Lili Zeng Oh gosh, Lili, I'm so sorry. What an absolutely awful time you've had recently. I do hope your creativity continues to bring you solace; I hope you have space and time to grieve these losses as well. My heart goes out to you.
1 like • Mar 13
@Lili Zeng ❤️‍🩹
What are your wins for the week?
I'd love to hear what your wins this week have been! Anything at all: what's been really positive for you and has helped you keep going?
New comment Mar 7
0 likes • Mar 5
@Wendi Gordon WENDI! I am so proud of you! Well done and GREAT work persevering! That might be the hardest skill of all -- to just. keep. going.!
0 likes • Mar 5
@Keith Hood SO GOOD, Keith!!
Tips for the VERY FIRST First Draft
I have lately had the desire to write about my trip visiting my family's homeland of Ecuador... but I've never tackled that story before except when people ask me about it. I keep on telling myself that I just need to get it out--sound and voice doesn't matter in this draft--but I'm cringing so much that my motivation is waning. How do y'all get the VERY FIRST first draft out? How do you psych yourselves out of the idea of needing it to be a particular way in order to be motivated to write it? I know I should just keep my head down and continue... but another part of me is questioning how on earth can I do that when (1) my memory of these events, people, and emotions are vague and (2) it's hard to clarify & dwell on these vague memories? It's not a story based on trauma which is something I'm also not used to doing in craft... it's rather one about finding home, family, and joy in another place. This also adds to my worries that I''m blaspheming my heritage if I don't get it right on the first try...
New comment Feb 21
5 likes • Jan 27
@Taylor Nunez Can I just tell you how much I LOVE this as an emotional and narrative hook: "it's hard to clarify & dwell on these vague memories" — if that were the hook presented to me on the first page, I'd be all in. My favorite author, WG Sebald, wrote about vague memories in all his books, it was really the hook running through them, and all the more powerful because everyone knows exactly what it's like to have memories they're reaching after.
1 like • Feb 21
@Danne Jobin "Bird by Bird" is such a tremendous book!
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Hi, I'm Dan! I'm Esmé's assistant, and you can connect with me to ask questions or resolve technical issues. My email is

Active 1h ago
Joined Nov 20, 2023
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