Welcome to The Unexpected Shape Café! Hello, and a very warm welcome! This is the premiere destination for personal nonfiction and memoir writers looking for community and a place to make connections, exchange work, discuss challenges, and all the “real life” stuff that comes along with being an aspiring working writer. Esmé Weijun Wang and the team (Chloe) host virtual events, workshops, and exclusive fun stuff in here to help you learn more about writing and entering the publishing industry. ➡️ How To Earn Points, Level Up, and Unlock Premium Content: The more you engage with this group (posting, commenting, sharing, liking, etc.), the more you gain points, level up, and are rewarded with premium content, courses, templates, and more! As you level up, the rewards become more valuable. Start climbing the leaderboard, where our top contributors will win surprises too! You can give value and level up by answering people’s questions, sharing interesting strategies or tools that are working well for you right now (not self-promotion!), and starting thought-provoking discussions. ➡️ How To Invite Friends To Join We encourage you to invite your friends! Just go to Settings > Invite > and grab your unique link. You can share your unique invite link with your email list, social media followers, and audience. The more the merrier! We sometimes have special surprise gifts for those who refer the most new members. ➡️ Check out the “Search” bar at the top of the group The search function in this group will help you navigate the goldmine of content within this community. Use it to search for topics you’re interested in like [“ethics,” “pitching,” or “first drafts”]. You can also check out our “Best Of” module, where we curate and save the most valuable posts in the community. ➡️ Read our Community Guidelines, Be Kind and Respectful We’re here to curate an inclusive community where people of all backgrounds feel safe. Make sure to read our community guide to get acquainted with what that means.
This is the introduction thread. Say hi, tell us where you’re from and what your writing is all about! In your introduction, answer these 4 questions: ➡️ What is your name (preferred pronouns as well, if you don't mind) ➡️ Why did you decide to join The Unexpected Shape Café? ➡️ What is your favorite book? ➡️ What are you interested in writing about? We can’t wait to meet you! If you'd like to share anything else as well, feel free! And welcome!
Simply put: don't be mean. Please use the channels according to topic, and what you are wishing to discuss or share. There is no tolerance for shaming and/or personal choice attacks: I trust that you know how to be respectful when interacting in this space, and if you cannot abide by these requests, I politely ask that you remove yourself. When sharing, please make sure that you do not include any information that could be traumatic or harmful to others, checking with me beforehand if it should include a trigger warning. Otherwise, connecting and sharing within Discord should be fun and something to inspire discussion between yourself and others! Private Message Disclaimer: If you are messaging someone from the community, please make sure you are being respectful, and if you don’t get a response, please do not press any further. Lastly, upon joining, I ask that you say hello in the General Chat with the guidelines mentioned.
I’m trying to think of a gift I can create (that’s not a workshop; I have too iffy of wifi while abroad right now) that would be lovely for all of you. Is there anything that you’d love to receive? A PDF or ebook? Let me know! And if you see something that someone else suggests that you’d love as well, weigh in! 🌱💕
I started a Substack, and frankly am not even sure where to start. I am practicing being okay with imperfection and being a bit messy, and I think that the writing will be important for me even if sometimes it is not very good. If you want to read it, you can find it here
For January 6: award-winning author Chelene Knight (Let It Go, Junie, Dear Current Occupant) is hosting a different kind of writing workshop, this time focused on author care and well-being: https://www.breathingspacecreative.com/free-workshops
I just purchased Rawness of Remembering and despite the fact that I live within 20 miles of Lulu headquarters I guess it's not going to get here until December 20. Does anyone have any favorite resources they turn to for journaling that they'd share with me in the meantime? Thanks!
What are some of everyone’s favorite writing tools—pens, pencils, programs, things to help focus, etc.? Over the last few years I’ve found myself incredibly fond of .25mm pens because I press so hard on the page (I think it may be a mobility thing), but I also love Evernote. I’m not good at keeping organized, but I find the notes less intimidating than a Word doc.
Still Moving is published! This is my memoir of my first 3 years of Long Covid. (Appropriately enough, my proof copy of the paperback arrived when I was dealing with a migraine. I know y'all can understand that detail differently than most folks.) I arranged distribution through Ingram, so you should have options wherever you live. My site has more details + excerpts: https://skyeris.art/still-moving I hope the book illuminates ways to face pain, grief, and illness, that more deeply connect you to love.
Today, I stumbled on this illuminating interview with journalist and author Rainesford Stauffer as it came up in my Google Alerts (the keywords I watch: Talking Writing): https://thecreativeindependent.com/people/journalist-rainesford-stauffer-on-reframing-our-definitions-of-success/ "I think a lot of it has been untangling where work begins, where worth ends, and how these things intersect with each other. It would be a lie to say that I don’t derive a sense of meaning—to bring us back full circle—and worth from my work. I think the thing that’s changed the most about that is it’s no longer about reaching an end goal. It’s about how I show up, ideally with others, throughout the process. I think my ambition now is to focus a lot more on what feels sustainable and what pushes me to think about something."
New post on my Substack: the case for prioritizing writing at a time when there's so much pressure to center branding and marketing. "This is why most of us became writers in the first place — we need to write. And we write to be read. So yes, our readers are on top of our minds each time we publish. But they read us and not primarily because we engage with them. They read what resonates, what moves, what feels true."
Many of us writers have accountability systems in place to keep us on schedule. I participate in a few groups to help me meet my weekly writing targets. I realized that I wanted the same kind of support to keep me on-track for my physical fitness goals. So I’ve set up a free private Fitness Buddies group where folks can check-in weekly on their workout routines. If you’re interested, here’s the link: https://fb.me/g/p_MU1vCaVuLHtCXZfR/DGkNI4lh
My book closet is done! After two years of waiting and planning and saving, it’s finally ready. I wrote a photo essay about it on my Substack: Easily Fascinated for 5 Minutes. https://open.substack.com/pub/jenmachajewski/p/how-to-build-a-book-closet?r=4qpx9&utm_medium=ios&utm_campaign=post
Right now, I’m reading and rereading Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail, which is a comfort read for me—a sapphic romance novel. It’s interesting to go outside of my usual genres; I never read romance novels until very recently. At the same time, I’m reading a forthcoming memoir by Morgan Parker. What are you reading, and how are you feeling/thinking about it?
I thought it might be nice to have a daily pet thread. Here's Daphne, whom some of you might already know about. She's about 11 years old and an incredible sweetie (unless you're another dog or the USPS).
A bit embarrassed I'm the only one posting "self-promotion" in this section... please friends join me here, it's lovely. I wrote this poem a few years ago for an epilepsy positivity poetry challenge. I re-shared it on Instagram recently and Disability Pride Alberta asked to publish on their site. Unexpected blessing... https://disabilitypridealberta.com/2023/10/02/poetry-i-am-not-a-warrior/
When you receive a rejection (on an essay or short story, not book length), do you revise it before sending it out again? Or do you leave it as is? I seem to keep assuming it is rejected because something is “wrong” with it—rather than it just wasn’t a good match. But I worry I’m over-editing. Thoughts?
If, like me, you like to watch people talk about books and writing on YouTube, I would love to hear your recommendations. I have watched many booktubers over the years but my favourites are the ones who discuss disability as well as literature. Surely there must be more of them than the two I follow! Jen Campbell https://www.youtube.com/@jenvcampbell/featured Jen is an amazingly prolific writer and reader who is so good at talking about the books she's read. I have no idea how she gets so much done. She also talks about disability. and they read https://www.youtube.com/@andtheyread Ciska is much more chill and horizontal, which is nice because she does things at a slow pace that doesn't make me feel unproductive. Her channel is smaller but I really recommend it. Then there's my own channel, Poetology https://www.youtube.com/@poetologie I talk about poetry, collage, books and writing. Although I mention things that are health-related in passing, I haven't really "come out" as disabled/chronically ill on my channel and I'm still on the fence about it. It's a small channel but I hope it will grow! Have you got any favourites?
I downloaded @Esme Wang's free Notion template a bit while back, and I've been tinkering with it to set up what feels useful to me, but still contemplating how I want to approach it. Is anyone else using Notion? How are you using it?
I’m running an Indiegogo crowdfund that’s ending in approximate 30 hours for The Unexpected Shape Writing Academy, the online writing school that I founded for ambitious writers living with limitations. We’re trying to raise money for 7 scholarships, and we’re about 25% of the way there. Learn more & please consider donating or sharing: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/raise-for-scholarships-to-our-writing-academy/
I’d like to have a live workshop soon and was wondering if there were any workshops that you’d love to see made available. Classes about pre-writing, writing, or publication are probably what I’d be teaching, but I’m open to your ideas! Please let me know what you want. ❤️✌🏽🍁
I was writing a character which brings a lot of traumatic memories and emotions. This often overwhelms me, causing me panic attacks, whenever I'm trying to enter this character in my memoir/ semi-autobiographical novel. Then I start to subconsciously avoid it, procrastinate and fix something else instead of entering this charcter. Its been going on for months. Do you have similar experiences and how do you deal with it? How do you breakthrough this block in memoir/novel/general writing? I dont know if writing with pain is the only option. I used to first vomit writing and resurrect as much as memories as possible while letting my forehead go on fire, almost fever-like. but i think there must be a way to navigate through hindsight and insight of the memory to gain perspective and foresight and then further craft the shitty first draft. Any concrete ways to tackle this rawness of memory "fever"? But is the only way to reach the shitty first draft is to let myself be overwhelmed and having the "fever" for certain amount of time and then rest for some time? Most who were traumatized, whether with mental disorders or not, went on with their life and tried to forget. We know forget is not the answer and dwelling is not either. And we urge to write. I'm almost also gaining clarity and perspectives on what happened. Urgency in writing is powerful and the urgent lies in my bipolar/feminism/Chineseeness experience. Just extending, then what about in the future, will my writing always be about that pain? I dont think pain is sustainable. How do I deal with memory and the panic of remembering when I write? Sorry I went on blabbing. I genuinely hope to hear from you 💙
https://wendigordon.substack.com/p/what-the-dalai-lama-and-archbishop The Dalai Lama and the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu were good friends and had a wonderful discussion about joy that was recorded and shared as a movie and book. I was amazed by how often they laughed and how they could be so happy despite the horrible experiences they each lived through.
Since I'm beginning to read many more memoir works closer to the kind of writing I'd like to write myself, I thought I'd ask the collective : What do you look for in terms of analysis when you're reading a memoir? Do you make notes? What do you make notes on? What are you looking at and for when you're reading? Essentially, I only studied English lit until I was 15, and so it's been a LONG time since I've read works in this way. I like reading this type of writing because I enjoy it, but if I can also make it useful to my writing practice, I'd love to be able to do so. TIA for your attention!
Here are a few blog posts about my travel. Our first 60 hours in Europe: https://kimberlyhirsh.com/2023/01/19/our-first-hours.html Aalsmeer: https://kimberlyhirsh.com/2023/06/19/belated-travel-blog.html Into Amsterdam for the first time: https://kimberlyhirsh.com/2023/06/20/belated-travel-blog.html On visiting Paris: https://kimberlyhirsh.com/2023/10/10/on-visiting-paris.html
Still one of my favorite articles from The New Yorker: The Work You Do, the Person You Are by Toni Morrison. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/06/05/toni-morrison-the-work-you-do-the-person-you-are
Any recommended lit magazines or fellowships that has a focus on mental disability? I find many that deals with diversity focuses on LGBTQ, BIPOC or the intersection of both, which is nice. But I have a hard time finding mental disability as a featured diversity topic in lit mags. Do you have any recommendations? Thank you 💙✨️👀 Also Interested in the lit mags that you read often, just generally💚