2015 was a year that shaped me.
Distilling that year sums to two major events: I sold my debut novel, The Border of Paradise (Unnamed Press), which is currently available for purchase everywhere books are sold; I was diagnosed, after several years of illness, with late-stage Lyme disease.
The beginning of my career as an emerging writer therefore dovetailed with the realization that my life was to be full of new challenges. As someone living with late-stage Lyme disease and schizoaffective disorder, my life became constrained by limitations that immediately butted up against the desires of my ferociously ambitious self.
Here at esmewang.com, I therefore focus on three things that have come to the forefront of my mind in the last few years: creativity, resilience, and legacy.
◇ I’m a writer. My debut novel, The Border of Paradise, has received accolades and kind words from places such as LitHub, NPR Books, and the Chicago Review of Books; I was selected by Granta for their once-a-decade Best of Young American Novelists list of 21 authors under 40. I write essays that have been published in the Believer, Catapult, The New Inquiry, Lenny, Hazlitt, and Salon, and am working on a collection of essays about schizophrenia for Graywolf Press, which is the result of having won the 2016 Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. And I create work here that I hope will help you on your creative journey, including a workbook-and-audio program about creating from one’s obsessions and themes (find that in the Shop).
◇ I believe in resilience, which forms the backbone of my work at The Unexpected Shape. My enthusiasm for both the practice and the living-out of resilience are borne out by my own daily existence with illness—I choose to live as best as I can, and I encourage others living with chronic illness and other forms of limitation to do the same. To find resources for ambitious people living with limitations, please check out The Unexpected Shape.
◇ Legacy is a tricky beast, but I approach it from the perspective of looking at one’s impact, both big and small. Whether you think much about legacy or not, you are building your legacy every single day. Legacy can be the smile you leave on the cashier’s face when you purchase a tube of hand cream; legacy can also be the published book of your collected works.
For fun, a few lesser-known facts:
- I used to be on a children’s television show. I was “let go” from the show because I couldn’t stop laughing during one of the tapings.
- Though I was a class clown in high school, being a brainy kid saved me from punishment; the pinnacle of my comedic career was making it to callbacks for Yale’s oldest sketch comedy troupe, in which I spent about five minutes reciting the alphabet while pretending to withdraw a tapeworm from my mouth. And even though I’m a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, I want to try stand-up comedy at least once.
- I’m an INFJ, a 4 on the Enneagram, and a Gemini with a Taurus moon and a Capricorn rising. According to the Voice Bureau’s Voice Values paradigm, my top Voice Values are Excellence, Intimacy, Legacy, and Transparency.
- A popular Taiwanese miniseries was created about my father’s family. Skeletons in the closet, ahoy!
Credits: All of the media photographs of me on this site are by Kristin Cofer, except for the top Polaroid, which was shot by me. The beautiful watercolor illustrations are by Caitlin Shearer. Illustration of me on the homepage is by Kris Atomic. Logo designed by Tara Spencer.
A few last things with that final sip o’ tea, if you don’t mind. If it sounds like we’re on a similar frequency, I invite you to sign up below for my heartfelt, highly intentional musings at With Love & Squalor, which will also get you a free copy of the Creative Legacy Check-In.