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Workshops, Books and More

An MFA education without the MFA price tag

The Unexpected Shape™ Writing Academy

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So, what is The Academy? In short, it’s an extraordinary, three-month experience for marginalized nonfiction writers who:

  • have heart and ambition
  • want to hone their skills, build community, and make connections
  • want to publish work that is both brilliant AND creates positive impact

We’re a full-fledged writing school—with all of the feedback on your work, seminars, and high-quality curriculum that entails—and build in support that encourages and bolsters ambitious, marginalized writers.

And in The Academy, you’ll skyrocket your skills on the journey to whatever your dreams are: publishing a bestselling book, connecting with underrepresented readers, and/or leaving a literary legacy.

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“Esmé is exceedingly knowledgeable and her teaching style is the perfect blend of calmly explaining every step of the writing process so you won’t be left confused and answering additional questions. She also puts much thought into every answer instead of giving a quick reply—I felt seen, taken care of and special, even though it was a group workshop.”

Navina B.

writing nook with desk and sunny window

“Esmé is exceedingly knowledgeable and her teaching style is the perfect blend of calmly explaining every step of the writing process so you won’t be left confused and answering additional questions. She also puts much thought into every answer instead of giving a quick reply—I felt seen, taken care of and special, even though it was a group workshop.”

Navina B.

A workshop series for the ambitious unheard

The Unexpected Shape™ Nonfiction Workshop Series

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Not ready to commit to the Academy yet? In The Unexpected Shape™ Nonfiction Workshop Series, you’ll get access to the education, resources and strategies that you need to make your nonfiction writing goals a reality in a way that works for you.

All of these workshops are taught by New York Times bestselling author, former book proposal coach and current visiting MFA Professor, Esmé Weijun Wang (which means you are literally getting MFA-program-worthy writing education from someone who has sat where you’re sitting now).

The Writing Nonfiction Workshop Series to be a little like a pick ‘n’ mix – you can choose which workshop to attend depending on your current goals and education needs. 

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“Esmé is such a grounded and generous teacher—sharing from the truth of her own vast writing and life experience. Our workshop time flew by, and yet it felt calm and easeful as well. I took lots of useful notes, and I really appreciated the generative and supportive chat. I can't wait for upcoming workshops!”

Nicole A.

Elegant Businesswoman Working At Desk

“Esmé is such a grounded and generous teacher—sharing from the truth of her own vast writing and life experience. Our workshop time flew by, and yet it felt calm and easeful as well. I took lots of useful notes, and I really appreciated the generative and supportive chat. I can't wait for upcoming workshops!”

Nicole A.

self-paced e-course

Dream Hunting with Limitations

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Making dreams happen within the constraints of your life…

Dream Hunting with Limitations is a self-paced, five module course, where you’ll be studying how to bring your dreams to life, implementing the techniques and skills in each lesson while creating a plan to move forward and toward your goals. You’ll learn more about rethinking ambition, the emotions that come with living with limitations, imposter syndrome, and self-sabotage.

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”My life has changed dramatically over the past year, and it’s been frustrating to try to function as I used to under the new circumstances. [Dream Hunting with Limitations] has challenged me to consider what it is I want to accomplish and how I can fit that into the actual life I have, with its limitations and uniquely shaped spaces. Esme’s concise lessons helped me break the big aspects I’d been treating as immutable into puzzle pieces that I could then rearrange and expand on. Now I have the beginnings of a workable plan for going after what I want while living the life I have.”

ERIN K.

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”My life has changed dramatically over the past year, and it’s been frustrating to try to function as I used to under the new circumstances. [Dream Hunting with Limitations] has challenged me to consider what it is I want to accomplish and how I can fit that into the actual life I have, with its limitations and uniquely shaped spaces. Esme’s concise lessons helped me break the big aspects I’d been treating as immutable into puzzle pieces that I could then rearrange and expand on. Now I have the beginnings of a workable plan for going after what I want while living the life I have.”

ERIN K.

a 74-paged print workbook for restorative journaling through difficult times

Rawness of Remembering: Restorative Journaling Through Difficult Times

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This is a book about restorative journaling through difficult times, built by someone who’s been in the trenches. Perhaps you’re going through a rough time, but can’t imagine being open about it to anyone you know. Perhaps that loneliness is compounding your pain, to the point where you wonder if the loneliness is worse than the difficult time itself. Perhaps you’re already seeking help. You’ve read loads of self-development books; you’re in therapy; you’ve chosen to take medication to help dig yourself out. But if you’re in therapy every week for 50 minutes (out of the 10,080 minutes that make up one week), you’re only actually in the therapist’s office for .49% of the week. What happens when you leave the therapist’s office—especially when you feel like there was some good information, but when you also forgot everything that was said by the time you get home? What do you do after you take the pills like a good patient does? Or perhaps you’ve tried journaling, but gave up after one or two entries because you didn’t know what to write about. Or you’re a long-time journal-keeper, but wish to learn specific techniques to get through whatever you’re going through. But what I really want you to take away from this book is this: Rawness of Remembering is not merely about creating a journal. It’s an investment in taking charge of your own healing. You will develop a way to take care of yourself when your therapist or best friend isn’t there; when it’s just you and your thoughts, threatening to take you down into a terrible, lonely spiral. It’s a workbook that will take you through an entire program to help you take charge of your own story.

74 pages. Paperback.

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“I just started your Rawness of Remembering course and wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying it… As I started your course, I was reminded of a term that my therapist used to use—’tools in the toolkit.’ Mental illness demands that you keep your tools nearby in good working order… I hope that your course will help me put words to my own pain and struggle, so that I may be strong enough to help others.”

— ERIN C.

cover of rawness of remembering

“I just started your Rawness of Remembering course and wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying it… As I started your course, I was reminded of a term that my therapist used to use—’tools in the toolkit.’ Mental illness demands that you keep your tools nearby in good working order… I hope that your course will help me put words to my own pain and struggle, so that I may be strong enough to help others.”

— ERIN C.

Redeeming (Gift Certificates, Rawness of Remembering Code)

Did someone give you a gift? Look here!

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If you received a Rawness of Remembering gift code, or if you purchased Rawness of Remembering and can’t figure out how to get back into the site, please head over to this website to use your login information. If you’re still confused, please email my Executive Assistant, Chloe, at chloe@esmewang.com with as much information for her as possible.

If you received a gift certificate and would like to redeem it for an upcoming workshop, make sure that the workshop is actually happening. How will you know that? Subscribe to With Love & Squalor for updates. Then, when you’d like to sign up for the appropriate workshop, please email my Executive Assistant, Chloe, at chloe@esmewang.com with as much information for her as possible.

open book next to a bowl of yogurt and fruit

Free E-Book

Productivity Journaling with Limitations

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Love analogue planning, or wish to figure out how to start? Are you an ambitious person living with limitations, such as chronic illness, mental health challenges, or caretaking responsibilities? This elegant workbook will show you the methods I use to do my morning planning and journaling. & once you’ve received Productivity Journaling with Limitations: The Morning Ritual, you’ll also receive With Love & Squalor—monthly love letters from me about life, resilience, and making the most of our days.

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"The [workbook] is amazing, and I genuinely mean that. I think writing down what I’ve done each day and accomplished will help with my mood massively. I also love the 1-3-6 thing; I had never heard of that before, but will definitely be following it from now on.”

Kayleigh

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"The [workbook] is amazing, and I genuinely mean that. I think writing down what I’ve done each day and accomplished will help with my mood massively. I also love the 1-3-6 thing; I had never heard of that before, but will definitely be following it from now on.”

Kayleigh

Essay Collection

The Collected Schizophrenias

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A New York Times bestseller. Powerful, affecting essays on mental illness, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and a Whiting Award.


An intimate, moving book written with the immediacy and directness of one who still struggles with the effects of mental and chronic illness, The Collected Schizophrenias cuts right to the core. Schizophrenia is not a single unifying diagnosis, and Esmé Weijun Wang writes not just to her fellow members of the “collected schizophrenias” but to those who wish to understand it as well. Opening with the journey toward her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, Wang discusses the medical community’s own disagreement about labels and procedures for diagnosing those with mental illness, and then follows an arc that examines the manifestations of schizophrenia in her life. In essays that range from using fashion to present as high-functioning to the depths of a rare form of psychosis, and from the failures of the higher education system and the dangers of institutionalization to the complexity of compounding factors such as PTSD and Lyme disease, Wang’s analytical eye, honed as a former lab researcher at Stanford, allows her to balance research with personal narrative. An essay collection of undeniable power, The Collected Schizophrenias dispels misconceptions and provides insight into a condition long misunderstood.

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“[The Collected Schizophrenias is] resoundingly intelligent, often unexpectedly funny, questioning, fearless and peerless, as Wang makes for brilliant company on 13 difficult walks through largely uncharted territory.”

Los Angeles Times

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“[The Collected Schizophrenias is] resoundingly intelligent, often unexpectedly funny, questioning, fearless and peerless, as Wang makes for brilliant company on 13 difficult walks through largely uncharted territory.”

Los Angeles Times

A Novel

The Border of Paradise

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An epic tale of one iconoclastic family’s inheritance of madness in Brooklyn, Taiwan, and Northern California.


In booming postwar Brooklyn, the Nowak Piano Company is an American success story. There is just one problem: the Nowak’s only son, David. A handsome kid and shy like his mother, David struggles with neuroses. If not for his only friend, Marianne, David’s life would be intolerable. When David inherits the piano company at just 18 and Marianne breaks things off, David sells the company and travels around the world. In Taiwan, his life changes when he meets the daughter of a local madame—beautiful, sharp-tongued Daisy. Returning to the United States, the couple (and newborn son) buy an isolated country house in Northern California’s Polk Valley. As David’s mental health deteriorates, he has a brief affair with Marianne, producing a daughter. When Marianne appears at their doorstep, the couple’s fateful decision to take the child as their own determines a tragic course of events for the entire family. Told from multiple perspectives, The Border of Paradise culminates in heartrending fashion, as the young heirs to the Nowak fortune must confront their past and the tragic reality of their future.

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"The Border of Paradise is shaped by darkness and the kind of delicious story that makes for missed train stops and bedtimes, keeping a reader up late for just one more page of dynamic character-bouncing perspective… It is the author’s stunning introduction to the literary world."

New York Times

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"The Border of Paradise is shaped by darkness and the kind of delicious story that makes for missed train stops and bedtimes, keeping a reader up late for just one more page of dynamic character-bouncing perspective… It is the author’s stunning introduction to the literary world."

New York Times

Free Guided E-Course

Encouragement Notes

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In late November 2015, after a year of stress and illness, I decided to create a free resource called the Encouragement Notes. The Encouragement Notes would comprise encouraging emails, sent from Monday through Friday, every day in December—a month that’s often considered to be celebratory and exciting, but is also hugely stressful for many. The Encouragement Notes also came with a community known as Keep Going, You’re Doing Great, a private Facebook group of wonderful men, women, and gender non-conforming individuals who supported one another and built a sense of camaraderie in the dimmer months (even calling themselves Encouragers at one point). In total, over 300 people signed up for the inaugural version of the Encouragement Notes. The Notes and the group are now available to everyone—and still for free.

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"The best part of the Encouragement Notes was that I knew that every morning, I had something to look forward to in my inbox. Mornings are very difficult for me health-wise these days, and it was incredible to be able to go to bed knowing I had a reason to get up the next day and keep going. I will sorely miss the solace I found everyday in these little notes, which I would always read a few minutes upon waking up, and reread throughout the day for a little extra boost. Thank you, Esmé, for this thoughtful initiative!"

Lili

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"The best part of the Encouragement Notes was that I knew that every morning, I had something to look forward to in my inbox. Mornings are very difficult for me health-wise these days, and it was incredible to be able to go to bed knowing I had a reason to get up the next day and keep going. I will sorely miss the solace I found everyday in these little notes, which I would always read a few minutes upon waking up, and reread throughout the day for a little extra boost. Thank you, Esmé, for this thoughtful initiative!"

Lili

My Bookshop

Recommended Reads

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My Bookshop library is home to some of my most treasured and recommended reads.

These are the books that I turn to, find comfort in, and continue to enjoy. Within this collection, you’ll find books written by authors such as Toni Morrison, T Kira Madden, Ilya Kaminsky, and Leo Tolstoy (to name a few), and when you purchase through my Bookshop page, you are directly supporting independent bookstores, as well as myself. I also encourage sure you check back in from time to time, as it is inevitable that my collection of recommended reads will grow.

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Resources

I have affiliated myself with a small number of products, programs, and e-books, all of which I found to be excellent products. I’m sharing them with you here, in case you should find them useful to you as well.

Full disclosure: should you purchase any of these products with the given links, I will receive a commission—but again, I stand behind everything listed here, and spent my own money on them before becoming an affiliate.

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Spirited

Created by Rachel MacDonald and Tara Bliss, this spiritually-minded e-book is an excellent primer to the “woo-woo” side of life. Should you be interested in manifestation, meditation, and a combination of introspection and trusting the Universe, this gorgeously designed volume is for you. I purchased it during the worst year of my life, printed it out and bound it, and ended up scribbling notes all over the worksheets and chapters while sitting in a papasan in a tiny old house in New Orleans.

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black typewriter keyboard

Qwerkywriter keyboard

I’m obsessed with my Qwerkywriter keyboard. At this point, I’ve tried a number of typewriter keyboards; this is the best one, and it’s also motivated me to write more just because I’m obsessed with the way it feels. The clicking of the keys has a mechanical sensation that is absolutely delicious, and even the texture of the keys is slightly rough in a way that I love.

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mechanical keyboard

KnewKey Rymek Classical Keyboard

Less pricy than the Qwerkywriter keyboard, but equally as functional, the KnewKey is a great alternative if you want something that’s not quite as heavy or expensive. I used the KnewKey long before I switched over to the Qwerkywriter, and it’s a great tool for writers. Use the coupon code ESMEWANG for $10 off.

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Doe “Neo” magnetic lashes

Before the pandemic, I bounced from lash extension stylist to lash extension stylist; my natural lashes are sparse and extremely thin, & basically non-existent. During the pandemic, I invested my monthly disposable income on a certain lash system, which I used for years. They come in groupings of lashes that you apply with glue and “seal” to your natural lashes with a wand. I was reasonably happy with these, but had great difficulty with the issu of needing to remove them if I was also wearing eyeshadow, which was inconvenient. I also found that they were difficult (impossible?) for me to reuse.

Enter: Doe. I’m obsessed with their Neo Lash system, which is a magnetic strip lash system that uses tiny, extremely strong magnets per (whisper-light) lash strip that attaches to their Neo Lash eyeliner. When I want to take them off at bedtime, I carefully pull off the strip (Doe claims that each set of $25 strips lasts for 60 wears, which I believe) and wipe off the eyeliner. EASY PEASY. In this photo, I’m wearing the Butterfly Kiss set, which work fine with my glasses while still being flirty. And if you’re a fan of using standard, glue-based strips, they have those too for a lower price.

If you’re interested, I do have a discount code! Get 17% off when you use the code ESME68917.

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