Writing, Babies, Breast Cancer—What it Means to Be a WANA

Susie Lindau, the bravest WANA of all...

Susie Lindau, the bravest WANA of all…

Many people run across the #MyWANA on Twitter or WANA on Facebook and ask, “What is WANA?” Boy, that is a BIG question to answer. It all began with a simple book to help writers understand social media. I recall talking about potential titles with my editor Jen Talty (at WDW Publishing, now Cool Gus Publishing).

WANA the Book

I’d been wracking my brain trying to think of a title that encapsulated the message I wanted others to hear, what I wanted them to feel. Then Jen asked an important question that changed everything, “Kristen, what do you want others to feel when they read your book?”

I replied, “I want them to know they are not alone.”

So much about writing is solitary, and many of us experience alienation and even outright animosity from those closest. I recall my early writing journey being very, very lonely and it was easy to become overwhelmed and depressed and consider giving up.

When I realized social media would be a game-changer, I wondered, “How can one writer  do ALL that is necessary?” Then I realized we couldn’t. We needed a family, a community of support.

WANA the Community

I wish I’d been smart enough to see what WANA would eventually become, but I wasn’t responsible for taking WANA to the next level. Writers started referring to themselves as WANAs. They met in person in their cities. They sought out conferences where they could meet and spend time with these digital friends they’d come to love.

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 9.24.09 AM

Piper Bayard and I are WINNING at DWFWWCon…

I know that most of the friends I love would never have been in my life had it not been for WANA. Why? Because writers need more than writing tips and marketing, and promotion. They need emotional support. They need help when times were hard, or when they have to pull away from social media for revisions.


More WANA Cowbell in SoCal…

WANAs can be spotted. We are where the FUN is!

WANAs can be spotted. We are where the FUN is!

WANAs at Huntington Beach...

WANAs at Huntington Beach…

Soon, WANAs started trading help. When one had a deadline and couldn’t blog, other WANAs stepped in and offered guest posts to keep the writer’s blog living and thriving.

WANA the Family

Then we had a WANA, author Myndi Schafer who was VERY pregnant when she took one of my blogging classes. Her due date was closing and guess what? The WANAs were there. They took over her blog, tweeted for her, kept up with her, checked on her and let her know she was not alone.

Myndi and first WANA Baby

Myndi and first WANA Baby

Later, another WANA started an on-line business. Just about the time it was taking off, she was broad-sided by an eighteen-wheeler and hospitalized for quite some time. One day I got a message. She was ecstatic. When she finally returned home, she expected all she’d built to be in ruins, but while she was recovering, other WANAs had risen to the occasion to help and not let her platform wither away.

WANA Tasha Turner.

WANA Tasha Turner.

WANAs have cheered for each other’s successes, celebrated births and anniversaries. We have been there to support WANAs who had critically ill family members. Hey, is there anything I can do? Can I help you? Just here to let you know you are loved. You are not alone.

It’s hard to say how many WANAs there are, because I seem to run into them everywhere and it is always an amazing and simultaneously humbling experience.

WANAs in The Big Apple

WANAs in The Big Apple

Recently, I was having dinner with two WANAs in a small suburb of Denver. We were sitting outside enjoying gluten-free pasta (I swear all WANAs are GF, LOL) and my voice tends to carry.

Okay, I am loud naturally. Comes from being half-deaf :D.

Out of nowhere a woman walking by with two children stops at our table, and says, “OMG! I’m a WANA. It’s Julie Hedlund!”

What a WANA Coincidence! (Susie Lindau, Moi, Julie Hedlund, Piper Bayard)

What a WANA Coincidence! (Susie Lindau, Moi, Julie Hedlund, Piper Bayard)

WANA the Warriors

Today, I want to call the WANAs together for an amazing and special woman (a WANA), Susie Lindau. The thing about WANA is you meet people who make you better than you ever imagined you could be. WANA is about love, community and service above self, so I find it attracts the most beautiful, thoughtful people. You will meet people who are always smiling, even in the face of fear. They will love you even if they’ve never met you and fight for you when they have to.

Susie Lindau is facing breast cancer and she is one of the funniest, most incredible people I’ve been honored to know. She is a true WANA. She’s using her battle as a message to let women facing this disease to know they are not alone. So please check out her blog The Boob Report. She’s having surgery today, and will be going through a radical double mastectomy. If you have a moment and use Twitter, please tweet her some WANA love and well-wishes at #SusieStrong.

Oh, by the way, I wasn’t smart enough to think of that either. Other WANAs got together and made a plan to let Susie know how much we love her and I am just the messenger. They e-mailed me their plan to support Susie, which is why they ROCK.

This is the thing WANAs do and it is why I am so proud of them every day (and yes I am crying as I write this).

Alone is Hell

In 2003 I was misdiagnosed with epilepsy. The medications gave me pneumonia and I was so weak I couldn’t get off the couch. I had no close family and since I’d worked three years on the road, I had no friends. Not able to breathe or move, I withered down to where I wore children’s clothing which I didn’t have the strength to change often. I recall laying in the dark and wanting to die because the crushing feeling of being alone was worse than the illnesses I was fighting.

My mom finally pushed her way in and wouldn’t leave my side. It took months to recover and I doubt I would have had she not stuck to me like a burr.

The WANA World

I only tell you this story because it was my motive behind the type of world I wanted to create. I wanted to create a way that no one would have to be alone. Whether it was something as simple as encouragement to make word count, or a digital family that could be there to send love, prayers and support during sickness or tragedy, that was the community I wanted to be a part of.

The WANAs were there when I got the news my husband was being deployed to Afghanistan. They offered for me to come visit, or for them to come visit me. And the WANAs were there for me when my son was terribly injured. He had all his front teeth smashed into the maxilla and needed emergency surgery. (He is fine now, just looks like an adorable little bat).

Poor Spawn...

Poor Spawn…

I cannot tell you how overwhelming it is sometimes to have once been a person with no friends, to becoming a person who has more friends than she could have ever dreamed of, people of the highest quality. People better than me who make me better. This post does no justice to how much I love the WANAs. What started as a book title became so much more than I could have envisioned.

We’re a cult um, family 😀

WANA Lynn Kelly, really is a superhero.

WANA Lynn Kelly, really is a superhero.

So please show Susie’s blog some love. Tweet some support at #SusieStrong. Anyone with love to share and spare can be a WANA. There is no official membership, just a very special mission. Love. Only a big heart required.

WE LOVE YOU, SUSIE. You are NOT alone!


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    • KARLA-MARIE IMSCHWEILER on May 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm
    • Reply

    It would be an honor to become part of this tour de force and I wanna be a WANA but need to develop my website and will get back when I do…

    1. We are on Facebook and Twitter. Just tweet using #MyWANA. No website required 😀 Just a good heart.

    2. Welcome, Karla! I’ll be looking for you on Twitter/Facebook, etc.

    • christicorbett on May 31, 2013 at 12:23 pm
    • Reply

    What a wonderful group of supportive women! I’m sitting here teary-eyed just knowing there’s people out there who are so great and uplifting to each other.

    Now I’m off to tweet to Susie!

    Christi Corbett

  1. Reblogged this on Satin Sheet Diva's Blog and commented:
    Sending healing vibes as Susie faces this challenge!

  2. I’m accidentally honoring Susie by getting a mammogram today. Totally by coincidence – and it’s been three years since my last one, so…yeah. WANA Power! #SusieStrong! Love you, Kristen.

  3. I too will get a mammogram. I have been putting it off too long. Kristen, how did your little one get his teeth injured?

    1. He pulled a heavy iron bar stool over and it smashed him in the teeth. Losts of pain and $12,000 later, be’s just a cute little Bat Boy…still a daredevil though. Sigh.

      1. Poor baby. He’s still adorable.

  4. Kristen, this is a beautiful post and it made me cry. I reblogged Tameri Etherton’s blog post for Susie today … adding my positive thoughts, love and hugs to Susie – she’s such a wonderful, joyful person and we all love her! ~ Julie xox

  5. Wonderful, wonderful post, Kristen. You got me all choked up, too. I love our WANA peeps and you, our WANA Mama. Susie is an amazing woman. I met her in your WANA1011 blogging class, then got to meet her in person with some of the other WANAs when she and her hubby vacationed in SoCal. She’s as much fun in person as she is online. Just wish we’d had more than a few hours to hang out.

    I think it’s awesome the way the WANA community is rallying together to support her. Susie will touch a multitude of lives through her blog and other social media.

    What a coincidence that Julie Hedlund happened to run into you, Piper, and Susie at that restaurant! How cool is that? And from reading Susie’s, post, I guess you weren’t the only one who was talking loud. Susie’s post had me laughing out loud, how she didn’t realize other patrons misinterpreted what she was talking about. LOL! Anyone who hasn’t read Susie’s Boob Report (link above), be sure to check it out. It’s a testimony of Susie’s strength and her sense of humor.

    Kristen, your journey to where you are now is also an amazing and uplifting story, and I love how you share it with us and offer hope to others. I can relate to so much of what you’ve gone through. If it wasn’t for you, your words of wisdom, and support from other WANAs, I wouldn’t still be blogging. Thanks so much, Kristen.

  6. Perfect. 😉 Thank you for creating WANA so that we writers are able to connect with each other. After all, it’s by using your hashtag that I met Susie.

    And thank you for writing about her today. She’ll love seeing her name in lights on your blog. You know, once the drugs wear off.

    xo @rasjacobson

  7. You got it right, Kristen – finding WANA was a game changer for so many of us! Big time. I hope you can always step back and let what you’ve done with your simple idea sink in. ‘Cause it’s pretty awesome.

    Lots of prayers for sweet Susie.

    1. You guys made it what it is. I didn’t have the vision the WANAs did, and I’m happy y’all took the wheel and made it fabulous and only more fabulous all the time. I always just watch you guys with wonder, the cool new stuff you’re always coming up with…like how to help Susie.

  8. Kristen, I always love your posts, but this one is particularly beautiful. It captures the WANA spirit in big ways and in small. I’m so grateful for this community.

    And I agree with Renee, Susie is going to LOVE seeing her beautiful photo all over the blogosphere.

    • Melissa Lewicki on May 31, 2013 at 1:24 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for this post. I boogied right over to Susie’s blog. She is amazing. Thanks for “introducing” us.

  9. I just blogged today about my annual mammogram…maybe it will provide a smile to those who like me have a family history of breast cancer and who are actually experiencing it.

  10. Awh, this is so teary. WANAs are the best!

    • malindalou on May 31, 2013 at 1:44 pm
    • Reply

    I have known many breast cancer warriors and have been through 2 (negative, thank goodness) breast biopsies myself. Hugs and Prayers to Susie!

    To those of you who are inspired to have a mammogram after reading this (a great idea), I have a tip. Make sure you go to a facility that does DIGITAL ones. Don’t be afraid to ask before you book your appointment. They are much more comfortable and accurate than the old analog ones.

  11. I’m praying for Susie and keeping her in my thoughts. She is an amazing woman. And so is WANA family – strong, amazing, funny, smart, and loving.

  12. I took a night off work to meet up with Susie, Lynn Kelley, August McLaughlin, and Debra Kristi in Los Angeles last year. Best use of a vacation day ever! Such a wonderful post, Kristin. Thank you for bringing us all together.

  13. Don’t forget us guys who want to share our WANA love. We have mothers, sisters, daughters and wives that face this issue. Just wanted to pull out my “man card” in support of her as well.

    Good luck Susie, we got your back.

    1. That, and sadly, men get breast cancer, too. We have a lot of great WANA menfolk, but they’re all camera shy. Jay Donovan, Patrick Thunstrom, Derek Hawkins, Samuel Solomon, just to name the few that come to mind.

  14. To Susie: Thoughts and prayers are with you! To Kristen, our WANA Mama: You’ve changed so many lives (mine included) and I cannot thank you enough. Mwah!

  15. It’s wonderful how you bring so many people together, Kristen. We are not alone! I’m on a team for my town’s Relay for Life, which is coming up, and Susie will be in my thoughts and prayers as we raise awareness and money for a cure. Wishing Susie a quick, easy recovery!

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

  16. Great post, as always. Went to read Suzie’s story — pretty close to what I went through, but she’s braver than I was, and laughs more than I did. It made feel so good to read her story, so thank you for the link. I’m sending a bunch of love, hugs and prayers.

    Thanks again,

  17. I don’t think you could have possibly given me a more ringing endorsement for the WANA community.

  18. Though I never got too deep into the WANA group (aside from a few tweets), I have to tell you that this post almost made me cry. I suffered a lot of teasing as a child and self-doubt as a teen, to become an adult who has to continuously remind herself of all she has in life, and I’ve never had a lot of friends to help me through those things. Reading this post reminded me that there are others out there is you just reach.

    P.S. I read this post on my phone while at work and my coworker asked if I was okay…it was all I could do to keep the tears at bay!

    1. Awwwww *HUGS* Yep, we are here. Just a tweet a post or a call away. It really is rewarding. Wish I’d have thought of it, LOL. So many people like Renee Jacobson, Jenny Hansen, Angela Orlowski, Lynn Kelly and SO many others really made WANA the community it is. They recruited others and spread the WANA love and it’s been a fun ride. Better than I imagined. Happy you’re joining our cult…um family. Yes, family :D.

  19. Kristen, the online community you’ve created is absolutely wonderful, and I have to thank you so much for being behind it all!

    When I compare the warmth and supportiveness of the WANAs with the unprovoked territorial hatreds that colour the New Zealand writing scene, I am heartened, and my faith in the basic goodness of people – and of writers – is restored.

    To me there is no question – we ARE all writers together. Anywhere in the world. It’s a calling, and it’s a calling that we can make stronger by combining our strengths. Working together to benefit each other – and our readers. As you have shown.

    All strength to the WANAS – and, all the very best wishes for Susie!

    1. Well, Matthew. Can’t you start a division of New Zealand WANAs? Would be AWESOME…namely because then I would TOTALLY have to VISIT. And all the love and community and such :D.

  20. A gluten-free diet, I have always wondered if wheat stimulated my allergies or caused an allergic reaction. I would break out in hives from some beers and I thought it could have been from the barley. I can eat oat meal and I love oat meal cookies, but in the past bad oat meal caused a swelling in the throat area, which made it difficult to breathe, as if I was having an asthmatic attack.

    On articles and comments I have suggested for the medical society doing research on insect bites causing breast cancer, for example spider bites. The spider venom or fluids build up from a spider bite would cause the bumps and growth. It has to be drained anywhere in the body, if medication does not work. Containment.

  21. Great post, Kristen! I doubt that I would still be writing if Shannon Esposito hadn’t introduced me to the WANA’s. Having such a wonderfully supportive online writers community has been a Godsend to me. I love how we rally around when one of us needs advice, a pep talk, a virtual hug, etc.

    And today we are channeling so much positive WANA energy in Susie’s direction. It’s awesome! We love you , Susie!!

  22. Dear Kristen, I hope you know that the WANAnation credits you with connecting all of us, even when you don’t hear from some of us that often. We are strong and together and proud to be WANAs. There are stories much like Susie’s that you don’t necessarily hear about but WANA support is doing some amazing things for others too. You started the ball rolling that resulted in the creation of a fine community that is a testament to what friendship is all about. Thanks for that!

  23. p.s. I’m off to send Susie some #SusieStrong tweet love! Kudos to the thoughtful WANAS who set it up!

  24. What a beautiful thing you created, Kristin, this WANA world. Such great stories. I tweeted love and healing to #SusieStrong.
    Are there any WANAs in Chino Valley or Prescott AZ?

    1. Probably. Get on #MyWANA and ask. Also WANATribe is a good place to find local WANAs.

    2. Heidi – I believe Stephanie Jefferson and Melissa Bowersock are in the Prescott area. Both can be found on the WANA site. Stephanie is a member of the very active and awesome Children’s Tribe, and Melissa started an Audio Books tribe, a CreateSpace tribe, a Time Travel tribe and probably a few others! She saved my sanity (along with the others in the CreateSpace tribe) when I was having meltdowns getting my children’s book ready to self-publish! Good luck finding other WANAs in your area.

      1. See? WANA Love IN ACTION!

  25. Reblogged this on Stilettos, Stoli & Scribbles and commented:
    We really really Are Not Alone. We are WANAs! Pass on the love and support!

  26. Your book and community couldn’t be titled better. All I could think while reading “We Are Not Alone” was that I felt like I was hanging out with a sharp, hilarious friend. I still do, and have since gained many such friends. Thanks for all you do for the blogging and writing world. It’s comforting to know that we all have one another.

  27. Well, I guess I can’t join WANA… but I sure wanna. What fantastic spirit and support… Susie is safe in your embrace!

    1. Of course you can join WANA. Welcome to the Dark Side. We have cookies :D.

  28. Thank you, Kristen, for this moving and poignant story about Susie. What a beautiful endorsement of the WANA group. Bless you for sharing.

  29. A most excellent post Wana mama! Yep, we wanas stick together. I know from personal experience the support I had last year with everything my dear hubby and I went through. I didn’t know there was a Susie blog tour today. What a wonderful tribute to a very open, brave, beautiful lady. Yet, I do want to say that we had another Wana during our Wana1011 class who had breast cancer. And that is Christine MacKenzie. What a spit-fire of a woman, that Christine. Another Wana that has looked Cancer in the eye. Who has won a battle, yet is still engaged in the war. Is it ever over? There are so many that are dealing with so many issues. It is rare that you meet such a special group of people, all writers, all ready and willing to help one another. It’s because they follow their fearless leader, Kristen. 🙂

  30. Kristen, You’re my super-hero! Wish there were a million of you because I don’t think you can handle a whole planet full of WANAs. There are many lonely people out there praying for a chance to connect with someone in our disconnected world. May you be contagious and spawn many new Tribes. Rock on!

    1. The mark of a good leader is she births new and better leaders ;). I hope I am a good leader because the WANAs impress me every day.

  31. Just left a comment on Susie’s blog. Breast cancer runs in my family. What is it about breasts? They become so much a part of female identity – both positive and negative attributes. My grandmother said that after she moved into the “old ladies’ home” she was glad to have had the double mastectomy. She was the only one in the shower room whose boobs didn’t hand down to her knees. She would have loved WANA. Keep keeping it real.

  32. Wayward WANA here (bet you didn’t know introversion extends into the web), dropping in from time to time like a big toe in hot water — but have to jump in here because I.O.U.. Just about the time I took the big leap (I’m a writer! yeah, right), a friend mentioned this online social media class and I might like it, and so it began, my leap into this giant writers’ safety net. From shy e-mailer to twitter/facebook/blogspot/wordpress/noveldraft1/noveldraft2-er. Zero to 60 in, well OK, two years. When I get stuck, I come here for inspiration. When I get lonely, I go to one of Susie’s parties, who I “met” via WANAworks. Thank you. Best wishes to you – and I’m sending them to Susie, too, who I see already has an update on her surgery. That woman is amazing.

  33. Alright, it is done. My first tweet ever. What a wonderful community this is.

  34. I feel like a terrible person because I have not been keeping up with #MyWANA stuff at all. My writing has taken the backseat to my reading and I really need to remedy that.

    This post is so encouraging and inspirational. I hope it’s not to late to jump back into the #WANA community.

    1. Never too late. Old friends always pick up where they left off ;).

  35. What a great post. This topic really resonated with me as my sister has been battling breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy last November, and just finished chemo. I look forward to the day when no woman has to go through this, ever. Like, Jen, I am a bit of a wayward WANA. I do read your blog often, and share the content, and get inspired by your stories, but I never seen to take it one step further. This kind of story makes invites me to do that. I do not know Susie at all, but I am deeply moved by her story. Thanks.

  36. It took me an entire day to be able to respond to this post, mostly because I was bawling my eyes out once it was done and had to set it aside (tears and migraines don’t go very well together).

    Your WANAs, and I’ve gotten the opportunity to become friendly with many of them, are wonderful women who are so warm, kind and supportive. Susie is blessed to be a part of them. Their support is so wonderful to see.

    It’s pretty cool to hear from you exactly how it all came about. What a wonderful gift to yourself and the world. 🙂

    • Tamara LeBlanc on June 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm
    • Reply

    What a fantastic post! A tearful, wonderful, inspiring post! Love the pictures, too.
    Thank you for sharing this with us, Kristen.
    Have a great weekend!!

  37. Thank you for explaining the WANA thing, it is a lovely idea. Nice that some writers are helping each other rather than being threatened by each other. Hope Susie gets through this – sounds nasty.

  38. Kristen, I’d never heard the “story behind the story” of WANA, and it makes your “family” even more special and awesome. Thanks for sharing. Prayers to Susie, and now I’m off to Twitter to send my love and support to her.

    • Yvette Carol on June 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm
    • Reply

    Hey, Kristen, you see the good you do? Wow. I’m humbled. I too, teared-up reading this post. And I just tweeted support for Susie. Since Bob put me onto your book ‘Wana’, and I found your blog, I’ve never looked back. I’m sure, as many others here do, you realize that we ‘talk you up’ whereever we go. One blogger said last year, that he was ‘sick of hearing about tribes’ and he wanted his followers to stop using that word. I thought, well, then, he ain’t found the right tribe. Ha ha. I know I have. For that, I thank you for all the work you do. 🙂

    • fransiweinstein on June 4, 2013 at 9:11 pm
    • Reply

    Great idea, great women, great post. Thank you.

  39. Wow. I’ve never even heard of WANA before. Must pick head up off keyboard once in a while. This is FANTASTIC! What a great idea!

    1. We have been going strong for a couple years and growing bigger every day. Join The Dark Side…we have cookies :D.

  40. I love it when you release a little new information about yourself into the post. I swallow every bit. You’ve been through so much!!
    I’ve tried becoming part of wana but I’m so terrible at making myself start using new websites and learning how they work. I hope my curiosity will beat my lazy hiney one of these days.

  41. Kristen! I am so grateful for ALL your WANA support! Thank you so much for your kind words! Through all these posts, the word went out across the globe to pray for me and they were answered. The results of the two biopsies put me in the 26% for recurrence and I faced chemotherapy. After the surgery, the tissue was sent to the Mayo Clinic and the final results put me at 13%!!! That, my friend, is a miracle!

    I LOVE the WANA community. It is bigger and stronger and more supportive than any physical neighborhood! My friends live all over the world. I plan to visit some of them this summer!

    Through your WANA1011 class, I made many friends. Some I have met in person and felt like we already knew each other, just like you! What a gift you are to others. MyWANA makes the vast blogosphere a small and friendly place!

    Brick House Chick is a new blogger and organized #SusieStrong day. I will have to turn her on to the WANA community. Everyone should get to know her!
    Maybe if she sees this pingback, she will stop by!
    Thanks again! Cyber (((((hugs))))

  42. Special thanks go to God almighty for using dr. okorom in curing my Cancer disease, I was having a Breast cancer and doctor told me that I have two years to live, that news brought sadness into my life, I was depressed, don’t know what to do. One faithful day I saw a testimony on how a spell caster cured a lady, who is called Rachael Mark, due to her testimony the man is a great man, quickly I copied his email, then I contacted him and he asked me not to bother myself that all my problems are over. I was happy to hear such words, he told me to buy some items, though I couldn’t find the items myself he asked me to send down the money to buy the items for me, faithfully I sent him the money he bought the items and prepared a cure for me. He told me that he is going to send the cure through courier delivery service, I paid to the courier delivery service, then, I got the cure, he instructed me on how I will take the cure. I took the cure and I was freed from the cancer, I went for scanning, the cancer was no longer there. I am very grateful for what he did for me. If you have any disease you can contact him via email on dr.okoromspellhome@live.com,

  1. […] fabulous group called the MyWANA’s jumped in and joined the #SusieStrong party headed up by Kristen Lamb. Talk about the message going out across the world. It almost went […]

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