21st Century Publishing by the Grace of Gluten-Free Jesus




I shambled in from DFWWCon dirty, tired, with no voice, out of energy but filled with hope. It’s been such a privilege for me to stick with this job long enough to watch it evolve. I’ve even witnessed WANA grow from an acronym in e-mails from my original editor to whittle down typing OUT my first book title (We Are Not Alone) to a binding movement where writers of all levels refer to themselves as WANAs. All genres, all forms of publishing welcome.

We don’t make you dance with snakes until your third meeting *wink, wink* 😀 .

WANA has always been about love and service instead of self. I believe WANA is the connective tissue that makes writers stronger in craft and spirit—writers knowing they are stronger together than apart. WANA has always had this wonderful mix of sage pros mingling with bright-eyed newbies.

The pros help the new authors become more grounded and educated in the business or craft. Newbies refresh our spirits. They fill us with the wonder and magic of youth, the vigor that reminds us why we write.  I believe we share the same message from different points in a timeline. Keep pressing. Keep going. Keep loving what you do.

We are NOT alone.

Have You Heard of Gluten-Free Jesus?

Okay, I am not meaning to be irreverent but I am living proof God has a sense of humor. I’m from Texas and part of our culture is church (we go shooting after 😀 ). In other states they might ask where you work, we might inquire where you go to church. Vacation Bible School is a staple of childhood.

We’ve just been through the Easter season and I SO love where we go to church, namely because when we had communion on Maundy Thursday there were two baskets of communion wafers.

So I am standing in line with Hubby. Music’s playing. We are all feeling the love. I lean over to Hubby and whisper, “So do I just ask for the Gluten-Free Body of Christ?” ….and he ribs me and says something about how he can’t take me anywhere which is true so I don’t argue.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you my belief system hasn’t affected how I’ve developed WANA or helped writers. I believe love trumps all. Love of writing will overcome the nagging self-doubt and the legions of people telling us we are fools for trying. Love for each other is what keeps us going when we go through the wilderness, those withering empty times when we start reconsidering Aunt Thelma’s suggestion that medical billing might be a better career choice. WANAs bind together for more than book sales.

We are a family who will love you and be there even when it’s ugly.

But one of the core tenets of WANA has always been we are united by love. Love for each other as human beings and artists. WANA has never taken sides in writing or publishing.

It might have been easier or more sensational for me to blast NY and call for it to be burned to the ground. Conversely, maybe I’d have had more friends in traditional publishing if I labeled all of self-publishing a gaggle of hacks. But, blessedly I have friends I adore and admire in all realms of publishing because authentic love is always balanced with truth. What is the truth?

Stories will live on. Stories are like Mother Nature. We humans could nuke the planet into a shell of itself and I guarantee you something green will poke through a crack in an irradiated parking lot somewhere. Same with writing. The institutions that govern HOW our stories reach those who want to hear them are less important than the art. WANAs are blindly devoted to great stories, not business models.

A Tale of Two Siblings

My POV? Traditional NY publishing is the older child and self-pub/indie is the younger annoying sibling. I’ve loved both and seen the strengths and weaknesses each has offer. If you read my newest book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World I feel I’m even-handed. I praise and chastise both.

Bluntness is my superpower.

Not all artists are wired for indie. It is BRUTAL. The flip side? Not all artists are wired for traditional. It is BRUTAL.

They call me the WANA Mama and it SO fits. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to break up two kids fighting.

Traditional: He doesn’t even have a STORY and yet he can publish!

Self-Pub: She is SO full of herself and won’t let me even try!

Me: Knock it off before I hairlip both of you. Trad, let your brother try. He only learns by doing. Selfie, you have to learn the rules before you can break them.

Traditional: But he is publishing a Zombie-Self-Help!!!

Me: Okay, Trad. Selfie might have a point. Texting? Real Housewives of the OC? Selfie, Trad has a point. Don’t come crying to me when no one buys it. Now both of you go play Battleship before I make you pull weeds.

Dear Gluten-Free Jesus, give me strength to love both these kids and not kill them.


So the point of all this, other than being able to use the term “Gluten-Free Jesus” is I am finally, after years of playing referee, seeing both kids learn to play together and appreciate each other. Sure, Trad has convinced Selfie that he can jump off the roof using an umbrella because Penguin from Batman does it all the time. And Selfie still reads Trad’s diary and tells the neighborhood all the best dirt. But, all in all? They’re learning to see the GOOD each has to offer. Combine strengths and buffer each other’s weaknesses.

Selfie has taught Trad that social media is NOT a fad, rather a fundamental shift in human communication. He’s made Trad appreciate some newer and ways of doing things *cough e-books* and to remember writing is FUN. Try NEW THINGS. Trad, however, is the older kid and is teaching Selfie that quality can trump quantity. She tells him to listen to his teachers. Appreciate those who’ve gone before and be humble enough to learn something. Not every thought that flits across our brain makes a book others want to BUY.

Thankfully, Optimism is my other superpower. I’d longed for a day where the lines would blur and the kids would play well together. Trad would stop putting Selfie in a chokehold and Selfie would stop feeding the dog the game pieces in order to win.

This conference left me on such a high. I always believed “the kids” would finally see what they had in common. Love. Love for stories and telling those stories and getting them to people who wanted to enjoy those stories. I always believed this new era would weed out people who are in our industry for the wrong reasons.

Agents who loved great books and good writers would innovate and thrive. Publishers who appreciated great books would evolve. Writers in this for more than a get-rich-quick would endure and everyone would have a chance to prove he or she has the right stuff. With the right attitude, this is the best time in human history to be in this business.

It is still a tough industry and not everything is as clean or just as it could be. But, by the grace of Gluten-Free Jesus we’re getting there 😉 .

What are your thoughts? Do you see traditional and nontraditional playing nicer, sharing, and learning from each other? Are you excited about the future? That you don’t have to choose which kid you love more?

I will announce April’s winner after waking from the conference coma in a couple days.

If you want more help with plot problems, antagonists, structure, beginnings, then I have a FANTASTIC class coming up to help you!


Understanding the Antagonist

If you are struggling with plot or have a book that seems to be in the Never-Ending Hole of Chasing Your Tail or maybe you’d like to learn how to plot a series, I am also teaching my ever-popular Understanding the Antagonist Class on May 10th from NOON to 2:00 P.M. (A SATURDAY). This is a fabulous class for understanding all the different types of antagonists and how to use them to maintain and increase story tension.

Remember, a story is only as strong as its problem 😉 . This is a GREAT class for streamlining a story and making it pitch-ready.

Additionally, why pay thousands for an editor or hundreds for a book doctor? This is a VERY affordable way to make sure your entire story is clear and interesting. Also, it will help you learn to plot far faster and cleaner in the future.

Again, use WANA10 for $10 off.

I’ll be running the First Five Pages again at the end of May, so stay tuned.



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  1. This conference really showed the “siblings” learning to play. Wow! It was a fabulous and educational weekend! I had so much fun hanging out with you and other WANAs, too. I met so many wonderful people.

    I highly recommend your antagonist class. It was mind-expanding for me!

    1. DIDN’T IT? I was SO encouraged. So fab ur the first comment on this post. I LOVED seeing you guys and hanging out. I want to adopt all the WANAs and start a commune, LOL.

    • Tamara LeBlanc on May 5, 2014 at 8:37 am
    • Reply

    Kristen, I AM excited about publishing’s future. I’m praying to Gluten Free Jesus that my agent gets me a nice contract in the next month or two, but if she doesn’t I have options thanks to that feisty sibling Self-Publishing (I think she’ll come through, though. She’s incredibly awesome and I’m a damn good writer…so let me shout it again, “Oh please Gluten Free Jesus, please, please make the remainder of this year a happy, successful one for me and my family!”)
    WANAs RULE and so do you, Kristen!
    Thank you for your wisdom 🙂

    • Laurie A Will on May 5, 2014 at 8:42 am
    • Reply

    Thought provoking post, Kristen. I really don’t know if traditional and nontraditional are going to play nicer. Ultimately, I think if they both want to flourish, they need to get along. I am optimistic. It seems like it’s not as much “US vs THEM” as it was a few years ago. I would like to see them work together to provide the best for everyone. I’d like to see writers pick traditional publishing because it’s the best fit and not because they see it as superior. And I’d like to see writers pick nontraditional because it’s the best fit, not because they think if means they can break the rules. Writing is like many other professions, in that, yes you can break rules, but first you need to know what the rules are and have a good reason for breaking them. I hate to see the writers that get caught in the middle, where people assume that if the writer goes traditional, they must not approve of nontraditional and the ones that go nontraditional publish too soon or do so because they don’t want to follow the rules. We need more “WANA” mentality and less “US vs Them.” The WANA movement is a great start.

    1. I completely agree and well stated!

  2. It’s a pity I am all the way out here in good ole South Africa. Of all the writing guru’s you seem to have the right idea, gluten free religion and all.
    I would love to attend a WANA myself but alas… they cannot give me the afternoon off.

    1. Actually WANAs are GLOBAL. Use the #MyWANA on Twitter to connect. We hold WANACon twice a year and it’s a virtual global conference and a LARGE portion of our attendees are from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

      1. I shall try this tonight. I am seriously social media challenged. Oh, I am on there but the use of # are quite foreign to me…

        1. The # on Twitter merely serves as a filter to connect you to the right folks. When you tweet with #MyWANA we will see you and can talk and befriend you. I recommend using HootSuite or TweetDeck. If you tweet. “Hey, Kristen made me do this #MyWANA” the #MyWANA should be hyperlinked. Click it and POOF! A column of your peeps.

  3. I love that writers have both options. I encourage the writers in my group to carefully consider their careers and evaluate which works best for them, but also keep an open mind that doing both is possible. What a great time to be a writer!

    • Martha Carr on May 5, 2014 at 9:28 am
    • Reply

    I’ve been in both worlds and sometimes in NYC I get comments about leaving the traditional world and why would someone do that unless there were problems. But things are getting easier and eventually we’ll find our balance. In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to have some fun. Thank you for being so willing to help others and inspire them to keep writing. That’s more important anyway.

  4. Thanks for adding a little hope to my revision-riddled Monday. Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond my novel-in-process to the goal beyond it: publishing – whatever form that may take.

  5. Hail WANA! I’m another believer that love and connection is what life is all about. I joined a book club in my area yesterday and what a high I got just from sitting around and gabbing about books with these ladies.

  6. What a great post and I so agree–was at the OWFI con this past weekend (when will they schedule them at DIFFERENT TIMES so I can go to both???). Having been pub’d on both sides of the proverbial “great divide” I celebrate the coming together. Long live WANA!

  7. Y’all look so tanned and healthy. Great pic, Kristen. Snuggles into hoodie and tosses another log on the fire.

  8. Kristen telling it like it is with a big dose of humor, as usual. I really appreciate this blog. Although I am ever-hopeful, so far I see no signs in public about traditional and selfie learning to play nicely together. Behind the scenes, though, they do acknowledge a bit of each other’s strengths, so maybe the future will be more peaceful.

  9. Thanks for this hopeful and uplifting blog piece. You always have such good information and advice in your blogs. I agree that the great divide is narrowing and I see more respect from both sides of the publishing aisle. I remember when paperback books first started to be really popular and there was a great divide between those published in hardback – more legitimate – and those in paper – hardly a step above pulp fiction. It would be so nice to never have a “them” and “us”, whether in publishing or in life in general.

  10. “Bluntness is my superpower.” Heh heh heh…

  11. Like always, you made me laugh 🙂 I’m choosing to look at the battle optimistically. Writers have more options than ever and plenty of ways to try new things and incorporate various forms of media. I think the debate will settle eventually. It’s still new, but so were audiobooks when they hit the scene, and I heard people freaked out that they would destroy the printed market once upon a time, too.

  12. Aw, thank you for this post. You made me laugh. Gluten-free Jesus is epic. I bet He laughed with the rest of us.

    I’m still the traditional girl myself, and go figure, I’m the older child in real life, too (maybe that’s why I’m on the traditional boat). I still protest the Kindle for crying out loud. I glare at it suspiciously and go, “Why are you called the Kindle? Kindle as in KINDLING? You’re going to burn all the books, aren’t you? Aren’t you? Don’t click your light off at me! It will all be tablets just like in Star Trek! No more smelling pages ever!” Then I realize there are other people who like sniffing books and receiving looks in Barnes & Noble, so books will be fine, haha.

    I’m slowly coming to see the benefits of social media. I bought your book among other things, so that has helped. I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of self-publishing for me, myself, and I, me personally, but that’s because I AM traditional, and I still need that professional person to tell me I did a good job. Snobby or not, that’s still how it is for me.

    I do congratulate the people that have made self-publishing work for them, though. 🙂

  13. Reblogged this on dunjav.

  14. Great post Kristen! I So… would that make Hybrids the middle child? 🙂 I like your POV because you are so optimistic.

  15. I love the options and the fact that they are now getting along better. I chose to go with a small publisher and it feels like I’ve met this whole publishing thing in the middle. They do all the stuff I don’t want to think about, like finding editors, cover artists, etc. but I’ve got to do my part and get my own platform going. But they even help with that too. If I have any questions, I’ve got a great resource, and (my hubby’s favorite part) I don’t have to pay a dime up front. 🙂

    As far as gluten-free communion bread, I bring my own. If, in the craziness of getting my 4 and 5 year old sons dressed and in the car on time, I happen to forget my gf bread, well, I just gotta skip it for the week. I’m sure God would understand why I wouldn’t want to be in pain for the next 5 weeks or run to the bathroom because I had to suddenly vomit the regular communion bread. lol

  16. I can see both sides becoming friends.

  17. Most hilarious post you’ve ever made.
    Funny thing is, I just got my first rejection letter and they told me it needed to be longer XD

  18. This isn’t a future I’m comfortable in or with, I have to say. I still am uncertainly-tiptoeing around in the waters of self-pub when I even do that anymore. I kind of veered sharply away from “writing” (at least as we currently know it) into game design, right at the point when I’d discovered WANA and all you wonderful people. I discovered right around then that I myself was one of those in the writing business for possibly the wrong reasons – not because I out and out loved it but because “there’s stories in my head that I have to write because they won’t shut up”. Remodeling them for game design, though, I’ve found a way to finally love what I do. Is it writing? Is it game design? Maybe it’s both. I’m not so sure how to come to terms with that, but I’m finding it easier to do so than to try and comprehend how regular writing is currently working.

  19. Q: Why didn’t Gluten-Free Jesus show up on Easter morning?
    A: He just wouldn’t RISE.

    (you gotta do GF baking to get that one).

    1. LOL. The first and funniest GF Jesus joke EVER!

    2. Unleavened Jesus wouldn’t rise either (’cause it was Passover).

      In our church Gluten-Free Jesus is made of rice, which is only fitting as in parts of the world Jesus is the Rice of Life.

    • Melissa Lewicki on May 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm
    • Reply

    I just got home from the DFW conference. My head is so stuffed with new info that I am worried some of it may be leaking out (like Snape’s memories.} Or maybe it’s just allergies.
    I was impressed that the NY folks I talked to were so positive about publishing in general and not just traditional publishing. And they were so supportive and admiring of writers. That’s me.
    PS I want to say again that I was not trying to avoid your hug. I really thought you were reaching for someone behind me.

  20. thanks for a totally amusing and insightful read.

  21. Glad you had a great time at DFWcon! Loved seeing photos of the WANAs and hearing about the successes of the conference.

    I don’t think they ever offered Gluten-free hosts at Catholic school though. LOL. But they did use real wine!

  22. Re WANATribe: why are the Privacy and Terms on the sign-up page Google’s? Pardon a quasi-Luddite’s ignorance…

    1. Might be something with Ning who powers the site. I’d have to ask Jay Donovan.

  23. Nice article. I’ve never liked the ‘tribalism’ I’ve seen in the two camps (Trad vs. Selfie). I love your approach.

    “Dear Gluten-Free Jesus, give me strength to love both these kids and not kill them.”

    As a Dad of a toddler and a teenager, I say this more often than you think.

    1. I’ve always seen how these two would be stronger working together. We aren’t there yet, but getting closer 😉 ….by the grace of GF Jesus, LOL.

  24. I’m reading Rise of the Machines–Human Author’s in a Digital World right now. I hold it with two hands and mumble ‘thank you’ as I go. I wanna be a WANNA, too. When I’m finished reading, I’m coming on board. Oh, thank you!

  1. […] familiar faces and catching up with friends from previous years. Spending extra time with WANA Mama Kristen Lamb is always fun and educational (if not a little irreverent sometimes). Listening to Les and Kristen […]

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