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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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).
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.
cult um, family
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!