The Backstory - Cassondra Windwalker
There are people you follow on social media where every blue moon they might post something that would give you a reason to slow down your doom scrolling just long enough to take notice. Every so often, but that's about it. You know, the people that you started following for some reason or another a while back, but now for the life of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, you can't remember why. And yes, I realize I used a lot of commas in that last sentence. Then you have people you follow because a good majority of their posts are witty, able to post with brevity and clarity, or just plain have each post remind you of why you follow them to begin with. Meet Cassondra Windwalker.
The Backstory. She's someone I follow on Twitter (no, I am not going to call the site X). We're both pretty active within the Writing Community on the site. Her tweets are both creative and inspiring (to me, they are and will always be tweets, not posts). I knew it was just a matter of time and chance before the stars aligned for me to interview her. And now, here we are.
Let it begin!
KD: Okay, so to let you know, some questions I ask all my guests, the rest are geared to you specifically. Here’s the ice breaker. You’re Cassondra Windwalker, sure. But who is Cassondra Windwalker?
Cassondra Windwalker: I'm basically a poorly bound collection of whisky, chocolate, salt, and poetry, held together with the shoelaces of hiking boots.
KD: Gotta say, many guests have answered that question. Not a single solitary one has answered it quite that way! What do you do for relaxation?
Cassondra Windwalker: The same things I do for work: spend time in nature, read books, take long bubble baths, and eavesdrop on strangers.
KD: Glad to know I'm not the only one with a propensity for ear hustling. Give a shout-out to your corner of the world. Give me the highlights of your neck of the woods.
Cassondra Windwalker: The best thing about Alaska is her hidden abundance: lush ferns, bounding moss, masses of all sorts of berries and mushrooms, towering trees, and teeming tides. But beware - she's like that witch in the fairytales with the beautiful garden. There's a high price for every piece of plucked fruit.
KD: That, my friend, paints quite the image! Wait, let me throw in a touch of backstory right quick. I know you from your tweets. You have the ability to be engaging without asking engagement questions. You’re involved in various writing related hashtags. Which hashtag do you participate in most often? And why?
Cassondra Windwalker: Most often would have to be #hangtenstories and #vss365. They were the first ones I found when I was wandering around lost, and some kind strangers took pity on me and pointed me in friendly directions. VSS365 is truly unique: a wonderfully welcoming and diverse international community platforming voices in all genres and styles, and the original founders are some of the most compassionate and talented people you'll ever meet. Hangtenstories was founded by Janie Gouge. It's particularly challenging, because you have to create a story in exactly ten words - no more, no less. Janie was a very kind, supportive writer, and she died of COVID before a vaccine could be developed. Almost since I arrived in the Twitterverse, I started my day with her, and I haven't been able to give up the habit, even though I don't get the benefit of her prompt words anymore. I hope she'd be happy her work continues. My other constant is my #ForHelena prompt which I write every Monday in honor of another incredible writer we lost much too soon, Scott Beebe. Scott hosted many prompts, including #Poetryin13 and #TransWords, among others. Scott was also known as Helena, and my last words to Scott were that I'd always hold space for Helena. So that's what I try to do on Mondays.
KD: Oh wow. I can honestly say I never knew the backstory on most of the hashtag writing prompts I see on Twitter. Your context helps provide a deeper insight. Thank you for that. I had known of Scott Beebe. Never interacted with him on Twitter, but was aware of his influence on the writing community. I'm going to transit over to my second favorite question. It’s a three-parter. What genre of music/movies & shows/reading do you listen to/watch/read more than others?
Cassondra Windwalker: Oh, gosh. Favorites are always tough. For music, it'd probably be Irish punk, alternative rock, and folk/bluegrass. For movies, I really love thrillers and anything emotionally riveting, like Brian and Charles. Reading? I swing wildly there. Literary fiction, romance novels, suspense, historical fiction, fantasy...oh, that's right. All the genres.
KD: I just made a mental note to look up Brian and Charles. Okay, indulge me on this one. I know it’s going to sound a bit like the third question but, Alaska…why?
Cassondra Windwalker: Everybody wants to go to Alaska at some point, right? My husband is an engineer, and one day I saw an ad looking for a person with his skills, and I just flippantly said, hey, wanna move to Alaska? He said yes, and a few weeks later, we packed up the moving truck and here we were! If you're not going to pursue the occasional spontaneous adventure, what's the point of being alive? We have legs instead of roots for a reason.
KD: I'm reading your response and smiling. Like, yeah, this is why I like doing interviews. Sharing your world with others. Two sentence writing advice.
Cassondra Windwalker: Don't take writing advice. Take grammar advice, submitting advice, marketing advice, but never writing advice.
KD: And this is my first favorite question, and I daresay probably the most important. Coffee, tea, or...?
Cassondra Windwalker: Coffee, black and hot. Tea, sweet and creamy and hot, or sweet and iced. Whisky and rum, always.
(Now, there was a time when I would only mention "coffee or tea" as options. The moment I threw that "or" off in there...)
KD: How would you describe yourself as far as personality and character?
Cassondra Windwalker: Driven and introverted. Trying to grow and learn and improve as a human.
KD: Nice. I like that. I like all of that. And how do you think your friends would describe you?
Cassondra Windwalker: She's always cold, she knows where all the bathrooms are along every highway in the United States, and she's your best resource for snacks.
KD: Wait, so then you'd be able to tell me if there really is a difference between the Left Twix and Right Twix? Because I have my theories. Anyway, two sentence life advice.
Cassondra Windwalker: Move. Move your understanding, move your beliefs, move your hands, move your feet.
KD: A lot was said with those two short sentences. Perfect. What, to you, is the greatest aspect of America?
Cassondra Windwalker: Possibility. America has broken my heart and disappointed me over and over, but she holds in the seed of her conception a body of ideals we still strive toward on our best days.
KD: Flipping the coin, what do you feel is the greatest challenge facing America.
Cassondra Windwalker: If America is ever to approach a fair and just and free society, she first has to acknowledge with cold eyes everything she has done to make that impossible. We can't fix what we won't acknowledge is broken. As long as we hold to this fairytale of American supremacy, we kneecap ourselves.
(There's a reason I like asking those two questions. This is Americans being honest about how they see America. Both her pros and her cons. Her rose petals and her thorns.)
KD: What are things you’re passionate about?
Cassondra Windwalker: Human rights, the natural world and our relationships within it, spiritual understanding, and again, obviously, chocolate.
KD: Obviously! Name something you wish you would have known or learned way earlier than you did.
Cassondra Windwalker: Systemic racism and institutionalized injustice. I really believed these were things of the past or things that existed only in other places, and because of that belief, I contributed to the problems without even realizing it.
KD: I can understand and respect that. Thank you for that acknowledgement. Okay, now here’s an either/or. What’s a movie you loved but the book disappointed you. Or a book you loved but the movie disappointed you?
Cassondra Windwalker: The Martian. I read the book first, and it was unbelievably painful and pedantic. The movie did a fantastic job of pulling the story out of all that text. Probably the only instance in which I've ever preferred the movie.
KD: I felt that way about Forrest Gump, only the other way around. So much in the book wasn't included in the movie. The cannibals, Raquel Welch, the astronaut, etc. But I digress. What was your greatest "aha” moment?
Cassondra Windwalker: One of my hardest learned life mantras is that everyone does what they want, me included. Maybe I'm unhappy about a situation I'm in, but for whatever reasons, it's not worth it to me to change it. I've weighed the alternatives and the consequences of a change and chosen to stay, and I need to either embrace that or make the hard change. That means other people are doing what they want, too. I no longer buy into their excuses.
KD: Aha, indeed. So now let me nuance it a skosh. Yes, I said skosh. Can you tell me about a “wow” moment you once experienced?
Cassondra Windwalker: While I was out on a whale-watching trip in Santa Barbara, a pod of orcas came alongside us and were showing off their infants to the boat. It was magical and so emotive. A powerful connection of joy and play between two species.
KD: I'm trying to picture how I'd feel encountering a pod of orcas. Besides thinking how cool their black and white skin is. What would you consider to be your holy grail? As in, an ultimate goal you have sought to attain. Have you found it?
Cassondra Windwalker: One I've attained, and one I hope to accomplish in the next year. As difficult as it is to ever place poetry even in a lit mag, I didn't really believe I'd ever be lucky enough to publish a book of poetry. Somehow that happened, though. My first book of poetry, "The Almost-Children", was published in 2019. My chapbook "The Bench", on social justice amid the pandemic, won the Helen Kay Chapbook award and was published in 2021. The next year I published "Tide Tables and Tea with God", which was later awarded the Excellence in Poetry Award from Cinnabar Moth Press.
As for what I still hope to accomplish, I've dreamed all my life of writing an Arthurian novel. It's such a saturated field, but I think I'm finally ready to make a unique contribution to the genre. So we'll see if I pull that off.
KD: I had the honor of interviewing Kisstopher Musick, the Head of Marketing for Cinnabar Moth. A wonderful interview. What's an unpopular opinion you stand by?
Cassondra Windwalker: Iced coffee is the work of the devil.
(Dear Lord in the Seventh Heaven, gimme strength!)
KD: If peeps wanted to reach out and connect, what would be a preferred method?
KD: I included your social media as links to make it easier for the readers to find you. Any projects you'd like to promote?
Cassondra Windwalker: I'm super excited about my upcoming horror novel, "What Hides in the Cupboards" (Unnerving Books.) I gave myself nightmares with this one! The e-book is available for preorder now, and both e-book and paper book formats will be released January 30, 2024. Here's a teaser: The celebrated enchantment of the Four Corners was supposed to bring ceramic artist Hesper Dunn back to life after a tragic accident in Chicago robbed her of nearly everything she loved, but the spirits waiting for her here are anything but benevolent. The ghost of a grief-stricken father watches from the mirrors, and a malicious shadow-child destroys everything she tries to create. As chaos and madness eat away at her, Hesper clings to the love of her husband as the last bulwark against the darkness, but there’s something wrong with Richard, too. Something hiding…
KD: Okay, that was one heck of a teaser!
Thank you, Cassondra Windwalker, not only for being a part of The Backstory, but for giving us a glimpse into your world in your own unique way! And, of course, a special thanks to you, my readers, for making the interviews worthwhile. If you catch me on Twitter, feel free to say hello! Until then, "Take a break from your world...visit for a while in mine. Come often. Stay for a spell."