Member Spotlight: Winterdawn al'Lerlie
Author: Stephen Lightheart, November 2012
Most of us know who Winterdawn is. She has an active presence on the forums—though she isn’t as spammy nowadays as she used to be—and she’s often around on IRC as well, where, as she put it: “I enjoy talking to both old friends and new people, so if you see me online, say hi!”
- But who is Winterdawn?
Most probably know her as an Aes Sedai of the Yellow Ajah, recognizable by her cute, blonde avatar that perfectly reflects the happiness she spreads in her posts—after all, she did win the Friendliest Member Award this year. She has also recently taken on the position of Mistress of Novices. Offline, she is Rebecca, 26 years old, living in Salt Lake City, Utah. For a living, she is currently helping hard of hearing people make phone calls through Caption Call service, but her big dream is to study midwifery and become a Certified Professional Midwife in the next decade.
Almost three years ago, Winterdawn found her way to Tar Valon at the insistence of her best friend, Rinwyn Sihrera. “I never really understood the site or had much interest in reading The Wheel of Time,” she explains her initial reaction to Tar Valon. “However, after Brandon Sanderson, my favorite author, was chosen to complete the series, I decided that meant I had to read it. When I told Rin I was planning to start reading it at some point, she immediately told me I had to read it right away and that I also had to join Tar Valon. So I dutifully signed up, before I’d even started reading the first book.”
In little over a year, she had read the books and she soon became a true fan of the series, but more than that, she became a member of the Tar Valon community.
“To me, the Tower is so much more than just an online fan club or a forum,” Winterdawn explains. “It’s a close-knit community of friends and family. Of course, that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. My membership at Tar Valon has changed my life greatly. I’m very grateful for the opportunity I currently have to make a difference and give my service to this site as Mistress of Novices. It’s my way of showing how much Tar Valon means to me.”
- Offline vs. Online
The most influential part of the community in Winterdawn’s life isn’t online, however. Living in Utah, she is part of one of the tightest local Tower groups. “The people I’m close to outside of Tar Valon are some of the most important parts of Tar Valon, to me. Rinwyn, who has been my best friend since we were in high school together; Eli, who I hang out with nearly every week to watch movies and TV, play video games, and just generally goof off together; Kitan, Keisha, Asalyn, and the local friends we’ve adopted into our group who aren’t even a formal part of Tar Valon but whom we can’t have a local Tower party without, with whom I share so many random, silly inside jokes and memories; and of course, I can’t forget my fantastic fiancé, Stephen Lightheart! Yes, these relationships have definitely made my experience even better. (If I dared say otherwise, I fear Keisha would dose me with extra-strength Masmodean—now with 20% more balefire!)”
Official events are also important to Winterdawn. At Anni this year, she was raised live—“It struck me as funny then, and still makes me giggle, that a bottle of Goldschlager was the Oath Rod. For religious reasons, I don’t drink at all! I was also fortunate enough to have the only Tower experience that could trump a live raising. On the last day of Anni, Rinwyn and I became first sisters. After we'd shared a decade of friendship and spent almost two years waiting, that was the ultimate highlight of Anni for me.”
So, for those of us who haven’t met her offline, how does Rebecca compare to Winterdawn? Is she any different offline and on?
“Yes, I definitely am,” she answers firmly. “Online, I tend to be friendly and outgoing; in real life, I’m much more shy and reserved. I’m an online extrovert and an offline introvert. Once I get to know you offline, I can be just as outgoing, or more so, than I am online; it just takes me longer to get to that point.”
- Mistress of Novices
With all that talk of Winterdawn’s offline activities, one might almost forget that she is also on TarValon.net. She used to be a Frivolous Fun junkie, and still very much enjoys some the threads there, but most of her activity nowadays is in her home in the Yellow forums or in the Hallways and Dormitory, where she spends her time mistressing the Novices.
“Lillian, my mentor, was a fantastic Mistress of Novices. Having seen the influence she had, I wanted to follow in her footsteps,” she answers when asked what inspired her to apply for the position. “I want to shepherd the Novices through their first stage of Tower membership. I think the position also really appealed to my mothering instincts; while Novices come in all ages, in terms of Tower rank they’re all in the role of children, and as the Mistress of Novices, I get to help them 'grow up' to Accepted.”
“I hope to make Novicehood a fun, delightful experience for everyone,” she adds. “It should not just be a necessary hurdle to get through before guesting. I have plans and ideas about things such as reorganizing the Dormitory and playing games in the Hallways.”
How does she like the job so far?
“I love it! This may seem like a cop out answer, but I actually can’t think of anything I dislike about it so far. The first couple weeks were a little stressful as I worked to get everything organized, but even that was a lot of fun. I’ve already gotten to put two Novices before the Hall and see them raised to the ring. I had a new Novice join my fold and sought the best match to be her mentor.”
When asked about her own experience as a Novice, Winterdawn says, “I loved my Dorm room and was very close with my roommates, and I posted a lot in the Hallways, in General, and in Frivolous Fun. I took a class on the Ajahs that was a great way to learn more about them before I could guest and see for myself. Eventually though, I started to get very impatient and eager to guest so I could actually know for sure if I was Yellow or Brown, as I suspected, or some other color.”
It became Yellow, a decision she has never regretted since. “By the time I got to Yellow, I had learned a lot about myself; I was less Brown than I expected and more Gray,” she explains about her alphabetical guesting experience. “I reguested in Gray before aspiring Yellow, and it was hard to leave them when I aspired, but I have no doubts that Yellow is my home.”
What makes her Yellow is a difficult question to answer. Winterdawn belongs in Yellow, that much is certain. “As for why I belong there... that can’t be answered so simply.” But then she continues, “I care about people, I have strong motherly tendencies, I try to be sweet and friendly and loving to everyone. I always want to help make things better when anything is wrong. As a Novice, I saw a quote from The Gathering Storm that I felt fit me so strongly that I saw Yellow as my most likely Ajah even then: 'Being of the Yellow Ajah isn't about skill, child, it's about passion. If you love to make things well, to fix that which is broken, there would be a purpose for you here.' I felt that described me perfectly. One way my Yellow nature manifests is in my interest in midwifery. Another is in my religion; the way I try to live my life is based in one of the key aspects of that religion, in a promise I made to God that I would bear others’ burdens, 'mourn with those that mourn' and 'comfort those that stand in need of comfort.' To me, that is a very Yellow way of life.”
When I ask my final question—“What does Winterdawn add to Yellow?”—she laughs.
“I bring sweetness and light to the Yellow Ajah!”
Those two words, more than anything else, describe Winterdawn al’Lerlie.