Notes from Candice Ransom

Becoming Cinderella’s Pumpkin


Of all the characters in Cinderella, I identify most with the pumpkin, if a pumpkin can be called a character.  Yes, the dress is a big step up from rags and the glass slippers are how-fast-can-you-run-‘cuz-I’m-taking-them worthy.  But the coach!

Concept art by Mary Blair for Disney's "Cinderella"
Concept art by Mary Blair for Disney’s “Cinderella”

Imagine being a pumpkin slumbering in the moonlight when suddenly you are magicked right out of the patch.  You grow and grow, your pulpy insides forming golden struts and leather seats and steely springs.  Your seed-coins are exchanged for a pearly coachman’s perch and silver wheels.


You are wide awake and purpose-driven.


These last few years I’ve felt like a pumpkin dozing beneath broad green leaves.  I could hear crows caw overhead and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and the tunnelings of earthworms beneath my thick shell.  I was present on this planet, but I couldn’t move.  It wasn’t always this way.

flying coach

Once upon a time I was Cinderella’s coach. I raced through the night, writing book after book, giving talk after talk, piling up page after page. I had to hurry but the clock struck midnight anyway.

Things happened, things beyond my pumpkin-coach control.  I realized I was no longer sleek and swift, silver and gold, shiny and bright.  I slowed down until soon I was back in the patch, fastened to a vine, earth-bound. Just another pumpkin.


Do pumpkins get a second chance?  Do they get picked to be the coach again?

Maybe.  In April I sold a book that I’ve only mentioned to a few friends.  It’s a Step into Reading for Random House called Pumpkin Day.  Why didn’t I announce it to the world?  Because I still felt soft and unsure inside my shell.

And this month, I left the patch to participate in writer’s conferences.  I gave workshops on picture books, chapter books, middle grade fiction, and nonfiction.  I delivered the keynote speech at one conference.  As the first adviser of the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI region, I cut a 35th anniversary cake with Steve Mooser, one of the founders of that organization.


I swapped my work-rags for lacy scarves, tulle-trimmed jackets, and funky cowboy boots (no glass slipper would fit over my bunions).  I swept through a ballroom to the theme of “Superman.”  I talked.  I listened.  I hugged old friends.  I met new people.  I learned new ways of working.  I was reminded of what’s important.

I woke up, felt that old familiar drive.


Pumpkin month is nearly over.  My conference glow won’t disappear like Cinderella’s coach at midnight.  The swirling energy will linger because I’m going to implement what I learned, remember what’s important, and call those faces to mind when I feel alone in the patch.

To celebrate Pumpkin Day (out fall 2015), I picked a big round pumpkin and brought it home.  It’s dozing on our front porch, dreaming of the time it once raced through the dark night, all gold and silver, swift and determined, bright with purpose.  Wondering about second chances.


It could happen.



18 thoughts on “Becoming Cinderella’s Pumpkin”

  1. Totally get that dormant pumpkin feeling.
    You know… you got me thinking about something from when I was 6 or 7 years old. When I was a kid I used to imagine what it was like to be an unmoving rock. A small rock on the edge of a rock mountain, completely still, unable to do anything except think. Then a wind blows and the rock is knocked sideways, and now the rock has to spend the next bit of eternity on it’s side. That kind of scared me. I don’t know why I was thinking about stuff like that.

    • Did you happen to read William Steig’s “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” when you were a kid? That story is about becoming a rock!

      You were clearly an imaginative kid. I have to laugh about the wind knocking the rock sideways and it has to stay like that for eternity. We could find all sorts of ways to freak ourselves out, couldn’t we?

  2. Congratulations on the new book and new realizations. More and more, it seems to me that life is all about perspective – and that rare ability to put first things first. Defining ourselves by achievements seems like a recipe for unhappiness, but celebrating them when they come along seems like salve for the soul. From one pumpkin in the patch to another, I am grateful for the creative ideas you spark in me.

    • As your friend in the same pumpkin patch, you were one of the few people I told because you hear everything! I used to live for “yes.” I wanted to hear an editor say “Yes.” I didn’t even care much about the book after that. Just the “Yes.” But now the process is much more important (though a few more “yeses” wouldn’t hurt) and I’ve learned much of that from you.

  3. There is magic inside that pumpkin, no matter what form it takes.

    So glad for all the good news, daydreams and second chances…and above all, the backdrop of HOME. And oh, isn’t it nice to find ourselves untethered from the withering vines of our own creation?


    • Melodye, I’m offline so much, but I know you must be settled nicely in that wonderful new pumpkin shell.

      Yes, it does feel wonderful to be cut from the vine. It feels even better to hear from friends who are still there for me. I’m grateful, truly.

        • Mel! You had surgery? You broke your foot? I think I remember you telling me in September, but then I can’t remember anything. Your photos are stunning and we are *all* jealous of your flowers on this coast. The leaves are putting on a pretty show but that will be over soon and we’ll be left with gray and brown . . . and white, if we’re unlucky!

  4. Pumpkin indeed. Only you would compare thyself to a pumpkin! And yet, so eloquently. YES, pumpkins get second chances, and 3rds and 4ths. And remember those soft insides are full of SEEDS – hard, resilient, easy-growing seeds. When do you want to celebrate your new book on my blog? I’m waiting! Hugs, e

    • We know you would be the glass slipper! Sparkly and bright and one-of-a-kind.

      I missed you in Alabama, which was one friendly place! I never ate so much in my life!

      I’d be delighted to do bring my pumpkin-self to your blog when Pumpkin Day comes out next fall. Hugs back!

  5. Who wouldn’t love a pumpkin coach? I always imagined it fragrant with cinnamon, and is at least as appealing as glass slippers. Glad you are getting work down, new work out, and some starry moments in between. Yes yes on second and third chances and beyond. Quietly cheering all on.

    • Maybe they serve pumpkin pie in that coach instead of bottled water and snacks in the mini-bar.

      Here’s to both of us enjoying fall (even the raking) and getting the work done. We can’t stay in the patch forever!

  6. What a lovely post, Candice. Congratulations on your new book! I know five little ones who will enjoy reading it. Wish we could hang out in the same pumpkin patch and savor some growing time again, Guess long distance will have to do!

    • You were also one of the few I told because we’re that close. You cheer on all of my small victories and I’m so grateful we met more than ten years ago in the Philly airport. I wish my pumpkin coach would wisk me to Montana one of these days for a long in-person chat.

  7. Loved the post. Magic’s everywhere if you only know where to look, but I hadn’t thought about finding it in a pumpkin. So glad you did.

    And I’m happy to know there’s a new book coming out. Can’t wait.

    • Laurie, you knew I’d find a way to use my beloved Mary Blair in a blog post! When I first saw the pumpkin patch, I thought of babies waiting to be adopted by the just-right families. But then I thought of latent magic, the nothing-is-what-it-seems kind of magic in ordinary things, like slumbering pumpkins.


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