Notes from Candice Ransom

Hitting the Refresh Button

Confession:  I don’t know where the refresh button is on my computer, or what it does.  I only know I’ve been told to “refresh” a page for up-to-date information (I think).  I just click out of the Internet and start over.  Don’t laugh.

In 1982, when my husband bought my first PC (an Osborne we still have) and dragged me kicking and screaming into the home computer era, things were pretty simple.  Then came the Internet around 1997 (for me) and that wasn’t too bad either.  I could find books from my childhood!  Twenty years later, the digital world is out of control, so many changes, so many updates, that I find myself in front of the Mr. Coffee maker, unable to figure out which button to use.  Sometimes I feel like running away.

Here at Hollins University this summer, I’ve listened to a number of guest speakers.  The question of social media platforms has come up.  People are anxious about what they should be on and to what extent (worries too often from people who haven’t even written a book).  What about the pitfalls of creating a brand too soon?  If your online persona reflects the sexy YA you just published, what if you write a picture book next?

Discussions expand to the types of social media and I remembered how MySpace was all that and a bag of cats until it was overrun with “older” people.  Young people jumped ship to Facebook, but darned if their parents didn’t follow them over there so they could post embarrassing baby photos and play Candy Crush, so next the hipsters defected to Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat.  Somehow Facebook and Twitter became “musts” for writers and illustrators, along with websites (blogs seem to have fallen out of favor), and now I’m hearing murmurs we should be on Instagram, too.

I have a website (woefully out of date and in the process of being re-done), a personal FB page and a fan FB page that I forget about most of the time.  I will never have a Twitter account and, because I don’t own a smart phone, can’t use Instagram.  As the digital world leaves me in the dust more each day, am I in danger of not being published because I don’t maintain a broad social platform?

Tomorrow I turn 65.  (Medicare!)  I have been in this business more than half my life.  Writing for children is my life.  Yes, times have changed but I’ve managed to weather those changes and stay fresh.  Didn’t nobody draw those 137 books I’ve sold.  Yet I spend more hours now working than I did back in the day.  I’m older and slower, but also more thoughtful.  Age has given me perspective and experience, things I can’t describe in 140 characters or less, or prettied up through a digital lens.

Being at Hollins allows me to refresh, away from housework and errands and the hunting and gathering of food.  I walk out the door into cardinals singing, cicadas drilling, muskrats foraging, herons stalking, buzzards gliding.  Trees and mountains and fields.  Oh, how I love fields.  Give me a blanket of chicory and Queen Anne’s lace, horses under blue skies and I’m in heaven.

Every chance I get, I ditch screens and emails.  It’s enough I do my work at a computer.  My body isn’t meant to stay hunched over a laptop, much less have a phone clamped to my hand.  What’s better than driving the little red truck down a winding road, windows down, into the deep green of a Virginia summer?

What I see won’t be Instagrammed, what I experience won’t be crammed into a YouTube video.  Real, unfiltered life seeps into my work, far more important than broadcasting on any social media.

I’m glad to be 65, old enough to have lived before the digital age and know I have a choice.  If I need to be refreshed, I don’t hunt for a button.  I just go outside.






13 thoughts on “Hitting the Refresh Button”

  1. Happy Birthday! Yes, for all it’s good the electronic media is distracting and demanding.

    I also find myself having to hit the refresh button and find peace in the natural settings of the Virginia country side. Your included photos bring me that peace.
    Getting away from Norther Virginia which has greatly changed since my youth to an area in the rural part of the state is great.
    Enjoy your Summer at Hollins and all the best.

    • I wish I lived in a rural part of Virginia–Fredericksburg has also changed. We are still within minutes of countryside, but there is still too much development.

      Thanks for the good wishes!

    • I hope I’m not just preaching to the choir and that maybe some younger people will look up from their screens. They are missing so much and don’t even know it.

  2. Having turned 68 this year, I have been working on computers for the past 28 years and had access throguh work from the start of the internet, which was extremely helpful. But I look back on my life pre social media and look at my grandchildren and think they have no idea of what they have missed out on, they are all healthy, play sport etc but the simple pleasure of walking, talking seems to have disappeared.

    I remember long talks/discussions amongst my friends as teenagers, young adults, even as older adults debating everything from religion to politics and everything in between. Nobody got upset, everybody respected each others opinions, social media seems have stripped society of allowing a person to have an opinion that maybe out of left field.

    • Carol, Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I too worry about children of today, who seem so locked to their screens, even, maybe especially, at school. A teacher told me once she couldn’t give her 4th graders “free” time to draw or write a story because the students couldn’t do anything that wasn’t associated to their Chromebook.

      When I remembered that having free time in class was the best possible thing ever–to read, write, and draw–I am saddened to learn how the digital age is eroding children’s imaginations.

      As for discussions on social media, I simply stay away, fearful any strong opinion will come back to bite me in the end. With face to face discussions, you can read the other person’s posture and facial expressions. You can’t do that behind a screen.

  3. I wish that blogging hadn’t fallen out of favor. It’s so much more gratifying than working within the confines of a pre-set number of characters.

    But to your point: YES! Let’s hit the refresh button! To my mind, there’s nothing more delicious than taking a long walk with a good friend–stretching your legs, expanding your lungs, watching mother nature at work, and savoring one another’s stories. I wish with all my might that we could turn back the clock to that simpler life, where authentic voices took precedence over curated images.

    Happy Birthday, Candice! xo

    • How I would love to spend my birthday on a long walk with you, or even just sitting in your garden watching hummingbirds. But I’m honored to have you as a long-distance friend, who reads blogs, and writes wonderful blog herself (I do read it!).

  4. I’m so glad you can get away at Hollins, even if many of the discussions center around social media. Hope there are more that take you to the wonder of childhood, that Queen Anne’s lace and chicory (chicory pretty often makes me smile — on sidewalks and highway as well as fields). Happy birthday! I’ll be celebrating 64 on Friday — my husband and I are talking about seeing Spiderman (a matinee, of course) and if weather holds, a swim. Enjoy your summer!


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