Notes from Candice Ransom

That Kansas Air

atlanta airport wide web

Sometimes we’re not ready to leave home, go on a business trip, or even go to the grocery store.  We’re that involved with spring chores or our work.  But sometimes we feel misaligned, out of plumb, ripping out rows of work to get back on track.  Those times we’re eager to get away, breathe different air.

On Friday I left the air of Virginia—chilly and mizzling—to fly to Kansas, where I was giving a workshop for the Kansas SCBWI.  I flew out of Richmond and took a connecting flight from Atlanta for Kansas City.  Even with the awfulness of air travel (boarding is the worst), everyone wore the air of going someplace.

I made sure I had a window seat so I could see the Mississippi.  The rumpled Appalachians and Ozarks smoothed out and there was the great river.  Southeastern farms, laid out crazy-quilt style, gave way to neat, nine-patch Midwestern designs.  You could pull those farms over your shoulders like eight-hundred thread count bedcovers.

From the airport I walked out with my hostess, Sue Gallion, into clean bright air.  My allergies stayed on the other side of the Mississippi so I took a deep lungful.  Sue, the advisor for the Kansas region, took me under her capable Midwestern wing.  We became instant friends.  As we drove south, I watched Kansas roll by.  I heard birds I didn’t know.

This is a clean, neat, well-organized state with manicured municipal lawns and four-square buildings.  Even the weeds, if there were any, behaved.  It occurred to me that Sue, who planned my trip so quickly and efficiently I’m still flabbergasted, reflects the orderliness of her home state.  Kansas people don’t mess around.

Kansas doesn’t mess around when it comes to barbeque, either.  At Jack Stack, where I was taken to dinner, not only is it acceptable to eat like a registered hog, but expected.  I did not disappoint.

Saturday I led a workshop on writing chapter books and middle grade fiction for nearly 60 people, but it seemed more like chatting with family.  Everyone was Midwestern nice, but I learned too, from this lively, funny, and smart bunch.  All too soon it was over.

Sunday I waited for my ride to the airport outside in crisp early air.  Mourning doves were nesting on a beam next to the hotel entrance.  The female mourning dove fluttered off the nest after incubating the eggs all night.  The male took over for the day shift.  Then Teresa, librarian/writer dynamo, picked me up.  Doves cooed as I closed the car door.

kansas airport web

At my gate, I watched a technician clean the cockpit windshield.  It never occurred to me that jet windshields need cleaning, or that someone does it with a rag.  The air around the bright blue plane shimmered.

Once onboard, I settled in my seat to read.  I didn’t need to look out the window.  Kansas had realigned my out-of-plumb self and cleared my vision.

In Richmond, I walked out into hot, humid air.  While I was gone for three days, spring had slipped away and summer jumped up in its place.  Trees flew new leaves like flags along the I-95 corridor and weeds cheered.  I wasn’t in Kansas any more.

I slipped back into my home state and embraced the messy, verdant green, the cacophony of familiar birds multi-tasking.  I eased back into my work, energized, and didn’t drop a stitch.

15 thoughts on “That Kansas Air”

  1. It is certainly true that a change of scenery can do us a world of good! So glad you were warmly welcomed. What a pleasure to teach when the participants are like partners, like family, and everyone has a common goal. Glad you are safe and sound back in VA – and hope to see you soon. I’m off for my own change of scenery today, too – a date day with my husband in Richmond. I can picture your working with a spring in your step after a wonderful weekend adventure!

    • It was the perfect trip in every way, mainly because the people on the other end ease worries and anxieties. And even though I wasn’t gone that long, I had a break from allergies, yard work, and Atticus!

      Enjoy your day in Richmond–the weather is gorgeous and the gardens down there are in their glory.

  2. No matter the subject, you write like a dream. Glad you got a much needed break from the routine and feel energized to get back to your writing.

    • Sometimes I wish I could stay in nice hotels–I really love staying in one room with a TV and a bed and a desk. What does that say about living in a house? Having a big home office? Hmmm. Maybe build a shed behind the house to work in?

      Atticus is napping on my desk. I’m typing this through a fluffy tail.

  3. Candice,

    I was a participant in your workshop on Saturday. I’m remembering over and over what you said about starting with place and then moving into character. Makes absolute sense. I also recall your absolute certainty that 11 year-old MCs should be allowed to be 11, not 12. Love that. And that for picture books, we need to watch our throw-away lines and ask ourselves if we’d want a 3-year old repeating them.

    Thanks for all your warmth, insight, and knowledge. Come back, won’t you?

    P.S. You’re right. Sue is an expert in many things, not the least of which is making folks feel comfortable and like they’re in capable hands.


    • Hi Jody! I remember you! I’m so glad you got something out of the workshop. So many good discussions . . . like the age thing. I’d only just thought that editors and agents are pushing writers to write in a certain “bracket” to maximize audience. I’m passing that little nugget along to editors if I get a chance.

      I’ll come back in a heartbeat! Just ask and I’m there!

  4. Dear Candice,

    You gave a first rate presentation. We in Kansas and Missouri hope you’ll come back and share a bit more of your writing wisdom, humor and professionalism.

    And as a good friend of Sue’s, I can state with absolute certainty that she is indeed warm, capable and to be counted on no matter what.

    As for Theresa…she simply oozes vitality.

    Thanks once again for making your way west of the Mississippi.


    • Ann, It was my pleasure to be in front of such a lovely and lively group. People think that the presenter “revs” up the audience, but actually it’s the other way around. I pick up vibes from my audience and the day can go great, or will be a struggle (as had happened two days before).

      You bet I’ll come back. Kansas (and Missouri) is now the home of my heart. Good writing!

  5. Very much enjoyed your workshop here in Kansas (especially liked your writing project journal idea). Hope you’ll come back soon!

  6. Hi, Candice! THANK YOU for a wonderful day. I’ve been publishing 25 years and still love learning and still have so much more to learn–I learned so much from you and have extensive notes from your workshop. You’re so humble, so funny, and most of all, so talented. Because I’m a hillbilly from the Ozarks, we share our dark humor about being country folks, and I’ve had a blast getting to know you a bit and hope to continue getting better acquainted.
    It made me smile that the trip helped you out of a funk, because your workshop also helped me take a big step out of my own funk. Our family’s experienced a ridiculous amount of changes in the past decade. I think I was plain worn-out. I’d never struggled to keep writing before. But I had a dry spell, with no energy leftover for my work and for the first time in my life, no motivation. I’m coming to realize that sometimes, we’ve boiled the pot dry and it takes a spell to fill it back up.
    So all that to say–a big thank you, first, for truly inspiring me with your amazing number of publishing credits in so many different genres (I write for all ages, too, so that gives me hope it CAN be done) and letting me know I’m not the only writer who stubs her toe now and then on life.
    Hugs and high-five for a GREAT JOB!

    • Lori: I hope I get to come back to Kansas! I left too many friends there!

      We’ve had similar experiences–family changes in my life, too, that went on year after year. I struggled to work, too, as evidenced in many of these blog posts. Sometimes the only work I did was a post. You’re exactly right–the pot is boiled dry. We need someone, or something, to help us fill it up. If I’ve helped you even a little, I’m glad.

      Sometimes going someplace helps, my little trips to NYC and then Kansas gave me time to think. Just get on a train and go somewhere! As for stubbing our toes, I have a great big bunion. But I keep moving.


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