On October 5-8 the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Huntington Beach, California. Now that I’ve decoded all those mysterious letters, what does it all mean? Well, in short, just south of a thousand Janeites gathered to celebrate all things Austen. With serious exertions like multiple lectures, discussions and breakout sessions about all aspects of Jane Austen, her life, time and works, and more light-hearted endeavours like bonnet and reticule making, and dancing lessons, we immersed ourselves in all things Austen.
Three Austen Variations members: Diana Birchall, Abigail Reynolds and Maria Grace, and one former member, Syria James, attended. What’s more, we were privileged to participate in a number of the conference offerings.
The first evening, Diana and Syrie performed a two woman play, You are Passionate, Jane, that was written by Diana!
Charlotte Bronte (Diana) and Jane Austen herself (Syrie), appeared before us, allowing us to be privy to a most interesting discussion. It seems that even in heaven, Jane Austen in a woman of strong opinions and a sharp wit. No one channels Bronte like Diana Birchall! Aren’t they gorgeous–even … angelic.
The next day we got to enjoy the conference and the rare opportunity to spend some face to face time with each other. Though we talk to each other regularly, sometimes even daily (!) and work on projects together, real life distances keep us from being able to see each other very often. Diana and Syrie are on one coast, Abigail on the other, and I’m smack between on the Gulf Coast. It can be years between the times we get to see each other. So these opportunities are a rare and special treat.
Saturday was a big day for all of us. The amazing Jane Austen Books carried many of our books in anticipation of an evening book signing. If you haven’t checked out their web store, make sure you click on the link and check them out.
Book signings are a rare chance to spend some face to face time with readers. Book signings are especially fun at the AGM’s since they are usually before the banquet and ball. People come dressed up for the evening events and we all get to interact while wearing our regency finery. Seriously, how much fun is that?
What could make it better? Sharing a table with a friend! Abigail and I got to share a table at the book signing. Our readers got two authors for the price of one. What an awesome bargain, right?
As if that were not enough excitement, following the book signing and the banquet, came the icing on the cake! A panel presentation by three Austen Variations authors: Readers, Writers and Jane Austen: Appreciating Austen in the Internet Age.
What did we talk about? Here’s Diana’s introduction of our presentation proposal to give you a flavor: “The popularity of Austen adaptations combined with the explosive growth of the internet has brought a new audience to Jane Austen’s novels. Unlike pre-internet Janeites, who had fewer opportunities to find other fans and limited ability to contact each other, today’s internet-savvy Austen lovers are able to gather together in cyberspace and converse about Austen’s works with other equally rabid fans worldwide on a daily basis.
“As part of this increased interest, a number of authors have found inspiration in Austen’s novels, her characters, narrative voice, and style. Encouraged by an Austen fan base hungry for more stories about her characters, modern authors are exploring the joys and challenges of adapting Austen’s characters to different time periods and social milieus, spawning an entirely new genre: Austensque fiction.”
I don’t know when I’ve had such fun doing a conference presentation. It was more like a chat over coffee with old and new friends, sharing our passion for Jane Austen. What a treat to be surrounded for four days by those who ‘get’ our enthusiasm for all things Jane!
Thanks to Abigail and Diana for making it such a very memorable weekend!