“You Are Passionate, Jane”, a New Playlet by Diana Birchall to Premiere in Seattle

Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte banner

Seattle area residents are in for a treat next month when the premiere of “You Are Passionate, Jane” is presented on Mercer Island on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 2:00 pm by the Jane Austen Society of North America Puget Sound chapter.

Written by Austenesque author Diana Birchall, this light, bright and sparkling diversion imagines what it would be like to be privy to an intimate view of two literary legends in tête-à-tête when they meet in heaven for the first time! Staring author Syrie James as Jane Austen and Diana Birchall as Charlotte Bronte, here is a teaser description by the playwright:

“Jane went to Paradise:  That was only fair,” wrote Rudyard Kipling, and generations of readers have agreed with him.  Now, in “You are Passionate, Jane,” we follow Jane Austen right past the Pearly Gates.  She has been given the important job of Gatekeeper in Heaven, deciding which other literary figures will be allowed to ascend.  A position that has been held by dead white male authors for eons, but at last the most deserving woman novelist gets her turn.  So, when she is not writing one of her new heavenly novels, Jane passes Judgement, and in the fullness of time, the newly deceased Charlotte Bronte is brought before her.  The two women are temperamental opposites, and don’t appreciate each other’s viewpoint in the least.  As Charlotte’s passionate life and works come under scrutiny (the title quote refers to Jane Eyre), the literary sparks fly – upward.

The literary feud between these two famous authors has been long debated. Was Bronte truly devoid of any sympathy to Austen’s style? Here is a bit of backstory on how it all began…

In 1847, literary critic G.H. Lewes suggested in his review of Jane Eyre that Charlotte Bronte might benefit from writing less melodramatically, offering up Jane Austen as example and inspiration. Bronte’s strong response to Lewes’ admiration of Miss Austen has raised many eyebrows in literary circles over the centuries.

Why do you like Miss Austen so very much? I am puzzled on that point. What induced you to say you would rather have written “Pride and Prejudice” or “Tom Jones’” than any of the Waverly Novels? I had not seen “Pride and Prejudice” till I read that sentence of yours, and then I got the book and studied it. And what did I find? An accurate daguerrotyped portrait of a common-place face; a carefully-fenced, highly cultivated garden with near borders and delicate flowers- but no glance of a bright vivid physiognomy- no open country- no fresh air- no blue hill- no bonny beck. I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen in their elegant but confined houses. These observations will probably irritate you, but I shall run the risk. – Charlotte Bronte in a letter to G.H. Lewes, 12 January 1848

As “passionate” as Bronte was about her style in writing Jane Eyre, Austen is in turn, stoic and elegantly understated in her Pride and Prejudice. Two entirely different approaches; but both masterpieces of world literature. Imagine if you will, these two authors meeting and broaching this sensitive ground? It should be a very interesting and entertaining meeting.

Diana Birchall and Syrie James (2012)

Diana Birchall, who wrote “You are Passionate, Jane,” is a story analyst who reads novels for Warner Bros Studios.  She is the author of the Jane Austen-related novels Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma and Mrs. Elton in America, and also a scholarly biography of her grandmother, Onoto Watanna, the first Asian American novelist. Her story “Jane Austen’s Cat” appears in the Random House anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and her Austen-related plays have had readings around the country and in Canada.  She has given many talks on Jane Austen, at such venues as Yale, Oxford, and the Chawton House Library in England.

Syrie James, hailed by Los Angeles Magazine as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings,” is an admitted Anglophile who loves All Things Austen.  She is the bestselling author of five critically acclaimed novels: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (Best First Novel, Library Journal); The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë (2011 Audie Romance Award; Great Group Read, Women’s National Book Association); Nocturne (Best Book of 2011, The Romance Reviews, Suspense Magazine, and Austenesque Reviews); Dracula, My Love; and Forbidden, a YA paranormal romance that she co-wrote with her son, Ryan M. James. Syrie’s books have been translated into 16 foreign languages.  Her short story leads the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It.  A lifetime member of JASNA, RWA, and WGA, Syrie’s next novel, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen—the romantic story of a woman who discovers a previously unknown Austen novel—will be published by Berkley/Penguin Books in January 2013.  Visit Syrie on Facebook, Twitter, and at syriejames.com.

Please join the JASNA Puget Sound chapter for this exciting and humorous event. The meeting is free, our guest speakers will kindly sign pre-purchased copies of their books, and participants will have the opportunity to buy raffle tickets for Austen-related merchandise.

RSVP to regional@austenps.com for location in Mercer Island. I will be in attendance with bells on. Hope to see you there!


Laurel Ann

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Holiday Austen Potpourri

Holiday Jane Austen stuff  (2011)

I am so behind in blogging, so here are the whirlwind highlights of what I have been doing at Woodston Cottage and in California these past two weeks…

My Trip to California

I left my snug cottage in Snohomish and flew to Los Angeles for a quick Jane Austen-inspired long weekend. On Friday, author Syrie James and her husband Bill picked me up at LAX airport and whisked me off to a screening at the Writer’s Guild Theater in Beverly Hills for a viewing of Twilight: Breaking Dawn. (is Edward really the new Darcy?). Inquiring Janeites would like to know!

Mr. Darcy or Edward Cullen?Darcy vs. Cullen?

On Saturday we attended the Jane Austen Society of North America – Southwest Chapter’s Winter Symposium at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Four of my authors from Jane Austen Made Me Do It were in attendance: Syrie James, Diana Birchall, Laurie Viera Rigler and Brenna Aubrey.

We signed copies in between speakers and three of the ladies read excerpts from the anthology during lunch. The symposium was one of, if not the best run, events I have every attended. Beautiful historic building with amazing California plein air art, gourmet luncheon of prime rib and poached pears, and three fabulous speakers: Dr. Cheryl Kinney spoke on “A Dangerous Indulgence: Women’s Health in Jane Austen’s Time;” Arnie Perlstein spoke on “Concealed Pregnancies in Jane Austen’s Novels;” and Walter Nelson spoke on “Quackery, Snake Oil & Flim Flam Medicine.” Before lunch there was a wonderful toast to honor Jane Austen’s birthday cheered by all with mulled wine. What a fabulous event. Many thanks to JASNA – SW RC Nancy Gallagher and her team of organizers for graciously including me and Jane Austen Made Me Do It in your wonderful day in honor of Jane.

Yvonne Yao Jeweler Jeweler Yvonne Yao

Next we were off for a brief visit to a local craft show to meet Syrie’s daughter-in-law Yvonne Yao who is a talented handcrafted jewelry designer.  I was tempted — and succumbed. Who can resist beautiful bling?

Union Station, Los AngelesUnion Station interior

Then we were off to rejoin the event speakers and anthology authors from the JASNA event that day at dinner in the historical Los Angeles Union Station. Wow! Of course I had to tell the family story of how my father left Union Station in 1944 to go off to WWII. He almost missed his train because he was in the bathroom shooting craps! My dad always lived on the edge and fondly told that story.

A Day at The Huntington

Syrie and Bill James at the Huntington Library & GardensSyrie and Bill James

The Huntington Library and Gardens Rose GardenThe Rose Garden

Japanese Garden at the Huntington Gardens and LibraryThe Japanese Garden

Sunday saw us journeying to the happiest place in my Janeite world. The Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino. When I lived in California, I visited it frequently, but had not been there in over ten years. We were lucky to get in. The Pasadena area had been hard hit by a powerful and dangerous wind storm and the roads to the Huntington were littered with downed trees and debris. They had closed the grounds for two days to try to clean up.

Huntington Garden ancient live oak blow over after wind stormAncient California Live Oak blown over

There were still branches everywhere, paths blocked and huge live oak trees totally uprooted. That of course did not stop us. The weather was beautiful and clear (huzzah) and we walked the sumptuous gardens. I saw the new Chinese Gardens and many new building that they have added in the last few years.

Pagoda at the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library and GardensThe Chinese Garden

The Tea Garden at the Huntington Library and GardensThe Tea Rooms

The highlight of the day was a high tea in the Tea Rooms followed by tour through the Art Gallery which includes the Thornton picture gallery and the rest of the palatial manor house. The art collection contains some of the most fabulous Georgian and Regency era portraits anywhere. I of course visited my two favorites:

Lady Emma Hamilton by George Romney

Lady Emma Hamilton, by George Romney

Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse by Josiah Reynolds

and Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse by Joshua Reynolds.

Both ladies were great beauties of their generation and infamous for entirely different reasons. Lady Hamilton was Admiral Nelson’s mistress, which scandalized Britain, and Sarah Siddons, the most famous dramatic actress of her day. Jane Austen wanted to see in London but missed the chance.

Art Gallery at the Huntington Library Dec 2011 Art Gallery

The Huntington is renown for it’s incredible library of books, including a Gutenberg bible, and first editions of all of Jane Austen’s novels. Scholars come to visit and study its numerous and unique selection, all locked up in the rare collection room. In the main house there is also a small library of twentieth-century editions that I always enjoyed skimming through in the past. All the classic are there, including a Chawton edition of Jane Austen’s Novels. Syrie’s eyes lit up when I mentioned that I always searched for them every time I visited the Huntington. It had become a ritual for her too. As we oohed and aahed over the leather bound volumes, a kind gentleman with a great camera took this shot for us and emailed it to me. The binding is much bluer in person, but it is great to have the image and know that Syrie and I, two ladies passionate about Jane Austen, had admire them so independently of one another until this day! Ironically, the set is next to an edition of The Brothers. Do any other Janeites see the humor in these two authors paired together? The first person to know the answer, and leave a comment, wins a signed copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It! (shipment Internationally)

Chawton Edition of Jane Austen at the Huntington LibraryChawton Edition of the Novels of Jane Austen

Of course the day would not be complete without a trip to the gift shop, one of the best museum shops I have ever been to. I purchased some treasures: Jane Austen magnets which I featured in my recent Austen-inspired holiday gift selections, beautiful tree ornaments of pie slices, candy and gingerbread houses and a hat! Syrie and I enjoyed the special Jane Austen section which featured her novel The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and Margaret Sullivan’s Jane Austen Handbook. Monday I traveled to San Clemente to visit my sister and mother and then Tuesday I flew home. My cat Herman was VERY happy to see me after being looked after by family. It’s so nice to be missed! ;-)

Home at Woodston Cottage

Jane Austen attends the JASNA - PS Dec meetingJane attends the JASNA – Puget Sound birthday party!

Since I returned home, I have been trying to catch up on email and blogging — and the holidays. I attended my own Puget Sound Chapter of JASNA’s birthday celebration of Jane Austen birthday last Sunday.

Guest speaker, novelist and puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal from Portland, discussed the challenges of writing a Jane Austen-inspired Regency era novel. Her highly acclaimed Shades of Milk and Honey was embraced by Jane Austen fans as very Austenesque in style and language. She discussed the evolution of language since Jane Austen day and its challenge to modern writers. Determined to get it right, Mary had used a database of words from Jane Austen’s novels and letters in an attempt to check certain words against her new novel, Glamour in Glass, that releases in April. I had a chance to chat with her after her talk and mentioned that she might find the Austen Thesaurus helpful. She was not aware of it – and if you are not either – you can put any word in and it will pull comparable words that Jane Austen used. It’s called Write Like Jane Austen – and they are not kidding.

Charlene Kern with Jane Newly elected Regional Coordinator Charlene Kern with a friend

The JASNA – PS celebration was very festive with toast to Jane by Debra Alderman, pictures with Jane, and a food spread that Jane would definitely have approved of. It was great to see my chapter friends Marian LaBeck, James Nagle & Julie A. A very enjoyable day was had celebrating our favorite author’s birthday.

Jane Austen Birthday Soiree 2011

The Jane Austen birthday celebration is building for Friday, December 16th, an all day long birthday bash by 32 bloggers. Don’t miss out of the blog hop with each of the participants writing a post in honor of Jane, and giveaways galore.

Austenprose's Jane Austen birthday giveaways 2011

Austenprose’ birthday swag

I will be joining the festivities with a discussion of the new Fourth Edition of Jane Austen’s Letters and a giveaway of Austen-inspired note cards by Jennifer Shaphren, designer of Jenny Did it!, a copy of Jane Austen Letters (third edition) and a signed copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It. It should be a very busy day on Friday hopping around the blogosphere and leaving comments on all the blogs to qualify for the giveaways.

Laurel Ann's Infamous Golden Fruitcake the fruit cake

Lastly, yes, I am almost finished. The holiday decorating continues at Woodston Cottage. I am decking the halls with wreaths, garland, candles, poinsettia’s and fruit cake. I talked about my famous golden fruitcake last year. It’s not that sticky, gooey, candied fruitcake that people joke about being shipped around the world ten times. This is made with dried fruit soaked in bourbon. It is a knockout and tastes fabulous. May I brag about it some more? It takes two weeks to make, and no time at all to consume! Here are few slices showing how the fruit and nuts make it so showy! I am now qualified to be called the fruitcake lady.

Slices of Laurel Ann's Infamous Golden Fruitcake the proof is in the pudding

Also on my dinning table are two new arrivals: Downton Abbey season two screener from my friends at Masterpiece Classic PBS (happy dance), and an advance readers copy of Forbidden, by Syrie James and Ryan M. James. She co-wrote it with her son Ryan and it is one of the most highly anticipated teen novels of the season. My reviewer Christina can’t wait to get her mits on it.

Phew. I did it! So much news that just needed to get told. Please check back on Friday for Jane’s birthday bash. It shall be an incredible day for Janeites!


Laurel Ann

Woodston Cottage

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Austen at Large: Virginia Claire returns home from the Jane Austen Centre

Virginia Claire, a modern day JaneBack In Jane Austen Mode

Hello There Again! It is wonderful to be writing again after Christmas break. I am back at school settling in to my routine of classes and being a normal college student. I can’t even begin to say how much I miss the Jane Austen Centre though. I miss it and the people in it every day. But I am back now and have been making the most of my time.

I started out getting home on December 13th, and the week after that hosted a JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) meeting at my house. It was a wonderful meeting with a FANTASTIC turn out. We had more than 16 people , which I was thrilled with because it was so close to Christmas and everyone is so busy at that time. It was wonderful to see everyone again and to be able to talk about Jane Austen with them. We had tea and scones my mother fixed thought it was not as good as having a Lady Catherine Cream Tea and Scone from the Jane Austen Centre tea room.

I did a slide show with most of my pictures and gave an overview of the Centre, Jane Austen in Bath, and my Jane Austen travels. It was wonderful to be able to tell so many people about my experience and for them to be so interested. One of the problems many students face in coming home from studying abroad is that it is hard to communicate their experiences with their friends and family. I didn’t have this problem in the least. I got to release everything at the meeting to an interested and engaged audience. I also brought back SO much Jane Austen stuff and got to give a lot of it away as door prizes and gift for the meeting. I think and hope everyone enjoyed the meeting as much as I enjoyed giving it. I knew that my JASNA group would love my pictures stories and gifts.

Being back at school is wonderful as well not just to see old friends again but also because I get to continue my Austen studies. I am taking a Jane Austen seminar this semester which I am so thrilled about because it is taught by one of my favorite professors, Dr. Sarah English. This week we talked about Jane Austen’s biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen, and her early writings particularly Love and Friendship and Catherine or the Bower. I was so excited to be back in Jane Austen class talking about her life and works. I have never studied her juvenilia so it was nice to look critically at those and to look at what she was making fun of. It is also striking because especially in Catherine I think we can really start to see and hear her narrative voice and style beginning to develop.  Next week I have a presentation on Jane Austen in Bath. A subject that I know a lot about!!  ; )

Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine issue-37 (2009)The biggest news from me this month is that I AM PUBLISHED now!! My article “My Jane Austen” came out in the current issue of Jane Austen Regency World Magazine and I can’t begin to say how excited it makes me. It is more of a question and answer section about what got me interested in Austen, what my favorite book is, and why. I mentioned my writing for Austenprose as well so everyone should check it out. It is very exciting to see my name in print and just to be in a Jane Austen publication. Interning at the Centre provided me with so many opportunities and wonderful experiences.

Coming back from Bath has had me with mixed emotions. I miss it every day. I miss the wonderful people at the Centre and my friends from ASE yet at the same time I am excited to be back at Meredith continuing my studies and moving one step to graduating (the only problem with that is then I have to decide what I am going to do, YIKES!).  But we will cross that bridge when we come to it but right now I just have to focus on picking a topic for my thesis, translating Chaucer for my next class and reading Jane Austen. Altogether not a bad life I don’t think : ).

Till next week! Cheerio from Merry ol’ North Carolina

Virginia Claire

Jane Austen Birthday Celebration

Jane Austen party girlToday is the 233rd anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth on the 16th of December 1775 at Steventon Rectory, Hampshire England. Break out the port wine and sponge cake. 

Many regional JASNA chapters will be celebrating with gatherings & parties in her honor during the month of December. My local Puget Sound chapter was all set for the annual soirée on Sunday in Seattle until the cold weather prompted a postponement. I was greatly disappointed to have to suspend my pleasure, but glad that I did not have to drive so far in dangerous conditions. The small irony is that Jane Austen herself came into this world during a bitterly cold winter in Hampshire. Her family delayed her christening for four months until the 5th of April 1776 because of the freezing weather, so we can wait a month to celebrate in January.   

In honor of her birthday I have over the past few years read one of the many excellent (sometimes creative) biographies of her life. I have just completed Jane Austen: A Life by David Nokes and thoroughly enjoyed it. Here is a short expert regarding her birth from a letter written by her father George Austen to his sister-in-law Susannah Walter. 

You have doubtless been for some times in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were on our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was for Cassy certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago. However, last night the time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over. We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion. She is to be Jenny

Pride and Prejudice Audio, Naxos AudioBooksThe party continues at my co-blog Jane Austen Today as Vic (Ms. Place) and I  celebrate Jane Austen’s Birthday with seven great presents to our readers – seven unabridged editions of her major novels from Naxos AudioBooks. Join in the festivities between now and December 31st by leaving a comment stating why you like reading or viewing Jane Austen and you might just be one of the seven lucky winners on January 1st. Start the New Year right with Jane Austen. There is certainly no irony in it, but I am sure we can find one in her honor. 

Cheers to the incomparable Jane,

Laurel Ann

Other birthday celebrations around the blog-o-sphere

JASNA has just published Winter 2008 issue of Persuasions On-Line

Jane Austen Today

Jane Austen’s World
Jane Austen in Vermont

Risky Regencies
Lydia Bennet’s Journal
Book Club Girl
Becoming Jane Fansite
Let Them Eat Copy
Etiquette with Miss Janice
The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide

Image of Jane Austen from JASNA website 

Countdown to My Top 10 Jane Austen Inspired Holiday Gifts 2008: Number 3

Santa Darcy IconGIFT


Membership to the

Jane Austen Society of North America


Give the ultimate gift of all things Austen with an annual or lifetime membership to the Jane Austen Society of North America. Dedicated to the enjoyment and appreciation of Jane Austen and her writing, their mission is to foster among the widest number of readers the study, appreciation, and understanding of Jane Austen’s works, her life, and her genius. Local regional chapters meet regularly to learn and discuss their favorite author, her life and her works, and the Annual General Meeting is a festive and joyous event. 

JASNA membership is open to everyone interested in the life and works of Jane Austen.

JASNA members receive

  • A subscription to the society’s newsletter, JASNA News, published three times a year, which carries book reviews, news from JASNA regions, and feature articles;
  • Persuasions, JASNA’s annual journal, a preeminent source for Austen studies, with essays from the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and scholarly articles;
  • An invitation to attend the AGM, a three-day conference with an Austen theme held each autumn in a different North American city, featuring speakers, entertainment, tours, banquet, and Regency ball;
  • The opportunity to join one of the more than 60 JASNA regional groups in the United States and Canada, which host lectures, book discussions, teas, and a celebration of Austen’s birthday, December 16;
  • Participation in members-only tours to England, organized and led by professionals with special access to Austen sites.

Memberships range from an annual student rate of $18.00 to a life time family membership at $575.00. The application form can be printed from the JASNA website, so don’t hesitate. Give the gift that your Austen friend or loved one will be surprised and grateful to receive!

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