Book News, Jane Austen

Austenalia at Chapman University

Austenalia panel: Diana Birchall, Syrie James, Laurie Viera Rigler and Karen Joy Fowler (2011)Austenalia panelist, left to right: Diana Birchall, Syrie James,
Laurie Viera Rigler and Karen Joy Fowler

Last February, (on a whim, because that is the only way to live, right?), I flew from Seattle to Los Angeles to attend an Austen-inspired event that I just could not pass up. Authors Syrie James, Laurie Viera Rigler and Diana Birchall, who have contributed stories to my Austen-inspired short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, were part of a panel discussion aptly entitled Austenalia, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first novel Sense and Sensibility. Chaired by Dr. Lynda Hall at Chapman University in Orange, California, the panel also included bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club, Karen Joy Fowler. All five of these ladies are tried-and-true Janeites and I hoped that it would be a lively and enlightening experience. It was. And so much more.

Prof. Lynda Hall introduces the Austenalia panel

Prof. Lynda Hall introduces the Austenalia panelist

The ladies spoke to an SRO crowd at Leatherby Libraries on campus! Prof. Hall, who is a scholar of 19th Century British literature introduced the four panelist and asked each of them probing questions on how they were introduced to Jane Austen, their road to publication and their reactions to marketing of their works, namely cover designs. Interestingly, each of the panelists has strong ties to Hollywood. Diana Birchall, author of Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, is a story analyst for Warner Brothers Studios, Syrie James, author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, worked as screenwriter for several years before tuning her pen to novels, Laurie Viera Rigler has worked in the industry including turning her popular Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict series into an original web comedy series, Sex and the Austen Girl, and Karen Joy Fowler’s bestselling novel The Jane Austen Book Club was made into a movie in 2007. Continue reading “Austenalia at Chapman University”

Jane Austen Inspired, Jane Austen's Letters, Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice

My Personal Austen: Does Reading Jane Austen Make Me a Better Person?

Image of a Silhouette of Jane AustenIf anyone out there has ever wondered where I get my inspiration to write continually about one subject – Jane Austen – for six months and counting, you might be amused at what from time-to-time inspires those brain cells into action. Many times, I will be Googling along and happen upon something that I was not searching for in the first place. Serendipity and all that! Often I get an inspiration while driving in my car! Go figure. Here is a meanderin’ tale of my trail of discovery and inspiration for this post today!

Recently I purchased the most amazing book My Dear Cassandra: The Letters of Jane Austen, selected and introduced by Penelope Hughes-Hallet, Clarkson, Collins, New York (1990). I had been aware of this book for years, but had never had the pleasure of seeing it first hand. A few months ago I read a beaming review of it by Book Chronicle whose opinions I respect and admire, resulting in it being pushed up to the top of my ‘must have’ Austen book queue. Yes, gentle readers; – I keep a list! La! 

Image of the cover of My Dear Cassandra, edited by Penelope Hughes-Hallet, Clarson & Potter, New York (1990)

The book is sadly no longer in print, which is *never* a deferent to this obsessive used book lover! I was able to track down an American first edition in ‘like new’ condition at Advance Book Exchange (www.abe.com). Hurrah! It arrived last week, and it is an eye popper; beautifully designed, copiously illustrated and reverently edited. It was a spiritual experience for me, like one of those beautiful Medieval illuminated manuscripts that monks laboured over for years to glorify the Bible! The holy grail of Austen books. Wow! Serious book swoon here!  Continue reading “My Personal Austen: Does Reading Jane Austen Make Me a Better Person?”