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