An Austen Intern Reports In from The Jane Austen Centre: Week 1

Austenprose is very pleased to present our first feature columnist, Virginia Claire Tharrington, straight from the trenches of Austen central, The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England where she is interning until December. Join her every Saturday as she shares with us her incredible adventure that every Janeite, and even Austen’s heroine Catherine Morland would envy!

Jane Austen once wrote, “if adventure will not befall a young lady in her own village she must seek them aboard.”  This I am doing to the fullest extent. I have come all the way to Bath England, in my junior year of college, to study and discover both Jane and myself. I am an American student from an all women’s college in North Carolina who has come to Bath to study with Advanced Studies in England for the semester and intern in the Jane Austen Centre.

My love for Austen started at a young age. In fact, I don’t know if I remember a time before Lizzy, Darcy and Jane. My mother got me hooked at about 3 years old on the videos when I would watch the older 80s version of P&P for hours, even as a young child. Then I would beg her to read it to be by calling it “Pride and Precious” because I could not say “Prejudice”.  Mom thought I had just fallen in love with the clothes or something like that but I believe that it went deeper than that. Years later when I had a sister 10 years younger than me I tried to get her to watch the videos with me as I had but she had NO interest in sitting in one place for 30minutes much less 3 hours so I had to give up hope of bringing up another Janeite in the family.

I read the books for the first time on my own in about 6th grade. Ever since then Jane Austen has been a staple of my literary life. My obsession has slowly grown through high school where I started a Jane Austen Book Club my senior year, and was definitely know as the girl with a strange obsession with Jane Austen .

It was also through this book club that I got involved with JASNA which has influenced my love of Jane considerably. I got involved with the group just as a way to make contact for my book club and get advice, but it has become so much more. I am now the regional coordinator for JASNA NC. This has been an amazing experience for me not only because I am so young but it has given me a new love for Jane Austen’s legacy. It is absolutely amazing that she is so popular and still touches so many people almost 190 years after her death.  I also have been collecting copies of Pride and Prejudice for years (much to my mother’s dislike because she doesn’t know why I have sooo many). I have more than 60 copies and in 6 languages from all over the world. Anytime I travel to a new place I try to get a copy to remember the trip by.

I found my internship and study abroad program because I was googling “Jane Austen internship”. Several years ago I had seen an article on a publication from the Centre that an intern had written. I was slightly excited at the time that a place like the Jane Austen Centre in Bath would have interns but I didn’t know how you would go about getting the position so I forgot about it, until my fateful online search.  Once I saw that ASE offered a program in Bath with the internship I can remember going to tell my mom “I am studying abroad next semester“.  She was slightly shocked because I was already going to be studying in Iceland for the month of June and we were also at a Basketball game so I think she just thought I was excited. But anyone who knows me know that once I get my mind on something it is almost impossible to keep me from completing my goal.

Though the journey to securing the internship was anything but an easy road, it has paid off tenfold in my time here thus far. I cannot wait to continue to share my experiences because I know this is a chance of a lifetime and any Janeites dream.  Let’s just hope that “adventures” continue to befall me!

Signing off until next week,

Virginia Claire Tharrington

Intern, The Jane Austen Centre, Bath, England

The Austen Tattler: News & Gossip on the Blogosphere

“All that she wants is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.”
Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31

Around the blogosphere for the week of September 1st

The first reviews for Jane Odiwe’s Lydia Bennet’s Story are in, and honestly not a suprise!

Austen-esque author Marsha Altman is featured at Jane Austen Today and Jane Austen in Vermont discussing her new book The Darcys and the Bingleys published by Sourcebooks, and now available at bookstores.

If you are as excited as I am about the premiere of the movie Duchess, staring Austen actress Keira Knightley (Pride and Prejudice 2005), check out The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide to the 18th-century. This informative and slightly sardonic blog is like a gossip rag from the 18th-century but with a modern twist. I particularly enjoy the Tart of the Week posts, and the recent Hunk alert on Richard Brimsley Sheridan written as a hip singles ad. Jane Austen would have been amused!

Some people understand what makes a Jane Austen heroine tick, they just don’t want to be one! And then, a few days later they change their mind!

Austen-esque author Diana Birchall is interviewed about her two books currently in print, Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma and Mrs. Elton in America by Vic (Ms. Place) at Jane Austen’s World. Discover what makes Diana one of the most admired sequel authors in print, and where she got her wicked sense of humor from.

Join the Jane Austen Book Club Online as they read a novel a month. September is Emma month, so break out your copies and delve in to Highbury again!

Lost in Austen, the new time travel inspired slant on Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice was televised in the UK on September 3rd. The advance reviews have been mixed, to put it kindly. AustenBlog has all the scoop and updates, so check it out.

Do you know the 7 key elements to Jane Austen’s writing success? Romance writer Tina M. Russo does and explains it all for us in her clever an insightful post, What Would Jane Do?, at The Seekers blog. Enter a comment for a chance to win a copy of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict or The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.

The Becoming Jane Fansite chose one of my favorite quotes from Emma for their quote of the week.

Austenprose is happy to announce a new weekly column entitled ‘An Austen Intern Reports In’ running on Saturdays until December from Virginia Claire Tharrington, the newly appointed intern for The Jane Austen Centre in Bath. This very lucky young Janeite will be sharing with us her weekly news and insights from Bath, England, the heart of Jane Austen’s world and the home of The Jane Austen Centre. Please return on Staurday, September 6th for her first installment as she shares with us how she turned her passion for Jane Austen into a once in a life time opportunity. Stay tuned for this very exciting Austen adventure. Woundn’t Catherine Morland be jealous?

Cheers to all, Laurel Ann

*Watercolour engraving by Thomas Rowlandson, Jealousy, The Rival (1787)

Jane Austen Retold: Reaching Young Readers, Part Two

Image of banner of covers of Austen Retold, by Gill Tavner, Real Reads, (2008) 

“They have both,” said she, “been deceived, I dare say, in some way or other, of which we can form no idea. Interested people have perhaps misrepresented each to the other. It is, in short, impossible for us to conjecture the causes or circumstances which may have alienated them, without actual blame on either side.” Jane Bennet Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 17

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR

GILL TAVNER CON’T

Welcome to the continuation of the on-line interview of Gill Tavner, author of Real Reads six new editions of Jane Austen’s novels retold for a young readers. You can read my introduction and the first part of the interview here.

Image of author Gill TavnerWhat were your challenges as a writer to interpret Jane Austen’s story lines, characters and intentions?

“An obvious problem with them all was length. Jane Austen allows her characters to reveal themselves gradually by the things they say and do. I had only 5,000 words within which I had to do so much. I hope that I echoed Jane Austen’s technique in this, but I occasionally had to offer a little more explicit guidance to the reader.”

Jane Austen touches upon many aspects of human foibles and faults. How did you deal with the adult themes and social humour?

“In order to convey the all-important social humour, I had to be very selective about which moments to highlight and the degree of understanding that would be necessary for the reader to understand the point. It was important, for example, that Emma’s hurtful comment to Miss Bates should be understood as the moment is crucial in the heroine’s development. This meant that certain facts about the relative status of the two had to be understood, which meant a degree of explanation was necessary. The humour of this moment is in the painful discomfort it causes. All very tricky, and all a very enjoyable intellectual process.”

Tell me about the research and writing process for you. How long did it take you complete each book?

“For each book, I followed a very similar, if not identical process. I first of all read through it fairly quickly in order to propose to John how I might approach retelling it. I then reread it making very careful notes as I did so. This took about a week. I made many of my decisions during this part of the process.

I then spent a couple of days reading Jane Austen research, commentaries etc. This was primarily to ensure that I hadn’t overlooked an important theme or aspect of somebodies character.

With constant reference to my notes, I wrote my version. This took another week. The editing, illustrating etc created in total about another week’s work for me.”

Image of the cover of Sense and Sensibility Retold, by Gill Tavner, Real Reads, (2008)What was the process of working with the illustrator Ann Kronheimer? Did you suggest certain passages or sections to feature?

“Working with Ann has been a delight! Once the editing process was underway, I sent Ann a list of illustrations. I tried to choose scenes that would highlight an important incident, aid understanding of the text or even provide some information that I had had to omit in the interest of economy of words. An example of the last of these is a picture of Pemberley. I felt it was important that readers should understand the grandeur of Mr Darcy’s home.

Ann’s pictures astonished me. From my tiny piece of information she created the picture that was in my mind – but better than I had imagined it. I love her drawings and think her use of colour is wonderful and original.”

What is the most positive and negative outcome for you as a writer in this project?

“The most positive outcome is that I loved every minute of it and I think we have achieved our aim. Several friends’ children on whom I have tried out the books then went on to read an original Jane Austen.

As for negative outcomes, encountering strong opinions against this process has occasionally been hard, and has led me to question it myself. The only argument I have read that really troubled me was that I might actually put somebody off the original. The person who made this comment had not seen my books. I would hope that the eventual balance will be more in favour of the number of people I lead to the originals.”

Image of author Gill Tavner

Who is your favourite Jane Austen character and why?

 

“What a difficult question. Who would I most like to be? Who would I most like to marry? Who amuses me the most? The creation of which character do I most admire in Jane Austen? Shall I answer them all?

I’m sure that the majority of Jane Austen’s female admirers like to think of ourselves as the spirited Elizabeth Bennet. I enjoy the scene in which she walks to Netherfield. I would love to think I might one day develop the qualities of Ann Elliot and Elinor Dashwood. As for the men, I would have to give a proposal from Mr Darcy or Mr Knightley serious consideration. I am attracted by Edward Ferrars’ desire for a quiet, humble life but I like the quiet brooding of Colonel Brandon. As a couple, I like the way that Admiral and Mrs Croft operate.”

Can you add any humorous or insightful antecedents that you encountered with the project?

“My five year old daughter now thinks that I created these characters. She similarly thinks I am responsible for Scrooge and Fagin. Don’t worry – I have disillusioned her.

Some people I meet regularly now seem to see me as a listening post for their ‘all I know about Jane Austen’ monologues. I have had to defend poor Jane against all sorts of ridiculous assertions and prejudices.”

End of interview.

Thank you Gill for sharing your intellectual process with us. I appreciated your thorough research and understanding of Jane Austen’s works.

Image of the cover of Emma Retold, by Gill Tavner, Real Reads, (2008)In conclusion, my first impressions of this project were influenced by my personal concerns of interpretation and integrity. Like Lizzy Bennet, my journey to self discovery was both revealing and enlightening. The editions are visually appealing. The text was well thought out, humorous and engaging for the two ten year old girls, (their prime audience), that I tested them out on. The young ladies thoroughly enjoyed the stories and loved the illustrations. For an adult perspective, if I was learning English as a second language they could be useful. They are not a substitute for the real texts. Students seeking quick answers for their English essay can read the Spark Notes treatment, however, there is just NO excuse for young adults not reading the real thing.

Like other recent Austenesque novels such as Mr. Darcy’s Diary or Letters from Pemberley, these retellings are inspired by Jane Austen’s prose and are not a replacement of them. Should this project have been attempted? Yes. Should they be marketed to adults? Not intentionally. Will they open up possibilities for young readers to advance to the full novels? Definitely.

Jane Austen Retold: Reaching Young Readers, Part One

Image of banner of covers of Austen Retold, by Gill Tavner, Real Reads, (2008) 

 “I dare say you will find him very agreeable.” “Heaven forbid! That would be the greatest misfortune of all! — To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an evil.”  Charlotte Lucas and Elizabeth Bennet on dancing with Mr. Darcy, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 18

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR GILL TAVNER

It is always a happy discovery to learn that new Jane Austen inspired books are in the queue. Recently we have had a boatload to look forward to such as The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, A Walk with Jane Austen, and Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. When I first learned about the publication by Real Reads of Jane Austen’s six major novels retold for a young audience, I was both excited and apprehensive.

When word of the new editions hit the Jane Austen community last year, the emotional and turbid response was not surprising. Janeites are quite protective of their favourite authoress, and immediate questions arose concerning how Jane Austen’s works could be shortened and retold for a young audience without severely altering her original intent. And more seriously, should it even be attempted?

These were intriguing questions, and I felt compelled to discover the answers! I was fortunate to be able to go straight to the source, author Gill Tavner and publisher John Button, of Real Reads in England. Ms. Tavner graciously agreed to an interview, the results of which will be included in two posts published here over the next two days.

Image of the cover of Pride and Prejudice Retold, by Gill Tavner, Real Reads, (2008)The six new illustrated volumes include; Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The first two novels will be officially released for sale today and revealed with great fanfare at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England. The last four novels will be released in the UK on March 27th. No launch dates yet in North America, but hopefully they will follow shortly after their UK release dates.

The paperback editions with colour dust jackets run about 65 pages in length, and are generously illustrated in colour by the talented artist Ann Kronheimer. In addition, the volumes are sandwiched by a character listing at the beginning of the text, and an expanded “Taking Things Further”, at the conclusion of the text including plot and character expansions, historical and social perspectives, and further resources for the reader. Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice are available for purchase at Amazon.co.uk., and at Lovereading4kids.co.uk online. 

Image of author Gill TavnerAuthor Gill Tavner was open and honest about her aspirations and objectives in retelling Jane Austen’s classic novels. What transpires in the interview might surprise you. 

How did you become involved in the Real Reads Austen project?

“A chance meeting with John Button of Bookcraft led eventually to a conversation about how classics could possibly be retold for children. We both thought that it would be possible and important to do this with intellectual integrity, and if done well, it would have considerable value to many readers.”

Who did you write these retellings for? Who do you hope to reach?

“Our initial aim for all Real Reads was to write for children between about eight and thirteen years old. These are still the readers I have in mind when I plan and write.

For some readers, I hope that Real Reads light the spark of enthusiasm and confidence to lead them to the original. Accordingly, our notes at the back constantly send the reader back to the original. For other readers, who, for whatever reason, might never have read the original anyway, my books can give them access to great plots, characters and moral issues which have become a part of our culture.”

How were you introduced to Jane Austen and when?

“I didn’t read any Jane Austen until I studied Emma for ‘A’ level English (age 16-18). I then chose to study all of Jane Austen’s novels independently in preparation for the Oxford University entrance exam. At York University I elected a module on ‘Jane Austen and her Predecessors’, which I found fascinating.”

Image of author Gill Tavner

 

What interested you in retelling Jane Austen’s classic novels?

“For many years, Jane Austen has been my favourite author. Many people we consulted doubted that Jane Austen could successfully be treated (retold) in this way. I decided to consider how I might overcome some of the difficulties Jane Austen would present. Once I had a proposed treatment for all of the novels, and John had agreed them, I began with Sense and Sensibility.”

What qualities as a writer did you appreciate about Jane Austen, and did she inspire you in any way professionally?

“Jane Austen allows her characters the space to reveal themselves through their own words and actions. She rarely tells us what they are like. This is an amazing feat and closely resembles the way we learn about people in everyday life. I haven’t yet found an author who does this as well as she does.

Her wit is second to none. Were she around now, she would be a great host or guest on ‘Have We Got News For You’. (UK readers will get this reference.)

In terms of inspiring me… if only I could be half as clever.”

End of part one.

I hope that you can join us as the interview continues tomorrow, revealing insights into the writing process, and Ms. Tavner’s concluding remarks.

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