The Authors of Writes of Passage

The Authors of Writes of Passage

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Trekkie Convention for Jane Austen Fans?







Last week I attended the 2013 Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America. I'd heard someone comparing the event to something like a Trekkie convention for Star Trek fans, where the characters, language, and costumes of the books and movies are reenacted, but this event has a definite academic twist. This was my first time attending the convention, though I have been a card-carrying JASNA member for several years. This was also the first time this event was held in Minneapolis—my backyard—so I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. A sold-out crowd of some 800 people came from around the country as well as from Canada, England, India, and New Zealand, to learn more about Austen’s life, novels, and the world in which she lived. We also celebrated the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice—a favorite with Austen fans everywhere.
 

For four days, "Janeites" like me attended academic classes (on topics like inheritance laws, travel by carriage, the military, and other elements of Regency life) taught by top Austen scholars from around the world. We also attended lighter, more diverting sessions on things like the history of tea, games of the period, how to make your own bonnet or reticule, and more. And many of us attended a high tea and fashion show, where attendees were encouraged to dress for the period.
           
Matti's Millinery booth in the emporium
There was an emporium with lots of fun merchandise. For an Austen fan like me, it was like Christmas in September. Although, unfortunately, there was a glaring lack of “I love Mr. Darcy” t-shirts.

with fellow Janeite in the Regency Room

There was also a museum-like “Regency Room,” in which author Candice Hern graciously showcased her amazing collection of prints, magazines, fans, jewelry, silhouettes, etc., from the era.

I’m not crafty enough to knit my own cuffs or make my own bonnet, but I do love to dance, so I signed up to take two dance classes. The timing was perfect, because my new book is titled The Dancing Master. To write it, my husband and I had gone English country dancing several times. And I looked forward to learning a few new dances in preparation for the big ball on Saturday night. The local dancing master did an admirable job guiding lots of giggling “debutantes” through new dances, some of us even mastering the steps better than Mr. Collins ever did.
 
Regency promenade downtown
On Saturday night, we enjoyed a delicious banquet and afterward those of us in costume—and brave enough—paraded through downtown Minneapolis in the annual Regency Promenade. We drew quite a few stares and startled looks, as you can imagine. But it was surprisingly great fun.


musicians & dancing master
Then it was back to the hotel for the Netherfield Ball itself. Hundreds of people—most in costume—lined up in the ballroom for English Country dancing, accompanied by costumed musicians. As I danced, I could easily imagine the handsome young dancing master and other characters of my novel joining in.


The favorite dance of the night was probably “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot,” made famous by Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in the Pride and Prejudice miniseries, as they verbally sparred through the steps culminating in graceful lines of four moving forward and back in stately balance steps.



Alas, my partner was not Mr. Darcy. Nor did my husband attend the conference, dutifully staying home with our sons. So I danced with as many women as men that night (the majority of attendees are female, as you might guess) but all of my partners were charming and I enjoyed every moment of it, dancing every dance with the determination of a Lydia Bennet. The ball ended at midnight, and I left, weary, sore-toed, and happy.







with LBD writer Kate Rorick

The convention ended with a Sunday brunch featuring a panel discussion of the creators and writers of the popular web show, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. And, finally, the torch was passed to Montreal members who will host the AGM next year.

           
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek into the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society. And, I hope you will enjoy The Dancing Master as well when it releases in December.

41 comments:

  1. What fun, Julie! I know you had a wonderful time, but what great information you must have gleaned from those wonderful classes. And might I say that you look lovely in your pink gown and curls! If your dress had been pale green, you could pass for the cover model! Thanks for sharing all the information and wonderful pictures.

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    1. Thanks, Judy! Yes, I took lots of notes in the classes and thoroughly enjoyed myself. And I could pass for the cover model's MOTHER, but thank you just the same! :)

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  2. Hi Julie!

    Wow!! What a fantastic "show" you attended. I must say you all did yourselves proud and looked a treat. You all looked so authentic!
    I am an Austen fan..think I have everything in the way of Videos/DVD's and audio books relating to Jane that are on the market:) I became very interested in her books when I studied P&P at school as part of my Eng Lit course.
    I was very fortunate to visit her cottage in Chawton and also saw some of her artefacts while we were in Bath.

    How wonderful to have overseas visitors attend..but I must say I am sad that Aus had NO representatives..we shall have to do better than that! Can't let those Kiwis forge ahead.LOL!..just a bit of friendly rivalry... you understand?:)

    Sorry to hear you were footsore and weary when you left the ball at midnight but I have to know(and bringing in another classic here) "Cinderella did you lose your slipper and have your charming Prince come by?LOL.

    Great post Julie and BTW ...You maybe sure I'll keep a lookout for your new book!:)

    Cheers

    Rosie

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    1. Hi Rosie. Glad to know you're a fellow Austen fan. And yes, many women had put untold research and hours into their costumes--some of them with a different dress for each day of the conference! It was very impressive. No prince charming on hand, though one Mr. Wickham offered to help. Thanks, Rosie!

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  3. Thanks so much for sharing, I can imagine it was wonderful! It calls for a swoon if you are the swooning type! If it is in Montreal next year, I may have to head over there and join in!

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    1. You're welcome, Melony. Thanks for stopping by. And if you're a JA fan, I'd recommend attending!

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  4. Hey, Julie, this sure looks like a lot of fun. I would go just for the opportunity to dress up! You looked very authentic in your gown. I'm jealous. If I dressed up like one of my characters I could use a potato sack. (I'm still writing biblical fiction.) Lynn

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    1. Hee hee, Lynn. Yes, the Regency era dresses are definitely more flattering than potato sacks or bathrobes. :)

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  5. That looks like so much fun - but it was the classes you mentioned that had me drooling. I love things like that where you get experts on just one area of study.

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    1. Hi Tracie! Yes, experts is right. I *thought* I was an Austen fan, but these professors and scholars are a whole other level of aficionado.

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  6. I am an active JASNA member, Julie, and have always wanted to attend the national convention. Reading your blog and seeing your pictures has decided me. I'm saving for Montreal! Also looking forward to your new book!

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    1. Thanks, Kay. And yes, you should definitely plan to attend an AGM if you can. The 2015 meeting is in Louisville, KY, which would be even closer!

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    2. Louisville! Good idea, Julie.

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  7. This sounds fascinating Julie. Thanks for sharing your experience(and the wonderful pics!) and all the fun you had. I love the Regency era! I'll need to attend one of events ...what fun:-)

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  8. Hi Lorna! Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the pics. Depending on where you live, you should check and see if there's a local chapter of JASNA to get involved in--very worthwhile since you love the era.

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  9. That looks like so much fun! I wonder if they'll ever have one in TN.

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    1. Thanks Barbara. I think KY would be your best bet. After that, the AGMs will be held in D.C. and Southern California.

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  10. Oh my goodness...how fun!! I'd LOVE to do something like this. Thank you for sharing your story and pictures.

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    1. You're very welcome, Jennifer. Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. I have two left feet in any century so I applaud your efforts! Dressing up is so much fun. As actors admit in the costume dramas, the costumes really make you feel different. Did you notice this as well?
    Montreal might be one of the closer locations for me. I may look into it for the research benefit and the fun!

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    1. You definitely should, Debra. I saw photos of you in costume at ACFW. You looked great and would fit right in!

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  12. We are so in sinc, Julie! I put up my JASNA AGM post this afternoon too (in which you feature, btw ;) Drop by if you get a chance: http://shannonwinslow.com/2013/10/08/having-a-ball-at-the-jasna-agm/

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    1. Hi Shannon. I saw that! It was so much fun to meet you, dance with you, and have lunch with you. We'll have to do it again one of these days!

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  13. I loved reading about the conference! Thank you so much for posting. What an amazing experience. I look forward to reading your book!!

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  14. What a delightful post, Julie! I used to do English country dancing, and I love Mr. Beveridge's Maggot. :) So glad you had a good time! Your new book sounds intriguing too. :) Blessings!

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Kiersti. Fun to hear from someone who knows that Mr. Beveridge's Maggot isn't something gross. :)

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  15. That ball sounded like it was great fun! I'd love to do that someday. And I'm so excited about The Dancing Master! I'm going to ask for it for Christmas! (:

    Love in Christ,
    Danielle

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    1. Yes, it was a lovely evening and I hope you have the opportunity too someday. And in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the new book. Thanks, Danielle!

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  16. Julie --So glad that you enjoyed your first AGM! Hope to see you in Montreal! (p.s. those promenaders look rather familiar...) Heidi G.

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    1. Hi Heidi! Yes, they look familiar--and awesome! Hope you got some good pix, too.

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  17. Ohh! This looks positively lovely! I wish I would have known this was in Minneapolis (I'm only a couple hours northwest)! I would have loved to attend even just a few of the classes you listed. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. Yes, the classes were great, Gabrielle. I did post about it on FB ahead of time (What? you don't read my ever post?? ) Hopefully, you'll have another chance someday.

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  18. Julie, that was awesome! :)

    Anna Labno

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  19. This looks so awesome! What a fun opportunity. I can't wait to read the Dancing Master!

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  20. Thanks, Shelly. Hope you enjoy the book!

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  21. Wow. I never there was such a thing. Sounds like awesome fun. Can't wait for your new release, which somehow I'd scheduled in my mind for October. But the waiting is sweet; it builds anticipation!

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    1. Thank you for coming by. Enjoy the book!

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  22. I'm a day behind, Julie---but had to comment because this looks like such a fun event! And you look beautiful in that pink gown, with your lovely curls!! ~ Will definitely be getting this book. *smile*
    Hugs, Patti Jo

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  23. Love it! Julie, your articles always have me glued to the screen. :) I'm glad you had so much fun. I especially liked seeing all the costumes in the pictures you shared. Very beautiful.

    If the cover of The Dancing Master is any clue, I'm sure your latest book will become a favorite of mine (and lots of other folks too, I'm sure).

    Blessings,
    Andrea

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