As I hinted in my previous post summing up my big relocation from California to Kentucky, there were two big reasons (other than my somewhat obsessive need for order) driving me to get the new house as perfect as possible in record time.

The second I shall cover in a post on Monday. The first was the Jane Austen Society of North America‘s (JASNA) Annual General Meeting (AGM – a fancy name for their yearly conference). I registered to attend my second AGM way back in April, when we had no way of knowing when our house would sell so quickly and we would be moving. Heck, my husband wasn’t retired yet in April! At the time, I went ahead with registering because I knew I would figuratively kick my own behind if I missed it. Luckily that attitude remained strong, because considering all that we had gone through with the move, I was super exhausted. Adding a trip away into the mix wasn’t a pleasant idea, in one respect. Furthermore, and on a personal note, a dearly loved cousin had suddenly been diagnosed with cancer. Taken together, it was difficult to board a plane to Minneapolis, Minnesota where the 2013 AGM was being held.

In the end I am very, very glad I went. Lots of reasons – as I will share on a happier note in a moment – but also because when the news of my Cousin Renee’s death reached me, it was a blessing to have so many of my caring friends with me. I am not sure I was able to fully articulate amid the tears, but their presence and silent commiseration was deeply appreciated, and gave me strength. Needless to say, there were times of sadness, and I remained very tired during those four days. Yet, I still managed to have fun. Mainly that fun was in simply hanging out with my friends.

It was a marvelous time of visiting and learning more about Austen. This year the theme of the AGM was Pride and Prejudice, as part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication, which was in January 2013. All of the workshops and speakers’ topics had something to do with Pride and Prejudice. This, of course, was wonderful for me, and the #2 reason I had to attend this AGM. I learned some new things, naturally. How can you not when the speakers include renowned Austen experts like Joan Ray, John Mullan, Candice Hern, Sandy Lerner, James Nagle, and many, many more?

This is the second AGM I have attended – the first in 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas – and I have attended quite a few local gatherings of Janeites over the years. For me, the individual tidbits aren’t as fascinating as the diversity of opinions. Jane’s novels, even after two-hundred years, continue to inspire controversy, introspection, new revelations, and reams of scholarly publications. The smile-inducing kicker to me is that no one agrees! When someone like Joan Ray can stand up, as she did as this year’s plenary speaker, and boldly declare that she has changed her opinion of Mr. Darcy’s motivations, and present sound facts from the text as to why… well, it is noteworthy, whether you agree with her assessment or not. I did, by the way, but that isn’t the point.

The point is that within Pride and Prejudice, and in all of Austen’s novels, and all novels by anyone, interpretation is the key. As an author, I know what I was thinking and feeling when I wrote my books. I do my best to clarify those feelings and flesh out my characters. I also know from experience as a reader that each person will take something different away. They may not feel what I intended. They may not like a character I loved, or understand what he/she was thinking that motivated them. I re-read my favorite novels dozens of times, and with each reading I see something new or interpret a scene differently. I anticipate that my readers will do the same. This is normal.

I also know that for as much as I research and carefully apply myself to every line I write, I am not divinely driven or a genius. I am telling a story in hopes that others will be entertained. I don’t agonize over every line and word in an effort to pass on great enlightenment. I do not expect scholars a hundred years from now to be analyzing my prose for the deeper meaning of life. Heaven forbid they do! Was Austen a genius? Was she divinely inspired? Did she expect her every word to be immortalized and inspected? There are plenty of people who would say yes to all three. I’m not one of them. Sorry.

So, minor soap-box there, but I can’t help but laugh at most of it. Which is why the varied opinions are a delight to me! If the greatest minds in Austen-hood cannot agree, then I can relax with my own interpretation of Pride and Prejudice. Whew!

Best memories from the 2013 AGM–

  1. The fashion show where fabulous garments of all types were worn by Austen fans from all over. Plus a wonderful lecture on costuming by a man from the Minneapolis Guthrie Theatre.
  2. Sitting next to the lovely Julie Klassen during the Author Booksigning.
  3. Diane Capitani & Holly Field giving a fabulous lecture on A New View of Mr. Collins. I wish I could sum it up, but let me just say that they made a strong case for Mr. Collins not being quite the horrid character the movie images portray.
  4. Tim Bullamore, the editor of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine, presenting a humorous interpretation of Mr. Wickham. Mostly tongue-in-cheek (I think!), Tim almost made me reconsider the notorious cad’s motives!
  5. Meeting fans – Candy Morton, Charlene Davis, Erna Arneson, Kyly Brekke, among others whose names escape me.
  6. Dressing up in Regency garb not just once, but twice! And with new gowns! Fun for me
  7. The excellent panel discussion by the creators and writers of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

There were many wonderful memories. Far more than 10, but this post will be long, long, long if I keep going. A truly wonderful experience that I am SO happy I did not miss. I’ll conclude this post with a snippet from the Regency Ball. Enjoy!




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