Syrie James has been touring the blog world since the launch of her latest book The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen on December 31, 2012 – she started at Austenprose and has hit most of the Austen-related blogs out there (see below), each with a different guest post about her writing, research, travels, and love of Jane Austen. So I am thrilled to welcome Syrie here today to Jane Austen in Vermont, where she gives us a little history of her association with JASNA. [See below for giveaway instructions!]
I first met Syrie at the AGM in Fort Worth [along with her very own Mr. Darcy!], an honor for me as I had dearly loved The Memoirs of Jane Austen – I thought she captured very well the life and voice of Austen and her time. In The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, she takes us again into this Austen world, offering up the most intriguing tale and what we all wish for: a missing manuscript, missing letters, missing anything from our favorite illusive author. And in Missing Manuscript, we have two books for the price of one – a delightful tale within a tale that gives us a lost Austen novel titled The Stanhopes, based in part on Austen’s own “Plan of a Novel” *, and the contemporary tale of the young woman who discovers the letter that leads her to the manuscript.
I loved this book! – Syrie has given us a story that would make Jane Austen proud and a fine taste of what such a real find might offer us (with of course the caveat that no one is really like Jane Austen…) [An Interesting Aside: I have been reading Trollope’s Barchester Towers, wherein we have a story of a vicar who is suffering from the loss of his parish, as well as a family named the Stanhopes! I asked Syrie if she had any of this in her mind when she was writing – she said she has never read any Trollope and had no idea! Another example of the “collective unconscious” at work in mysterious ways! – and I struggling to keep my Stanhopes straight!] So I highly recommend this book – a perfect winter read to curl up with – you will find endearing characters, sly allusions to Austen’s life and works that make this a bit of a treasure hunt, two love stories (who can resist!), and storytelling at its best.
Syrie, I have been badgering you and Diana (Birchall) to come to visit us in person in Vermont, to perform any and all of your now famous plays – “The Austen Assizes” in Brooklyn was a great romp filled with Austen’s baddies, and by all accounts your performance of Diana’s play You are Passionate, Jane was a rousing hit [links to a few bits of both on youtube are below]. We look forward to another such performance in Montreal for the Mansfield Park AGM 2014, where you will finally be close enough to Vermont for me to entice you to stop in! – In the meantime, this blog visit shall have to do…
So please welcome Syrie as she discusses how important the Jane Austen Society of North America [JASNA: www.jasna.org] is to her and how it has helped her writing career.
JASNA has become such an important part of my life. Interestingly, I hadn’t even heard of the organization until The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen came out. Following a suggestion from my readers, I checked it out and discovered that a spring meeting of JASNA-SW (my local Southwest chapter) was being held at the UCLA faculty club, which isn’t far from where I live. I signed up to go, having no idea what to expect. I arrived at the luncheon not knowing a soul—and to my surprise and delight found I was surrounded by remarkable, like-minded people from all different professions, all bound together by their love of literature in general and Jane Austen’s works in particular. Many of them had already read my novel. Talk about finding “my people”! The agenda was packed with interesting speakers and included an activity that to me was to die for: an excursion to the UCLA research library where we were allowed to view a first edition of Pride and Prejudice. I was hooked for life.
I attended my first JASNA AGM (Annual General Meeting) that fall in Chicago. An AGM is truly Jane Austen Heaven, with an emporium selling Austen-related goodies, and four days of sessions, speakers, special interest activities, dance lessons, and entertainment all related in some way to the Regency era or Austen’s books, culminating with a Regency Ball where everyone dresses in period attire. Since then, my husband and I have attended nearly every AGM (we plan our vacation schedules around wherever the next conference happens to be). Some attendees dress in period attire, and since I like to sew and love costumes, it’s a treat to have an excuse to don a Regency gown and bonnet!
Syrie and Bill James in full regalia
2011 Fort Worth AGM cLaurel Ann Nattress
The organization has been a tremendous help to my writing. I learn so much at the breakout sessions, both at the AGMs and local chapter meetings. Just as one example, at the AGM in Fort Worth in 2011, there was a session on transportation in the Regency era. I learned about the types of carriages used, how the system of changing horses worked throughout England, and how long such trips might take—all of which enhanced my own research and was valuable when I wrote the traveling scenes in The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen.
JASNA has also been a wonderful boon to my career. My local chapter is very supportive of my work, inviting me to do readings from my books (attendance at the meetings ranges from 65-160 people) and arranging for me to sign books at their booth at the annual L.A. Times Festival of Books. I’ve made so many friends through JASNA—many of whom live in far flung states and in England, Canada, and Australia—who I look forward to seeing once a year at the AGM.
I was the keynote speaker for a JASNA Boise Idaho’s Jane Austen tea, which made for a delightful wintry trip and forged lifelong friendships. The book launch and signing for Jane Austen Made Me Do It, an anthology edited by Laurel Ann Nattress to which I contributed an Austen-themed short story, was held at the 2011 AGM (and was great fun). At the meeting in Brooklyn last October, fellow author Diana Birchall and I co-wrote and presented a comedic play “The Austen Assizes” which was voted the #1 breakout session of the entire conference. (Highlights reel here). The committee hosting the Montreal AGM in 2014 recently commissioned us to write an original play for the plenary audience, and we couldn’t be more delighted. Diana and I have performed her comedic two-woman play “You Are Passionate, Jane” (where Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë meet in heaven) for two JASNA chapters (highlights video here)—fulfilling my dream to play Jane Austen on stage!
As you can see, I can’t stop talking (or writing) about JASNA! For anyone who enjoys Austen’s works, I highly recommend that you join!
Syrie James is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed novels, including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, Dracula My Love, Nocturne, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet: Songbird and Propositions. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages. In addition to her work as a novelist, she is a screenwriter, a member of the Writers Guild of America, and a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She lives with her family in Los Angeles, California. Connect with her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
You can follow Syrie’s Blog tour here:
Information on joining JASNA is at their website: http://jasna.org/membership/index.html – like Syrie, you may discover there is a regional group close to you – there are over 70 regions in the US and Canada – the lists for each are here:
- The US: http://jasna.org/regions/regional_uslist.html
- Canada: http://jasna.org/regions/regional_canadalist.html
For the manuscript of “Plan of a Novel” – visit Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts
Giveaway of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen! please either ask Syrie a question or comment on your favorite Syrie James book (and why) to be entered into the random drawing for a copy of The Missing Manuscript – worldwide eligibility. Deadline: Monday January 21, 2013 11:59 pm – winner will be announced on Tuesday January 22nd.
Thank you all, and Thank You Syrie for posting here today!