I've been back home a week, but my head's still spinning from everything I saw/heard/learned at last weekend's Austenfest (more formally known as The 30th Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America :-).
The theme of this year's festivities was "Austen's Legacy: Life, Love & Laughter" and, being that this was a gathering that drew 650 truly devoted fans of our dear Jane, I had the pleasure of meeting several of my favorite writers of Austen-related novels--Laurie Viera Rigler (Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict), Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen), Stephanie Barron (the Jane Austen Mystery series), Carrie Bebris (the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series), Paula Marantz Cohen (Jane Austen in Scarsdale) and Abigail Reynolds (Impulse & Initiative, Pemberley by the Sea, and more). Plus, we were all treated to a panel presentation on "Romance Fiction in the Wake of Jane Austen" with NYT bestseller Eloisa James.
There were books and books and books for sale--of which I bought many. There were magazines available, like the delightful Jane Austen's Regency World, published by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. There were delectable toffees and scones and jewelry. Oh! I bought a Jane Austen wristwatch from Jane Austen Books!! (A must-have timepiece for the fan who likes to periodically announce, "Jane says it's 5:45...") There were workshops like Jeanne Kiefer's excellent "Anatomy of a Janeite" and a varitety of sessions with enticing titles like "Mr. Collins on Screen: Legacy of the Ridiculous, "The Pemberely Effect" and "Love in the Shrubbery."
Dr. Joan K. Ray, who wrote Jane Austen for Dummies, presented a hilarious plenary speech she called "Jane Austen for Smarties," and the brilliant Claudia Johnson gave a keynote asking those of us in the lecture hall, "Can We Ever Have Enough of Jane Austen?"
No, I think not.
In a spectacular performance, Broadway actor Colin Donnell performed alongside the creative musical team of Lindsay Baker and Amanda Jacobs (writers of the upcoming Broadway show, Pride & Prejudice, The New Musical) to give us a sampling of the November 2009 play. Never have I wanted an excuse to visit New York more, and I've got 13 months to think of one... (They are, however, doing a one-night-only preview in Rochester on the 21st of this month for those lucky people nearby.)
All this AND there was a Regency Ball! Complete with costumed gowns. And bonnets. And English dancing.
So, it was fun, and it was made even more so by getting to meet Shomala, Pat, Judy, Joan, Rita, Marsha & Conrad and so many other wonderful Janeites...and to share the weekend with Pamala, Abigail and Elaine--thanks to you all!
Next year, Philadelphia.