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THIS BLOG HAS MOVED

This blog has moved to my website.  Unfortunately blog technology won’t allow me to move subscribers with me, so I put off telling you, thinking I could maintain two identical blogs.  I’ve discovered however, that maintaining one blog is a challenge, and search engines are sending people to this old site when I have a great new website brimming with up-to-date information.  So, if you want to receive my future blog posts via email, just click on the link below and you will automatically be taken to my new blog-site where you can fill in the blank (upper right corner) and stay in my loop.

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February 18, 2012 · 3:28 pm

Jane Austen Reviews MY JANE AUSTEN SUMMER

 Published on Austen Authors, 11/22/11

My Jane Austen sits in the wicker chair in the corner of my office most days.  She amuses herself listening to my phone conversations, “Getting a lot of work done,” she observes.  Reading email over my shoulder, she comments, “I don’t see a conflict on your calendar next Tuesday,” and swiping books off my TBR pile.  ”People pay money for this?” she snarks, reading to the last page of Madame Bovary nonetheless.

I know she’s read my book, My Jane Austen Summer.  And she knows I know she’s read it.  Whenever the subject comes up she appears not to notice, either zoning out or becoming deeply engrossed in her shoes, as if she’s taken a vow of silence on the subject of my book.  She waited six months before bothering to offer her thoughts and all she said was, “I read your book.”  I waited for the other shoe to drop but she had no further comment.  I certainly wasn’t going to ask for feedback.  You know what they say, if you have to ask…  She obviously didn’t care for my book so I let it go.

But weeks later the subject came up on a day when one more hit couldn’t possibly matter.  I cast dignity and self-respect to the wind and asked for her feedback.  ”Well…what did you think?”

She considered a moment, opening and closing her fan, and then offered, “I loved the way you talked about her car starting.”

I turned my chair to face her.  “The first sentence of my book?”

“Yes, I loved the way you invoke the car going backwards from the very start.”

“Thanks.”  I waited for more.

“Oh, and there was something else I really loved.”  She looked at the ceiling.  ”What was it?”

“The emotional truth?” I asked.  “The bittersweet ending?”

“No.”

“The original premise?”

“No,” she shook her head.

“The language?”

“No.”  She snapped her fingers, remembering.  “The cover.  I loved the cover.”

“Um, thanks.”  I took a deep breath and straightened papers on my desk.

“But I had a question for you.  And now I’ve forgotten.  Hmm.”  She scratched her head.

I prompted her, “Why did I decide to write a story about a young woman who wants to live in a novel?”

“No,” she shook her head.

“Where did I get the idea for a Jane Austen Literary Festival?”

“No, it wasn’t that.”  She pointed a finger in the air.  “Oh!  I remember what it was.”

“What?”

“I wanted to know how you found your agent.”

I raised an eyebrow in her direction.  “I met her at a writers’ conference.  Why do you ask?”

She assumed an innocent expression.  “I was just curious.”  And then, “Do you think she’s looking for new writers?”

“I don’t know.  Would you like me to say you asked?”

“Oh no, I was just wondering.  For a friend.”

“Right.”

“But you know,” she said, “this has really made me think.”  Her eyes narrowed as if she might actually say something positive and complex about my work.

“Yes?” I said, hoping she’d elaborate.  “My work made you think?”

“About The Help.  You know that book by…”

“Kathryn Stockett.

“Yes!  That one.  Did you not see parallels between The Help and Pride and Prejudice?

“No,” I said, scooting back my chair, preparing to leave the room and the interview.  “I did not see a single parallel between The Help and your book.”

“What about The Help and Emma?”

“None.  Zero.  Zip.  I’m leaving now.”

THE END

Other reviewers have said nice things:  Marie Claire said, Austenish charm dances through each chapter, The Chicago Tribune called the book literary solace, Romantic Times called it a fun, charming read, and the Deseret News called it a literary feast for Austen fans.  Follow Cindy Jones:

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JASNA AGM: Insider Report (with a Secret)

This blog was posted on Austen Authors on September, 24, 2011

AGM Steering Committee Meets in Ft. Worth

This time last year, the AGM Steering Committee was relaxing over tea and scones in our fearless leader’s living room, frowning at budget items and relishing the prospect of sharing Texas with the Jane Austen Society of North America.  This year finds that same group seated around an enormous conference table at The Worthington Hotel in Ft. Worth, talking through the entire five-day conference, visualizing the event in our heads so that we can anticipate every possible problem and generate solutions now.   Last year we talked about programs, prizes, and font size.  This year we’re focused on extension cords, power strips, and duct tape.  Sample Problem:  Where will we store the fresh English ivy to be used in table decorations on Sunday morning?  The AGM Coordinator flew in from Milwaukee to assist, experts on audio/visual and other technical issues weighed in, and a hotel representative testified precisely on tables and room sizes.  It felt more like a Senate Hearing than a gathering of Janeites.

The little speck against the far wall is me

The room where the Author Book Signing will occur is vast–just about right for a Texas-sized Literary Event, and we can’t wait to fill it with authors, tables, chairs, and and every sort of Jane Austen-related book.  All visitors will receive a map, and lots of volunteer helpers will be present to to make sure no one gets lost during the event.  I’m standing at the other end of the room in the picture at the right, but the distance is so great, I’m unrecognizable.  The Author Book Signing will feature familiar Austen Authors:  Abigail Reynolds, Sharon Lathan, C. Allyn Pierson, Mary Simonsen, Karen Doornebos, Diana Birchall, and Cindy Jones.  Also present will be editor Laurel Ann Nattress and many of the authors contributing to her brand new anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, including Syrie James, Beth Pattillo, Pam Aidan, Margaret Sullivan, Janet Mullany, and Carrie Bebris.  For more information about the event and a complete listing of participating authors, check the website.

For more information about The Jane AustenSociety of North America (JASNA), and to find a chapter near you, check this website.

Secrets were revealed during our meeting!  I learned several amazing things and I’ll share one now:  Guess who’s coming to the AGM?  The BBC film crew!  The British Broadcasting Corporation will be filming interviews with AGM attendees during the conference for use in a documentary about You Know Who.  But that’s not the only secret that was revealed at our meeting.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing updates on Austen Authors’ Facebook Page, and during the course of that time, I’ll reveal two more secrets!

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Five Sideways Sources for Writing Instruction

This post recently appeared on Girlfriends Book Club 

Since I don’t have an MFA, my learning curve offers a unique perspective on the subject of writing instruction, including less conventional resources that may not get coverage elsewhere. Here are five sources for important lessons I didn’t learn in a formal program:
  1. Gossip: Understanding how individuals operate under pressure is a prerequisite for creating empathetic characters and a grasp of the complex world of human psychology is expected from the get-go. Fortunately, my grandmother, a professional counselor, shared her expertise with me–her oddly attentive granddaughter–from an early age. We lingered at the table long after meals, solving the the problems of in-laws and outlaws, leaving no unseen pressure under-analyzed. If you don’t have a professionally trained grandmother, an observant girlfriend will do. And if the term gossip bothers you, just call it material.
  2. Other Writers’ Work-in-Progress: The best way to learn about my own work was in a writer’s workshop while reading someone else’s unpublished manuscript. And the most important lesson I learned was to recognize filler: major obstacle to reaching the next level, notorious killer of newbie writers. Filler is not only a problem; it comes with deep denial that is difficult to penetrate. But here’s the good news: mistakes not visible in one’s own work are perfectly obvious in someones else’s. Once I recognized filler in another manuscript, I was able to transfer the skill to my own work and cut without regret.
  3. Critical Reviews: I don’t wast time on one-star reviews since they all seem to have been written by the same sour person, lamenting trees sacrificed, announcing a cure for insomnia, etc. But reviewers who write with less venom and greater discrimination can provide helpful insights from the perspective of the next level. Published novels have different flaws than amateur manuscripts and good reviewers taught me what those flaws look like. Again, recognizing flaws in published work allowed me to apply it to my own and cut, cut, cut.
  4. Famous Authors: Rather than waiting to attend conferences, hoping to glean writing technique from celebrity authors, I simply open celebrity authors’ books. This summer I was working on revisions, acting on my agent’s advice concerning the need to pull story threads forward into my first chapter, but I was afraid of creating speed bumps for readers, introducing too much back story in the early pages. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I deconstructed the first chapter from Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder to see how she did it. Now, when I get stuck, I open a book or turn on my Kindle and read my way out of problems.
  5. Dave and Bob: My job is to figure out what I don’t know, learn it, and use it to improve my work. Problem is I don’t know what I don’t know. Imagine my delight when I discovered David Madden and Robert McKee who explained everything I needed to know about writing (but didn’t know to ask). I am truly embarrassed to admit that before reading David Madden’sRevising Fiction, I thought description was used to describe things. Madden provides a list of 185 questions a writer can apply to their work–and provides the answers. Robert McKee’s book, Story, is my other go-to resource for craft questions. I don’t leave town without one of those guys in my satchel.

I’m still trying to figure out what I don’t know and I would love for you to share any particularly illuminating sideways resources you may have encountered in your writing journey.

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Library Book Talk

If you are in Dallas and free this Wednesday, please join me and the Lochwood Library Friends for a discussion of My Jane Austen Summer and a cup of Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea.

Book Talk
Lochwood Branch Library, 11221 Lochwood Blvd.
Wednesday, September 14 at 1:30 pm
This event is free and open to the public.

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Happy Anniversary to Us!

Just over a year ago, Sharon Lathan and Abigail Reynolds, two Austen-inspired authors with unnatural amounts of energy and leadership, invited me to join a community of writers developing a cooperative blog to celebrate Jane Austen.  The blog, Austen Authors, gathers readers and writers, Janeites, and Darcy fans each day for a dose of Austen-related comradery.  Whether it be to launch a new Austen-inspired novel, share a piece of historical research, or report on current Austen-related events, the blogsite brims with enthusiasm and life.  Where there had been nothing, there is now an efficient organization that serves fresh content daily.  Where there had been nobody, there are now hundreds of visitors and subscribers who, in this crazy-busy world gather to share a common interest.

This week we celebrate one year of cooperative blogging on Austen Authors and, from a personal standpoint, I’m pausing to reflect on how much I’ve gained being an AuAu (that’s what we call each other for short). Little did I know I would be joining a virtual sorority (plus Jack), developing close ties in spite of vast geographical diversity (including an ocean), and meeting many times a day in cyberspace.  But turns out the blog is the tip of the iceberg.  Where there had been silence, there is now a discussion loop that frequently pops into my email, posing questions and answers on topics of interest to all of us.  Where there had been isolation, there are now 25 like-minded writers puzzling over common problems, meeting for book signings and conferences, and sharing the ups and downs of the journey.

Join us on Austen Authors this week as we celebrate a year of blogging under the dedicated leadership of Sharon and Abigail.  Long may they energize us all!

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