Category Archives: My Jane Austen Summer

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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Jane Austen Appears in Tweed Jacket

Portrait made just after confronting her about Antigua

I met Jane Austen through my parents.  She occupied a top bookshelf between Aristotle and Balzac, wearing the same tan tweedy jacket all the Great Books wore.  From my teenager perspective, she seemed as accessible as a marble goddess in a museum.  Nonetheless, one acutely boring day while wondering WILL I EVER ESCAPE THIS SMALL TOWN, I found myself precariously bereft:  between books with nothing to read, and decades before the day of instant downloads.  Thus, the annoying choice:  either not read, or resort to my parents’ Great Books collection.  I pulled Sense & Sensibility off the shelf and spent several days out of town—in Jane Austen’s world.  I could have mustered greater enthusiasm if she’d included a Heathcliff in her pages, but she was a friend of my parents, after all.

I met Jane Austen again as a young adult, busy launching my entry-level self in the big city and wondering WILL I EVER FIND LOVE, which is to say, I was meeting my fill of characters and navigating rapid plot twists.  Home sick one day, I read Persuasion which led to Northanger Abbey and might have continued except I recovered, went back to work, and lost touch with Jane Austen.  Back then, I read without regard to author, subject, or literary orientation and, in the blur of young life before Facebook, relationships fell through the cracks.

And then I met my husband.

From that moment, I avoided plot twists.  No conflict, please.  The tension that makes fiction so compelling, doesn’t translate to real life, and as my life perspective changed, so did my literary perceptions.  We read Love in the Time of Cholera aloud on our honeymoon.  Heathcliff?  GAH.  What was I thinking?  Books that moved me in my youth no longer had the power.  I was aware of Jane Austen’s growing popularity—and Mr. Darcy’s wet shirt, who wasn’t?—but I was too busy changing diapers to get involved.

Twenty years passed before running into Jane Austen again.  We met by chance in the New York Times Book Review through our mutual friend, The Jane Austen Book Club.  By then, I had four sons and a novel-in-progress.  Jane Austen was an immortal supernova.  My reading program had narrowed to novels reflecting life’s complexity, often leading me to revisit classics, which led to reading all six Austen novels without interruption.  Jane Austen spoke to me from between the lines of her prose, a perfect blend of irony and optimism and we became best friends.  We agreed on many things, most importantly that bookish women should be the heroines of their own lives.  We spent five years together writing My Jane Austen Summer, experiencing ups and downs, including a revelation regarding her father’s trusteeship of a slave-owning plantation in Antigua she never bothered to mention.  But we’ve established boundaries and moved on and, thanks to books, discussion groups, and cyber-celebrations, we meet almost every day; one fixed point in the chaos of life.

What about you?  How did you meet Jane Austen?

Welcome, Austenesque revelers!  This post is offered in conjunction with Austenesque Extravaganza, a month-long celebration of Austenesque novels and authors hosted by Meredith Esparza.  Leave a comment on this post to be included in the drawing for one of 80 Austenesque novels she’ll be giving away.  For more information on the festivities and to enroll in her giveaway, visit Austenesque Reviews.


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Leaving Town

What did we forget to pack?

Confession: I need a shot of adrenaline in order to leave town.  Other people routinely lower thermostats, lock doors, and depart on schedule, but in the fraternity house we call home, I can’t find the thermostat behind last night’s pizza boxes and we’re lucky if our doors are closed.  Nobody organizes so much as a toothbrush without a packing list and the packing list can’t get created until the increasing pressure of a departure date triggers an adrenaline boost.

Warning: dependence on brain chemicals can have unintended consequences.  For example, one’s desk must be cleared before leaving town and clearing one’s desk becomes so fun and easy on adrenaline-spiked blood that hours are squandered resolving dust-covered medical claims and writing past due thank you notes while the mail and the newspaper cry out to be stopped.

But: This summer, my energy boost took a detour.  Instead of toughing it out in my household office: where work-in-progress goes to hibernate and creative writing takes a backseat to hauling vitamin water, my husband established a window corner of his office just for me: a table, an internet cable, and a chair with a lovely view of the world below.  Cool blue walls and busy co-workers encouraged progress.  No one there fusses about summer reading, whines for snacks, or obsesses over 4-player screen mayhem.

Behold: in the serene setting of my “corner office” the needs of my novel became clear.  Ideas and words packed themselves into efficient paragraphs and problems cleared the revision list.  The closer departure date loomed, the more I accomplished.  I allowed the adrenaline boost go straight to my writing.    How could I worry about thermostats when the motivation of my male antagonist was stark staring clear to me?  The only packing list I could generate was the one my protagonist needed to get out of that lake house before it was too late.

Alas: at the very last possible moment I came to my senses and we left town like a moving target.  It comes as no surprise that some teenagers packed only flip-flops, t-shirts, and cell phones.

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Memo to Younger Writing-Self

Me and My Literary Agent

I will never be able to go back in time to visit earlier versions of my writing-self, but if I could, I would offer my younger writing-self a firm pat on the back and tell her that the endless rejection and setbacks would eventually result in a published book. 

Last weekend, I got to do the next best thing.  As a speaker at the Writer’s League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference in Austin, Texas, I was able to tell my story to an audience of aspiring writers who occupied the same seat I occupied four, six, and nine years ago.  In addition to advising them How to Solve Their Soggy Middle Problem and What to Do After Landing an Agent, they got a healthy dose of reassurance from me that, although it might seem as if they took a wrong turn and got sidetracked in rejection and setback, the same path leads to publication, and they are indeed on the right track.  I told them that if they exercised patience and continued to persist through countless revisions, pushed their imaginations two generations beyond capacity, and actually did what the Writer’s League of Texas told them to do, they would one day return to the very same hotel ballroom to sign copies of their published book and deliver their own Craft of Writing Talk. 

But that’s not all.  If they would stand in line to pitch their idea to agents now, they would someday find themselves leaving the Pitching Session early to meet their literary agent for a long conversation about their writing career–over a glass of wine in a quiet corner of the hotel lobby.  And if they would network diligently now, they would someday be invited to mingle among agents and editors at the Conference Faculty Party, not your usual cocktail party chitchat.  And I can witness that the glow from spending a weekend among people who get to work in the publishing industry would persist even after they returned home to a refrigerator full of The Colonel’s leftovers and a kibble bin refitted as a feeding trough by two enterprising dogs. 

I wonder if there is anything my future-self would like to tell my present-self about raising teenagers through structure-free summers.

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My Car Does Time Travel

wet dog on board

Smells like summer in the back of my car since I have neglected to unload the lake house linens brought home to launder.  I’ve left them there because every time I get in my car, the dusty mildew triggers a flood of summer memories that take me way back.  And since my new novel includes time travel, any actual experience in the field is a good thing.  The first time it happened, I traveled to my 20s, when the smell of lake water represented an idyllic escape from a Dallas desk job, when boat rides became romantic, and the future seemed as mysterious and exciting as dock lights flickering on inky water at night.      

Sometimes, driving around with musty linens induces a slight headache, but each mildewy car trip takes me back farther into the summers of my life.  I visited my father’s various sailboats and the summers of my teens where everything smelled like a damp life-preserver and I made the exception to hang with parents to cruise the Chesapeake Bay.  I revisited a canoe in a Northern Michigan lake where we children had a license to paddle reedy shallows while the adults inhabited a separate plane of existence on the shore.        

My summer time travel ultimately lands me in one of those long summer afternoons when the wonder of endless unstructured time, teeters on the brink of death by boredom.  That was the hard part.  We struggled, but were saved by whoever thought of draping a blanket over a table or a refrigerator box, redirecting our next three days to organizing a tent world and spending a half-night sleeping outside.  

Time travel through summers is distracting and causes me to drive beyond my destinations, but what’s a little u-turn compared to the opportunity to commune with the essence of summer?  The smell in my car allows total recall of the feeling of liberation, the same now as in childhood: the suspension of ordinary routines, replaced by summer’s New Best Friend: water.  Sparkling and splashing in pools, raining on hot concrete, shimmering on lake surfaces, growing mildew in lake house linens. 

Must stop.  I have to board my time travel machine in order to fetch son from sailing camp.

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Guest Blogger: My Sister

MY JANE AUSTEN SUMMER:  A SEASON IN MANSFIELD PARK by Cindy Jones

A Book Review by her sister, Deborah Sundermann

Spoiler Warning:  This Review Keeps No Secrets

One of my favorite bars in college served their version of a drink called “Strip and Go Naked.”  It was part peach liqueur, part whiskey, part vodka, with a splash of beer on top.  And I was rather fond of it.  It was a little odd, but that’s what I liked about it.  I feel the same way about Lily Berry, the protagonist in Cindy Jones’ debut novel, My Jane Austen Summer:  A Season in Mansfield Park.  Lily is part Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, part Cinderella, part energizer bunny, with a splash of Cher.  She’s a little odd, but that’s what I like about her.

We join her as her world, which has been held together rather tenuously by a small string, is unraveling.  Her reality becomes fiction as her most recent boyfriend expresses his complete dissatisfaction with the relationship she thought was perfectly normal.  It is with some irony that we learn that her heart’s desire has always been to escape reality and live in a novel.  Her dependence on fiction as well as her dangerously low self-esteem are expertly combined in her remark, “If only Austen were still alive and writing, I wouldn’t have to stare at the walls of my bedroom, studying the Braille-like texture under the paint, as if the clues to my failure hid there.”

 She loses her job by misrouting payroll deposits because she was more interested in reading her stack of Jane Austen novels over lunch—a time period that is significantly warped in the land of fiction.  Lily observes,

As my boss explained termination benefits, it occurred to me that books should come with a warning from the surgeon general:  Literature can be dangerous to your mental health and should be indulged in moderation.  Read in excess, fiction may blur the line between fantasy and reality, causing dysfunction in personal and professional relationships.  Readers should refrain while operating heavy machinery or driving automobiles.  Or working in offices.

 Through a fellow reader who may be equally delusional, she gets an opportunity to go to England and participate in a literary festival where Jane Austen books are reenacted for tourists—this summer being Mansfield Park.  Impulsively, she liquidates life as she knew it—a complete failure in her eyes—and prepares to embark on a new adventure.

 As Lily prepares to start fresh, one observation struck me as a sermon in eight words.  “If I hadn’t failed, I’d still be failing.”  This was my first clue that this story is not just a fun summer beach read.  Important lessons about failure and letting go, determination, transformation, and rising from the ashes will be woven into a rich tapestry of classic yearnings and modern characters where nothing is obvious and little can be predicted.  That is not just a story.  That is literature.  But Lily’s quirky character does not allow the book to take itself too seriously.

 Lily realizes, perhaps too late, that she is utterly unprepared for the potential consequences of her rash choice to sell everything and go to England.  Standing in the airport, she envisions, “With one foot in Dallas, the other on a departing plane, I would do the big-time splits or splash into the Atlantic.  And be eaten by sharks.”  It’s the shark part that makes me laugh.  If you don’t get it, you need to lighten up or you might miss the book’s subtle humor throughout. 

 Jones’ writing glistens with saturated details that I especially enjoy when Lily is on the move.  “Ducking into a ladies’ room, I took my place at the end of the line, advancing to the rhythm of flushing toilets and banging Band-Aid-colored doors.”  Who among us has not had this ubiquitous experience, brought alive on the page in one beautifully crafted sentence?  Another series of amazingly vivid images comes through in this:  “I ran, but a family of five blocked my path:  a blond Texas Hair woman holding a map, followed by a man and three rambunctious children, progressing in a tangle of limbs and barks like naughty puppies.”

When she arrives at Literature Live, she learns that she doesn’t exactly have a part in this new fictional reality.  Thus the stage is set for conflict as we cheer Lily on through her adventures with a cast of characters that truly breathe.  I have to say that my favorites are Omar and Bets.  With his even nature and fondness for Lily, he brings a welcome warmth to every scene he inhabits.  As long as he is there, I know that everything will ultimately be okay.  And I still laugh out loud when Magda enters the room, they both flinch, and the diminutive Omar, who was leaning back his chair “fell off his toes.”  Bets provides an unexpected contrast to Lily.  While she has assumed a dark Gothic aura, Bets just sparkles in the story, adding spice to the entire experience.  I challenge any reader to compare and contrast Lily and Bets and not find a common thread.

 This book should be read at least twice so that you don’t miss Jones’ exquisite details, such as “On the opposite wall, floor to ceiling lace curtains dressed the windows like spinsters left over from the Depression.”  Or “He paused after each phrase to allow his words to float down and settle on us like snowflakes.”

 My heart beat with Lily as she leaned forward to soak up every detail about Literature Live like the geekiest, most obsessed Jane Austen fan.  And while Lily is very unlike myself with respect to her relationships with men, I could still identify with her desire to please the faculty of Literature Live, her awkward moments, and her difficult recoveries.

 I have read other reviewers who express one form or another of disapproval of The Scene with Sixby.  It caught me by surprise on my first reading.  But upon second reading, I saw the foreshadowing that led up to it.  That is not to say that it is not disturbing.  I think it is supposed to be disturbing.  It is part of the “rock bottom” that Lily must hit before rising up.  As Lily initiates it, she observes, “Plunging into disaster felt so much better than lame suffering.”  Personally, I have a hard time with that world-view.  I’m a lame sufferer to be sure.  So this scene has become a twist in the story that I want to discuss with friends over a good glass of wine—to ferret out this protagonist’s choices and any number of issues dealing with power, self-image, promiscuity, desperation—the richness of this intentionally wretched scene screams for analysis.  That is the challenge and reward of reading good books.

 When the book nears its end, Lily is in Randolph’s room musing to herself, “Do you crave love or pain and are they the same thing to you?”  The theme has returned to reveal the same question posed by The Scene with Sixby, but it is filtered through a stronger, more self-aware and less self-destructive individual.  It is dense, like a consummate red wine reduction for your filet mignon.  It conveys the heartbreak of every relationship in Lily’s life in one comprehensive, yet concise question.

 What I was least willing to accept in this book, on first reading, was the allure of Willis.  I really had no patience for his deception-by-silence and I was angry that Lily seemed so forgiving of it—as if she deserved no better.  But, again, this made me want to lift out that relationship from the pages and marinate with it in a good Zinfandel.   I wanted to understand it, through the eyes of my friends.  It was this that compelled me to re-read the entire book.  Paying more attention to their interactions and the place in his life where Lily made her entrance, I have to admit that his character was a difficult finesse that, once again, Jones pulled off in quiet understatement.  I get it now.  And I have that much more respect for Lily as she navigated her parting of ways with him.

 I am drawn to books in order to enjoy interesting characters and examine difficult relationships.  My Jane Austen Summer is steeped in both.  Lily Berry may appear at first blush to be rather pathetic.  But she has a belief in herself that even she cannot defeat.  She has a determination that is inspiring.  And her character survives an insanely wild adventure to emerge windblown and exhausted, but happier for it.

 The worst thing about this book is that its fanciful plot and contemporary setting might lull readers into thinking it is just a summer beach read.  It’s so much more.

Deborah Sundermann lives with her family in Corpus Christi, Texas where she practices law and meets occasionally with her wine tasting club.

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Pictures from the Tea Launch

 

The sandwich course

My Jane Austen Summer celebrated its launch over Afternoon Tea in the French Room of The Adolphus Hotel in Downtown Dallas.  These photos are your virtual ticket to the event.

 Getting to The French Room is half the fun.  You don’t just walk in.  From the lobby, a wood-paneled entryway offers a staircase to a spacious landing.  A right turn on the landing and a further ascent create a sense of leaving the real world behind.  When I entered The French Room, I knew two things: I had never been there before, and I would never forget being there now, so striking was the beauty of the marble floor, elegant appointments, and glorious painted ceiling.  Hard to believe Downtown Dallas was only two floors below.  Hard to believe I was launching my novel in that room. 

A guest arrives

 
The Tea exceeded my expectations from the moment the waiter poured Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea, with its unusual lavender tint, into my white china cup.  Three courses were served, featuring things like: Protagonistic Chicken Salad on Bookish Croissant, Vera’s Slightly Controlling Personal Selection of Miniature Pastries, and Nelson’s Assorted Bad News Tea Cookies, each menu item re-named to feature an aspect of My Jane Austen Summer.  Of particular note was Willis Somerford’s Evasive Egg Salad on Cautiously Romantic Brioche.  
 
 
 

Launch Remarks

As I enjoyed the ambience, the menu, and the impeccable service, it occurred to me that everything in The French Room was perfect.  The only thing left was–my talk.  Yikes!  Just being in The French Room inspires awe and creates a certain pressure on a speaker to rise to its standard of beauty.  I ate one of Sue’s Tricky Truffles.  If I’d had a bottle of sherry, I would have spiked everyone’s tea at that moment, knowing my remarks are smarter, more articulate, and funnier, if my audience has imbibed spirits directly before my talk. 

 
At the appropriate time, I stepped up to the podium to introduce my debut novel.  Rather than indulge

The glorious French Room

the impulse to keep up with The French Room, adding a Baroque flourish I would have regretted forever, I stuck with my prepared remarks.  As a result, my talk ended blessedly without incident, ensuring that my memories of launching My Jane Austen Summer in The French Room will always be as happy as the pictures. 

And finally, the book signing

    Thanks to Kate Mackley Media for the photography of this event.  To see all of the Tea pictures, click here.   

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