Today is the 204 anniversary of the passing of Jane Austen. To say that she was extraordinary in her time and ours is and will always be an understatement. Though her physical remains are long gone, her name and her work will last forever.
Nathaniel Hawthorne once said the following:
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
Reading Jane Austen is deliciously easy. Her books are full of characters that seem as real as you or I.
As any writer will tell you, writing is not as easy as it seems. The work and effort that is required feels nearly impossible to accomplish sometimes.
Jane came from an era in which women pursuing any career was frowned on. Her primary responsibility was that of a wife and mother. Initially publishing her books under the pseudonym of “A Lady”, public recognition of her as an author came later on.
One of the things I have learned as a writer is that sometimes you sometimes need to put your work away for a while. Recently, I have been going back to pieces that have been sitting on my hard drive. Delving back into those particular pieces (with the help of a handful of keen eyed fellow writers), I have been working on them with a level of excitement and energy I have not felt in a long time.
Her first three completed novels, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice were initially written when Austen was still a young woman. Like any budding author, she eagerly sent out her manuscripts to publishers, hoping for an eventual publication. The response was a decided no.
The next few years were an emotional roller coaster for Austen. After her father’s retirement and subsequent passing, Jane, her sister, and her mother moved frequently. It was only after finding a permanent home in Chawton House did she had the space and comfort that she needed to write again.
She didn’t know it, but she is one of the writers who paved the way for so many of us. As both the mother of the modern novel and a female novelist, she continues to delight readers and inspire fellow writers who want to follow in her giant footsteps.
Happy Birthday Jane, wherever you are.
On December 16th, 1775, a remarkable woman was born. Her name was Jane Austen.
In her time (and to a certain degree, still in ours), a woman’s path in life was clear. She was to receive an education that was considered to be appropriate for a woman. Upon reaching adulthood, she would marry, bear children (i.e. sons) and live the rest of her life in the quiet dignity that was expected for a woman.
Jane could have married. His name was Harris Bigg-Wither. He was the younger brother of her friends. By the accounts of the day and family members, he was not the most attractive of men. But he had one thing going for him: he was the heir of a wealthy and respected family. At that time, those facts were all that was needed to determine if someone was a good match.
He proposed when Jane and Cassandra were visitors to the Bigg-Wither home. On paper, they were a good match. She was in her late 20’s, nearly impoverished and without a marriage proposal in sight. Upon his father’s death, Harris would inherit a stately home and a comfortable fortune. He proposed in the evening. Jane said yes, but something was not right. In the morning, she took back her yes and changed the course of her life forever.
As a single and childless woman of a certain age, I look to Austen as a role model. She could have easily folded into the preordained path that was expected for a woman. But she didn’t. She chose her own path and in doing so, pave the way for future generations of women to do the same.
Wherever you are Jane, Happy Birthday.
Most of us are ordinary in our day to day lives. We go about our business until the day when we shuffle off this mortal coil.
During her lifetime, Jane Austen was an ordinary woman. But in our lifetimes, she is considered to be extraordinary. She is of the creators of the modern novel, a proto-feminist, a woman who was not afraid to speak her mind and an all around bad-ass.
Tomorrow is the 202th anniversary of her passing. She died at the young age of 41, with only four published books to her name and a modest success as a writer. Every time I read one of her books, I find myself asking what if she had lived a little longer or even into old age? What books and characters might she have introduced to the world?
Wherever she is, I hope that she is looking down on us and smiling, knowing that her name will live on for eternity.
When it comes to creating well written fanfiction, a good writer knows how to balance their narrative and their voice with the narrative and voice of the original work.
Christina Boyd’s new Jane Austen inspired anthology, Rational Creatures, was published back in October. Containing 16 new stories from well-respected JAFF (Jane Austen Fanfiction) writers, the focus of the stories of Austen’s female characters. The question that each story asks is if the heroines are the standard romantic heroines or strong, capable women who are able stand on their two feet in spite of the era that they live in?
I’ve been a fan of Ms. Boyd for the last few years, I enjoyed her previous anthologies, The Darcy Monologues and Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues. This book is well written and an easy read. I would caution, however, that this book is not for the newbie Jane Austen fan. It requires a level of knowledge that comes with multiple readings of Austen’s work and a deep knowledge of the fictional worlds that she created.
I recommend it.
On this day, in 1775, a young lady entered this world. The circumstances and the family she was born into did not give any hint as to what she would become as an adult. Her father was a man of the cloth, her mother had successfully brought into the world six previous children and would bring one more into the world after her. In infancy, she was known as Jenny.
Today, we know her as Jane Austen, a literary giant that many have imitated, but few have duplicated. Her six completed novels, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion, are beloved the world over.
On the surface, Austen wrote love stories. But a deeper dive reveals that she was an astute observer of her world. Weaving her observations into her six completed novels, her books were much more than the standard boy meets girl, boy gets girl narrative. She wrote about politics, she was a proto-feminist and she mocked/revealed the inconsistencies that were part of the world she knew.
Most of all, she inspired and continues to inspire female writers not just to write, but to question the inconsistencies of their own worlds.
Wherever you are, dearest Jane, Happy Birthday.
One of my favorite aspects when it comes to Jane Austen’s novels is that her stories still ring true to readers in the early 21st century as much as they did in early 19th century. This has led to the explosion of Jane Austen fanfiction, for better or for worse.
In 2016, Holidays with Jane: Summer of Love, was published. Each of her six completed novels is condensed into modern short stories that are set in and around summertime and summer vacation. I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because I felt like the writers achieved the delicate balance of being true to Jane’s novels while letting the modern version of the characters shine.
I recommend it.
201 years ago yesterday, Jane Austen left this Earth.
In her lifetime, she published four completed novels: Sense And Sensibility, Pride And Prejudice, Mansfield Park And Emma. Persuasion, her last completed novel and Northanger Abbey, her first completed novel were published posthumously.
I sometimes wonder if she had any inkling of her pending immortality. Though her mortal bones have long since returned to the Earth, her name lives on. She is as famous as any contemporary author. Her books are read for pleasure and for academic purposes. There have been more than a few film, television and stage adaptations of her works (some which are better than others) and while many modern authors have tried to replicate Jane’s style as a writer, only a handful have succeeded in doing so.
Her work lives on because they still speak to us 200 years later. Above all else, she wrote about the human condition and the ordinary experiences that we all live through.
Wherever you are Jane, thank you.
These days, everyone and their mother has their own podcast.
There is an old inside joke about Jews: For every two Jews, there are three opinions. From my perspective. is the backbone of Unorthodox. Created by Tablet Magazine, the podcast is hosted by Mark Oppenheimer, Stephanie Butnick and Liel Leibovitz. Every week they talk about news relating to the Jewish world and have two guests: one Jewish and one not Jewish. What I appreciate about this podcast is that Mark, Liel and Stephanie not only mesh well together, but their unique world views allow all three to stand out in their own way. I’ve been listening for a couple of years; it’s a pleasure to wake up on Thursday morning knowing that the week’s episode is waiting for me.
Can I Just Say
Pop culture podcasts can sometimes get a little dull. Either they can veer too much into the fan boy or fan girl lane or they are just a tad too intellectual.
Thankfully, Can I Just Say is the perfect pop culture podcast. Hosted by Daphne Olive and Elizabeth Stevens, the ladies have unique and stimulating conversations about everything from Star Wars (their newest podcast about The Last Jedi was very interesting) to novels and their various adaptations (their comments about Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility got me thinking) to a hand-picked selection of Baz Lurhmann films opened my eyes to his abilities as a filmmaker. They also host a podcast entitled Fathoms Deep: A Black Sails Podcast, an equally interesting podcast about the television series Black Sails.
I recommend both.
For every hero, there is a villain. For every romantic leading man who ends up with the romantic leading lady, there is a rogue who fails to keep them apart.
Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, edited by Christina Boyd, is a series of short stories by a group of authors who delve into the lives and emotions of some of Austen’s male characters who are not typically given the spotlight. The includes Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Wickham from Pride and Prejudice, Sir Walter Elliot from Persuasion and Mr. Willoughby from Sense And Sensibility.
I really enjoyed this book. As both a writer and a reader, it’s always interesting to look at secondary characters who normally do not receive the same attention as the leading characters. Like any writer, Austen spent most of her time focusing on her main characters, opening the door for other writers to focus on characters normally do not receive the same attention.
I recommend it.
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