Recently I attended the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting (JASNA AGM), held this year in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. The 4+ day event is a literary conference and celebration of author Jane Austen, attended by hundreds of men and women. (Ok, mostly women.) Because I write novels set in the Regency time period when Austen’s novels were published, I see the conference as a chance to conduct research and have fun with fellow Austen enthusiasts.
It was my second time attending an AGM; the first was in 2013 in my home city of Minneapolis-St. Paul. So it was a little bit of a challenge to pack up my new floor-length Regency dress and overdress—not to mention gold slippers, long white gloves, and reticule—into my checked baggage, but it was worth the effort!
Before the conference began, I enjoyed a Lifeway book-signing with author Sarah Ladd where we met a few stellar fans and were joined by local Louisville author, Kristy Cambron, followed by a fun dinner out.
Now, here are some highlights from the conference itself:
- English Country Dance Workshop: to prepare for the ball, y’all!
- Regency Style Show: A narrated review of beautiful, modeled dresses, some of which may be described and worn by characters in a future book.
- Special Interest Sessions: A Royal Naval Surgeon in the Time of Jane Austen (be glad you live now), Dressing Mr. Darcy & Undressing the Historical Lady (explaining all those garments and layers of undergarments).
- Classes about village life, 19th century sanitation (or lack thereof), gardening, crime, marriage law, and more.
- Tea Workshop: A chance to learn a bit about tea, see and smell different types of tea as well as ingredients to add flavor or color, and mix your own blend to take home.
- Fun Book-signing with fellow Austen-loving authors.
- Hundreds of us in costume parading through and around the hotel in a Grand Promenade, led by a female bagpipe player. (Strange looks? Why, yes.)
- Regency Ball: how often does a girl my age get to feel like a belle of the ball?!
The final highlight was attending a Regency Church Service on Sunday morning with a few hundred other Janeites. Parson John F. Jarboe is a humble minister and an experienced re-enactor, but he conducted a moving worship service, not merely a class on 19th century religious observance. We sang period hymns, prayed, and enjoyed his reading of an historic, gospel-rich sermon. It was a meaningful and satisfying way to conclude the conference.
Overall it was a great experience–I learned some things that will enrich my writing, met some wonderful people, and will hopefully attend again at some point in the future. What about you? Which event or class appeals most to you? Does such an agenda sound like fun—or torture? 🙂