It's Monday morning and I'm back in the saddle after a delicious few days in Portland, at the Jane Austen Society of North America's Annual General Meeting. The focus this year was Northanger Abbey--and murder, muslin and mayhem--but the proceedings were given a fillip of added interest by their coincidence with Halloween, and Saturday night's Masked Ball. Most provocative costume: the Empire-waisted Regency gown made entirely of black patent leather, worn by a mashed-up Austenesque vampire. Greatest laugh moment: Team Tilney's spoof of the Old Spice Man commercial, with Henry Tilney compelling every woman in the room to "Look up! Look down! Where are you? You're with that man who's reading that book you love..." I just hope somebody filmed it, and that it goes viral. Thanks to Maggie Sullivan of AustenBlog and friends who put That Man in a Corinthian's costume.
I was fortunate enough to present my PowerPoint on aspects of mystery writing in Northanger before something like six hundred avid Jane fans, and have a "comfortable coze" about all things Austen in the Q&A that followed; enjoy breakout sessions and Juliet McMaster's excellent assessment of Catherine Morland as heroine; sign books until my hand fell off at the cocktail party; browse the Milsom Street emporium; meet JASNA president Marcia Huff, and congratulate the conference organizers on a phenomenal job. I raised a late-night Austentini with fellow writers and Laurel Ann Nattress, AustenProse blogger and editor of the forthcoming short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, which will include "Jane and the Gentleman Rogue" when it appears in October 2011. I got to stroll through the Saturday morning Farmer's Market in downtown Portland in the rain, with my husband--which was unabashedly romantic. Writers spend far too much of our time alone in semi-darkened rooms, staring at glowing screens; the chance to mingle with like-minded souls for a few days was a boon. Thanks, Jane!