I am introverted, and this causes me to avoid many gatherings, out of fear and discomfort. Once I am at gatherings, and find a comfort zone, then I do well. So you can imagine how difficult it was to decide to go where over 700 of my fellow Janeites were gathered for the JASNA AGM.
I am home from my first AGM, and, after sleeping most of the first 2 days home, am now reflecting on the experience. To say it was amazing is truly an understatement and I am so proud of myself for pushing past my fears. And a big thank you to my service dog, Darcy, for helping.
I have to admit being nervous. Though I appear to be friendly and outgoing, I am truly scared to death of venturing into new situations. To begin with, I was intimidated to meet all the amazing authors that were there, including our very own Sharon Lathan and Regina Jeffers. These two ladies have been a part of JAFF and the AGM for many, many years, and are well known in the field. I admire and respect them, so meeting them was a big deal to me.
The first person I met at the AGM was Sharon. To say that she is a sweet lady is not giving her justice. Sharon is funny, intelligent, kind, and down to earth. You can speak to her openly, ask questions of her and not be looked down upon. My respect level grew for her through the experience. Her husband is awesome. It was a pleasure to see him being so supportive of Sharon and the JAFF group, as well as the AGM. I came to think of him as the Austen Authors husband, his support of us was so genuine.
I shared my suite with Beverly Farr, who writes JAFF under the name Jane Grix. Beverly is a devoted mom and wife, lawyer, and writer. She is new to the world of JAFF and it was also her first time at the AGM, so we had a lot of new experiences. We stayed up late talking and getting to know one another, which was lots of fun.
Thursday brought in the rest of our pals: Elizabeth Ann West, Linda Thompson, Rose Fairbanks (and her husband), and Regina Jeffers. Here’s when the nerves kicked in. I am a huge fan of Regina’s and was scared to meet her. People, you will never find a more down to earth southern woman in your life. Regina is awesome, speaks her mind, caring, funny, and easy to speak with. As with Sharon, you can openly discuss anything with them and not feel ashamed at asking. The two of them are a perfect blend, as both have a vast wealth of knowledge and experience, and their personalities mesh together so well.
Elizabeth Ann is all that I expected of her. Full of life and energy, she is also a very caring and compassionate lady. Her zest for more JAFF is clear in all she does, and she is not afraid to talk to people to help them better themselves. If you have questions about any technical issues, Elizabeth is one of the most knowledgeable ladies there is and there is never an issue of looking like an idiot with her. She has more energy than 10 people put together.
Linda Thompson is amazing, sweet and kind as I expected. Loved getting to know her better, and celebrating her birthday with her (it was the day she arrived).
Rose Fairbanks and her husband are amazing. They are like the Green Giant and Sprout, size wise (sorry, Rose, not making fun of you). We teased Rose until Friday afternoon, when we finally met Doug, as we said “sure your husband is here” since none of us had gotten to meet him. Doug was loaned out to all of us to carry our heavy items, a task which was greatly appreciated. And having to endure all our JAFF and AGM talk was not exciting to him, but he survived us. He bonded with my Darcy, and the two of them had sympathy for the other. Rose is so full of life and excitement, you cannot help but feel enthusiastic around her.
The biggest surprise was on Friday, late in the afternoon, meeting Sarah Price. I have never spoken with Sarah before the AGM, and when I first met her, I was not certain what she was like. Her books are Amish based stories, some combining Jane Austen’s work with her own. When you first meet Sarah, you can see the style and elegance of her, and feel a bit intimidated. But soon she begins to speak, and you feel as if you have been friends for a lifetime. Warm, caring, and inquisitive, Sarah is quite a lady. I have ancestors who were Quaker and Mennonite, and had the last name of Streeter. So does Sarah, so we instantly decided we were distant cousins. And her husband is from an area of France where my father’s family came from, so he decided we were long lost cousins as well. They were a delightful couple to spend time with. Saturday morning was funny, when she came to me and pointed at her eyes. She told me that I was responsible for her tired appearance, as she had stayed up half the night reading my newest book. Sorry Sarah.
One of my biggest thrills was getting to meet Carrie Bebris. After reading P&P, the first fan fiction I read was by Linda Berdoll. The next was by Carrie. It was exciting to be able to thank her in person. If not for her and Linda giving me a taste of JAFF and helping me to fall in love with the genre, I would not be where I am now. So many wonderful people in my life, my sweet Darcy wouldn’t be with me (I adopted him from my first royalty check), and my world would be very dull.
Funny little note, we met some really nice men that were in Louisville for the Ironman Competition. When we were coming back from dining on Wednesday, we met two of men. They asked what we were in town for and Sharon & her husband explained about the JASNAAGM. The one guy asks who Jane Austen was, and was told she was one of the most famous women authors of all time. He wanted to know if she would be attending the conference. The man redeemed himself, as he googled Jane Austen and when we saw him later, he knew Jane’s birthday and lots more. Hope they beat their personal goals in the competition.
Though I hated to have to return so soon, Sunday morning I was on the plane which left at 6:20am. Elizabeth Ann and Linda shipped off my boxes (I bought so many books and had them signed at the Author Signing), so I am looking forward to the boxes arriving (Need to make some more room for all of the books). Thank you to everyone for such a FANTASTIC adventure. Love you all so much! Oh, and here is my gown I wrote about previously. Yes, Darcy wore his cravat.