I had an unbreakable date at 1 pm yesterday: that was when online registration opened for this September’s Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America. The JASNA AGM – yes, that’s the train wreck of an abbreviation; with enough practice, it rolls effortlessly off the tongue – is a four-day-long party for those of us who call four days of talking about Jane Austen. . . a good start.
I attended my first AGM in 1983, when I was a seventeen-year-old college freshman and JASNA itself was only four years old. I must have registered late: when I prospected in JASNA’s archives while researching Among the Janeites, I discovered that my name doesn’t appear on the list of attendees. Back in those pre-Colin Firth days, you could get away with late registration, because the world of Austen fandom was a smaller, quieter place. I was probably waiting to register until I was sure I didn’t have too much classwork that weekend.
Nowadays, you can’t wait: AGMs routinely sell out their six hundred-plus slots -- 471 of the 650 slots at this year's conference are already gone -- even though registration fees come to several hundred dollars, not to mention hotel and airfare. This year’s conference – it’s in Minneapolis, with the two hundredth anniversary of Pride and Prejudice as the theme – will be my seventh in thirty years, but my fifth since 2009, when I began thinking of writing a book about Jane Austen fans. (You’ve got to love a book project that allows you to write the JASNA AGM off as a business expense.)
The Minneapolis AGM program includes the usual mix of the serious and the unserious, the academic and the popular -- scholarly lectures, country dancing, tea-drinking, hat-making, a Regency fashion show, a souvenir emporium. I’m looking forward to two presentations in particular: a talk by Emily Auerbach of the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the many sequels, prequels, retellings, updates, and mashups that have made P&P a pop-culture phenomenon over the past decade or so; and a panel featuring the creators of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the delightful web series reimagining P&P as a video blog.
And of course I’ll be there, signing Among the Janeites. That way, I get to write off yet another JASNA AGM.