‘Dancing with Mr. Darcy’ ~ and the winner is…..



book cover dancing mr darcy

[Addendum:  since announcing the winner yesterday, I discover that “ivory spring” has a wonderful website and blog about quilting, so I append those links here for all to peruse [she is currently hosting a giveaway as well]- and she tells me that her next project will be an Austen-inspired  sampler called “the daughters of Longbourn”! ]


 The drawing for the copy of the Chawton House Library anthology Dancing with Mr. Darcy is complete and the copy goes to ……  ” ivoryspring “ ! ~  if you could please send me an email with your address, Ms. Ashfeldt will post the book to you right away.  Thank you all for your comments and great questions – and a special thank you to Lane Ashfeldt for her terrific and thoughtful comments [please check out her latest comment on my interview post where she discusses writing short historical fiction], AND for the offer of the book!  

As for the title of the book being researched by Miss Campbell in the story “Snowmelt”, I append here Lane’s response:  [and kudos to Alexa Adams for the correct answer!]    



Hello Janeite Deb and readers, thanks for the replies and entries to the Dancing with Mr Darcy giveaway competition.  Deb had asked you to name the book referred to in my story, “Snowmelt”.  The book mentioned in ‘Snowmelt’ is Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, first published c. 1826 when it was credited as “by The Author of Frankenstein.”.(Like Austen who had preceded her by just a few years, Mary Shelley faced stigma if she were to let her name appear in print.) Her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, had recently died when she wrote it, and her grief over his sudden loss is a likely source of her inspiration: ‘The Last Man’ begins in 2073 and its theme is the wiping out of the human race by the year 2100.  ‘Snowmelt’ and Miss Campbell, with her worries over the end of the world and the end of the book, were already in progress when I came across ‘The Last Man’, so the book was a perfect match. I borrowed a line or two from it (credited, of course), so it feels like payback time to send a copy of Dancing with Mr Darcy to the winner, with my congratulations.

 Lane Ashfeldt  

[Posted by Deb]   

Book Giveaway! ~ ‘Dancing with Mr. Darcy’

JASNA-Vermont will be giving away a copy of Dancing with Mr. Darcy, the short story anthology from Chawton House Library, published by Honno Press ~ please post a comment by Saturday November 14, 2009 to qualify.  Author Lane Ashfeldt will send the book to the winner directly ~  see the following posts to comment:

book cover dancing mr darcy

[Posted by Deb]

‘Dancing with Mr. Darcy’ ~ a Book Review & Book Giveaway!

book cover dancing mr darcyDancing with Mr Darcy: Stories inspired by Jane Austen and Chawton House Library
Selected and introduced by Sarah Waters
Honno Modern Fiction, 2009
ISBN:  978-1-906784-08-9
UK  £7.99 [paperback]

[I made mention of this book in another post in which Lane Ashfeldt, author of one of the short stories in this anthology [titled Snowmelt ] did an interview for this blog.  Ms. Ashfeldt has graciously offered to send a copy of the book to anyone who comments on this or the previous post –  please comment by Saturday, November 14, 2009 – I will announce the winner on November 15th – see below for full details.]

My reading over the years has not tended to short stories.  But I do remember when my children were little, I spent my scattered reading allowance doing just that – it was the need to finish something, the escape perhaps for a few moments at least to another place that widened my world – a time to re-read the short novels of John Steinbeck, to discover Alice Munro, Flannery O’Connor, short detective works, etc… anything to keep the mind at work!  But short stories never held much interest for me – I wanted a bigger canvas, a longer immersion – but it was perhaps really an understanding of my own inability to appreciate the short story in its best incarnation. 

I picked up Dancing with Mr. Darcy at the Chawton House Library table at the JASNA AGM more as the need to add it to my Jane Austen collection with thoughts of at least reading Ms. Ashfeldt’s story… so it is with great delight that I found I could not put this book down!  Sarah Waters, in her introduction, outlines the criteria for the competition: it must be well-written, be a self-contained short story that stands on its own, and must have a connection to Jane Austen, her life, her work, her Chawton home, or the Chawton House Library.  The author of each of the twenty stories in this anthology appends a paragraph explaining how Jane Austen inspired their writing – these alone are worth the reading!

I read Snowmelt first – and this tribute to reading and libraries and books seems to have come from my very own thoughts, my concerns with the future of same.  Miss Campbell, who fears the end of the world is at hand, is a librarian at a library that is closing its old building and reopening in a new space with far more computers than books – she visits Chawton House Library to research an early nineteenth century author*, and realizes that life it too short to not be doing what she truly loves and makes drastic changes to her life as a result.

She rang the bell, signed in, climbed the uneven wooden steps and knocked at the library door.  A simple room.  Books, wooden desks, lamps.  A concentrated silence that she longed to bottle and unleash in her own library.   

This is a lovely story – and as I said, it conveyed so many thoughts of my own – the future of libraries, the technological changes that are on the one hand absolutely amazing and on the other frightening – what will the future be for the book in this world of kindles and Google books and the like. I was right there along with Miss Campbell, with the aching longing to be working in a library that houses all the works of human accomplishment that one can touch!

[* the previous post asked the question of who the author might be that Miss Campbell is researching and the book she requests at the library…. If you can guess this, please post it in your comment…I will announce the name of the book and author at the end of the giveaway; see below for a few hints…]

The winner of the competition is the first story in the anthology:  Jane Austen Over the Styx by Victoria Owens, where we find Austen in Hades, before the “court of the dead” expecting to address her “faults” in life [think her wicked tongue, her accepting-rejecting Bigg-Wither, etc], and instead facing the likes of Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mrs. Ferrars, Mrs. Churchill, Lady Russell and Mrs. Norris! – her creations all – the crime? “her willful portrayal of female characters of advanced years, as a snob, a scold, or a harpy who selfishly or manipulatively interferes with the happiness of an innocent third party” [p. 11] – and invoking the words of the great Austen critic DW Harding himself with his theories of “regulated hatred”, Jane is brought to task – an inspired story and great fun! [and you must read it to find if Jane is deemed guilty or not, and how she indeed defends herself! – and of course, it is such a delight to see and hear Mrs. Norris again!]]

JASNA’s own Elsa Solender shared runner- up status with her Second Thoughts – which in Austen’s own voice, following her accepting the marriage proposal of Harris Bigg-Wither, tells of the agonizing decision to tell him the next morning “we should not suit” – it is beautifully conveyed and one feels that Ms. Solender captures exactly what happened that night.

Jayne, by Kirsty Mitchell, also a runner-up, tells of a young woman of a literary bent, struggling to survive at all costs, working as a soft-porn nude model, all the while quoting Shakespeare and knowing full well she must “if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, [should] conceal it as well as she can”  [p. 39, quoting Northanger Abbey] – conveying the 21st-century version of the economic struggles of single females of a certain class…

The twenty stories offer the gamut – some use Austen’s characters in new situations, as Elinor Dashwood Ferrars as a detective [she does after all in Sense & Sensibility hear everyone else’s secrets!] [The Delaford Ladies’ Detective Agency by Elizabeth Hopkinson]; or in Somewhere by Kelly Brendel, where Mrs. Grant of Mansfield Park is given a voice of her own.  There are re-tellings of a particular story in a contemporary setting, as in Second Fruits by Stephanie Tillotson, where, as in Persuasion, her characters “experience separation, maturation and second chance.” [p. 201]  And likewise in Eight Years Later by Elaine Grotefeld, where a young man visiting Chawton House with his mother plans to reunite with his teenage crush from eight years before – he is, like Captain Wentworth, “half agony, half hope.” [p. 75]

There are several stories with teenage protagonists where Austen either inspires, as in The Watershed by Stephanie Shields, where a found used copy of Pride & Prejudice alleviates family and school stresses, and the young bookworm in Hilary Spiers’s Cleverclogs, who finds that her grandmother’s favorite book Sense & Sensibility is also hers.  Or the story that mirrors Austen as in The Oxfam Dress, by Penelope Randall, where a 21st-century Lydia Bennet goes on a shopping spree.  Bina, by Andrea Watsmore, tells of a teenage girl who finds that her true love was right there all along [an Emma of sorts]; and in The School Trip [Jacqui Hazell], a young woman finds on visiting Chawton that all ones needs to write is “a little space, a tiny desk and a creaky door.” [p. 212]

And there are a few stories that resonate but don’t fit a category:  An older, lonely spinster in We Need to Talk About Mr. Collins by Mary Howell finds that perhaps she didn’t let romance into her life…; an amateur play group putting on a Pride & Prejudice theatrical during a bombing raid in Miss Austen Victorious [Esther Bellamy]; a bridesmaids’ weekend gone completely awry in The Jane Austen Hen Weekend by Claire Humphries; and one of my favorites, One Character in Search of her Love Story Role by Felicity Cowie, where a fictional character in the making pays a call on Jane Bennet and Jane Eyre for some insightful conversation about love and choices!

We seem of late to be surrounded in Austen sequels and prequels and spin-offs and re-tellings with zombies and vampires and sea monsters and all manner of creatures, and while I have often sounded off on these largely because I just want to read Austen “as she was wrote” I do also admit to liking some of them! – but these stories in Dancing with Mr. Darcy are so much more – they take the Jane Austen that we all love and admire and cannot get enough of, and create something new and lovely in her wake – be it a character, an idea, a storyline, or just a feeling – here is Austen as she inspires 21st century writers and it is a gift to all of us.  I very much hope that Chawton House Library will offer such a competition every year – this is the true legacy of Jane Austen and such writing should be heartily encouraged.

[I should also add that along with Miss Campbell, I react strongly to the physical tactile nature of a book – and Dancing with Mr. Darcy does not disappoint – it is just physically lovely, very nicely put together, and just one more reason to add this to your Jane Austen collection!]

5 of 5 full inkwells – Highly recommended!


Book Giveaway:  Please post a comment or a question to me or author Lane Ashfeldt by November 14, 2009 and you will be entered in a book giveaway contest.  Please also try to guess the title of the book and its author that Ms. Ashfeldt’s character Miss Campbell has requested at the library [HINT:  written in the early 19th century, the novel takes as its theme the wiping out of the entire human race by the year 2073.]

I will announce the winner on November 15, 2009.  All are welcome to enter.  Ms. Ashfeldt will send a copy of the book directly to the winner.

Thank you for all your comments…and many thanks to Ms. Ashfeldt for her offer of the book…!

Further information:

Honno Press
Chawton House Library
Lane Ashfeldt website
Lane Ashfeldt blog

[Posted by Deb]


Interview with Lane Ashfeldt ~ Author of ‘Snowmelt’ from the Dancing with Mr. Darcy Short Story Anthology

Lane Ashfeldt
Lane Ashfeldt


Please join me in welcoming author Lane Ashfeldt to our JASNA-Vermont blog today!   Ms. Ashfeldt is the author of one of the selected stories in the 2009 Chawton House Library Jane Austen Short Story competition, set to appear in the forthcoming collection Dancing with Mr. Darcy, to be published in October by Honno Press.  [See below for link to my previous post on this].  Her story is titled “Snowmelt” and she tells us about it here:

 Lane, what was the inspiration for your own story? 

My story, ‘Snowmelt’, has an obvious parallel with Austen’s life in that it’s about woman who moves to Chawton to write. My main inspiration came from a visit to Chawton House Library one bright snowy day in February 2009, after an unusually heavy snowfall across England. We don’t often see much snow in south east England, and the snow worked its way into my story — even providing a title.

Chawton House Library

Chawton House Library

 Sounds interesting. Can you tell me a little more? 

The central character in ‘Snowmelt’, Miss Campbell, works in a suburban library which is undergoing radical modernisation. Potentially, this is the end of the library as she knows it. Miss Campbell’s own life is reaching its autumn years, and she also suffers a more general “end of the world” malaise triggered by reports of extreme weather and by fears of a viral plague. (Coincidentally, I wrote the story in early 2009, a month or two before the international swine flu epidemic.) 

Oh! I can imagine that must have felt a bit strange! 

Well, I might have felt awkward if the swine flu epidemic had happened while I was still writing, but in fact my story had been completed before then.  My interest as a writer was in how we manage — or don’t manage — fears like the fear of dying in a pandemic, or fear of terrorism, fear of change. This is what I wanted to explore in ‘Snowmelt’. 

In the story, Miss Campbell visits Chawton House Library and reads a novel written nearly two centuries earlier in which a plague causes the end of the world. This sets her own fears in context and makes them seem faintly ridiculous. People often fear the end of the world; this does not mean it is imminently about to happen. And even if it is, panicking is unlikely to help. At any event, Miss Campbell makes an uncharacteristically upbeat and impulsive decision to quit her job and move to Chawton, where she will work as a library volunteer at Chawton House Library and write in her free time. We leave her as she’s on the train, on the way to her new life. 

How much, if any, of your story was autobiographical?

 I have to admit, my own visit to Chawton while writing ‘Snowmelt’ was so enjoyable that for a while I toyed with the notion of moving there, but without actually taking a moment to peer in estate agent windows — I didn’t have time. On a later visit, the day of the award presentation, I learned from author Lindsay Ashford that one of the reasons Jane Austen chose to live at Chawton was that her house there was a short walk from the shops. This struck a chord with me, as I’d been thinking the exact same thing myself! But sadly there’s no danger of a family member bequeathing me a stately home in the area, as happened to Jane Austen’s brother, thus affording her a place to live in Chawton. 

It’s an interesting question, though. Curiously, when I attended the award ceremony at Chawton, two of the judges who had read my story thoughtfully advised me that there was an imminent vacancy for a librarian at Chawton House Library. We had a chuckle as I confessed that, unlike the character in my story, I am not a trained librarian. I was flattered though, since it suggested they found ‘Snowmelt’ believable — it’s always nice to be told when you’ve written a convincing piece of fiction. 

This short story award is a new prize for stories inspired by Jane Austen and themes in her writing, or by the Chawton House Library.  Do you have any advice for other writers thinking of entering in future years? 

There’s talk that the competition may run again in 2011. If anyone is thinking of entering a story for the next Jane Austen Short Story award, and if you are not too far away, then a visit to Chawton is very much recommended. Chawton House Library’s ongoing programme of public events are listed on its website (as are events at the nearby Jane Austen House Museum which is managed as a separate concern). 

lane ahsfeldt chawton


Partly because judge Sarah Waters is known for her historical fiction, my guess was, the winning stories would have historical settings. But it doesn’t sound as though ‘Snowmelt’ does… 

I do like historical fiction — in fact I previously won the Fish Short Histories Prize — but this particular story has a contemporary setting. That said, a consciousness of history runs through it, perhaps because Chawton is one of those areas that seems to catapult the visitor back in time.  In ‘Snowmelt’, as Miss Campbell develops a stronger sense of history and of how she is connected to it, this becomes a crucial trigger of change for her.

What about the other winning stories, I wonder? 

I don’t yet know what proportion of the stories submitted were historical as I’ve not read them, but Sarah Waters said as she presented the prizes that over half the stories she selected for the anthology are contemporary. 

Well, I very much look forward to getting a copy of the book to read “Snowmelt” and all the other stories!  Lane, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing a bit about your story and your visit to Chawton. 

Thank you, Deb; it was very nice of you to invite me!


Lane has graciously offered to answer any of your questions – so please leave a comment on this post and I will see that she responds to them here. 

For further information: 

book cover dancing mr darcy

Posted by Deb

New Book ~ Dancing with Mr. Darcy [short stories]

book cover dancing mr darcyThe anthology of the winning entries in the Jane Austen Short Story contest hosted by the Chawton House Library will be published in October 2009 by Honno Press. 

The intention is to publish the very best short fiction inspired by Jane Austen or Chawton House and the Chair of Judges is Sarah Waters, bestselling author of Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, who will select a winner and two runners-up. The winners will be announced at the Jane Austen Society Conference at Chawton on July 18.

The anthology will contain introductions from both Sarah Waters, and Rebecca Smith, the great great great great great niece of Jane Austen. [from the website]

For more information go to Honno Press: Discovering Women Writers of Wales [Honno is an independent co-operative press run by women and committed to bringing you the best in Welsh women’s writing.]

Posted by Deb

Postscript [July 6, 2009]:  the winner of the short story contest has been announced, along with two runners-up and seventeen entrants whose stories will be published in the above anthology.  Prizes will be presented on July 18th:

  • Winner: Victoria Owens
  • Runner up: Kirsty Mitchell
  • Runner up: Elsa Solender

Works selected for publication:

  • Andrea Watsmore
  • Clair Humphries
  • Elaine Grotefeld
  • Elizabeth Hopkinson
  • Esther Belamy
  • Felicity Cowie
  • Hilary Spiers
  • Jacqui Hazell
  • Lane Ashfeldt
  • Mary Howell
  • Nancy Saunders
  • Penelope Randall
  • Rebecca Cordingly
  • Stephanie Shields
  • Stephanie Tillotson
  • Suzy Hughes

Congratulations one and all!

Posted by Deb