I'm feeling very optimistic today, which is not an emotion I have experienced in abundance recently. My daughter turned ten last week, and we held her long postponed sleepover party on Saturday. I am almost as relieved to be on the other side of that event as I was to get my first COVID vaccine (ten days until the second!). It feels like life is really beginning again, and I hate to think that some reading this post aren't there yet. The pandemic has been so devastating to so many, and while my brain is finally out of crisis mode (those of us with preexisting PTSD will be spending years figuring out the mental fallout endured), I know this thing is still far from over. May we all be on the other side soon.
I am writing again! Not what I am supposed to be writing (not ready to plunge back into the deep waters that Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice has become quite yet), but writing, at least a little, and it feels so, so good! Without any previous intention of ever attempting to turn my Mixed-up Mashup into something coherent, I have returned to it, ten years later, and I think I see a path to actually making it a functional story. In it, characters from all of Austen's novels find themselves thrown together in most perplexing circumstances. I have removed the page containing the previous content from this blog, so I apologise to those who know not of what I speak, but I have started posting the new version at A Happy Assembly. Please join me there. I need all the feedback and encouragement I can get to sort through this mess. What happens when you stick Lady Catherine and Sir Walter in a room together? Chaos. Please help.
I began writing this story shortly after the birth of my daughter, when my days were primarily spent pushing a stroller around our beautiful neighbourhood in Wilmington, Delaware. The Rockford Park area is filled with a mishmash of gorgeous houses, in a variety of styles. My more humble abode lay in a townhouse behind the Delaware Museum of Art, having been built to house workers at nearby Bancroft Mills in the late 19th century, but there were mansions in my neighborhood. As I strolled past their impressive facades, I assigned each one the identity of a house featured in Austen's novels. Soon I was pointing out Delaford and Uppercross to my perfectly oblivious infant. I did indulge a variety of other fantasies as we walked, discovering a Lowood school (a ghastly place) and a Burrow, but as usual, Austen dominated. Inevitably, I started writing down and blogging the elaborate fantasy born of these musing.
I must pause to share an anecdote. When my daughter started preschool and we met the other parents in the class, it turned out that one of them lived in the house I had dubbed Longbourn. I figured this out the very first time I met the mother, and I must have confused her to no end when I announced this fact. Despite the real concern she must have had for my sanity, we were invited to the house on multiple occasions, and it was perfect: the sitting room exactly right to suit Lady Catherine's complaints. A beautiful house and a beautiful family.
Anyway, I stopped work on the story when I wrote myself into it and simply could not stomach writing a fictionalised version of myself. I was in the early throes of motherhood, after all, and far more interested in self-sacrifice than self-fixation. Perhaps the pandemic has cured me of that, which is why I can now tolerate the notion. I almost lost myself while quashing all my own needs beneath the enormous ones of my family. I think I'm okay with indulging a little ego now, as long as I don't let it get out of hand.
Another issue with this story is I used a major plot line from it in Being Mrs. Bennet, but I think I now have figured a way out to make that work. Maybe. The story feels like it has direction and momentum, which is already more than I ever imagined for it. I'm not sure if I will publish it or not. We'll have to wait and see how it lands.
I will conclude with another plea to come to A Happy Assembly and read along. The beginning of Rocky Horror Picture Show keeps running through my head: "I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey." It's just too perfect. Maybe it needs to be in the book, too. Yes, we're dealing with that strange of a book. If nothing else, it will be perfectly silly, and can't we all use a good laugh?