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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Austenmania is coming to Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, Florida!

[Please feel free to copy and past the text of this post and email it to any Janeite you know who has any connection to South Florida---not just to Janeites who live down here, but to people who have Janeite friends or relatives who spend part of the year down here. In fact, please forward it to anybody you think would know a South Florida Janeite, who would pass it forward to them]

Attention all Janeites of Broward & Miami-Dade, Florida: Austenmania is coming soon to your neighborhood AND your metropolitian area!

Broward & Miami-Dade, together, comprise the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. without its own chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (“JASNA” for short). There is a small existing chapter in W. Palm Beach but the drive is not geographically convenient to most folks living in Broward and Miami-Dade.

If you’ve never heard of JASNA, here is the link to its website:

And here is the link to all the JASNA groups in other cities, to show you how many cities much smaller than us have their own JASNA group:

Also, as far as I know, South Florida doesn’t even have any small, neighborhood Jane Austen book clubs in any of 100+ suburban communities. Yet, in such a populous and diverse population center, there must be hundreds--or even thousands-- of Jane Austen readers and/or fans of Austen film adaptations, who, like needles in a vast haystack, have absolutely no way to find each other—but would enjoy it if they (we) could!

So, how would YOU like to be a member of a Jane Austen Book Club in your very own neighborhood, where you could do as in the recent film of that name, by getting together with Janeites in your own ZIP code, sipping tea and discussing Pride and Prejudice or Emma? And, how would you like to ALSO attend and participate in county- and bi-county-wide presentations and discussions about Austen's novels, and/or her life and times? And how would you like to participate in open-ended ONLINE Austen-related discussions with your South Florida Janeite neighbors in between those face-to-face meetings? Well, read on to see how Austenmania can start to really ignite in South Florida in all three ways by early 2011!

Now, don’t worry, you don’t have to be an Austen obsessive (like me) to join---there’ll be no quizzes on how well you know the novels, no requirement to dress up in Regency Era costumes. No prior expertise or prep is required, only your sincere desire to enjoyably share your interest in Jane Austen, whatever form it takes, with other South Florida Janeites: young and old, snowbirds and all-year-rounders, students and retirees, female and (yes) even male, too!

To jumpstart the process of creating a local Janeite community, I, being a proactive Austen obsessive, have been fortunate to be able to arrange for not one but TWO “Austenmania” in-person events to take place this winter at venues in both Miami-Dade AND Broward Counties, thanks to the gracious hospitality of two venerable South Florida cultural institutions.

First, on Sunday, December 5, 2010, from 4 pm to whenever, at the Books & Books independent bookstore at 265 Aragon Avenue, in Coral Gables, we’re going to have a first-time-ever face-to-face Janeite gathering in Miami-Dade, to hopefully bring a couple of hundred Janeite needles in our vast haystack together to become acquainted, and to take the first steps toward organizing into a true, connected community united around our shared interest in Jane Austen.

Second, on SUNDAY, January 23, 2011, from 1 to 4 pm, at the Alvin Sherman Library at the main campus of Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Davie, there will be two presentations on Austen-related topics: one by NSU English Prof Suzanne Ferriss, and one by me, Arnie Perlstein, Weston independent scholar and (guilty as charged) Austen obsessive. As at the Coral Gables event, there will be plenty of time for attendees to schmooze, connect, and then remain in contact with each other going forward.

This “double play” will hopefully catalyze the formation of an ongoing active Janeite community throughout all of South Florida, on both neighborhood and countywide levels, supplemented by 24/7 communication via online groups—you can choose which level and kind of participation suits you, or choose them all!

I've been a Janeite since 1995 when my wife took me to see Sense and Sensibility, little suspecting she was creating a monster. I've been a member of JASNA since 2005, and have attended four Annual General Meetings (AGMs) of the national Society since then. It’s all non-profit, the dues are very low, and I can tell you that it is an amazing experience for a Janeite to be in a large room filled with other Janeites. All the work gets done by volunteers as a labor of love—so if we are able to get a JASNA chapter going down here, would you like to play that sort of role down here? Then get in on the ground floor! Maybe by 2020, we’ll be the Regional Group hosting a JASNA AGM of our own!

The reason for this email is both to gather email addresses for a mailing list to send reminders of the above two events when they get closer in time, but also as a kind of Internet experiment, to take advantage of the fact that these days most people, even those, like myself, over 50, are using the Internet for various purposes, including social networking. You may remember a few years ago when some scientists at Columbia did a modern Internet version of Milgram’s classic “small world” experiment. Well, I want to repeat that process here, to see how long it takes before I start getting this email sent back to me by six degrees of separation!

December 5 is a long way off, and there's no reason to wait till then to get this process of bringing Janeites together started. So, during the next 2 months, if you yourself are interested in Jane Austen and would like to help move this process forward, please contact me at or call me at 954 6476154. You may also want to join SouthFloridaJaneites@yahoogroups, and/or the South Florida Janeites group on Facebook....!/group.php?gid=127018137323713 we can begin chatting and emailing online, bouncing ideas around regarding any or all of the above, or just starting to get acquainted.

Feel free to call me if you have any difficulty in joining either of those online groups, or if you just want to talk about Jane Austen with a fellow South Florida Janeite.

So please be like Miss Bates, and spread the “gossip” about all of this, by forwarding this email on to EVERYONE you know with a connection to South Florida who might be interested. Remember, with emails, the Internet is a lot like Highbury! This email is NOT supposed to be a secret! If this message goes viral all over South Florida, we can assure a large turnout for our two Austenmania gatherings. It's about time that South Florida Janeites can begin sharing the same camaraderie and stimulating conversation that so many other Janeites around the country have already been enjoying for years.

And, if anyone reading this lives in a place where you don’t have a JASNA chapter and/or a neighborhood Jane Austen book club, feel free to cannibalize this email, adapt its format to your purposes or make up your own format, and do the same thing! The only thing I ask is that you cc me on whatever you send out, as it will make me happy to know that Janeites living in other places got some good mileage out of my idea.

Cheers, Arnie Perlstein Weston, Florida

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