Teal Deer Alert! Don’t say you weren’t warned.
We are aware that Janeites, as a race, are not overfond of change. However, we have long held that websites are like sharks: they must continually move forward, or suffocate and die. Thus, we have been considering some changes to the purpose and function of AustenBlog, and wanted to share some of our thoughts with our Gentle Readers. Feedback is very welcome, and we’re open to suggestions, though we think we are fairly well decided on the course we are going to take.
When we started the blog back in July 2004 (yes! Nearly six years!), there was a lot going on that seemed terribly exciting; indeed, it seemed as if we were entering a second Janeite Renaissance, similar to the one we experienced while still a fairly new Janeite—or new to the idea of the Janeite diaspora, at least—in the mid-1990s. A new big-screen film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice; a big-screen biographical film about Jane Austen herself; interesting new nonfiction and paraliterature; there was so much going on of interest to Austen fans, and we felt the diaspora, as a whole, was hungry for good information. We were, in those days, happy to spend hours tracking it down and sharing it, and once the idea of the blog caught on, our readers were happy to help us by sending links and info, which we passed on to the readership.
At first we were determined to present these items without editorial commentary, which we confess goes very much against our grain, but at the time we had a blog of our own (shortly to be resurrected, we hope!) where we were not shy about giving our opinion, and thought we could be quite objective here. That very fine sentiment lasted exactly 22 days, until July 23, 2004, when the first paparazzi shots of the P&P05 set hit the net with Keira Knightley, in character as Elizabeth Bennet, dressed in a wrinkled and unbecoming gown. We thought, “Oh, the costume geeks will NOT like this,” and the Snark Monster was let out of its cage, Pandora’s box-like. We actually wrestled with the idea of presenting the photos without commentary for about three minutes, but in the end couldn’t resist just a tiny jab; the beginning of something that took on a life of its own.
Things went on more or less swimmingly, with readers entertained, outraged, and offended by turns (by which we inferred that we were doing something right); but about a year ago, the fun, for us, started to wane somewhat. We got very excited about various film adaptations, and ended up being disappointed, and then having to moderate silly arguments and sometimes hateful behavior on the blog by overzealous fans, to the point that now we’re almost completely uninterested in anything new, whatever the quality might be; the monster attacks last year, which we found amusing for about five minutes and interesting for maybe a quarter-hour; and constant solicitations to write about this project, or link to this website, or review this book, and maybe we’re jaded or burnt out, but really very little of it interests us at all, and some of it we find positively repellent. We still love Jane Austen’s work and are constantly inspired by it, and enjoy the interaction with other Janeites that we get on the blog, and we very much like writing about what we enjoy and what interests us. We know, and have often pointed out to those who wish to push Janeites into a box, that the Janeite diaspora is not a homogeneous group, but one with many different backgrounds, interests, and tastes.
More importantly, our personal life outside the blog has become increasingly demanding on our time and energy: our day job and family considerations became more demanding, and also we are trying to get back to writing more fiction. All of this prevents us from dedicating a great deal of time and energy to blogging, and we think the blog has suffered for it, and many nice people who wrote to us to help promote their Austen Thing didn’t make it onto the blog, because we were too tired or busy to post it. We are probably more frustrated by this than our Gentle Readers.
So the question becomes: how to have balance? How to present the many things that interest Janeites, and the whole “she’s everywhere” aspect of Austen that first inspired us, in the limited amount of time and energy we have to dedicate to blogging? And how does this blog stay relevant when the big movie and book projects are cooling down—after all, we’ve been told Jane is out and the Brontës are in! (THANK YOU BABY ELVIS!) We have invited some guest reviewers to review certain media, and that has worked out splendidly, as they are a diverse, smart, and talented group that have brought in new voices and experiences and opinions. This is a very good thing, in our opinion. However, even seeking out these new voices and soliciting them to write for us, for free! bless them and their houses, is a time-consuming experience.
Thus, we are going to try to make AustenBlog a little more DIY. We hope this results in more stuff to read about and think about and learn and discuss for you, Gentle Reader, and less work and stress for your Editrix. Also possibly more Austen lolcats.
Each weekday will have its own dedicated feature. Some of these will already be familiar to you, and several will be interactive, with Gentle Readers encouraged to contribute their own content in the comments area.
Monday: Monday Ebooks, in which we hope to talk about new technology and ebooks and explore what’s out there. We realize that this is pretty much an indulgence on the Editrix’s part, but as we said: we want to write about what inspires and interests us, and we are a big geek. Deal with it. 🙂
Tuesday: Tuesday Open Thread. We will attempt to present a subject to discuss (and invite readers to send in a topic). But it is an Open Thread, so please do join in the discussion, and don’t be afraid to introduce a new subject. We will attempt to keep (or perhaps even improve) the threaded commenting system to facilitate discussion.
Wednesday: Wednesday Linkapalooza. If you have something to share with the whole class, post it in comments on this post: a newspaper article, an interesting blog post, really anything that you want to share, including your own projects and work. (We might be redirecting some e-mails to this thread. Please don’t take it personally; it’s the only way we’ll be able to continue to present this sort of information on the blog.)
Thursday: Getting Local With Jane. If you have an event coming up, do please share it here. (We might be incorporating an event calendar into the blog, if we can get it to work.)
Friday: Friday Bookblogging. We are hoping for lots of participation in this one—tell us what Jane Austen-related books you are reading, or writing, or have come across in your travels.
Saturdays will be our day off, unless there is something we simply MUST SHARE. That is the day of our lowest readership, because presumably you’re all off doing something interesting (and we salute you for it).
Sundays will, we hope, each week have at least one new feature article, by the Editrix and/or guest contributors.
We will also continue to have media reviews (please see our revised Media Review Policy), and the Editrix swinging the Cluebat as required, or just commenting on anything that grabs our interest. Depending how it goes, we might also add a second Open Thread each week on Thursday or Friday. We’re also hoping to incorporate lots more silliness of the League of Austen’s Extraordinary Gentlemen variety, but of course that will only happen when inspiration strikes. However, it’s a lot more likely to strike if we’re not stressed out over the little things.
The new content will begin Sunday, May 2. We also will be working on a fabulous new look and maybe some new functionality for AustenBlog this summer, as well as having Dorothy do a thorough spring cleaning of the archives.
So: what do you think?