After nearly four years of planning, the time has finally come for hundreds of Jane Austen fans to descend on Williamsburg.
“Everything is becoming quite imminent now, isn’t it?” said Amy Stallings, coordinator for 2019’s annual general meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America.
Stallings has been planning the 2019 Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America since the local chapter first signed a contract to host the meeting in 2015.
Since then, she has learned about delegating tasks, booking hotels, and in general preparing for hundreds of people to attend an event of which she is in charge.
Stallings said she’s more than excited to show her fellow Austen fans her home in a way different from any other annual meeting.
“You can literally go out across the street and see some of these things in action,” she said. “The different types of carriages, the social and political world she lived in. I think that combination will be memorable and difficult to equal anywhere else.”
Stallings said while she hasn’t had much interaction with Colonial Williamsburg or the city while planning the event, she has heard excitement from locals and from Colonial Williamsburg interpreters.
“I’m looking forward to seeing our attendees get the most out of the local area,” she said. “I really can’t wait to see their excitement when they find themselves in an environment that’s not unlike the environment Jane Austen would’ve known.”
This year’s meeting will celebrate 200 years since the publication of Austen’s fifth novel, Northanger Abbey. The novel is famous as Austen’s satirical interpretation of the Gothic genre.
Stallings said Williamsburg seemed like the perfect place to remember the novel, which was published in 1818.
The conference’s theme, “Northanger Abbey: Real, Solemn History” has brought scholars and fans from across the country to present papers and give lectures on the subject.
In addition to the presentations, Stallings has also planned activities throughout the weekend that fit the theme such as a murder mystery experience and a Northanger Abbey musical performed by the Williamsburg Players. While the musical is only for guests during the conference weekend, locals can attend the performance on Oct. 11 and 12.
Planning for the theme is one of the most important aspects of building a successful conference, she said.
“I think one of the accomplishments of this particular [annual general meeting] is taking that lightheartedness that is an aspect of Northanger Abbey and taking that energy to spread over the events we’ve planned,” she said. “I think the attendees will be carried along really by that sort of sense of joy that being in this location with this theme brings.”
Stallings said she finds herself becoming excited to see all her hard work come together.
“I’m eagerly anticipating the attendees arriving,” she said. “There’s nothing better about what we do than coming to annual meetings and findings yourself among 800 people who have the same enthusiasm for Jane Austen as you.”
Stallings said the local chapter of JASNA is always accepting members. Those interested can contact the group online.
The JASNA Annual General Meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown on Thursday.