Thank you very much for allowing me to visit your blog today, Joana, to make my very special announcement!
In fact, rather than making my own announcement, I am going to let the wonderful Caroline Jane Knight, Jane Austen's 5th great niece, tell you all!
They say life is about what you leave behind and I couldn’t be more proud of Great Aunt Jane’s legacy, my inspiration for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation. As Jane’s popularity continues to grow, I wanted to extend her legacy by harnessing the global passion for Austen to improve literacy rates. Literacy is the key to self-improvement and unlocking potential. Reading and writing are essential skills for anyone who wants to understand, enjoy and influence the world around them.The foundation raises money to help create CONFIDENT READERS and PROUD WRITERS by providing FREE books and writing materials to communities in need around the world, in honour of Jane. We are a volunteer organisation with all monies raised spent on literacy resources and fundraising activity. We are currently raising funds to provide literacy resources for the displaced children of Syria, delivered on the ground by UNICEF.
I only joined Facebook a year ago and was amazed to discover a world of Austen, involving Janeites from around the world, enthusiastically and vibrantly celebrating and discussing all aspects of Jane’s life and works. With over 7000 websites and social media profiles associated with Jane, there is a never ending stream of content to keep even the most ardent Janeite engaged.
One in particular caught my eye; “Laughing with Lizzie”, a young woman who seemed to have a lot of fun dressing up in regency costume, visiting Jane’s former homes, participating in Austen events and sharing it all with thousands of followers in a well written blog. I was intrigued. Why did this young woman dedicate her time to celebrating Jane Austen? I reached out and arranged to talk to the woman behind the blog, Sophie Andrews. Sophie is a delight to know personally and her journey with Jane truly heart-warming, a story I will leave for Sophie to share.
Before discovering Austen, Sophie wasn’t a big reader but the discovery of the magic that lay in the pages of Pride & Prejudice, that just got better with every read, changed that and was the start of Sophie's love affair with the written word. As a keen writer herself, Sophie was able to imagine the frustration of wanting to write but having no paper or pen and without hesitation offered to help promote the foundation.
I re-read Pride and Prejudice straight afterwards and I really enjoyed studying it at school, becoming the class expert. Following this, I read Sense and Sensibility, then Emma, followed by Persuasion, Northanger Abbey and finally Mansfield Park. There was no stopping me! Having devoured the 6 main stories, I devoted myself to studying all aspects of the Jane Austen phenomenon, from the film and television adaptations, to the fan fiction, commentaries, critiques, information books and biographies, as well as the worldwide online Jane Austen community. There was no going back now - I had become a true and proud Janeite.
Fast forward a year or so, and after a lot of 'persuasion' (if you'll excuse the pun!) from a friend, I eventually started my blog, "Laughing With Lizzie" (http://www.laughingwithlizzie.blogspot.co.uk/). It was my space to rant and rave about my passion for Jane Austen. It was also my escape; I was having a hard time at school and some family illnesses at the time (that is a whole other story I won't go into now!), and so I really threw myself whole heartedly into the world of Jane, enjoying my escape into her world through her books, and subsequently my blog. Slowly, slowly my blog becamemore well known, and then about a year and a half ago I started my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/laughingwithlizziejaneaustenblog). From there, I have no idea how, but so many amazing things have happened for me and I have participated in so many wonderful events. I have to pinch myself every day, as it is all beyond my wildest dreams.
I mentioned earlier how I never used to be a reader, well, the truth is that I had never read another ‘proper’ book before Pride and Prejudice! Jane Austen brought me to reading, and so being able to have the opportunity to help bring the joy of reading to others, as Jane did for me, is truly wonderful.
The foundation is also helping to create proud writers, as well as confident readers, and this is also something I really would like to help in promoting, for, without the ability to write, I would not be sitting here right now writing this post. I would not have had a blog full stop.
Jane Austen really has been a huge influence in my life, even in just 5 years! As I cannot thank Jane Austen personally for all she done for me, this opportunity to help use her legacy to bring the ability to read and write to others seemed like the perfect way of saying thank you to Jane for bringing reading, and to a certain extent writing, to me.
Once again I would like to say a big thank you for allowing me to come onto your blog to share my special announcement with you and your readers. I did not come empty handed either, I am able to say that I have a fantastic competition to enter!
(http://www.bathboutiquestays.co.uk/) have been so kind as to offer a 1 Night Mid-Week stay for two in an apartment at 4 Sydney Place
(http://www.bathboutiquestays.co.uk/luxury-apartment-rental-bath/), Jane Austen’s former Home in Bath.
How many steps is it from Lizzy Bennet’s Penthouse Apartment to the carriage awaiting her at the front door of 4 Sydney Place?
Please email you answers to Lucy Bennett (her real name!) at firstname.lastname@example.org and the person who guesses the correct - or comes closest to it! - amount of steps will win!
The competition entries end on 2nd October.