Archive for 'Massimo Mongiardo'

“Young Jane Austen” Wins INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award

Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer has won the Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Gold Award in Biography, Adult Nonfiction.

A new biography focusing on Austen’s creative development as a child, Young Jane Austen was written by Lisa Pliscou, illustrated by Massimo Mongiardo, and published by Wyatt-MacKenzie in April 2015.

Read the full announcement here.

More about Young Jane Austen here.

 

 

“Young Jane Austen” an IPPY Silver Medalist

Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer has received a silver medal in the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards, known informally as the IPPY Awards. A new biography focusing on Austen’s creative development as a child, Young Jane Austen was written by Lisa Pliscou, illustrated by Massimo Mongiardo, and published by Wyatt-MacKenzie in April 2015.

To read the full announcement, click here.

For more about Young Jane Austen, click here.

 

 

 

“Young Jane Austen” an INDIEFAB Finalist

Lisa Pliscou’s Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer (Wyatt-MacKenzie, 2015) is a Foreword Reviews INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award finalist in the biography / adult nonfiction category. It was illustrated by Massimo Mongiardo.

 The winners will be announced at the American Library Association’s annual conference in Orlando, Florida, in June.

More here.

More about Young Jane Austen here.

 

 

Lisa Pliscou Featured on the Regency Explorer

Lisa Pliscou’s guest post, “Jane Austen’s ‘Secret’ Brother,” recently appeared on the Regency Explorer blog. 

Lisa’s post begins:

As I was making my way through a stack of Jane Austen biographies — what began as pure enjoyment and ultimately became research for my Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer — I was surprised to see that occasionally, an author would tally Jane’s siblings and end up with six.

The correct number, of course, is seven; altogether there were eight Austen children, beginning with James and ending with Charles. Jane’s older brother George, somehow, slipped between the cracks.

And why? Because he was the “defective” Austen child.

"Changes" by Massimo Mongiardo in Lisa Pliscou's "Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer"

“George had been put somewhere else. They might see him sometimes, but he would never come home. . . . Poor George.” From “Young Jane Austen”; this illustration is “Changes” by Massimo Mongiardo.

Read the full post here.

More about Lisa’s recently published biography, Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writerhere.

The “Secret” Brother of Jane Austen

As I was making my way through a stack of Jane Austen biographies — what began as pure enjoyment and ultimately became research for my Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer — I was surprised to see that occasionally, an author would tally Jane’s siblings and end up with six.

The correct number, of course, is seven; altogether there were eight Austen children, beginning with James and ending with Charles. Jane’s older brother George, somehow, slipped between the cracks.

And why? Because he was the “defective” Austen child.

Aside from this one key characteristic, almost nothing is known about George Austen. As mysterious as Jane Austen’s appearance is, there are, at least, two verifiable images to date; there are none of George. We have no idea as to what he looked like, what he sounded like, how he behaved on a day-to-day basis, who he loved or what he loved. For some biographers, it seems, he may as well have never existed — a pitiable footnote in the otherwise exhaustively exhumed and analyzed Austen lore.

Born in 1766, the second baby, George early suffered from what his parents described as “fits.” As with so many other aspects of Jane’s life, her brother’s ailment, or ailments, cannot be definitively identified.

He was “mentally defective,” says Park Honan, and “probably a deaf-mute.” George Holbert Tucker describes him as both “mentally abnormal” and “mentally retarded.” Joan Klingel Ray mentions his “illness” and says that he was epileptic. Claire Tomalin wonders if he had cerebral palsy.

Paula Byrne, in her discussion of George’s “special needs” in The Real Jane Austen, says that he was “mentally incapacitated,” “epileptic and possibly deaf”; she also comments upon a “spectacular streak of madness” that afflicted Jane Austen’s maternal line, seeming to leave open the question as to whether George was ‘mad’ as well, as opposed to having purely physical handicaps.

Apparently, like his other siblings, George was sent as an infant to board with a village family nearby. However, unlike them, he remained there. It’s unclear how great a role he played in the everyday life of his own family over the next several years.

"In the Evening": illustration by Massimo Mongiardo in Lisa Pliscou's biography YOUNG JANE AUSTEN: BECOMING A WRITER

Here, a cozy evening in the Austen household, as envisioned by illustrator Massimo Mongiardo in “Young Jane Austen.” Might George have been among the young people, enjoying the talk, jokes, laughter?

In the 2007 film Becoming Jane, George is — in an appealing portrayal — shown as an adult, an integrated family member, capable of communicating through sign language and sensitive to the interactions of those around him.

The reality is more likely that George ultimately became, to Jane at least, a shadowy figure. When Jane was three years old, George, thirteen, was put into the care of a family eight miles away — a significant distance from the Austen home in Steventon. He would join his uncle Thomas, the younger brother of Mrs. Austen, an even more elusive figure, said variously across the centuries to be an “imbecile,” an “idiot,” and “handicapped.” No letters, no records, exist to indicate how often, if at all, Thomas and George were visited by their family.

In writing Young Jane Austen, I was mindful of Jane’s own experience in being ‘farmed out’ as a baby, and wondered what kind of impact it could have had on her. It’s thought that she may have gotten to know George quite well during this interval.

"In the Village." Illustration by Massimo Mongiardo in Lisa Pliscou's "Young Jane Austen."

Jane spent around a year and a half ‘farmed out’ with a village family. Although her other family members were said to have visited quite often, her older brother George lived there and would have been a constant in her life; the two siblings may have formed a very real bond. “In the Village” by Massimo Mongiardo.

At around the same time that George was sent permanently away, other major events within the family were occurring: Jane’s oldest brother, James, left to attend Oxford University, fifty miles away, and Edward, eleven, was whisked away on a long journey with wealthy older cousins.

What was George’s departure from Steventon like? Unlike James or Edward, he could not, realistically, anticipate the pleasures of travel, education, advancement, independence. He was going to be placed into the care of strangers. Was he aware of this, lucidly or dimly? Did he set off in innocent excitement, or with reluctance or fear?

We have no way of knowing. Nor can we know if Jane was present as he began his journey, or her own feelings about it. So in the narrative I speculate, as if through Jane’s puzzled perspective:

“And George, who had fits, who could neither speak nor hear, would never, Mama said, reach the age of reason, and so he was sent to live with a kind family who would take care of him, in a village far away. Mama said they must be rational and they must accept.”

As I remark in the annotated section of Young Jane Austen, it’s to be hoped this family was kind. Here again, we have no idea how they treated these two handicapped inmates. Debate continues to rage as to whether Mr. and Mrs. Austen were callous, even cruel, in sending George away. Some condemn them outright. Others point out that within the context of the time, their actions were perfectly normal, even solicitous: many people who were categorized as “mad,” “imbecile,” or otherwise ‘defective’ were consigned to asylums where they generally lived in deplorable conditions.

For me, with my focus on young Jane, the lingering question is that of how she experienced George’s removal. How was it explained to her? Was it explained? Was she left with an enduring impression that powerless children could be similarly removed at any time, as she had been as an infant?

"Changes" by Massimo Mongiardo in Lisa Pliscou's "Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer"

“George had been put somewhere else. They might see him sometimes, but he would never come home. . . . Poor George.” From “Young Jane Austen”; this illustration is “Changes” by Massimo Mongiardo.

As it happened, four years later, at the age of seven, Jane herself was sent away again — to the faraway little school of a distant relative. It was there, in fact, that she nearly ended her short life in a severe bout of a dangerous, highly contagious illness, thereby nearly rendering her exile a permanent one.

However, unlike her “secret” brother, Jane was allowed to come home. For a while.

 

 

This post appears with the kind permission of Regency Explorer, where it originally appeared. 

 

Lisa Pliscou Featured on the Madame Gilflurt Blog

Lisa Pliscou’s guest post, “Jane Austen at School: I Could Have Died of Laughter,” appears today on the Madame Gilflurt blog, ‘A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.’

Lisa’s post begins:

When Jane Austen was seven, she and her older sister Cassandra were sent to boarding school in the house of a distant relative. This Mrs. Cawley was said to be cold and stiff — hardly a warm motherly figure welcoming the arrival of two little girls now far from the familiarity, the security, the friendly routine of home.

"Leaving Home" by Massimo Mongiardo in Lisa Pliscou's "Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer"

“Leaving Home” by Massimo Mongiardo in Lisa Pliscou’s “Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read the full post here.

More about Lisa’s recently published book, Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer, here.

 

Goodreads Giveaway for “Young Jane Austen”

A Goodreads giveaway is on for Lisa Pliscou’s acclaimed new biography Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer, with five signed copies up for grabs. Some recent praise for Young Jane Austen:

“Delightful and infinitely readable.” —Austenprose

“A charming little book, daintily produced.” —Jane Austen’s Regency World 

“Appealing and handsome. . . . This lovely, delightful biography is a wonderful choice for all Janeites wanting to learn more about Jane Austen’s childhood.” —Austenesque Reviews

“This is a beautifully crafted book with an old-fashioned style that almost feels like the diary of a young girl of the eighteenth century.” —VOYA

“A joy. . . This is a gorgeous book, inside and out. The illustrations by Massimo Mongiardo . . . help bring the print alive for the reader; the layout, colors, and even textures make you feel like you’re holding something precious.” —Delighted Reader

“Beautifully illustrated . . . Very readable and engaging.” —Babblings of a Bookworm

“I loved the presentation, with illustrations by Massimo Mongiardo that are simple yet beautiful and transport readers back to Jane’s time . . . Young Jane Austen is a must-have for any Austen fan’s collection and another contender for my ‘Best of 2015′ list.” —Diary of an Eccentric

The giveaway runs through August 10, 2015. To learn more, and enter, click here.

More about Young Jane Austen here.

 

‘More Agreeably Engaged’ Features Lisa Pliscou

Janet of the More Agreeably Engaged blog features Lisa Pliscou and her just-published book Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer. 

“It is undoubtedly one of the prettiest books I have ever seen,” says Janet. “It is in full-color, inside and out. Yes, I did say the inside too. The blue print is so appropriate for the time and looks like fabric that might have been used then. Add to that the look of very old pages and you will see a delightful book that anyone would love to have in their library.”

Lisa has written a guest post about working with artist Massimo Mongiardo and how he created the illustration called “The Dressing Room.”

"The Dressing Room" by Massimo Mongiardo in Lisa Pliscou's "Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer"

Sketch for “The Dressing Room” by Massimo Mongiardo.

 

Janet is also offering an international giveaway for a print copy of Young Jane Austen, which ends May 26, 2015. 

To read the post, and to enter the giveaway, click here.

 

 

Q & A with Friday Night Books

Q. How did you become interested in writing and when did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?

Seems like I’ve always been a writer! When I was five, I wrote and illustrated a little story, and was so very proud when my mom put the pages together and stapled them. Suddenly, I had a book of my own!

I was lucky to grow up in a house filled to the gunnels with books, and so between my love of reading, and an early inclination to express myself through the written word, becoming a writer just sort of . . . happened. A happy circumstance of nature and nurture, I suspect.

Lisa Pliscou: Becoming a writer was a "happy circumstance of nature and nurture, I suspect."

Becoming a writer was a “happy circumstance of nature and nurture, I suspect.”

Q. Who were some of your major influences when you were growing up?

My parents were avid readers, and so that, of course, was a big influence. There were some inspiring teachers and encouraging librarians in my life when I was a kid, and that helped support my passion for reading and writing, too.

And, like Jane Austen did during her childhood, I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on — the good and the bad, the age-appropriate and also books that were well over my head at the time, by authors such as Thomas Wolfe, Sinclair Lewis, Taylor Caldwell, Katherine Anne Porter, and Woody Allen. (I had to catch up with those when I was a teenager, and beyond.)

Q. Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer is a fantastic story that details the life of Jane from birth to the time she makes the decision to become a writer. What was the process like for you in researching Jane Austen and ultimately completing such a wonderful book? 

Thank you for the kind words! The research process began very informally, really almost randomly – I happened across a biography of Jane Austen on my library’s new-book shelf and I snatched it up — and then I got so interested in the subject that I launched into a binge-read of other biographies which, in turn, in a snowball sort of way, ended up becoming the research for Young Jane Austen. Before all this, I knew very little about Jane Austen — an appalling lapse for someone who studied English and American Literature and Language in college!

The narrative section in "Young Jane Austen" is a hybrid of fact and fiction.

The narrative section in “Young Jane Austen” is a hybrid of fact and fiction. Illustration by Massimo Mongiardo.

As for completing the manuscript: whenever I start a book, I have a pretty clearly defined sense of where I want to end up, and in this case, I knew I wanted the narrative — a “speculative” hybrid of fact and fiction — to end when Jane is 11 or 12, the point at which most biographies begin to dwell pretty thoroughly on her life.

Q. Do you have any unique rituals or habits that you do prior to sitting down to write?

No, I’m afraid I’m not that original! Like many writers, I’m a morning person, and am dependent on a good strong cup of coffee before I sit down in front of my computer.

Q. How would you describe your writing style?

I write for both children and for adults, so my style tends to vary quite a bit. Sometimes I write using a wild riot of adjectives and adverbs — which is tremendous fun! — and sometimes I write with a very deliberate spareness. Also fun. It’s just different.

 

 

This excerpted interview appears with the kind permission of Friday Night Books, where it was originally published.

 

 

 

 

“Young Jane Austen” at the Congress of Vienna Ball

Attendees at the Bay Area English Regency Society’s Congress of Vienna Ball, held on May 30, 2015, in Alameda, California, will have a chance to win one of two signed copies of Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer. 

The BAERS organization “celebrates the spirit of the early nineteenth century. The English Regency . . . was a spirited time bubbling over with creative energy in the arts and sciences, and yet a time when wit and grace were highly valued.”

 

Bay Area English Regency Dancers - photo by Jean Martin

Photo by Jean Martin.

Bay Area English Regency Dancers - photo by Jean Martin

Photo by Jean Martin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More about BAERS here.