Food for Creative Thought: Twain Austen

I chose my ‘name’ intentionally.

Well, not my given name. That was given to me. I wasn’t named after Mother Teresa, but I like to refer to her when I’m introducing myself. I, a home educating mother of four, a Mother, named Teresa…I always qualify, “just not so saintly”. And I’m not amusing myself — it’s not just my children that know it, I know it too.

But I chose my writing name, my penname, for a reason. I love Jane Austen (reading Sense & Sensibility with one of my girls right now). I love Mark Twain (and hey, we share a birthday too!)

(I also love Charles Dickens. But I’m pretty sure if I named myself Charles Austen, Austen Charles, Austen Dickens, well, my penname would clearly be in the masculine. And though Jane tried her hand at deceptive masculine pennames, I am thankful to live in a female-affirming era).

My friend Mark would be rolling in his grave at the sight of my penname. He was quoted to have said: “Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.” He was the curmudgeonly sort. He might also have said, “The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.” I won’t lie, I have those days too.

Ooy, buddy! You’re a smart fella. A fella who could turn a tale into American history. But you are missing something when you overlook my good friend, Jane. Winsome he was not. “I like a good story well told. That is the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself,” he also said. Humble he was also not.

Twain could tell a few tales. But so could Jane, especially developing her characters until we all felt they were written with our next door neighbor in mind. Except for the vampire versions, I will take an Austen remake Every. Single. Year. Bring it on. I can’t get enough of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility or Emma. But the vampire variety? Lots of rolling in graves–Jane too!

Unlike Jane’s optimism for the happily ever after, she knew that “there is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.” Mark, on the other hand, was the eternal pessimist: “All good things arrive unto them that wait and don’t die in the meantime.” Doesn’t he have a penchant for seeing the dark side? Yet he is correct, isn’t he?

Perhaps it is my Sagittarian tendencies, but I certainly can swing from fairly consistent optimism toward pessimism occasionally. I can relate to both. For both are certainly clever storytellers.

But anyone who could begin a book with (ironically my husband memorized it in high school): “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife“; well, then, she certainly must have been an inspired writer.

So, my dear readers, “you must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you“.

And, thank you for reading.