Superhero in Disguise

superheroWho is that behind that mild mannered dental hygienist exterior? Could it be a superhero? 

About five years ago, I did an interview with author Maria Grace for her “Writing Superheroes” series on her excellent blog Random Bits of Fascination. When I recently came across it again, it made me laugh, and I thought you might enjoy it too. So with Maria Grace’s generous permission, I’ve dredged it up from the 2014 archives to reblog here today! (For the original publications and tons of other interesting posts, please visit Random Bits of Fascination for yourself!)



 

If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes?

Winslow: Oh, for that we must go way back. The seeds were sown long ago. Opening scene: We see a girl of 9 or 10 being tucked into bed for the night. Mother turns out the lights and exits, closing the door behind her. All is quiet in the dark room while we hear Mother’s receding footsteps in the hall. Then, there is a rustling as the girl fishes beneath the bed for something. Presently, we see it is a flashlight, which she switches on. The girl then takes a book (probably “Black Beauty”) off the nightstand and excitedly ducks under the covers with it. Fast forward to the next morning: the girl is asleep, the book is splayed open on the bed, and the flashlight batteries are dead, dead, dead. Take away point: An early love of reading fiction set the stage. Discovering Jane Austen decades later finally started me writing it.

 

What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?

darcys-of-pemberley_kindleWinslow: Yes, they’re still around but, sorry, not much blackmail potential left. The first novel I wrote (The Darcys of Pemberley) was published in 2011. So it’s already out there for the whole world to see.

All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.

Winslow: I’ve employed a variety of secret identities over the years to disguise my super-hero-ness. “Domestic goddess”, of course. Then there’s “Floss Lady” (the unassuming local dental hygienist), which gave me the added advantage of being able to hide behind a mask part of the time. “Mom” was a bit riskier, since (as anyone who’s tried it knows) the multi-tasking required to pull off this role implies that there surely must be super powers lurking just below the surface.

 

Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?

Winslow: My fellow writers, and – dare I say it? – the voices in my head. Other writers, such as yourself, seem to have (and stand ready to generously share) impressive superpowers which I do not possess, chiefly advanced technical know-how. As for the voices in my head, they generally know where the story is going before I do. They are maddeningly stingy with this information, however, dispensing it on a need-to-know basis. That means I get only a bit at a time. They keep me guessing. They keep me inspired. They keep me writing so that I can find out WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

 

Where do you get your superpowers from?

Winslow: No clue. It’s a beautiful, cosmic mystery.

 

Where is your secret lair, and what does it look like?

JanuaryWinslow: When I find myself in between missions, I like to hole up at a deluxe log cabin deep in the country where I have a special room I euphemistically call “my studio” (translation: my eldest son’s bedroom, which I appropriated for my own use the day he left for college). There, surrounded by books and art supplies of every description, stacked an average of 18” high, I am literally immersed in creative clutter. I hide from the world (or at least from housework), I recharge my batteries, and I plot my next move.

What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world-saving form?

Winslow: I find regular power walks, frequent flights of fancy, and gourmet chocolate in moderation very helpful. Okay, so the chocolate doesn’t really even have to be all that “gourmet” and “moderation” is a completely relative term.

 

How do you insure that your superpowers are used only for good?

Winslow: Following Jane Austen’s example, I always insist on a happy ending to my novels. As she said in Mansfield Park, “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.” No matter how much trouble comes their way, the good guys always win in the end.

 

Granted, you probably don’t get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?

Winslow: It’s a shape-shifter sort of ensemble that allows me to blend seamlessly into any situation in which I find myself. Wearing it, I can mingle equally well among peasants or royalty, listening in on their conversations and collecting information for my next book. BTW, the suit comes with one other useful feature. I ordered the 20/20 option – guaranteed to remove 20 pounds and 20 years from the slightly-past-her-prime wearer. It cost a little extra, but well worth it.

 

What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges you are faced with in your writing?

Winslow: The insidious nature of various important but ancillary tasks (bookkeeping, social networking, research, promotion) that sometimes get in the way of doing the actual writing. Hmm. Maybe I should inquire about adding a time-expanding or self-cloning feature to my superhero suit. That should do the trick.

 

What was the supervillian that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?

Winslow: My current novel (The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, set to debut this summer) features Jane Austen herself as the heroine, drawing a parallel between events in her novel Persuasion and a previously unknown romance in her own life. What threatened to derail me were certain facts about her life – ones I wanted to find out but couldn’t, and also ones (such as her early death) which didn’t match up with the story I wanted to create for her. Then it dawned on me! It’s a novel! By definition, that’s fiction. Ergo, inconvenient facts may be willfully disregarded as necessary! Problem solved.

 

What important lessons have you learned along the way?

Winslow: Lesson 1: You don’t have to worry about following trends or pleasing all the people all the time. You just need to reach out to the group of readers (and they are out there)who do connect with your stories and writing style. Lesson 2: If you’re passionate about what you’re writing, that will come through to your readers. If you’re not, they’ll know that too. So write what you love. Lesson 3: Writing fiction is the perfect cover for a person who has only a tenuous grip on reality and who likes to listen to the voices in her head.

 

What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?

AGM lineupWinslow:  Holding the first physical copy of my first published novel is pretty close to the top of my list. I also love doing book club appearances, and I had a great time at the JASNA AGM last fall. But I think the best moments have come via hearing directly from readers who have taken the time to let me know how much they liked one of my books. That never gets old. It’s always amazing to learn that something I’ve created has given hours of enjoyment to a total stranger. And now that person isn’t at total stranger anymore, but someone connected to me by a shared experience.

 

If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change

Winslow:  The only major change I would make would be to start writing sooner! Actually, I don’t regret my years spent doing dental hygiene. It was a great career for while I was raising my family. Now, it’s a wonderful gift to have been given something new and interesting to do at this stage of my life, something that has finally tapped into all my stores of creative energy. Writing is hard work but it’s very rewarding. I’m having a blast!

 

What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.

Winslow:  If writing (or you name it) is your passion, you should set aside time to do it, whether it pays off financially or not. But unless/until it does pay off financially, “Don’t quit your day job!” Creative work of any kind is a labor of love, but most people don’t make a living at it. I’ve been pretty lucky, though. When I started writing, I really didn’t expect it to go anywhere. I did it mostly for my own amusement. I told my husband it was my new hobby, and, when he caught me “wasting time” at it again, that he should be glad it was at least a lot cheaper than my previous hobby (reminding him of an embarrassing but mercifully brief period of insanity distinguished by bouts of compulsive shopping on e-bay). The fact that writing has turned into a legitimate second career for me is just a fabulous bonus. BTW, my husband has stopped asking me when I’m going to find a “real job.” Now that the royalty checks are arriving on a regular basis, he asks instead when I’m going to finish another book. Yay!



Well, there you have it: my first and only interview as a superhero. (Strangely enough, nobody else, before or since, has ever suspected me of possessing super powers!) Did you learn anything surprising about me? A few things have changed since this was written, of course, a few more books under my belt. But I’m still having fun and still have more stories to tell!

20141222_082650I also want to take this chance to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and blessings on you and your family, however you celebrate the holiday season! Since this wasn’t a particularly Christmassy themed post, I want to invite you to visit a few previous posts that are:

2018 A Christmas Ramble

2014 Christmas Decorations and Waxing Philosophical

2012 The “W” in Christmas

2011 Christmas Cards

2010 The Stories of Christmas

 

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Book Launch and Giveaway!

prayer-and-praise_kindle-e1571355269549.jpgWoohoo! It’s book launch day for Prayer and Praise: A Jane Austen Devotional!

It’s been well over a year since I had a new release, not because I haven’t been writing, but because, for a change, I’ve been working on more than one project at once – a short story, a play, and another novel alongside this devotional, which is inspired by Jane Austen’s prayers.

Did you know that Austen wrote prayers as well as stories? She did! And three have survived for us to read. Here’s an excerpt from one of them:

May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing Thoughts, Words, and Actions during it, and how far we can acquit ourselves of Evil. Have we thought irreverently of Thee, have we disobeyed thy Commandments, have we neglected any known Duty, or willingly given pain to any human Being? Incline us to ask our Hearts these questions, Oh! God, and save us from deceiving ourselves by Pride or Vanity.

Seeing the words “pride” and “vanity” together, does your mind, like mine, go straight to a certain contentious conversation between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy?

As I read through Jane Austen’s prayers, ideas like this kept popping into my head – associations to her stories and characters. That’s how this devotional developed. I ended up breaking down Austen’s prayers into fifty individual petitions, allowing each one to form the basis for a separate message using characters and situations from her novels as illustrations. So Emma teaches us about repentance, Fanny Price about gratitude, Elinor about forgiveness, and so forth.

Writing this devotional was an entirely new challenge for me – one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m so pleased with the result and can’t wait to share it with you!  (If you’ve missed the lead-up posts, you may want to read Jane Austen’s Devotion and a sample segment here .)

Prayer and Praise is available in Kindle and paperback. Both have the “Look Inside” feature activated, where you can read another sample.

PS – I deliberately used a little larger font than usual for the paperback of this book, so that it will be easier for older eyes, like mine, to read!

Below are the official book blurb followed by the blog tour stops I have planned, some of which will be featuring book giveaways (check back for updated live links). But let’s start that ball rolling right now! I will be drawing 2 winners from this post. Just leave a comment by November 8th. I’d love to know what you think of the concept for this devotional or if you have any questions!

Did you know that Jane Austen wrote prayers in addition to her six classic novels? She was not only a woman of celebrated humor, intellect, and insight; she was a woman of faith.

Prayer & Praise is a treasure trove of thought-provoking messages inspired by the lines of Austen’s three preserved prayers. Atop a solid foundation of scripture, these 50 devotional segments (each finishing with prayer and praise) enlist familiar characters and situations from Austen novels to illustrate spiritual principles – in creative, often surprising, ways!

Which one of Austen’s characters developed a god complex? Who was really pulling Henry Crawford’s strings? Where do we see examples of true repentance, a redeemer at work, light overcoming darkness? With a Biblical perspective, Austen’s beloved stories reveal new lessons about life, truth, hope, and faith.

Blog Tour for Prayer and Praise: A Jane Austen Devotional

(November 4 – simultaneous launch here and at Austen Variations)

November 7 – So Little Time interviews Shannon Winslow

November 11 – Meditative Meanderings – writing this devotional

November 14 – Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen – free sample segment

November 18 – Austenesque Reviews – Lady Catherine takes me to task!

November 21 – The Calico Critic – spotlights sample segment

December 3 – Darcyholic Deversions – Mr. Collins interviews Shannon Winslow

TBA – More Agreeably Engaged

 

 

I will update this tour schedule with live links as they become available. I hope you will follow along! Also, be sure to check back here after the 8th to see if you’ve won your very own copy of Prayer & Praise: a Jane Austen Devotional!

UPDATE: The winners are Suzanne and Agnes. Congratulations! To claim your prize, please contact me by FB message or email: shannon(at)shannonwinslow(dot)com.

 

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Ta-Da! Cover Reveal… at last!

Did you think this day would ever come? With all the unexpected challenges and my major case of paralyzing indecision (see the 3 previous posts for the full saga), I was beginning to wonder myself! But the fog finally cleared and here it is: the finished cover design and book blurb for Prayer & Praise: a Jane Austen Devotional. (Learn more about it here and here)

Prayer and Praise_Kindle

 

Did you know that Jane Austen wrote prayers in addition to her six classic novels? She was not only a woman of celebrated humor, intellect, and insight; she was a woman of faith.

Prayer & Praise is a treasure trove of thought-provoking messages inspired by the lines of Austen’s three preserved prayers. Atop a solid foundation of scripture, these 50 devotional segments (each finishing with prayer and praise) enlist familiar characters and situations from Austen novels to illustrate spiritual principles – in creative, often surprising, ways!

Which one of Austen’s characters developed a god complex? Who was really pulling Henry Crawford’s strings? Where do we see examples of true repentance, a redeemer at work, light overcoming darkness? With a Biblical perspective, Austen’s beloved stories reveal new lessons about life, truth, hope, and faith.

I’m so pleased with how it turned out – the cover, yes, but the whole book really – and I hope you will enjoy it too. The official publication date is November 4th, just in time for your Christmas shopping convenience. Did I mention that it would make a lovely gift? – for that special someone or maybe for yourself. After all, you’re someone special too, right?

“I am the happiest creature in the world. Perhaps other people have said so before, but not one with such justice. I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, I laugh. Mr. Darcy sends you all the love in the world that he can spare from me You are all to come to Pemberley at Christmas…” (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 60)


Update: Prayer and Praise is now available for pre-order in Kindle and KU  here.

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And the Winner Is… (Cover Image Decision)

See the source imageProgress! My Cover Image Quandry – parts one and two – is finally resolved!

Usually I like to hold back the cover design of a new book until the day of the official cover reveal. But since you all have been so involved this time around, so instrumental in helping me choose the image to use for the cover, I thought you deserved the chance to follow the creative process, with all its twists and turns (and there have been many this time!), through the next steps as well – sort of an inside view of what goes on behind the scenes to bring a project like this to fruition.

So if you want to be completely surprised with the cover for my upcoming Jane Austen Devotional, proceed no farther today! Otherwise, explore on!

Elizabeth longed to explore its windings; but when they had crossed the bridge, and perceived their distance from the house, Mrs. Gardiner, who was not a great walker, could go no farther, and thought only of returning to the carriage as quickly as possible. Her niece was therefore, obliged to submit… (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 43)

gate modifiedChawton cottage - view out window croppedI carefully tallied your votes on my previous post. And although it was far from unanimous, a strong favorite emerged to decide the matter at last. Flowers and sunsets were out, and the Chawton views were in. The picture of the Chawton Garden Gate came in a respectable third place. The Window View beat it out for second. But the clear winner was (drumroll, please) the photo of Chawton Church! Yay!

I liked them all, and so in some ways I didn’t care which one won. I was just happy to finally have a decision made!

church modified 2Next step: I sent the winning image, along with a general idea of what I envisioned for it, to the graphic artist who creates my covers, so that he could get right to work on it. Phew! That part’s done at last! Now I could just sit back and wait to see what gorgeous design he came up with… or so I thought.

A new problem arose immediately. Turns out the photo’s quality wasn’t good enough to use.

No! Not after you all had chosen it and I finally had a decision I could get excited about! I had committed to this image and I didn’t want to give it up. So I tried, without any luck, to find another photo I liked as well – something very similar. It looked like I was going back to the drawing board once again. *sigh*

But wait a minute. ‘Back to the drawing board.’ Yes, that was it! Instead of throwing out your favorite image completely, I decided to try salvaging the idea by doing a pastel painting from it for the cover image. Here is the result!

pastel of Chawton Church

So this is what my graphic designer is working with now. I hope you approve.

As you may remember, I had wanted to use a photograph for this cover, partly so that it would stand out as something very different than my others (since this is a very different kind of book). But I’ve come full circle, back to an ‘artist’s interpretation’ after all. At least it allowed me to add a couple more sheep!

Coming next will be the finished cover reveal with an eye to a proposed publication date of November 1st. Stay tuned!

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Cover Image Quandary – Part 2

NO, I STILL HAVEN’T DECIDED!!!

I know, I know. It’s been a whole month since my previous post about choosing the cover image for my upcoming Jane Austen devotional (read more about the book here and here). And I’ve even had benefit of all your advice. So what’s my problem? Too many good options and a case of analysis paralysis. I am getting closer to a decision, but I’m still not quite ready to make the final choice.

I really appreciated all the feedback you gave me on my last post (here and in your comments on Facebook). No really strong consensus developed, however. Turns out, you like mountains and sunsets and lakes and flowers and gardens too! Then, to further complicate my decision, the excellent idea of using an image of a church was suggested by more than one person.

But I did come away with a couple of useful thoughts.

First, there should be a Jane Austen connection evident on the cover. And while this could be achieved with her name and perhaps her silhouette, it would probably be even better if the subject matter of the image itself conveyed at least a subtle connection to her, since it is a Jane Austen devotional. If it’s a picture of a garden, it should be an English garden. If it’s a lake or a mountain or a woodland scene, it should look like a place we can imagine she might have visited, not one an ocean and a continent away, with the wrong kind of terrain and trees.

Secondly, it became clear that the photos needed to be cropped and color adjusted (many appeared quite dark) in order to be judged fairly.

So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve taken three of the previous batch and added a few new ones that meet my updated search criteria. Then I framed them to look more like book covers. You’ll still have to use your imagination, though, since inserting text boxes and beautiful lettering is beyond my capabilities. But I know that the graphic designer who creates my covers can make any one of these work.

Let’s say that last month’s slate of hopefuls were semi-finalists, or those running in the primary election. Now that the field has been narrowed slightly and you’re being given a clearer picture of how each of the candidates would look in the office, which one of the finalist do you think fills the role best?

Without further fanfare, here they are, our seven finalists!

1) the Sunset, back by popular demand. Could be anywhere. No doubt Jane Austen saw and enjoyed many like it.

Devotional lake 4 modified half

2) the Hydrangea. Also very popular last time. Now zoomed in on and cropped to fill the whole cover. Something like it could have grown in Jane Austen’s garden, right?

hydrangea cropped mod 2 half

3) the Roses. Different kind of flower, but similar treatment.

Roses cropped mod 2 half

Now, for the new entries:

4) Chawton Garden Gate (photo courtesy of Joana Starnes). Jane Austen undoubtedly walked here many times when visiting her brother Edward at the Great House, next door to the cottage where she spent the last several years of her life.

gate modified.jpg

5) Chawton Church: St. Nicholas (photo courtesy of Joana Starnes). Although the building looked different in Jane Austen’s day (burned and rebuilt since), this is where Austen would have attended church during her years at nearby Chawton cottage. It’s also where her mother and sister are buried. (PS – Early returns are telling me that the colors on this one need to be lightened/brightened, and I agree. Dreamy is fine, but we don’t want it to feel gloomy.)

church modified 2.jpg

6) Woodland Bluebells (photo courtesy of Joana Starnes) – near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Did Jane Austen know similarly scenic woodlands where she could walk and enjoy the bluebells in the spring?

Spring Bluebells - Joana Starnes modified half 2

7) a View from her Window. Those of you who have visited Chawton cottage will recognize this as the drawing room window, overlooking the garden. Doesn’t it seem like just the spot to spend a quiet hour with a good book?

Chawton cottage - view out window cropped

Well, that’s it! What do you think? Which of these options particularly inspire you? Which one would draw you in best, making you want to pick up the book and discover what’s inside?

I promise, this is the last time I’ll ask. I will put an end to my self-torture and make a decision soon. So the next time we discuss this subject, it will be for the official cover reveal!!!

What totally different feelings did Emma take back into the house from what she had brought out! – she had then been only daring to hope for a little respite of suffering; – she was now in an exquisite flutter of happiness, and such happiness moreover as she believed must still be greater when the flutter should have passed away. (Emma, chapter 50)

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Cover Image Quandary

As I told you in my previous post, I have now finished writing my Jane Austen Devotional. (Learn more about it here and here) Yay! So while it goes through editing, it’s time to start thinking about the cover design.

I love this part of the process. It’s where my interest in art intersects with my love of books. I feel lucky that I get to have so much input into the design. I work directly with a talented graphic artist, suggesting the concept I have in mind and sometimes even contributing my own artwork. Then it’s back-and-forth until we get it just right.

Since this book will be something completely different from any of my others, it opens the possibility of a very different style of cover as well. I can picture the font and the how the words should be positioned. And I’ve decided I want to use a photograph for the background image this time. But what sort of photograph?

20190404_114714

option number one

I want something beautiful and serene.

20190511_141710-2

number two

And it can’t be so dynamic that it completely overwhelms the title.

20190522_134748

number three

I can imagine that a floral image could work nicely…

Devotional hygrangia

number four

or a sunset…

Devotional lake 4

number five

or a water scene…

Devotional lake 1

number six

or maybe a sunset water scene…

Devotional lake 2

number seven

or a glorious mountain picture…

Devotional Rainier 4

number eight

or even a snow scene…

Devotional snow

number nine

or… or… or…

Uh-oh. I’m in trouble. After considering literally hundreds of possibilities, a clear winner still hasn’t risen head and shoulders above the rest. These are the current leading contenders. (In most cases, only a portion of the picture would be used.) I can imagine each of them gracing the devotional’s cover. But of course, I can choose only ONE.

So which one would YOU choose? Give your imagination free rein. Which picture sets the right tone for a devotional? Which would catch your eye and get you to pick up the book? Is there a winner in this batch, or should I go back to the drawing board? Help me out and tell what you think. If I go with your pick, you can brag to everybody how we both have excellent taste!  (Please comment below)

But now suppose as much as you choose; give a loose rein to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford, and… you cannot greatly err.  (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 60)

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Updates and Picnics

See the source imageYay! I’m happy to report that the Jane Austen devotional I’ve been working on is complete! It contains 50 meditations inspired by Jane Austen’s preserved prayers, with spiritual illustrations drawn from the characters and situations in her novels. (See earlier post Life and Other Unmanageable Events for a preview of one of the segments.) As with every other book I’ve written, it was a labor of love, this time with a whole different set of interesting challenges, since it was my first non-fiction piece.

Anyway, I’ve sent the manuscript out to a few trusted beta readers for comments and corrections with an eye to a probable publishing date in September (or October at the latest). My cover designer will now begin his work (with lots of “helpful” input from me). But until the final rewrites are needed, I’m a little at my leisure. So I’ve turned my attention, with renewed enthusiasm, back to the Northanger Abbey sequel I had begun before that – working title: Murder at Northanger Abbey.

I shared a slightly steamy scene from that work-in-progress here, but the following is what I wrote recently for a “Picnics” theme post at Austen Variations.

Emma had never been to Box Hill; she wished to see what every body found so well worth seeing; and she and Mr Weston had agreed to chuse some fine morning and drive thither… and it was to be done in a quiet, unpretending, elegant way, infinitely superior to the bustle and preparation, the regular eating and drinking, and picnic parade of the Eltons and the Sucklings. (Emma, chapter 42)

In case you missed reading it there, I decided to share it here too! I’ve added this little scene to chapter one of the book, where it fits nicely as part of the snap shot of Catherine and Henry’s early wedded bliss before events lead them into danger and intrigue.  So here’s another sneak peek!



The drawing room had been an instant favorite with Catherine from the occasion of her first setting eyes on it those months before. General Tilney himself had brought her to Woodston to see Henry’s home, at the time making ill-disguised allusions that it might one day be her home as well.

“Oh, what a sweet room!” she had involuntarily exclaimed to Henry upon seeing it. “But why do not you fit it up, Mr. Tilney? What a pity not to have it fitted up for use! It is the prettiest room I ever saw! If this were my house, I am sure I should never sit anywhere else!”

Such were her irrepressible sensations at the time. She remembered that Henry’s answering smile seemed to convey his amusement and pleasure at her unguarded effusions.

“I trust,” the General had said with a satisfied smile, “that it will very speedily be furnished; it waits only for a lady’s taste!”

General Tilney, of course, had shortly thereafter changed his mind, withdrawing his good opinion of her when she turned out not to be the heiress he had supposed. But as for Catherine, she had never retreated from her high opinion of the drawing room at Woodston parsonage. It was still her favorite room in the world. And though she had yet to finish properly fitting it up – there would be new paper for the walls, different curtains, and a stylish sofa had been ordered – she had temporarily installed a small table and two comfortable chairs directly facing the tall windows, where they could sit and enjoy the bucolic view in the meanwhile.

Before she could settle to her work, Catherine once again paused before those windows to consider the scene, as she had done an hundred times before. But this day she flattered herself that she was seeing with a more educated eye, as she had been recently studying some extracts from a large volume on the subject of the picturesque. And now it struck her for the first time that there was some small imperfection in the view before her. Although there were hills at the back to give depth, and a cheerful green meadow at the fore, generously embellished with wandering sheep and hedgerows, to Catherine’s newly enlightened mind, there was still something wanting.

See the source imageCatherine’s knowledge of art in general was very thin, but she had learnt enough to know that every landscape should contain a point of particular interest to draw one’s eye. The sheep could not be counted on to arrange themselves just so, and besides, they were far too ordinary to serve. No, it should be something else, something less commonplace but just as serene. Then an idea struck her, and she knew at once that her instincts had been correct. It only remained for Henry to be convinced as well.

Catherine lost no time. Finding Henry in his book room, she took him by the hand and propelled him to the drawing room without bothering to answer his questions as to the cause of her obvious excitement.

“There!” she said pointing through the windows to the precise place suggested by her imagination. Henry looked, but when he failed to respond with appropriate enthusiasm, Catherine was forced to go on. “There must be a picnic to take place exactly there,” she said, “Cannot you see how charming it would look, Henry? That is the very thing to complete the picture!”

Henry laughed. “My darling girl, is this what has you so agitated – the need for a picnic? Well it is a fine day, and I have no dislike for eating out of door. We may take a picnic wherever you say, but why among the sheep, darling? Surely under one of the trees to the side of the lawn would do as well or better.”

“No, Henry, you are missing the point. It must be exactly there for the sake of correct composition. A young couple like ourselves, sitting on a blanket, is needed to add the point of particular interest and complete the view. Look again, and I am sure you will see that I am right.”

Henry obeyed but remained mystified. “I suppose you are right in thinking it would be a pretty scene, but not one that it is within our power to contrive. We are not likely to be able to convince any young couple to continually picnic there just so that we may always have the pleasure of looking at them.”

“Of course not,” Catherine said patiently. “We must do it ourselves.”

“But… I’m afraid I still do not understand, my darling. One cannot be in two places a once – here to observe the pretty scene and there to be observed…” He trailed off.

“I know that much: I am no simpleton. But once we have picnicked on that spot, I will ever after be able to see it in my mind’s eye when I look out this window. Even many years from now, when we are quite old and gray, I will picture us exactly there. Wait!” Catherine ran to the cupboard in the next room, returning with a dark blue blanket, which she handed to her husband. “Now take this and go out into the meadow. I will direct you to the correct spot from here. Meanwhile, I will have Mrs. Peabody make up a basket with a few things – just bread, wine, and cheese, perhaps. Then, when everything is ready, I will join you and we will have our picnic.”

See the source imageHenry made no further protest. He took the blanket and set off out the door, across the lawn, and down the lane to where there was a stile to give access to the meadow beyond. Every few minutes he looked back, waved, and looked for Catherine’s direction for where to proceed. Soon enough, she joined him and they shared the modest repast together there, talking and laughing, and then lying back on the blanket, holding hands and gazing deep into the clear blue sky.

Although Henry Tilney had gone along with the plan simply to humor his wife, he ended by thinking her idea a very wise one indeed. Not only had he enjoyed himself immensely, which did not surprise him. He also was to discover how right Catherine had been. For never again would he look out the drawing room windows without picturing their lovely picnic exactly there, as she had said.



I hope you enjoyed this playful look at the young married couple and the way they interact. Stay tuned for further updates on this and other projects!

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