Jane Austen's writings have dazzled audiences since 1787. The leading female author of her era, she injected many witty and competent female characters into the world of fictional literature. These timeless characters have been relieved and revived in such adaptations as Joe Wright's and Deborah Moggach's film version of the classic novel Pride and Prejudice (2005), Douglas McGraths film version of Emma (1996) and the 2007 BBC Series of Sense and Sensibility adapted by Andrew Davies.
Born in Steventon, Hampshire in 1775 to Rev. George Austen and Cassandra Leigh, Jane Austen spent the first years of her life with a wet nurse in a neighbouring village. She spent the first 25 years of her life in Hampshire until her and her family on her father's retirement, moved to Bath, then later, to the village of Chawton. It is surprising that Austen is now so readily associated with the City of Bath as she only resided in the city from 1801 to 1805, and these four years were decidedly literarily stark as travel and extensive social engagements kept her from her writing.
Tutored at home, Austen had a love of literature since childhood but it was not until 1797 that she successfully finished a novel with the completion of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. This love was supported by her father who, before his death in 1805, had attempted to find Austen a publisher. Emma was completed in 1815 having taken a year to write. Jane Austen said the inspiration for her new female protagonist was that "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like." It was published in three volumes detailing the story of the young single match-maker and her journey towards love.
Austen depicts the stories of middle class gentry with her celebrated wit and humour and was one of the first authors to create modern characters by addressing their every-day lives. While all of her heroines seem to be absorbed with courtship and then marriage, she graces them each with a versatility and uniqueness in their character that is reminiscent of early feminist theory by delving into the psyches of women. Jane Austen, along with her sister Cassandra Austen, never married or had children, instead dedicating herself to her family and writing. A majority of her novels were published anonymously, with her authorship only to be made public by her brother Henry after she had passed away in 1817.
Sandra Fenichel-Asher was born in Philadelphia, USA and has been a successful and celebrated playwright and children's writer. In 1973 she completed a graduate study in child development at the University of Connecticut continuing on in the following year to receive an elementary education certificate from Drury University.
Fenichel-Asher has had a wide ranging career working for WFIU-Radio as a scriptwriter (1963-64), drama critiquing for the Bloomington magazine Spectator (1966-67), at the Institute of Children's Literature as an instructor (1986-92) and co-founding and co-hosting the television program Missouri Writes for Kids. She also entered the Writers Hall of Fame in 1994.
Sandra Fenichel-Asher is a member of the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People, the Authors Guild, the Dramatists Guild, the Society Sandra Fenichel-Asher of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (in which she was the Missouri advisor in1986-89 and also a member on the board of directors from 1989-97). Receiving over 30 prizes and awards for her works during her career, most recently Fenichel-Asher has received the IUPUI/Bonderman Award in 2001 and the Aurand Harris Playwrighting Award, 2003, for her work on In the Garden of the Selfish Giant.