Elsa Solender is inspired by Jane Austen


Jane Austen fanatic Elsa Solender has won a prize in a competition that the 19th-century novelist would herself perhaps quite like to have entered.

New York-based Mrs Solender was runner-up in the Jane Austen Short Story Award 2009.

The competition was held to mark the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s arrival in the Hampshire village where her brother owned an estate.

The contest was organised by the Chawton House Library, which promotes research into early English women’s writing.

Hopefuls from across the globe were invited to write a 2,500 story inspired by Jane Austen’s novels, her life, or by Chawton House, and their entries were judged by best-selling author Sarah Waters.

Mrs Solender, the former president of the Jane Austen Society of North America, was one of three prize-winners. She tells People: “It was important to me that the judging was anonymous. That’s why I entered, because people didn’t know my background.”

Her entry, Second Thoughts, was set years before Austen moved to Chawton. Mrs Solender, who has worked as a journalist, editor and teacher, was introduced to Jane Austen’s work by her mother. “I was 14 when she gave me Pride and Prejudice. I then spent the summer reading all six of her novels.” Does she have a favourite? “No. I love them all.”

As part of the prize, Mrs Solender’s story has been published in the anthology Dancing With Mr Darcy (Honno). She also spent time on a writer’s retreat at Chawton House Library.

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