What Jane Austen Means to Me by Becca Hemmings

me-2Why I love Jane
 I love Jane Austen for two contradictory reasons:
  1. Picking up a Jane Austen novel acts as an escape from the modern lifestyle for me.
  2. She is wonderful satirising and celebrating human nature. Her characters and their emotions are timeless and we can recognise and relate to them today.
How Jane has influenced my life I was first introduced to Jane Austen aged 10 back in 1995 when Andrew Davies’s Pride & Prejudice was on TV. I remember it being on a Sunday, late in the afternoon, and I would watch it with my mam whilst she was ironing. I loved it: the characters, the costumes, the scenery, the humour, the drama and the romance. From that moment on I was hooked and read all her books. I decided to study English Literature at University, even choosing Bath because it was largely unchanged since the Regency period.
My time at the Jane Austen Centre I couldn’t believe my luck when I was offered the job as a part time guide at the Jane Austen Centre. It was the perfect job to coincide with my studies and I learned so much. The team were like a second family to me and I looked forward to every shift.
When I finished university it was very hard to find work. The Centre came to the rescue again! I was offered more part time work to bring my hours up to full time - this time managing the online giftshop. Alert readers will recognize Becca from our home page photo, with other Centre staff, and Martin Salter, "The Most Photographed Man in England". Although I didn’t have any experience or training in e-commerce (let alone websites) I put my all into the role and taught myself on the job. As I put the energy in, the orders increased, and eventually I was working on the shop full time. I sourced new products, took pictures, wrote the descriptions, redesigned the site and started the social media campaigns, all the while learning from my mistakes and recognizing what worked. I remember the joy of working with something I loved - everyday I found out something new about Jane! I think my favourite product was the turquoise ring replica, it required lots of research and has a fascinating history. 3 years ago I moved to the exciting city of London and continued to work on the shop remotely. It was very sad to leave Bath and the centre but I still saw my friends from time to time. By this point I was working freelance and creating websites for small businesses, it was great to get people online. In 2012 I decided to try and start an online shop of my own. My New Ventures welshgiftshop.com was my first online store, and it grew at such a rate I had to hand my notice in after 7 years of working at the centre (with a heavy heart). It was a wonderful way of supporting my Welsh heritage and celebrating Wales' culture.
Though part of me missed working with literature and my favourite author. I still followed the news and kept in touch with my Austen friends, but it wasn’t quite enough. That's when I created booklovergifts.com!
Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 12.22.23 It is an online giftshop for readers and writers and celebrates all of my favourite authors including Shakespeare, Dickens, and of course Austen! I hope to create a community for bibliophiles worldwide. I am also designing my own products, my favourite being this pocket mirror inspired by Mrs. Bennet’s exclamation on hearing of Jane’s engagement to Mr. Bingley:  “I was sure you could not be so beautiful for nothing!” Perfect quotation for a mirror! It has a pretty floral or lace background to choose from. Becca's compact mirror is the perfect accessory to any well stocked reticule. Now I am very happy running Welsh Gift Shop and beginning Book Lover’s Gifts - in a way this has all been thanks to Jane Austen!

unnamedBecca currently resides in North London where the parks are large and the second hand book shops are plentiful. You can follow Becca and the Book Lover’s progress by following her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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