Tuesday, May 29, 2007

JK: Quilt Show

I spent last weekend in Chicago at the Rosemont Quilt Show. Some of you are quilters so you know about this show and how huge it is and the expanse of materials and yarns and threads that simply wash over anyone fortunate enough to walk among the booths and listen to the chatter of people, mostly women, who love quilting.

Some of my titles have quilt connections (The Kinship and Courage Series and my current Change and Cherish series was inspired by my finding a quilt made by Emma Giesy who became my main character as I researched her life). Two different quilting groups in the Northwest have quilted their versions of my two of my series and have joined me at signings to share “their stories” done in fabric. What a thrill that was for me!

While there I was struck by how much the quilters that I met and spoke to love stories. On one side signing with me was fiction author Emilie Richards, who writes wonderful stories with quilt themes (she quilts) and has another series about a pastor’s wife (she is one) who keeps finding dead people and she has to solve the mystery. Emilie is beloved based on the fans who bought her books.

On the other side signed Ann Frischkorn, who is a true quilter, too. One of the books she’s written is called Scraps of Time, Quilting with Treasured Fabrics. What I loved about this very technical book was the story behind it. Ann’s grandmother had died and a male cousin had asked for her dresses. He saved them for 16 years knowing he wanted a quilt made from them. It took him 16 years to discover that Ann was a quilter, a consummate one. She got the dresses and brought the quilt she’d made from them with her to the show. And she’s making many more for all the cousins. Her book suggests how to use men’s ties or kids tee shirts or old aprons, let’s say, and of course dresses, to make beloved quilts. These pieces of fabric stitched together stories of a person’s life, and each time she told the story she lovingly stroked a piece of her grandmother’s dress.

As a fiction writer, I think that’s what I do, too. I hang onto little bits and pieces of memory, of experience, and then weave them into something that transforms them, I hope, gives them new life and hopefully touches the lives of others. Each time I revise or read a section after the book is printed, I’m reminded of that moment in time when the experience that created that piece of story was created. The threads between are the narrative, and it’s all bordered and structured in such a way that someone else can create their own experience from it. At least I hope that’s so.

Even writing this piece is a reminder that what we do as writers is to synthesize experience and in the process make it accessible to others who might never have that experience in any other way. I want them to be experiences worthy of a reader’s time.

I’m in awe of people who quilt: their time, the detail, the passion. And many say they’re in awe of writers: our time, the detail, the passion. We’re story-tellers all.

One other thing we share is that we need to finish in order to share those stories….so I’d best get back at it.

Jane Kirkpatrick can be found this month taking in new stories as she promotes her latest novel A Tendering in the Storm. Jane@jkbooks.com .


At 11:55 AM, Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

That's a beautiful, beautiful way to look at things. I spent Sunday in a town that spurred many memories. I'm setting my latest novel there, so I scribbled notes. Just being there reminded me of the amazing people I'd met. Their DNA will make its way into my stories much like scraps of fabric make their way into an heirloom quilt. Thanks for a great post.


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