QuiltFiction and Frances O’Roark Dowell
In 2016, Frances embarked on a new phase of her writing career by publishing the quilting novel Birds in the Air, her first novel for adult readers. While the audience was new, she didn’t range far afield at all in terms of subject matter. Frances is an avid quilter and for most of the last decade has hosted a quilting podcast that allows her to connect with fellow quilters around the world.
Combining her love of telling stories and her love of quilting was a natural step. “There’s a rule of thumb for writers: Write the books you want to read,” Frances said. “I’m so happy whenever writers like Jennifer Chiaverini, Marie Bostwick and Sandra Dallas come out with new quilting novels — I wish more quilters wrote books!”
In addition to being her first book for adults, Birds in the Air also represented a change for Frances in the way it was published.
After submitting a book proposal to a publisher and being offered a multi-book contract, Frances decided instead to start her own small publishing company to bring out her quilting novels.
Several factors went into the decision.
For one thing, Frances has worked the same editor at Atheneum Books for Young Readers (which, of course, does not publish books for adults) for her entire writing career and it was hard to imagine working with anyone else.
For another, she wanted to write and publish books that she and her quilting friends would enjoy, without any undue commercial pressure to find as broad a readership as possible.
Lastly, Frances believed running a small publishing venture might be fun.
So far so good. Marianne Fons called Birds in the Air a story about “the power of quilts to connect, heal, and restore the soul.“ Booklist wrote that with its “buoyant prose and an uplifting message,” Birds in the Air would appeal to fans of Mary Simses and Erin McGraw.
Birds in the Air was followed with Margaret Goes Modern in 2017, and a sequel to Birds in the Air is planned for 2018, as well as audiobook releases of both books.
Stay tuned as the QuiltFiction experiment develops.
A Quilting Q&A with Author Frances O’Roark Dowell
There’s a rule of thumb for writers: Write the books you want to read. I’m so happy whenever writers like Jennifer Chiaverini, Marie Bostwick and Sandra Dallas come out with new quilting novels — I wish more quilters wrote books! So it makes sense that if I love reading books about quilting, I should write one.
I’ve always loved quilts. For many years I was convinced that I’d never be able to make a quilt (I’m math phobic, for one thing), and when I finally realized I could, quilting became my new passion. I recently interviewed novelist Marie Bostwick for my blog and asked her why she made quilts. Her answer: Because I can’t paint. I totally got it. Making quilts satisfies my artist soul (the one that can’t paint, alas).
With both quilting and writing, I revise a lot. I find this especially true now that I’m designing more of my own quilts. I mess up a lot in both endeavors, but find that sometimes my failures lead to good, unexpected places. Neither books nor quilts always end up being exactly what you intended them to be — for better and for worse. One thing that’s different about making quilts is that you’re constantly in motion, going from the cutting board to the sewing machine to the ironing board and back again. It’s great to move while I’m making something instead of just sitting in front of a computer.
I’d been making quilts for a few years when I discovered quilting podcasts. For the most part, these podcasts were homey and conversational, and I loved listening to the hosts talk about their projects and guild meetings, and hearing about the books they were reading and what they were having for dinner. For me, starting a podcast was like joining an ongoing conversation with other podcasters, which then became an ongoing conversation with my listeners, who leave comments, send me emails, and sometimes even come through town and have a cup of coffee with me. It’s a really wonderful, supportive community.