Married; children: two sons. Education: Graduated from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago. Hobbies and other interests: Quilting.
Home—Madison, WI. Office—P.O. Box 620824, Middleton, WI 53562.
Writer and designer. Designer of the Elm Creek Quilts fabric lines from Red Rooster Fabrics. Former writing instructor at the Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA, and Edgewood College, Madison, WI.
"ELM CREEK QUILTS" SERIES
The Quilter's Apprentice, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Round Robin, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
The Cross Country Quilters, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
The Runaway Quilt (also see below), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
The Quilter's Legacy (also see below), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
The Master Quilter (also see below), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
The Sugar Camp Quilt: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
The Christmas Quilt, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Circle of Quilters, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.
An Elm Creek Quilts Album: Three Novels in the Popular Series (contains The Runaway Quilt, The Quilter's Legacy, and The Master Quilter), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.
The Quilter's Homecoming: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.
(With Nancy Odom) Elm Creek Quilts: Projects Inspired by the Elm Creek Quilts Novels, C and T Publishers (Lafayette, CA), 2002.
Return to Elm Creek: More Quilt Projects Inspired by the Elm Creek Quilts Novels, C and T Publishers (Lafayette, CA), 2004.
Several books have been adapted as audiobooks, including The Quilter's Apprentice, The Quilter's Legacy, The Master Quilter, The Sugar Camp Quilt, and Circle of Quilters, Recorded Books.
Jennifer Chiaverini taught herself how to quilt in 1994. Her experiences with quilting led her to write her first novel, which revolves around the world of quilting and spurred a whole series of novels about a quilting community in Pennsylvania.
Chiaverini's first novel, The Quilter's Apprentice, is the story of two women, Sarah and Sylvia, one young and one old coming together through quilting. Sarah agrees to work for Sylvia on the condition that Sylvia will teach her to quilt. Through their instruction much of Sylvia's secret past is revealed and together they use Sylvia's inheritance to form the Elm Creek Quilting Camp. Booklist critic Vanessa Bush wrote: "There's plenty of folklore about quilting and how these artistic endeavors bring women together in circles of quilting and friendship." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews observed: "Nicely stitched together (and fun for quilters)." Ellen R. Cohen, writing in the Library Journal, remarked: "Chiaverini … has pieced together a beautiful story in this first novel."
The second work in what has come to be called the "Elm Creek Quilts" novels is titled Round Robin. The story picks up where the last left off, still focusing on Sarah and Sylvia, only now expanding to include other quilters who visit the camp. The women come together to make a round robin quilt for the camp, and through the process learn more about themselves, each other, and friendship. A reviewer, writing in Publishers Weekly, called it a "sugary story" that "is neatly concluded on a tender if sentimental note." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "It's all very predictable, and every problem is resolved with a maximum of sentiment. But Chiaverini spins a bunch of compelling yarns and expertly weaves them together." Cohen commented in Library Journal: "Women readers in particular will be touched and charmed."
For the third installment of the series, Chiaverini brings together a new group of women in The Cross-Country Quilters. A group of diverse women, each with their own problems, meet at the Elm Creek quilt camp and agree to make a Challenge Quilt together. Each participant must overcome one of their own personal challenges before they can begin their section of the quilt. They agree to meet back at the camp a year later. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted: "Endearing characters and pleasant vignettes render this series as charming and cozy as a favorite blanket."
The Runaway Quilt is the fourth book and focuses on Sylvia and her family history. It documents the story of Elm Creek Manor, Sylvia's family home and site of the Elm Creek quilting camp. When a mysterious quilt is discovered, Sylvia is left with many questions about what she thought she knew of her family. A reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly observed: "Chiaverini manages to impart a healthy dollop of history in a folksy style, while raising moral questions in a suspenseful narrative."
Published the same year as The Runaway Quilt was Elm Creek Quilts: Projects Inspired by the Elm Creek Quilts Novels. Chiaverini wrote this text with the help of quilt designer and teacher Nancy Odom. It is a pattern book for quilting projects based on and inspired by the characters and events of Chiaverini's novels. A contributor to Library Journal commented: "Reading the novels is not a prerequisite for making the quilts pictured, but they will take on deeper meaning for those familiar with the books."
The fifth book in the series appeared as The Quilter's Legacy. The book focuses again on Sylvia, this time chronicling her search for five quilts her mother made before she died. A reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly called it the best of the "Elm Creek Quilts" novels and noted: "Chiaverini's storytelling skills have noticeably improved. She approaches but never succumbs to sentimentality and keeps her account of hunts for antique quilts from becoming too predictable." Vanessa Bush, writing in Booklist, noted: "Series fans will enjoy this latest installment."
In The Master Quilter, each of Sylvia's friends who help her run Elm Creek Manor are given a chapter to tell a story, with each story covering the same events. The quilting project this time is a wedding gift for Sylvia and her new husband, Andrew. As the quilt is made, each friend must deal with a crisis in their own lives, including one quilter who must tell her mother she is moving in with her boyfriend, another who is ignored for appointment as the head of her academic department, and another whose husband is leaving her and trying to take all their money in the process. "Longburied secrets, animosities, and yearnings rise to the surface," noted Vanessa Bush in Booklist. A reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly commented that the author "intensifies the story's texture by retelling key scenes from multiple points of view." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "Fans will love the further development of the Elm Creek characters."
The seventh book in the series, The Sugar Camp Quilt, is a historical novel that takes place before the Civil War in Creeks Crossing, Pennsylvania. The story revolves around the Granger family, caught up in the issue of runaway slaves and the Underground Railroad. When teenaged Dorothea Granger is asked by her uncle to make a special quilt with a specific pattern, she has no idea that the quilt, like others, will be used as a marker for the Underground Railroad. When the uncle dies, Dorothea and her parents Robert and Lorena Granger decide to take up his cause by helping runaway slaves. When confronted by slave catchers, Dorothea turns for help from the unlikable Thomas Nelson. Her dislike for Thomas, however, soon fades and turns into love. An MBR Bookwatch contributor noted: "Dorothea is a brave and realistic heroine who along with her family needs to star in future historicals." Beth E. Andersen, writing in the Library Journal, commented that the book "captures the courage of the Underground Railroad supporters and the runaways who risked everything to find freedom."
In The Christmas Quilt, the author takes the reader back to a time between The Quilter's Apprentice and The Master Quilter. The story revolves around family problems and regrets, with the then widowed Sylvia advising Sarah to make amends with her mother. When Sylvia finds an old, unfinished Christmas quilt in the attic, she thinks back to her own family Christmases as a girl and to a tragic Christmas she spent at Elk Creek Manor, where she has returned to celebrate her first Christmas in fifty years. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "there's no saccharine in this sweet story." Rebecca Vnuk, writing in the Library Journal, noted that "readers … will enjoy this charming story of love and family."
Circle of Quilters finds Sylvia and her friends at Elm Creek Quilt Camp looking for a new instructor. The various candidates must tell what quilting has meant to them, from women such as Anna, a superb quilter with a relationship that is falling apart, to Russell, who completed a cancer quilt his wife began before she died. "Diehard fans may want more than mere cameos from their favorite characters, but overall, a pleasant addition to the series," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. In a review on the Bookreporter.com Web site, Judy Gigstad noted that "a glimpse into the popular activity of quilting offers an education to the art."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 1999, Vanessa Bush, review of The Quilter's Apprentice, p. 1151; April 15, 2003, Vanessa Bush, review of The Quilter's Legacy, p. 1447; February 1, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of The Master Quilter, p. 948; March 15, 2005, Vanessa Bush, review of The Sugar Camp Quilt: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel, p. 1263; April 1, 2006, Vanessa Bush, review of Circle of Quilters, p. 18.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1999, review of The Quilter's Apprentice, p. 162; March 15, 2000, review of Round Robin, p. 332; February 1, 2004, review of The Master Quilter, p. 97; August 15, 2005, review of The Christmas Quilt, p. 868; February 15, 2006, review of Circle of Quilters, p. 144.
Library Journal, February 15, 1999, Ellen R. Cohen, review of The Quilter's Apprentice, p. 182; February 15, 2000, Ellen R. Cohen, review of Round Robin, p. 194; April 15, 2003, review of Elm Creek Quilts, p. 84; December 1, 2004, Barbara Hoffert, review of The Sugar Camp Quilt, p. 86; March 1, 2005, Beth E. Andersen, review of The Sugar Camp Quilt, p. 76; March 15, 2005, Barbara Hoffert, "Q&A: Jennifer Chiaverini," p. 76; October 15, 2005, Rebecca Vnuk, review of The Christmas Quilt, p. 46.
MBR Bookwatch, April, 2005, review of The Sugar Camp Quilt.
Publishers Weekly, January 18, 1999, review of The Quilter's Apprentice, p. 324; February 14, 2000, review of Round Robin, p. 173; March 5, 2001, review of The Cross-Country Quilters, p. 63; February 25, 2002, review of The Runaway Quilt, p. 39; April 7, 2003, review of The Quilter's Legacy, p. 47; February 16, 2004, review of The Master Quilter, p. 149; August 29, 2005, review of The Christmas Quilt, p. 33.
AEI Speakers Bureau Web site,http://www.aeispeakers.com/ (February 1, 2007), brief profile of author.
BestReviews.com,http://thebestreviews.com/ (October 15, 2005), Harriet Klausner, reviews of The Master Quilter, The Sugar Camp Quilt, and The Christmas Quilt.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (February 1, 2007), Melissa A. Palmer, reviews of The Master Quilter and The Master Quilter; Judy Gigstad, reviews of Circle of Quilters and The Sugar Camp Quilt; Carole Turner, review of The Christmas Quilt.
Elm Creek Quilts Web site,http://www.elmcreek.net/ (September 17, 2003), short biography of author.