Friday, June 25, 2010

Quilting and the Art of Writing

I love the artistry of quilts. The designs often tell a story or give us a glimpse into the person who created the quilt. Quilting demands a flare for creativity, imagination, focus, the ability to see the finished product in the scraps and pieces strewn on a table. I'm lucky I can sew on a button, so I don't know this first-hand. But in talking to people who do quilting, I've come to know that this is a labor of love and patience. Not unlike writing a novel.

I did a little research on the steps to creating a quilt. I was astonished by the similarities with the steps to writing a novel. I found one definition of the process of quilting as the joining of two or more layers of material to make a thicker padded material. A novel is written in layers—beginning, middle, and end—plot and sub-plot. One note that surprised me is that quilts are usually completed by starting in the middle and working your way out to the edges. Some of us write that way. We know the heart of the story and we work from there, fleshing it out, developing our characters, finding the true starting point.

You need the proper equipment to start your quilt, starting with a pattern—a synopsis of your plot or story line. For quilting, you need needles and thread. It is recommended you use a strong thread. In writing, you need a strong plot thread to tie your story together from beginning to end.

Then there are your two layers of fabric for the top and bottom, and your filler. The top layer should be a smooth medium-weight fabric. Your story must be smooth, seamless, drawing the reader in and through to the end. The bottom layer of the quilt must not be of a slippery fabric that will slide. The last chapters of your book should be solid, bringing your story together, tying up the loose ends, and resolving the conflicts.

A quilt requires filling—batting or insulating material. This is stuff that provides warmth and gives the quilt shape and texture and fullness. The middle of a book should do the same thing—provide the arc of the story, bring the reader to the height of tension and the story to its fullness.

The filling has to be tacked between the top and bottom layers. Good tacking ensures an even, unpuckered finish on a quilt. This made me think of the process of revising a manuscript, once you've done your first draft. This is where you put in the final stitches to pull it together.

Lastly, the quilter finishes off the edging and the border. We writers engage in the editing process for the final touches on our manuscript. Our words are then bound between an artist's cover. And we have a book.

Speaking of books, perhaps you'd like to snuggle down with my latest novel, Shooting into the Sun. It's guaranteed to warm your heart. Visit my website to read an excerpt: and click on the cover below to buy the book.

"Never shoot into the sun"--this was the last rule of photography Rylee Morgan's father taught her, right before he got into his car and drove out of her life. This and other rules she had learned had made Rylee a talented and sought after nature photographer. The rules she developed for life, however, had not served her so well. Instead, they left her alone and guarded.

Available now from Champagne Books.

Linda Rettstatt