2012-02-23 / Community

Former T.O. library employee returns to promote new book

By Anna Bitong

Jennifer Chiaverini Jennifer Chiaverini Author Jennifer Chiaverini’s novels each capture a time and a place created in her imagination. But the art of quilting, deftly woven throughout her 19-book Elm Creek Quilt series, is a thriving craft, the writer said.

“People think it’s (from) a bygone era. They don’t know it’s a living art form,” said Chiaverini, who graduated from Thousand Oaks High School in 1987.

The best-selling author will return to Thousand Oaks to read excerpts from her latest book, “Sonoma Rose,” on Sat., March 3 at the Grant Brimhall Library, 1401 E. Janss Road.

The Saturday event will begin with a quilt show at 1 p.m., followed by a reading and book signing at 2 p.m.

Nancy Schram, deputy director of the Thousand Oaks Library, said author visits attract fans as well as local writers who want to learn more about the writing process.

“We have wonderful turnouts for all our programs, especially author programs. They’re very popular,” Schram said.

Chiaverini’s well-received series includes her novels and five quilt pattern books that are inspired by her stories.

“I wanted to create a story where contemporary quilters see their craft portrayed honestly, accurately and with affection,” said the author, herself a quilter and designer of the Elm Creek Quilts fabric line.

The main character in most of the books is a master quilter who runs a retreat for quilters at her family’s estate in the fictional Elm Creek Valley.

“The quilts that they make or inherit from loved ones are as important to them as they are to real quilt makers,” Chiaverini said.

“What ties the books together are themes of artistic expression and courage in times of trial.”

The author, who moved to T.O. from Michigan with her family when she was a teenager, began writing as soon as she could read.

As a student at TOHS, she worked part-time at the Thousand Oaks Library, and libraries and librarians appear in many of her stories.

“Libraries are very dear to me,” the author said.

The hours she spent at the library as a student eventually led to a meeting with local historian Pat Allen.

“She was very inspirational to me,” Chiaverini said. “Her interest in delving into the past in Thousand Oaks made a big impression on me.”

The author visited Sonoma County and interviewed historians there for her latest novel, which is set in the Sonoma Valley during Prohibition.

“So many people were willing to share their knowledge, and that enriched the story,” Chiaverini said.

After high school, Chiaverini attended the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago.

She taught writing at Penn State University and later at Edgewood College in Madison, Wis., where she now lives with her husband and two sons.

Chiaverini, whose maiden name is Neidenbach, landed her first book deal for 1999’s “The Quilter’s Apprentice” without an agent. A Simon & Schuster editor decided to take a chance on the unknown writer, and it paid off. The author is slated to write three more books after “Sonoma Rose.”

Since she hadn’t planned to write follow-up stories to her first novel, her books jump around in time and each can stand alone. The nontraditional sequence allowed her to stretch her tales into a long-running series and explore the lives of supporting characters, Chiaverini said.

“Previous books kindle ideas for new stories,” she said. “I might fall in love with a secondary character in an earlier book. The character lingers in my imagination, and I make them a star in a whole new book.”

The novelist credits the popularity of her series to uplifting themes of loyalty and friendship as well as relatable characters who face the same challenges that people encounter in everyday life.

“Readers appreciate the realistic characters. None are perfect. The protagonist tries to do what’s right but sometimes falls short,” she said.

Chiaverini is excited to wrap up her current book tour in Thousand Oaks, where her mother, brother and sister still live.

“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s nice to come home.”

To learn more about Chiaverini’s work, visit www.elmcreek.net.

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