09/03/2010 07:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Making of a Novel: Bringing Fiction to Life, One Thread at a Time

For my last novel, The Threadbare Heart, I had the great good fortune to arrange a nationwide contest in conjunction with Keepsake Quilting, one of the country's most trusted and beloved suppliers of high quality quilt fabric and supplies. (I'm not kidding about the beloved part; this company's customers love them!) My novel featured a character who ended up losing a lifetime stash of fabric in a forest fire. In one scene, she muses about a quilt she never made out of all the blue fabrics. It was going to be a quilt that looked like the sea on a summer day. The challenge that Keepsake and I brainstormed was for quilters to bring to life this fictional quilt. Such a cool concept -- to think that people all over the country would be using their hands and their fabric and their imagination to respond to my story. I just loved the whole idea.

The quilting experts at Keepsake's flagship store in Center Harbor, New Hampshire, chose five fabrics that had to appear in every quilt. The quilters were allowed to use any other fabric from their stash, and they were required to write something about what those fabrics meant to them. If they started on time, they had just under two months to complete the project.

Last week, I had the pleasure of reading the essays from the semi finalists, and reviewing the quilts that Keepsake's experts had ranked. I think that this task has to rank up there as one of the best moments of my writing life. It was an absolute thrill. The quilts were all spectacularly beautiful, and the way the women wrote about their fabric stashes was incredibly moving -- people remembering their mothers, and favorite road trips (a light house road trip in Nova Scotia!), and loyal dogs. In one essay, a writer said she thought her quilt would "make Lily proud." (Lily is my character.) It made me so proud to do what I do, and so happy that writing can sometimes intersect with other creative arts in these synergistic ways.

Congratulations to Laurie Hamilton of Baxter, Maine, for her winning entry, below. If you happen to visit Center Harbor this fall on a leaf peeping tour, stop by Keepsake Quilting and you can see the quilt in person: