Jennifer Neidenbach Chiaverini was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but grew up in Waterford, Michigan and Thousand Oaks, California. She received her BA in English from Notre Dame and her MA from the University of Chicago.
After graduate school she moved to State College, Pennsylvania where her soon-to-be husband, whom she met three years before in an undergraduate creative writing course, was working towards his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Penn State. There Chiaverini taught part-time for the English department―and struggled to launch her writing career.
At the same time, she began planning her wedding and found herself longing for a beautiful heirloom wedding quilt to commemorate the occasion and brighten up the apartment the Chiaverinis would soon share. Unfortunately, she had no friends or relatives who quilted and could be counted on to make her a quilt for a wedding gift, nor did her tight budget allow her to purchase one. Before long it became obvious that if she wanted a beautiful heirloom quilt, she would have to make it herself.
At that time, State College did not have a quilt shop, so she bought an instruction book and fabric from a discount store and taught herself to quilt. Her passion for quilting quickly grew. Before long she bought herself a sewing machine and taught herself machine piecing and rotary cutting techniques.
After the wedding, Chiaverini continued to teach at Penn State and quilt--while she stumbled through the first pages of her novel. She knew she wanted to write about women and their work, and about valuing the work women choose to do. Friendship was another theme she wanted to explore, especially women’s friendships and the way women use friendship to sustain them and nurture each other. She even had a vague idea about two of the characters, a young woman and her older and wiser friend. Yet she struggled to get beyond the first few paragraphs of any story she started.
Then she realized the answer had been right in front of her all along: she should write about quilters. As Chiaverini explains, “Anyone who works on a quilt, who devotes her time, energy, creativity, and passion to that art, learns to value the work of her hands. And as any quilter will tell you, a quilter’s quilting friends are some of the dearest, most generous, and most supportive people she knows. Two quilters who have just met will be strangers only until their mutual passion for quilting is revealed. Then they can talk for hours like the best of friends.”
Thus, Chiaverini’s first novel, The Quilter’s Apprentice was born. She sent it into Simon & Schuster and had it snatched up from the slush pile by a young editor. The Quilter’s Apprentice immediately hit regional bestsellers lists and sold out at quilt shows across the country. Letters started pouring in from readers asking what happens next to the Elm Creek Quilters. Chiaverini was wisely instructed by her editor to develop a series based on these characters.
In addition to her 14 novels, Chiaverini is the author of 3 quilt pattern books and designs the Elm Creek Quilts fabric lines for Red Rooster Fabrics. She and her husband have two beautiful and brilliant sons and live in Madison, WI.