The Spoilt Quilt and Other Stories
Volume XVII, Issue Four | December 2019
The Spoilt Quilt and Other Stories
I had published exactly one short story in my life when Five Star Publishing approached me about writing one for an anthology on frontier women. Not a chance! I thought. Short stories aren’t my thing. Coming up with plots is so difficult for me that I didn’t want to waste one on a short story.
Still, I was intrigued by the idea. There was something attractive about writing a story that was only 5,000 words instead of a novel that was close to 100,000. I had finished a manuscript and didn’t know what to tackle next. And then, most important, an idea crept into my mind, an idea that reminded me a little of The Persian Pickle Club.
I wasn’t sure I could actually write it, however. So I didn’t commit myself. I waited until The Spoilt Quilt was finished and then contacted the editor and said, “Oh, by the way, if you’re still interested…” She liked it, and to my surprise, she used it as the title of the anthology—The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories.
If the male settlers of the western frontier found life demanding, desolate, and deadly, The Spoilt Quilt makes a convincing case that it was even worse for women. Each piece in this 16-story, female-focused anthology packs a punch. The heroines confront death, disease, rape, domestic violence, and poverty, all while living in an era that denies them equal legal status. But that is not to say the main characters lack agency; each woman fights back to the best of her ability regardless of the unfortunate scenario plotted out for her. Some use misdirection (“The Spoilt Quilt”), some use trained skills (“The Well-Witcher’s Daughter,” “Berserker on the Prairie”), some use cunning (“The Hope Chest”), some use pure, unbridled rage (“The Devil’s Rope,” “Abandoned Places”). This collection isn’t necessarily about winners and losers—if it were, many of these women would be failures, and the stories too grim to read. Rather, it’s about personal strength in a time and place when that was often the only resource an individual had in excess. To that end, The Spoilt Quilt provides brief glimpses of optimism in an otherwise overcast world.
My story, The Spoilt Quilt, is about Maryetta, a woman whose husband is found murdered on their lonely farm in eastern Colorado in the early 1900s. The sheriff and his wife, Puss, go to the murder scene, and while her husband takes care of the body, Puss consoles Maryetta, who is a quilter. As the two talk, Puss realizes her friend’s life was not what everyone had believed. It’s a story of one woman’s understanding of and compassion for another.
Westering Women comes out in January
I am so excited about Westering Women, which I wrote about in the last issue of Piecework, and think it is one of my best books. Of course, who am I to judge? I love the characters and the western setting. I hope readers will love it, too. Publication date is January. I have a number of signings lined up: UPCOMING APPEARANCES:
Tues., Jan. 7 at 7:00 pm
TATTERED COVER – COLFAX AVE
2526 E. Colfax Ave.
LONE TREE, CO
Wed., Jan. 8 at 7:00 pm
BARNES & NOBLE – LONE TREE
8374 S. Willow St.
FORT COLLINS, CO
Thurs., Jan. 9 at 6:00 pm
OLD FIREHOUSE BOOKS
Old Town Library201 Peterson St.
HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO
Sat., Jan. 11 at 6:30 pm
DOUGLAS COUNTY LIBRARY
James H. LaRue Branch
9292 Ridgeline Blvd.
Tues., Jan. 14 at 6:30pm
1254 Bergen Pkwy # D122
Sat., Jan. 18 at 11:00 am
COVERED TREASURES BOOKSTORE 105 2nd St. NIWOT, CO
Fri., Jan. 24 at 7:00 pm
7960 Niwot Rd.
Wed., Jan. 29 at 7:30 pm
BOULDER BOOK STORE
1107 Pearl St.
Sun., Feb. 16 from 1-3 pm
ROCKY MOUNTAIN QUILT MUSEUM
200 Violet St. #140
In October, Dana and I flew to San Antonio for Women Writing the West’s annual conference, which brings together women from all over the country who write about the West. The weather was cold, but not the women. Indeed, one of the benefits of the conference is the friendships that form there. The highlights for me, of course, were the Willa Literary Award finalist luncheon and the awards dinner. The Patchwork Bride was a finalist in the Historical Fiction category, and Hardscrabble won for Children’s Fiction and Nonfiction. Years ago, when I was starting out, I wrote a novel that I called a women’s western. I was told there was no such thing. Today we have an entire organization devoted to women’s West.
My Favorite Books
Instead of running reviews of newly published books, I want to recommend a few of the authors I’ve loved over the years. My all-time favorite is Truman Capote. I’d reread any of his fiction. Ditto with Anne Lamott’s nonfiction. All her books on faith are wonderful, but my favorite is the first one, Traveling Mercies. I’m a big mystery fan and especially like Michael Connolly and Greg Isles. Two books that I wish I’d written are Shane and Lilies of the Field. Every time I reread them, I’m reminded how simple and focused they are, each with a strong message. Of course I love reading books by my writer friends, including Diane Mott Davidson, Margaret Coel, Francine Matthews, and Jane Kirkpatrick. I’m not much on poetry, but the book I’ve had on my shelf the longest is 101 Famous Poems. It came out in 1928 and belonged to my father. When I inherited it, the anthology was falling apart, so I had it rebound. I started memorizing the poems in it as soon as I learned to read. I also treasure Thomas Hornsby Ferril’s Westering, with poems that are so evocative of Colorado. Novelist Helen Rich’s books and Belle Turnbull’s poems—I knew both writers in Breckenridge years ago—describe Summit County in the first half of the 20th century. These books, several of them no longer in print, are the ones I cherish and reread. I hope you have your own list.