Debut novel brings back old friendJoe Wicklund is ready for a dose of “Poison.” The Bennett native said he’s eager to read the debut novel written by childhood friend Bridget Zinn.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Joe Wicklund is ready for a dose of “Poison.” The Bennett native said he’s eager to read the debut novel written by childhood friend Bridget Zinn.
“We were kind of connected from the hip from kindergarten on,” said Wicklund, director of first year admissions at the College of St. Scholastica.
The two met through a book. While riding the bus home from school, Zinn borrowed Wicklund’s library book and took it home. He ran to tell his mom, who called Zinn’s mother. The friendship began.
“It was all about a book,” Wicklund said.
Reading was an integral part of Zinn’s life. Her father, Dick, read Tolkien novels to her when she was little, special father-daughter time.
“By the time we got to the last book, she was actually doing the reading,” he said.
Barrett Dowell met Zinn at the Head of the Lakes Fair. He was 18; she was 17. It was love at first sight, said Dowell, who grew up in Poplar. What drew him to Zinn was what comes through in “Poison.”
“She saw the world so differently … it was a wonderful take,” Dowell said. “Every day was a surprise and it was a wonderful surprise.”
The two were together for 17 years, moving from Madison to Portland, Ore.
“We grew up together, became the adults we are together,” Dowell said.
Zinn worked as a children’s librarian and Dowell worked in public broadcasting, developing websites on the side. Her love of books translated into Zinn becoming an author.
“One of the things she loved in books was warm pockets,” Dowell said of moments of humanity and friendship where a reader connects with the character. “That’s the kind of book she liked to read and wanted to put into the world.”
It took a morphine drip for Zinn to agree to marry Dowell in March 2009, just before she underwent exploratory surgery that revealed colon cancer. Marriage added an extra layer of joy.
“It changed things,” Dowell said. “We didn’t know how amazing it would feel.”
An avid blogger, Zinn added her personal struggles with cancer to her online writing.
“I think it impacted a lot of people, touched them,” Dowell said.
Friends, family and fellow authors rallied around Zinn, putting together fundraisers in Portland, Ore., Madison and a “For the Love of Cake” event in Lake Nebagamon. Along with books, chocolate cake was another passion of Zinn’s. The support was amazing, Dowell said.
“And I’m seeing it again with the support of her book, people wanting to help,” he said.
Although Zinn lost her fight with cancer two years ago, her young adult novel “Poison” is slated for release by Hyperion Books for Children today.
“This was Bridget’s dream, to be published,” said Dowell’s mother, Gloria.
The book centers on 16-year-old Kyra, a highly skilled potions master. To save the kingdom, she tries to poison the future ruler, her former best friend. But her dart misses and she finds herself a fugitive, armed with her potions, a too-cute pig and a charming adventurer named Fred.
Reviewers on goodreads.com call the young adult novel a “rambunctious fairy tale,” and a “fun romp” featuring a strong heroine that makes you smile.
It’s a romantic comedy set in a fantasy world, Dowell said.
“The genre of young adult books needs something like this,” said Dick Zinn. “Poison” is filled with humor, creative twists and warm pockets.
“What a beautiful legacy,” he said.
Wicklund said he’s hoping to find a few “Easter eggs” that reference Zinn’s youth in the Northland. The pig in the book, for example, is named after one of the friends they grew up with, Rosie Nelson. The idea of a potions master came from childhood games featuring Papa Smurf and his potions, Dick Zinn said. And the hero Fred is named in honor of J.K. Rowling’s Fred Weasley.
Mostly, Wicklund said he hopes to experience the warmth of his friend’s presence in the pages of “Poison.”
“I get to hang out with Bridget again, hear her tell a story again,” Wicklund said.
To support the book, authors have already started about their personal “Poison,” sharing links and memories of Zinn. Facebook and Twitter campaigns are being primed.
“I want to say thank you,” Dowell said, to both those he knows and the “unmet friends” who have joined in to promote the book.
How would Bridget have responded to the big book release? Wicklund said she would look at it as a perfect excuse to sneak away and have some really decadent cake.
“She was kind of like a devious celebrator,” he said.
“Bridget was very good at finding joy in life in the small things,” Barrett said, like sunshine, opening a new book for the first time or a good cupcake.
“I think although this would be a really, really big deal, at the same time, it would seriously be about cake,” Wicklund said.
More information on Zinn, “Poison,” reviews, blogs and other book support efforts are available online at www.bridgetzinn.com.