In Celebration of the Late Bridget Zinn, Read This Book!

Bridget ZinnThe publication of a first book is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are parties to attend, interview requests to fulfill, and books to sign. It’s hard not to feel suddenly famous. But how can a book be successfully launched without an author? In the case of the YA fantasy novel Poison (Hyperion) by debut author Bridget Zinn, who died of colon cancer in May 2011 at the age of 33, the answer is simple: with a lot of help from friends.

After years of attending writing conferences and workshops, editing and revising, and fine-tuning her manuscript, Zinn was offered representation by Michael Stearns of Upstart Crow Literary on February 14, 2009, for Poison and a sequel. The novel stars a feisty 16-year-old heroine with a knack for concocting potions who is on a mission – assisted by an enchanted pig and a hunky hero the author named in honor of Fred Weasley – to save her kingdom. But a few weeks later, when she should have been celebrating her good fortune, Zinn received a stage four cancer diagnosis.

Despite rounds of chemotherapy, she never let her illness best her. Her high school sweetheart Barrett Dowell immediately proposed and they got married in the hospital – and then had three more wedding ceremonies in fairly rapid succession, calling the events their “Summer of Love.” Over the next two years, they traveled, moved into their dream house in Portland, Ore., and planned further adventures with friends. All the while, Zinn continued reading – her last tweet was “Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect.” (The book was a gift from Dowell – Sarah Dessen’s What Happened to Goodbye.) And she kept writing. According to Dowell, Zinn was working on two other novels – both featuring strong female characters and her sharp wit – as well as a few picture book ideas.

Throughout her course of treatment, friends, family, and colleagues banded together to raise money for her medical expenses, holding a nationwide auction that offered up original art, signed books from other authors, and services like manuscript critique sessions to the highest bidder. It’s these same supporters who have returned to help Dowell promote the publication of her book. “I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for people’s kindness and generosity with their time and talent. It’s not anything I or Bridget could have done alone,” Dowell says. “Poison is a wonderful legacy for her to have left us.”

Zinn_PoisonA Groundswell of Support

Over the next month, a flurry of events will honor Zinn and promote her book both online and around the country. KT Horning and E.M. Kokie are hosting a video chat on March 12, and remembrances of Zinn and praises for Poison may be tweeted using the hashtag #Poison. Signings of Poison are scheduled across the country, including a mega-signing at Portland’s A Children’s Place Bookstore on March 16 featuring authors Laini Taylor, April Henry, Sara Ryan, Virginia Euwer Wolff, and others, who plan to read passages from the book and sign it. (A stamp with Zinn’s signature was created, too, for use at signings). Writers have begun sharing their “personal poison” on a tumblr feed set up by soon-to-be-debut author Elisa Nader. And a two-week blog tour organized by author Inara Scott with more than 120 children’s and YA book bloggers and authors promises reviews of Poison, stories about Zinn, and more.

*Find out more about Bridget and read the rest of the article in Publishers Weekly (March 12, 2013).

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