The Fremocentrist.com Art Inventory

The Fremont Bridge, With A Dragon, Enters The Literary Realm

by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 4 August 2017

 

A new book about our fairy tale bridge is now available on Amazon.com, and at Essenza and Burnt Sugar shops in Fremont.

A new book about our fairy tale bridge is now available on Amazon.com, and at Essenza and Burnt Sugar shops in Fremont.

On June 15th, 1917, the Fremont Bridge opened for the first time.  Our busy bascule bridge turns 100 years old this year, and on July 9th, the Fremont Historical Society, in partnership with other area organizations, marked the day with a parade of historic boats.

Local resident Kathleen Dannenhold and her daughter, Robyn Campbell, marked the occasion in an altogether different fashion – they wrote and published a children’s book about possibly the greatest fictitious Fremont party ever!  Not to spoil the ending, but the book is titled, ‘Will A Dragon Fit Under the Fremont Bridge?’ and mentions only one of the magical, mythical creatures, and important party fixtures, that the authors squeeze through our iconic Bridge.

Stop And Enjoy…

The book follows Oliver, a character named after a real life boy who has been fascinated by the Bridge.  “He’s grown up with it,” explained Campbell, his mother.  With Dannenhold, the real Oliver has walked, kayaked and otherwise explored the Bridge whenever he visits her on her houseboat moored nearby.  “We always take him in the kayak with the dog,” Dannenhold said, “and on a little putt-putt boat.”

Oliver’s excitement about the Bridge awoke a similar enthusiasm in Dannenhold.  She’s noticed how, “all the kids rush to look at the Bridge when they hear the bells,” and the horns that signal the raising and lowering of the bascule leaves.  For Oliver’s third birthday, Campbell organized a tour of the structure, including an enviable trip up into the south-east tower where they met Dave, a real Bridge Tender, and learned about the gears and gizmos he uses.  “Oliver talks about it all the time,” Campbell remarked.

Local authors Kathleen Dannenhold and Robyn Campbell at the View Frames in Fremont.  Photo provided by Dannenhold & Campbell

Local authors Kathleen Dannenhold and Robyn Campbell at the View Frames in Fremont. Photo provided by Dannenhold & Campbell

‘Will A Dragon…?’, and the Oliver they describe, Campbell acknowledged, “it’s inspired by Oliver’s enthusiasm.”  The book is written for children, and the adults that read to them, but it can also remind us, as children often do, to stop and smell the roses, metaphorically.  Those of us who travel over, or under the bridge, day in and day out, can meander through this often utilitarian but also magical structure with ‘Will A Dragon…?”

Collaborating A Celebratory Tale

Dannenhold and Campbell brainstormed over their story, creating a narrative together, and then being blessed with the talents of illustrator Meridith Bourque Comeau, who contributed drawings to ‘Will A Dragon…?’ that simultaneously capture the architectural reality of the bridge and the whimsy of our community, and this story.

Using photos as guides for her drawings, Comeau perfectly captured a boat’s bridge and the Tender’s platform, from where the Bridge is lowered and raised.  She detailed the complex number of levers, screens, and dials both contain, along with the fictional Oliver and the crew members.  Without ever having actually visited the Fremont Bridge (Comeau lives in Maine,) she managed to create detailed depictions of our iconic bridge – and the vehicles and vessels that pass above and below it.

With her accurate illustrations, Comeau also conveys Oliver’s sense of wonder at all he sees, but she came to the project with an already impressive resume.  Comeau has formal training in painting, drawing, sculpture and print-making from the University of Maine Orono, and an A.A.S. from the Southern Maine Technical College Technical Graphics program.  She works at the Southern Maine Community College, where she teaches and chairs the Architectural and Engineering Design program.  In her spare time, from teaching and raising her family, Comeau also paints, in acrylic and water color, draws in ink and graphite, and has recently started designing glass jewelry for sale through her esty shop MeridiremArts.

Campbell and Dannenhold credit Comeau with more than just high-quality illustrations.  Comeau, a cousin, had already published her own children’s book, ‘Cookie Crumb’, available on Lulu.com  “She’s been a really handy person to have around,” Dannenhold observed.

The Fremont Avenue Bridge, during construction in January 1917.  Photo provided by Seattle Municipal Archives

The Fremont Avenue Bridge, during construction in January 1917. Photo provided by Seattle Municipal Archives

Over Skype, the three would discuss the drawings, and the narrative flow of the story.  “We had the story figured out,” Campbell said, but they still changed a few things, here or there, to better fit the illustrations.  With Comeau being family, the collaboration went fairly smoothly, both authors observed.  “I’d attended children’s books workshops,” Dannenhold explained, “and I heard that illustrators kind of run the show.”  While Comeau did ask for more photos, to better understand what the authors wanted drawn, she allowed them to realize their story while giving readers great images to illuminate it.

‘A Fairy Tale Bridge’

“I think it’s a book about helping others,” Dannenhold observed about ‘Will A Dragon…?’ , “The little boy is grateful and the community is coming together,” to mark the anniversary of the Bridge, “and the fact that’s it’s been here for 100 years.”  Campbell likes to focus on the celebration in the book, especially for a structure that may occasionally annoy us (as it goes up at particularly inconvenient moments,) but one we really depend upon.

When asked about their inspiration to publish, Dannenhold took credit for the first thought.  “I didn’t have the whole idea,” she said, but “I felt it was important to honor the anniversary.”  She approached her daughter, who works in Fremont and has done exhaustive, unavoidable research on children’s books (Campbell has two small boys to whom she’s read lots and lots and lots of stories.)

On July 9th, a recreation of the historic parade of boats showed off our fairy tale Fremont Bridge.  Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, 9 Jul 17

On July 9th, a recreation of the historic parade of boats showed off our 100-year-young Fremont Bridge, and gorgeous boats like the Virginia V. Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, 9 Jul 17

The idea of a dragon came from Campbell, as did the concept of examining what fits under and what fits over the Bridge, and how it works.  “It’s kind of a fairy tale bridge,” Dannenhold observed about Fremont’s span, and the co-authors thought a dragon, a unicorn, a giraffe, ice cream and cake were all possible visitors here.

As to publishing, Campbell and Dannenhold went through a process that continues to this day.  “It was a total learning experience,” Dannenhold stated carefully.  They chose to self-publish through an Amazon site called Create Space, allowing them to print on-demand rather than having to create thousands, or tens of thousands, of copies that would require storage they didn’t have.  A big plus for Campbell was that the site has been used by enough people that she could find advice and answers.

For those who want to see the book, and show others, Dannenhold and Campbell have been given space to sell the book in two Fremont boutiques – Essenza and Burnt Sugar.  Check out this clever and creative way to honor and celebrate our 100-year-old Bridge, and all the joy it gives visitors, of all ages!

 

 


Related Articles


 

©2017 Kirby Laney.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

www.fremocentrist.com



 


Fremocentrist Logo Sm Home Contact Fremocentrist | Website:Cougar Mountain Productions | ©2017 The Fremocentrist