Young author speaks about her book and inspiration
KIRI LANICE WALTON
April 17. 2007 6:01AM
Nancy Yi Fan has written "Swordbird," a New York Times children's best-seller - which she translated on her own into Chinese. She's appeared on Martha Stewart's daytime TV show and toured in several cities, including Miami and Beijing.And Nancy is just 13 years old.Nancy, who lives in Alachua County and attends an area school, stood in front of University of Florida Professor Linda Lamme's International Children's Literature class at UF's Norman Hall on Monday night and spoke about her book and the strategies she used when translating her novel from English to Chinese.Her inspiration for "Swordbird" came from a dream about warring birds, said Nancy, who has a passion for birds.In her book, the cardinals and blue jays must battle an evil hawk and his band of crows and ravens. She said she wants her book to convey a message of peace.Because her novel deals with "timeless" themes "with no cultural boundaries," like peace, freedom, bravery and sacrifice, the translation seemed easier, she said.Feeling rusty on her Chinese, she decided to "practice" by translating her novel, which she hadn't yet submitted in English. Translating a play on words, like an instance in the book when she uses "bananas" to mean the actual fruit and also meaning wacky, proved difficult."Sadly, there never existed a play on words in Chinese using bananas or any other fruit for that matter," she said.Her solution was to use the Chinese word for honey, which sounds similar to the word for crazy.She explained that keeping the exact wording is not important, as long as the main story, which she referred to as the bones and wings, is there.After translating her book, Nancy began to search for publishers and her book landed on the desk of president and CEO of HarperCollins, Jane Friedman, who liked the book and published it. Nancy said Friedman gave her wings.Nancy also receives a great deal of support from her parents who videotape her speaking and snap pictures as often as they can.Her father advises parents to "let children grow naturally, and if they have interests, just support them."Nancy credits her love of books to a teacher who "drowned" her in books and encouraged her to draw.She told the class of future educators that it is important for teachers to show that they care.Her first English book was "Green Eggs and Ham," and her love grew from there.She said she proudly carried around, with sore wrists, her first large chapter book, "Black Beauty."Nancy said she aspires to be a writer, a translator and a teacher so that she can teach writing and English to Chinese people.Nancy was born in China, and moved to the United States with her parents when she was 7. She has lived in Alachua County since last fall.She is now working on a prequel, "Quest," which she said will be finished by next year. Despite her books being fantasy, she said she wants there to be a depth within them."I want my book to show that peace is wonderful. I hope that my age shows that nothing is impossible," she said.