Saturday, April 21, 2007

A young writer - age 13! - turns a vivid dream about warring woodland birds into a bestselling book that delivers a message of peace

St. Petersburg Times
A career takes flight
A young writer - age 13! - turns a vivid dream about warring woodland birds into a bestselling book that delivers a message of peace.
By TAYLOR GLOGOWSKI Published on March 12, 2007

Just weeks after its January release, Nancy Yi Fan's new book, Swordbird, is perched in the Top 10 on the New York Times bestsellers list for children's chapter books.
It's unusual for a first-time author. But what makes it even more of an accomplishment is that Nancy is just 13 years old.
Nancy, an eighth-grader who lives in Gainesville with her parents and three parakeets, moved from China at age 7. She says she immediately fell in love with America and its culture. To improve her English, she began going to the library. Nancy calls the library her hero. "All the books, every one of them, is like a door to a new world," she said.
Before she began writing Swordbird at age 10, Nancy had written many short stories and poems. She got the idea for Swordbird after she had a dream about woodland birds at war and quickly knew that it wasn't going to be just a short story or a poem. "When you write about peace and conflict, it takes many pages," she said.
At first, Nancy thought that Swordbird would be a story to share with family, friends and teachers. It wasn't until she was nearly done with the story that she began researching publishers and sending out manuscripts. In a little less than a week, Nancy got a reply from HarperCollins saying it would like to publish Swordbird.
Jane Friedman, president and chief executive of HarperCollins Publishing, liked the idea of Swordbird so much that she sent the manuscript to many people at the publishing house, including Phoebe Yeh, the editorial director of HarperCollins Children's Books. Yeh, who edited Swordbird, says she liked the story because "it was the kind of story line that kids in the middle grades will really enjoy."
Nancy "is a real writer," Yeh said, because of how dedicated she was to writing, more so than most kids her age. Nancy researched the habitats of the birds in her story to ensure that the setting was just right. She even took a swordplay class to help make the sword fights in the story more realistic. Nancy enjoyed those classes so much that she has continued them.
Besides reading and swordplay, Nancy also enjoys drawing animals and listening to bird songs.
Now the young author is at work on a Swordbird prequel. Quest is the working title and it tells the story of how the hero in Swordbird came to be.
Nancy hopes to continue writing, although, she says, she sometimes can't find the words to describe what it's like to write. But she does have words for what she hopes readers get out of Swordbird: that with courage, strength and hope, everyone can overcome evil, like the characters in her book.
Taylor Glogowski, 15, is in 10th grade at Land O'Lakes High School.

By Nancy Yi Fan and Mark Zug (illustrator)
HarperCollins Children's Books, 240 pages, $15.99

It all started with a vivid dream filled with woodland birds at war. That dream has become a novel, Swordbird.
Nancy Yi Fan began the story when she was 10. Now 13, Nancy is seeing her dream of war become a book conveying a message of peace.
In the book, two groups of birds - the Blue Jays and the Cardinals - are at war over stolen goods. Soon, the two groups discover it wasn't their old friends who were stealing from them after all, but a tyrant hawk named Turnatt. Turnatt is building his own fort, the Fortress Glooming, and is having it constructed by enslaved woodland birds.
The main character of the story, a slave bird named Miltin, is a small, fragile bird but his character is strong and he has amazing courage. Miltin and the other slave birds attempt to break free of Fortress Glooming and stop Turnatt from taking over Stone-Run Forest.
The only problem is the woodland birds are far outnumbered by Turnatt and his band of followers. Their only hope for peace is to call forth Swordbird, a majestic white bird who, with the power of his sword, has the ability to stop evil in its tracks and spread peace.
Will Miltin and his fellow woodland birds be able to call Swordbird in time?
The book is an amazing tale filled with adventure, courageous characters and a message the whole world needs to hear: "Peace is wonderful; freedom is sacred."
Nancy Yi Fan uses such imagination and vivid detail in the story that you begin to feel as if you're in the book. Swordbird is perfect for any tween with a good imagination and hopes for a more peaceful world.
Taylor Glogowski, Times X-Team