Wednesday, May 30, 2007

SWORDBIRD named as one of the 100 best books for children in China in 2007 by the General Administration of Press and Publication in China

The General Adminstration of Press and Publication in China (5/28/2007)

SWORDBIRD was named as one of the 100 best books for children in China in 2007 by the General Administration of Press and Publication in China. Experts from famous universities, publishing houses and libraries evaluated submissions from SWORDBIRD named as one of the 100 best books for children in China in 2007 by the General Administration of Press and Publication in China. Experts from famous universities, publishing houses and libraries evaluated submissions from publishers all over China. Swordbird is ranked 3rd out of 30 novels and collections of short stories in the fiction and art genre and 1st in the original chapter books category.

School Library Journal Talks to 13-year-old Author, Nancy Yi Fan

School Library Journal

SLJ Talks to 13-year-old Author, Nancy Yi Fan

by Joan Oleck -- School Library Journal, 5/30/2007

It's not often that a 12-year-old e-mails a manuscript to HarperCollins and sees her book in print a year later. But that's exactly what happened for Nancy Yi Fan, 13, author of Swordbird (HarperCollins, 2007), the tale of how squabbling blue jays and cardinals, with help from a mystical white bird, unite to defeat a tyrannical hawk.

What's even more impressive is that Fan, who moved to the U.S. with her parents in 2001, has only spoken English for six years. (She also spent grades six and seven back in China.) SLJ spoke with the Florida-based eighth grader about her amazing achievement, how she's become an inspiration to other kids, and the "prequel" that's now in the works.

What's it like to be 13 and have a book at your age?

It feels like flying. Walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelf gives me a really weird and funny feeling. Or sometimes I go to school, and a classmate will say, "Oh you're the one who wrote the book." Yet I feel kind of normal, too; it's something special, like a hobby. And I know I'm a young writer and have a long way to go. I'm working on my second book; it's called Sword Quest—it's a prequel to Swordbird. I think what I really enjoy—the greatest part of it—is I get to receive e-mails from other kids who tell me how I inspired them to write as well.

Where did your interest in birds come from?

I remember when I was in kindergarten, I used to run full-speed flapping my arms and jumping from low walls. I'm just amazed at their songs, their colors, their diversity.
I read that the story was inspired by the events of September 11.
The summer I finished second grade, I went to New York City for a vacation with my parents. I went to the observation deck of the World Trade Center. I remember it was a sunny day and it was windy on top. It was a startling contrast to what happened on 9/11; so many innocent people died. It made such a deep impression.
Then, in fifth grade I was reading about the Revolutionary War and still watching birds. So I had this weird dream in which cardinals and blue jays were wearing britches like in the Revolutionary War, and they were fighting because they'd been tricked. The dream was very vivid. I could hear the wings beating, and I also saw a great white magical bird with a sword. It's certainly not every day you see a bird with a sword! So when I woke up I wanted to turn it into a story. And because of 9/11 and the war, I wanted to express the importance of peace and freedom. Because birds are very peaceful creatures. When they defend territory, they usually solve problems by singing out their threats instead of fighting.

Is it true you sent this manuscript in to HarperCollins cold, without an agent?

I sent it to HarperCollins by e-mail. I sent it to the president and CEO of HarperCollins. I'm just a kid who believes hard work pays off. And the president and CEO was very surprised and passed it on to the president of the children's division and the children's book division and a nice lady told me they were going to look at it because they were interested. It was very, very surprising.

Did any adults help you along the way?

I thought I knew all about birds but then I discovered there are lots of species divided into subspecies. The autonomy of birds, their habits. So I went to my local library [the Onondaga County Public Library in Syracuse, NY] and the librarian was very helpful. She showed me lots of books, and after I checked them out, I loaded them onto a cart and pushed it out, and the librarian smiled. And other people thought it was very bizarre to see a kid pushing a cart full of books.

Do you have any messages for other kids trying to write?

I would tell them they should never give up writing. It's forever a blessing to be able to write. I would also tell them don't be afraid to try something and just go for it.

What are some of your hobbies?

One of my hobbies is martial arts, a branch [of martial arts] called swordplay. This connects to the swordplay in my book Swordbird. When I was writing Swordbird I found there were places in the battle scenes that could be a little smoother. That is when I went to China for two years. It's convenient in China to find a kung fu coach and you can find little light swords, and I asked the teacher if I could learn some moves. After a few weeks I could wave the sword about and knew the basics of swordplay.

What is Sword Quest about?

This is a story of how Swordbird and his friends went around the world to find a sword. Because [the book takes place] around the world there will be more bird species, not just North American species.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

News Report (translated from Chinese) from Xinhua News Agency's Journalist

Xinhua News Agency
The 13-year-old new immigrant young writer Nancy Yi Fan's debut novel SWORDBIRD appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List for seven weeks. Recently the Chinese-English version of SWORDBIRD was published by one of the leading publishers in China – People's Literature Publishing House. It has been flooded with positive reviews ever since. Some reviewers predicted that this novel could become one of the classics in the world of children’s literature .
Currently Nancy Yi Fan is working on the last two chapters of SWORD QUEST, a prequel to SWORDBIRD, which will be published by HarperCollins in early 2008. In addition, Nancy Yi Fan is going to write the third novel of the SWORDBIRD series and make it a trilogy.

- Reported by Li Bo, the journalist from Xinhua News Agency, China on May 3, 2007

Friday, May 4, 2007

Interview: Swordbird author working on prequel

People's Daily

Nancy Yi Fan, the 13-year-old author of Swordbird, a New York Times children's best-seller, was working on the fowl fable's prelude and planning a trilogy about the bird story.
In an email interview with Xinhua, Nancy said she was working on the last two chapters of the prequel "Sword Quest" and had signed a contract with HarperCollins to publish her second book in winter 2008.
"It's about how Wind-Voice gets his magical sword. He travels with Ewingerale, a woodpecker, Stormac, a myna warrior and Fleydur, an eagle musician, meeting other bird tribes as they seek clues that will lead them to the sword. They need to get to the sword before Maldeor, an archaeopteryx who has been corrupted by his vision of a perfect world," Nancy talked about the plot.
"In Swordbird, I was exploring the themes of peace and freedom and what happens when you lose your freedom. Now in Sword Quest, I' m examining what it means and what it takes to be a hero," said Nancy, adding that she would write a third novel about birds that HarperCollins will publish in winter 2009.
Nancy was born in Beijing
in 1993. She moved to the United States with her parents in 2000. In 2004, she started writing her first novel, Swordbird.
Asked about tips to learn a foreign language, Nancy said: "At first, it was hard to understand what people were saying even though I had learned some English when I was in China. Everyone spoke so quickly."
But for sure, Nancy learned English quickly. Besides attending the regular school classes, she went to an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. She credits her progress to her ESL teacher who introduced her to books and also her parents who took her to the library every weekend.
"I used flash cards to learn new vocabulary words. Once I learned new words, I tried to use them in my writing. I eventually learned that the best words aren't always the biggest words in your writing," Nancy said.
The Swordbird story came to Nancy in a dream after the 911 attacks. In the dream, the cardinals and blue jays must battle an evil hawk. After she woke up from the dream, she decided to write it down.
"When I began writing Swordbird, I thought I was writing a short story. But it got longer and longer and I realized I was writing a full-length book. The writing really improved my use of grammar, vocabulary and understanding of English idioms. It also helped me think about my writing in an organized manner. It really pushed me to be imaginative and creative."
The book is a big success. Some book reviewers believe Swordbird would probably have a space in the world's children literature in view of its style, content and structure.
Birds are Nancy's passion. In a tiny cage in the living-room are perched Ambergold, Cyan and Tiger, her budgerigars.
Nancy said: "Of the three, Tiger is the most spirited, being especially fond of chewing toothpicks... The slavebirds, the cardinals and the blue jays, and especially the Willowleaf Theater members in my book all show the ever cheerful spirit that my pets have."
For the eighth grader in Florida, it seems that she would not stop when talking about her birds. Observing birds first-hand at home and in the forest gave Nancy a lot of inspiration. Sometimes she went to the forest near her home, taking her binoculars and her laptop. She wrote as she watched and listened.
Nancy was not just a bird fancy but also a book worm.
"I read many, many types of books in Chinese and in English. I love reading award-winning books, especially the Newberys. Some of my favorite books are CHARLOTTE'S WEB and JULIE OF THE WOLVES. I also read popular books like Redwall and Harry Potter."
"A few years ago I read JANE EYRE and GONE WITH THE WIND. When I went back to China, I read the Four Classics: DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER, THE JOURNEY TO THE WEST, ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS and OUTLAWS OF THE MARSHLAND. I just finished reading the Chinese version of DON QUIXOTE."
Being a Chinese, Nancy was so proud that the 2008 summer Olympics will be held in Beijing, her hometown. She said she would love to attend them and help out as an interpreter for Chinese and international athletes.
Source: Xinhua