Monday, August 6, 2007

The Adventures of Swordbird

Scholastic Kids

The Adventures of Swordbird
Teen author Nancy Yi Fan talks about her writing
By Emma Louise Huibregtse | August 6 , 2007

Teen author Nancy Yi Fan signs a copy of her book for Kid Reporter Emma Louise Huibregtse. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

Nancy Yi Fan hasn't even started high school and she already has a career as an author! Nancy was in fifth grade when she wrote Swordbird, a fantasy novel in which heroic birds fight for what’s right. I recently had a chance to talk to the young author in New York City, when Al Roker's Book Club featured her book on the Today show.

After spending her early childhood in China, Nancy came to the United States at age 7. Since that time, she has lived in both China and the United States. Today, Nancy lives in Florida. “It’s fun being an international kid,” she said.According to Nancy, the idea for Swordbird came to her in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

“A few months before September 11, I was visiting New York City with my family," she said. "We had gone up to the World Trade Center’s observatory deck.”

On September 11, Nancy was in Montana, preparing to return to China. But she was haunted by the memory of visiting the World Trade center just months before. She wrote Swordbird to overcome her feelings about terrorism. Writing allowed Nancy to express her idea of peace to the world.

“You don’t have to care about what other people think when you’re writing,” she explained. “You just put down what you feel. You don’t have to worry about anything. It’s one of the most positive things you can do.”


How did Nancy write such a detailed story about birds that can talk, hold swords, and fight using martial arts? The young author explained that she found a lot of her inspiration in art.

“My favorite technique is drawing,” Nancy said. “I can look at a sketch of a bird and transfer that picture into words.” Birds have always fascinated Nancy. She even owns three!

Nancy used to watch the birds like a researcher, taking notes on how they moved and the noises they made. Every detail went into Swordbird.

Her story does not feature ordinary birds, though. These are birds that fight with swords! To help make the book's fight scenes more realistic, Nancy said she studied martial arts.

“I was writing a battling scene and I thought it didn’t sound very realistic," Nancy explained. "By that time, I was living back in China, so I had the convenience of having a sword master live near my home. I went up there for lessons on how to do martial arts with a sword. Pretty soon, I was learning moves that helped me with my writing.”

Nancy starts high school later this year. In addition to her writing, school, and martial arts, Nancy works as a reporter for a Chinese television station.

So what else can readers expect from Nancy?

“I’m working on Swordquest now," she said. "It’s a prequel to Swordbird. It’s about how Swordbird got his sword and his magnificent muscles.”

Nancy explained that the new book uses a mix of historical documents and diary entries to tell Swordbird's story.

Want to dive into the magical world created by Nancy Yi Fan? Swordbird is available in bookstores across the country.


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