Nancy Yi Fan's Tour Blog
Sword Quest -- the prequel to Swordbird
Nancy will blog here during the tour!
I got up at 4 in the morning to start my West Coast tour. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep on the plane even though it was a long ride from Florida to San Francisco.
My first signing at the Barnes and Noble in Walnut Creek was at 6 PM but it was really 9 PM at home. And I had been up at the crack of dawn – before dawn. I was really tired but energized at the same time. I met so many interesting readers but unfortunately there wasn’t enough room for me to show any swordplay techniques.
As we were driving around the San Francisco area, I noticed something interesting about the scenery. The hilltops are always hidden in mist. It reminded me of the White Cap Mountains in my novel, SWORDBIRD.
This morning I talked with the students at Encinal Elementary School in Menlo Park. I was thrilled to learn that their mascot is an eagle. The kids were particularly interested in Fleydur, one of the main characters in SWORD QUEST. And they were even happier when I told them that there will be many more eagles in my third novel, SWORD MOUNTAIN.
In the afternoon, I spoke to the largest audience I’ve ever had – more than 400 Hall Middle School students in Corte Madera. My knees were knocking until it was time to demonstrate swordplay.
Next stop, Louisville, Kentucky
Friday in Louisville for the American Booksellers' Winter Institute
When I got to the bookseller dinner, at first it felt a little strange. I knew I was the youngest author there. Did I really belong there? But truly my experience has been just extraodinary. Kentucky was wonderful! I just loved meeting all the booksellers and hearing stories about how much their customers enjoyed reading my first novel, SWORDBIRD.
As part of the festivities, authors were asked to complete this sentence:
"It was a dark and stormy night in Louisville, and the room was filled with 500 independent booksellers from all over the country."Here's something I wrote to finish the sentence:
"It was a dark and starry night in Louisville, and the room was filled with 500 independent booksellers from all over the country. Deathly quietness followed the loss of lights. Suddenly in the gloom, a glow flamed, drawing all eyes. "Swordbird!" a lady bookseller gasped. Perched on the windowsill was a snowy dove. "A righteous heart can be a light in the darkest place...I learned it long ago, in my Sword Quest."
Imagine my excitement when I learned that my contribution would be shown on video screen the next night.
Now, for a change of pace, San Diego, California
Even though this is my second book tour, I went to many places I had never visited before -- Louisville, Kentucky and some cities in California. San Diego felt a little bit like home in Florida. There were lots of palm trees and it was humid! But when I saw snow covered mountains, too, I thought how exciting this was and it's totally unexpected.
At the Yellow Book Road store, a reader named Mary brought me a picture she drew of Aska, the heroine of SWORDBIRD. Another reader brought her pet parrot, Kiwi to the store. Kiwi climbed on my arm! These are two unforgettable moments from the tour!
It is rainy and windy in Los Angeles. It's not at all what I expected. The wet fronds of the palm trees are leaning to one side due to the rain and wind.
But the rain hasn't dampened my spirits. Today, I saw old and new friends. In the morning, my friend Tori dropped by. I've known her since I was in 4th grade, when Tori was my sidekick. We went to carnivals and parties together and had lots of fun. After I moved, Tori and I stayed in touch by email. Now Tori lives in California and teaches ninth grade. Her students are reading my novel!
Then it was time to go to my signing at Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop . Despite the rain, lots and lots of people came, including an old friend who is also named Nancy. My family and I met Nancy years ago when we lived in Boston. Nancy was teaching at Harvard. Her Chinese is so fluent that if you heard her speak but your eyes were closed, you would think it was a native Chinese person talking. As you can imagine, I was delighted to sign a copy of my new novel for Nancy. I was able to do a short swordplay demonstration and I was amazed at the number of kids who wanted to touch the sword; and who wanted to have pictures taken with me and my sword! My special day ended when the booksellers presented me with a stuffed toy cardinal. When you wind it up, it sounds just like a real cardinal. I will treasure it always.
After the event, I had time to get some homework done. On my travels, some of our flights were delayed, and there's always down time at the airport. I'm just about done with my French homework and almost finished with the Math homework. Luckily I finished doing the homework for all my other subjects before I left for my tour.
One more signing to go, and then back to school for me!
Some sunshine at last! When I walked into St. James' School in the
morning, sword in one hand, bird-shaped pen and books in the other, I
was determined to make the last stop for my January tour the best. The
kids there were really excited. I had space to do a full dramatic
sword presentation! The room had stained glass windows and a high
ceiling, so my voice and the sword's swishing sounds echoed. At the
end, one student came to ask if I would include peacocks in Sword
Mountain. I think they would certainly be interesting to write about
in my stories.
Just as we were leaving, the headmaster himself came and shook hands
with me. "Good luck!" he said. Soon, we were off to the airport.
Arriving there, the clouds had cleared completely, and the Hollywood
sign was faintly visible in the hills! When our plane rose into the
air, I caught a last glimpse of LA's beaches. It was then I realized
that it was just like what Fleydur and Winger saw when they went off
to cross the Augoric Ocean.
What a quest it has been! Now to back Florida, family, school, pet
birds, and my laptop!
Video Clip of SWORD QUEST Book Tour I
When we arrived, I noticed that Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan were covered with a light blanket of snow. Though it was much colder than in Florida, my excitement warmed me up so much, I hardly noticed it at all.
Video Clip of SWORD QUEST Book Tour 2
Today I left Ann Arbor for Dayton, Ohio. Just as I thought it could get no colder, the back doors of the car froze shut! Hot water had to be poured over them. No doubt the local birds were all hidden, snuggled in warm places or in the south.
When I walked into the bookstore in central Florida today, I saw a flurry of activity. Some kids were having little birds painted on their cheeks. Others whispered about a SWORDBIRD scavenger hunt. I was amazed to see that a portion of the back wall was all set with SWORDBIRD and SWORD QUEST. I could also see that the booksellers, having heard about my sword demonstration, gave my table a wide berth before setting out benches. I smiled, and then began my presentation.
Afterwards during the book signing, one person came with a tall stack of both SWORDBIRD and SWORD QUEST. I signed them and drew different pictures of birds in each book. I also learned that a local elementary school had held a contest for essays about birds. So, I met the winners and congratulated them.
When I stepped outside the bookstore again, warm sun hit my face. Strange, I was somewhat bracing myself for a cold wind. Ah, the effects of traveling all over the place! I could hear sparrows arguing about the heat above on the bookstore's sign. Next week, I'll be going to Miami. It probably will be even warmer there.
Golden sunshine! I saw and felt it the moment I stepped out of the Miami airport. I took a deep breath—it was like smelling one huge cup of steaming green tea. The humid air was everywhere, somehow softening the appearance of the airport buildings, slurring the sounds of the traffic. Some people say they have butterflies in their stomachs when they’re nervous, but I think there were hummingbirds in mine. They’d been zinging around crazily, so I was relieved when the humidity seemed even to sooth them.
At Barnes and Noble, my first stop, I saw that there were two escalators smack in the middle. On the second floor, between the escalators, was a curved balcony jutting frightfully out over the whole front of the first floor. It wasn’t helpful that lines of chairs cut the balcony off from the rest of the second floor
"Here's where you'll be doing your presentation…" the bookseller was saying cheerfully. I gulped. The hummingbirds were back in action…no escape route, no bookshelf to duck behind, suppose something went wrong! I stood in that little balcony. The audience sat crowded in front of me. Behind, I could actually feel the threatening mass of empty air. Left and right, the escalators rumbled. Then I thought, I'll be all right… make a joke of it to the audience. In fact, everything went along just fine. But the experience was definitely memorable.
My next stop, Books & Books, was comfortable and cozy. Nearly all its walls were ceiling high wooden bookshelves. I climbed one of the many ladders experimentally. Last year, I was scheduled to come to Books & Books, but I got dreadfully sick. This time, I was really touched that readers had waited such a long time to see me. One mother told me that SWORDBIRD was her daughter's first chapter book. They were excited about SWORD QUEST.
Oh, was I exhausted when the day was over! I've just tried to do some homework, but I've given up, and have flopped into bed. There are mysterious guttural clucks coming from the window. But I'm too tired to care. Maybe tomorrow, when I have had more than seven hours of sleep!
Today I swept open the curtain and discovered that the cooing came from a plump gray pigeon. It stood at the ledge beside my windowsill, winking at me with orange eyes. I took a picture with it.
On my way to Borders, my last stop, I was told that there were ex-pet parrot fugitives living free in the palms of Miami. I never saw any of them, because in no time at all I'd arrived. Inside the Borders bookstore, I noticed that I was to do my presentation right at the front! That was a first. Kids came to wait. By the time I started, more and more people arrived. Many of had not read SWORDBIRD, so I talked about my first book as well as SWORD QUEST.
After I signed the last copy of SWORD QUEST, I knew that my tour for SWORD QUEST was, finally, over. It was certainly like a rollercoaster ride, with thrilling twists and turns, and along it I learned many things, too. I've learned that many readers are hoping for more stories in my world of birds.
Now, on my late night flight back home, the flight attendant is reciting lines from a poem by Longfellow: "Each morning sees some task begin,/ Each evening sees it close;/ Something attempted, something done, / Has earned a night's repose."
But soon my next journey will begin. I will follow Fleydur's flight back to Sword Mountain and see what I find there.
Nov. 15, 2008
I was invited to the Savannah Children's Book Festival again, this time to talk about my second book, Sword Quest. I arrived Friday evening in rainy weather, but the sky miraculously cleared for the day of the festival. This year's festival was even better than the last! Some of my favorite author-illustrators, like Marc Brown and Mo Willems, were among the presenters. A wide range of readers came to see me, too. A girl named Rylee who came last year was here again. She was very excited. One of the photographs of my booksigning from last year had been shown on the Oprah Show along with my books, and she had seen herself in that photograph one day while watching TV. What an interesting coincidence! At the end of my presentation, I noticed that everyone wanted to know which book to read first. Although Sword Quest is technically the prequel, I like to think reading Swordbird first would enhance the reading experience of Sword Quest. Of course, Sword Quest would come before Sword Mountain, the soon-to-be sequel.
Nancy Yi Fan's 7-city Tour
1. Reading & Signing at Barnes & Noble on Jan. 22 at 6:00 pm (1149 South Main Street, Walnut Creek, CA)
2. Reading & Signing at Encinal Elementary School on Jan. 23 from 9:00 am to 11:00 am (195 Encinal Avenue, Menlo Park CA)
3. Reading & Signing at Hall Middle School on Jan. 23 from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm (200 Doberty Drive, Larkspur, CA)
4. Reading & Signing at Barnes & Noble on Jan. 25 from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm (4100 Summit Plaza Drive, Louisville, KY 40241)
5. ABA Winter Institute - Booksigning on Jan. 25 from 6:15 pm to 8:00 pm (Louisville Marriot Hotel (280 W. Jefferson St, Louisville, KY)
6. Reading & Signing at Yellow Book Road on Jan. 26 from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm (7200 Parkway Drive, Suite 118, La Mesa, CA)
8. Reading & Presentation at St. James School on Jan. 28 from 9:30 am to 10:30 am (625 South St. Andrews Place, Los Angeles, CA)
9. Reading & Signing at Borders Books & Music on Feb. 9 from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm (43075 Crescent Boulevard, Novi, MI)
13. Reading & Signing at Barnes & Nobel on Feb.23 from 12:00 noon to 1:30 pm (12405 N. Kendall Drive, Miami, FL)
15. Reading & Signing at Borders on Feb. 24 from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm (9205 S. Dixie Highway, Miami, FL)