It pays to be young and fearless. Last September, HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman received an e-mail from Nancy Yi Fan, a 12-year-old Chinese girl, asking if she would like to read her manuscript. Intrigued, Friedman passed the query along to the children's division. Editorial director Phoebe Yeh was duly impressed; Swordbird, an adventure story about birds at war, will be released next February.

Fan, who began writing the book (in English, her second language) at age 10, after having a dream about birds fighting, recently met Friedman, whom she calls "President Jane," at the Beijing Book Fair. The young author will translate her book into Chinese. A second book is also under contract. The Fan family is moving to Florida, where Nancy's father has enrolled as a doctoral student.