They say that everyone has a novel inside them – but how many of us actually find the time to write it? Elliot Yuen has, and yet he is only 12 years old.
Elliot, who is a Year 8 student at Chinese International School (CIS), has just published his first novel, The Ravenwall. What’s even more remarkable is that just four years ago Elliot, who has been diagnosed as having mild ADHD, struggled to write more than two sentences.
Elliot’s story is a fantasy tale set in the magical kingdom of Raventopia, where there’s a battle between the Dark and Light Realms. It’s been described in reviews as a “funny and exhilarating adventure” about a fearless knight, James Dolan, who takes his Eagle Shield team on a dangerous mission to kill a powerful wizard.
The story of this young boy’s journey to become a writer is equally as fascinating, though. Here’s a student who was in the learning enhancement programme at CIS for eight years. Elliot's mum Jasmine Shing explains.
“Elliot has been on a difficult learning path since the beginning. His first application to Chinese International School when he was three was almost rejected; his assessment showed that he was behind other kids in terms of expression through words, as well as drawings.
“However, CIS accepted him, nurtured him, gave him learning enhancement, and never gave up on him. Elliot is very much a product of CIS, and the whole school is very supportive and proud of his book. People see him as a boy who loves reading and writing, has wild imagination and wicked sense of humour. I see Elliot as a determined young man who struggled but persevered. I hope kids can understand that as long as they are passionate about something, nothing is impossible to achieve.”
Elliot struggled to write a sentence in Year 4, but things changed in Year 5 when he started to read more and developed “a love for English words and reading”. Inspired by authors including Rick Riordian and Michael Scott, Elliot came up with the idea for The Ravenwall in Year 6. According to Jasmine, this was "the turning point... He wrote bits of it for his schoolwork. His teacher loved it and often read it to the whole class. He gained a lot of confidence that year.
“Towards the end of Year 6, Elliot said that he would like to be an author when he grows up. I answered by asking him why he needed to wait until he’s grown up. I promised him that if he finished a novel, I would get it published. So, he started working on The Ravenwall.”
It took Elliot nearly two years to complete the book, which he worked on during school holidays and “whenever I had spare time during term”. While Elliot enjoyed “putting what’s in my head to paper” – and loves to hear “people laughing out loud to my jokes”– he says his biggest challenge was to “write the story for a reader who doesn’t know me”.
When he’s not writing, you’ll find Elliot reading and gaming, reviewing books, teaching English to younger children, or playing badminton, table tennis and BJJ. He also spends his holidays taking the plunge in adventure sports like bungee jumping, kayaking and hang-gliding. And, when asked what’s next, Elliot says: “Getting through Year 8! I’ve already started writing the second book, but there’s no rush to finish it.”
As well as being stocked in Elliot’s school library at CIS, the book is available from Amazon, Bookazine, Swindon, Hong Kong Book Centre, Kelly & Walsh, and Fun to Read Book Outlet...