During a summer holiday in Spain committee member Benny Nybo incidentally read a book by author Paulo Coelho. The book left such a strong impression in Benny’s mind that he decided to invite Paulo Coelho to Odense. The city's former mayor Jan Boye liked the idea and sent an official invitation. Mr. Paulo Coelho came in 2007 to Odense and received a Honorary Award in a fully packed city hall. The award was presented by mayor Jan Boye and consisted in a bronze sculpture “The Swan” by sculptor Stine Ring Hansen, a swan diploma, and a song composed especially for Paulo Cuello – “The Beauty of the Swan” – inspired by the fairytale “The Ugly Duckling”, composed by Stig Nordestgaard, and performed by soprano Susanne Elmark and baritone Jesper Buhl.
In his guest lecture Paulo Coelho described, with raw honesty, his difficult childhood and he commented also on The Alchemist which is a magical tale linked to Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales. He also called Benny Nybo to proceed with the award work, because the world needs writers, he said.
After having signed books for several hundred listeners Paulo Coelho received a swan feather cast in bronze by sculptor Jens Galschiot together with a real swan feather.
Paulo Coelho has written somewhere in one of his novels that the inspiration for his works are often associated with a feather. Subsequently, he has written the book "Inspiration" with a number buddha stories and one chapter is simply the fairytale “The Ugly Duckling" told with Paulo Coelho’s own words. During the visit to the “Hans Christian Andersen Museum” the director Ejnar Askgaard opened the cupboard containing the Brazilian translation of H.C. Andersen's fairytales, and a touched Paulo Coelho could tell that just that book was the same edition, which his mother had read to him during his childhood.
The organizers of the honorary ceremony consisted of Jens Olesen, Stig Nordestgaard, and Benny Nybo in close collaboration with the mayor of Odense Mr. Jan Boye
After the visit of Paulo Coelho commitee chairman Jens Olesen suggested the creation of a major international award with the name: The Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award.
This award should in addition to the bronze sculpture of a swan and the diploma comprise DKK 500.000. Mayor Jan Boye approved the idea and gave us full support from the Municipality of Odense. The Committee was extended with two more members, i.e. Birgitte Bogh-Sorensen, Orifarm, and Countess Caroline Ahlefeldt-Laurvig of the castle “Egeskov”. The name was changed to “The Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award Commitee” . At the same time professor Anne-Marie Mai from the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and former director of Odense Municipality Villy Petersen were invited to participate in the committee work. The committee consists today of 6 members.