Dragonwings is inspired by the true story of Fung Joe Guey, a Chinese immigrant in Oakland, CA who built and flew a machine that was in the air for twenty minutes.
Just like Moon Shadow and Windrider, Laurence Yep and his dad were fascinated by machines. Yep's dad worked at the corner grocery store, where Laurence Yep helped out by bagging soup cans. (Source)
Laurence Yep published his first short story in a science fiction magazine at the age of 18. At the age of 23, he published his first novel. (Source)