Author & Artist's Corner: Author

Frederic S. Durbin: Crowd Sorcery

Crowd-Sorcery: "The Girl Who Writes the Future"
We've come to the end of it now. What began as the glimmer of a great idea among the Cricket editors is now a finished story, beautifully illustrated and full of your fantastic ideas and fantasy words! It has been a joy and an honor to be your writer on this project. Thank you all, Chatterboxers, for your amazing ideas and your enthusiastic participation as this story took shape. This is our story, and it's much bigger than all of us. I wanted to put a glowing handprint on the moon's face in Part 5, because this story carries all our handprints. That shining golden handprint that opens the magical door is yours, and it is mine!
I think my favorite illustration in the story is that very last one, where the two girls are happy to be alive. Fable is covered with mud and the traces of magical ointment made from sunlight and shoe polish. The two friends have come through a lot together, and they're stronger now. Again, like all of us, huh? Fable and Lumine achieve their victory through determination, courage, loyalty, and good writing. I think that is pretty cool!
Right here, in this little corner of Cricket's web site, I would love to discuss this story with you! Do you have questions about anything—how it was written, how the ideas emerged, why I did this or that? Questions about how Emily and I worked together? Questions about Fable's world that the story doesn't quite answer? Questions about what was easy and what was more difficult? Pull up a chair, and let's talk about our story!

Did you look for words to fit into the story, or see words and think, "Oh, I could use that in the story?"

submitted by Indigo
(May 7, 2015 - 8:09 pm)

Mostly the second one, but sometimes the first one. (Great question! Thanks, Indigo!) I didn't write the story all at once. I started reading the Fantasy Dictionary right away once it went live, and whenever I would come to a word/idea that took hold of my imagination, I would write it down, along with its meaning. You all kept adding more and more words as the months went by, and I kept reading and reading, making more notes, and writing later parts of the story. So in some important ways, the words you all suggested helped to shape the story! Parts of it sprang up around the fantasy words, inspired by them. Once in awhile, I would need a certain place or object in the story, and I would go hunting through the Fantasy Dictionary to find some good possibilities.

In finding interesting words, I didn't pay much attention to who had submitted them. The editors were patient and kind in tracking down your names, so that we could credit you by (nick)name.

I wished I could have used a lot more of the words, but I tried to put as many of them into the story as I could. They really make it a stronger, richer story! Especially toward the ending, you can see how Fantasy Dictionary words even showed me how Fable (with Lumine's help) would defeat Khaos!

The casual reader may not notice this, but I think ALL the place names in the story came from Chatterboxers -- far more than simply the words in italics!


submitted by Fred D., Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
(May 7, 2015 - 11:17 pm)

Hi Fred! It's me. You actually know me in real life, my name is Aria. (Yup surprise guys! That's my name xD)

I've been wondering for a while, how did you and Emily meet? How did she become the artist for The Star Shard and The Girl Who Writes the Future? 

Thanks for taking time to answer this!  

submitted by Winter Firefly
(May 8, 2015 - 8:50 pm)

Hi, Aria! It's great to hear from you here! Thanks for writing! :-)

The truth is, I have never met Emily in person! When Cricket receives a story that they decide to publish, the Art Director finds an illustrator for it. So it was the magazine that paired up Emily with "The Star Shard." Of course, once that was decided, Emily and I got the chance to write back and forth a lot to discuss ideas and what various things and characters should look like.

It would be a great question for Cricket's Art Director as to how she chose Emily! I'm really glad she was chosen! 

In the case of "The Girl Who Writes the Future," I think the match came about because of how much readers loved her artwork for "The Star Shard" -- the editors felt it would be good to have the same team together again on Crowd-Sorcery.


submitted by Fred D., Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
(May 9, 2015 - 12:23 pm)

I know that all the Crowd Sorcery characters were voted on by the readers, but who are your personal favorite heroes/heroines/villains/sidekicks/words?

submitted by Everinne, age 16
(May 15, 2015 - 7:21 pm)

Hi, Everinne! This is an excellent question! Well . . . you know that Emily and I had the job of narrowing down the full submissions lists of characters to the lists of finalists. We really did read and think hard about every single character that was created. That was by far the hardest thing about Crowd-Sorcery for me -- narrowing down those submissions, because, seriously, there were things I liked about EVERY character you all thought up. I saw that every one could be in his or her own story. There were SO many interesting and cinematic ideas there -- I was truly impressed with what a great bunch of writers took part in this! After that tough job, writing the story was much easier for me. With all the fantastic pieces I had to work with, it practically wrote itself! I was delighted with the voting results. Fable, Lumine, and Khaos made an ideal balance. And as for the Fantasy Dictionary words -- again, they were all tremendous. Two that particularly impressed me were 1.) those kneavers, the plant leaves that, when dried and hardened, can be used as knife blades, and 2.) the place-name Corginard. That really sounds like a mighty and exotic city. But I'd have a hard time naming favorites, because so many were so good!

submitted by Fred D., Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
(May 16, 2015 - 12:53 am)

Elsewhere on this site, a Chatterboxer asked me a question about how I came up with Fable's wax-dripping trick in Part 6, and I wanted to share my answer here, too:

I think I got that idea more or less from the years I spent in Japan. I heard the story that, when the samurai long ago would send letters or written orders to one another, there was always the danger that enemies would intercept them or try to send fake letters. One famous samurai used this trick: when he would sign his letters, he would first pluck out a strand of hair. He would lay the hair on the paper and sign his name over it. When he pulled away the hair, certain tiny gaps would be left in his signature. His trusted family and associates knew where these gaps should be, and if they weren't there, they would know the letter hadn't come from him. Pretty clever, huh? I think that's what led me to Fable's idea for defeating Khaos -- that, plus three Chatterboxers' cool ideas of lamps that float around in the air, a way of storing sunlight in powder, and a brownish glop for repairing shoes. All those ideas came together in this story! 

submitted by Fred D., Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
(May 16, 2015 - 12:59 am)

Hi, Fred, I read part 6 and never fully understood why Fable lost her ability to write prophecies after she defeated Khaos. Why did she?

submitted by Dina R., age 14, North Carolina
(May 17, 2015 - 2:16 pm)

Hi, Dina! Thank you for writing! This is a really good question, and I'm glad you asked it. You're quite right: the story leaves this point vague. It isn't directly explained, but I'll tell you my theory. You see, apparently Fable's prophetic gift has been foretold. Khaos himself knows that one day she'll be born . . . that's why he's looking for her. Lumine's father also knew about her, as Fable learns from Lumine in the library at Hush Castle. Those wise ones of the world who know about prophecies, etc., know that one day a girl who writes the future will be born, and her real purpose is to oppose Khaos. In other words, her whole gift exists for the purpose of defeating Khaos. Once Khaos is defeated, she doesn't need the gift anymore.

We also know from the story that her gift is a burden to her. Fable doesn't really want the gift, so when it vanishes at the end, she's relieved. She has used it for its intended purpose, and now she's free of it.

Does that make sense? :-) 

submitted by Fred D., Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
(May 17, 2015 - 5:28 pm)

Its me, me just  myself? Find out Anyway how do I join Kyndom? It won't let me! Foot in mouthWhy is my foot in my mouth! Hey! Ok here we go! Wink Thats better! Anyway my real name is NOT N.O.T

Ellen Ivy (I WONT TELL YOU IT) So cool bugs (xD) how do you join Kyndom! Its awesome! Thx! 

submitted by Ellen Ivy , age 8, Alaska, AK
(October 21, 2016 - 10:58 pm)

are you going to write a book about Fable Thacher like you did with the Star Shard or is it just going to be in Cricket?

submitted by lyra
(May 25, 2015 - 2:42 pm)

Hi, Lyra! Thanks for writing!

I'm not planning to write a book about Fable Thatcher, because she's a character created by Madeline T. for Crowd-Sorcery. I was privileged to be the writer of this story, but now I'd like to leave Fable for Madeline, who may want to write a book about her. Wouldn't you love to see that, too?


submitted by Fred D., Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
(May 25, 2015 - 5:33 pm)

You did a fantastic job with the CS Contest Mr. Durbin! I loved it! Question, how did you decide to include some of the other voted-for characters like Jonah, Margrett O'Shannon, and the others? Or was it part of the plan the whole time? That was a great idea, one way or another, anyway.

submitted by Will T., age 15, GA
(June 26, 2015 - 11:19 pm)

Hi, Will! Thank you very much for writing! I'm grateful for your kind words--I'm really happy that you liked the story! To answer your question: As I've said before, narrowing down the lists of submitted characters was by far the hardest part of CS, because they were all so good. I was really sorry that so many wonderful ideas from everyone couldn't be used in a single story.

So as I was writing the story, it occurred to me: I could start including some of the other characters who had been finalists but who had not been elected as the three to appear. I thought of these as "cameo appearances," like when a famous star appears briefly in a movie. Margaret O'Shanahan was a favorite who very nearly was chosen as the main villain; Derek Nightshade and Jonah were also quite well-liked. It was great fun to find how they could be part of the story. No, it wasn't part of the plan the whole time. I wish I'd thought of it sooner and could have worked in more of the characters! I also tried to get in as many of the Fantasy Dictionary words as I possibly could. Those who took part in CS gave me SO MUCH FANTASTIC MATERIAL to work with! The story could have gone on and on!

Thanks again for asking about this!

submitted by Fred D., Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
(June 27, 2015 - 10:58 am)

Thanks so much Mr. Durbin!

submitted by Will T., age 15, GA
(June 27, 2015 - 9:58 pm)