Author & Artist's Corner: Author

Frederic S. Durbin

Frederic S. Durbin was born in rural Taylorville, Illinois. Throughout childhood, he was active in getting muddy, lost, and injured--as well as in creative and interpretive literary performances, writing, puppetry, vocal and instrumental music, and filmmaking.

He attended Concordia College (now University) in River Forest, Illinois, where he majored in classical languages. At Concordia, he served as chapel cantor and sacristan, worked as an international resident assistant, and edited the creative writing section of the college newspaper. He spent his college summers helping with vacation Bible schools in remote Cree and Ojibwe villages in northern Ontario, Canada. He graduated summa cum laude and traveled to Japan as a part of the Overseas Volunteer Youth Ministry program of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Fred has lived in Japan since 1988, where he teaches courses in writing and English conversation at Niigata University. He is a frequent speaker on the joys and practical aspects of fiction writing.

"I can't tell you what an honor it is to have my story appear in a magazine that has been a part of my life for 36 years," Fred says.

"I'm of the first generation of children that grew up with Cricket, so I've always felt very close to the magazine. My mom was a teacher, writer, and elementary school librarian, and she got me a charter subscription to Cricket when I was in first grade. I remember receiving the first-ever issue, Volume 1 Number 1, in September 1973. (I suppose I shouldn't brag about that, age-wise!) My friend in the same class was absolutely convinced that he had the very first copy of Cricket ever to be printed because it said 'Number 1' on the cover! Even when I showed him the 'Number 1' on my copy, he was unwilling to believe that all the copies said that! I have the entire collection of Crickets, from that issue onward.

One of my favorite aspects of writing is being able to speak with readers. So I am absolutely delighted to respond to any questions or comments from kids reading Cricket today."

Dear Mr. Durbin,

I love "The Star Shard"! I was at the library, and I couldn't find it! Is it published? If it is, where can I get it? 

submitted by MaxRide28
(June 28, 2008 - 1:58 pm)

Dear MaxRide28,

Thank you! I'm really happy that you love "The Star Shard"! Thanks for telling me that. I think what you're asking is, is it published as a book? Not yet. For the rest of this year, you can find it only in Cricket--but that's a good deal, right?--because in every issue, you get all the other great stories, poems, artwork, and adventures with Cricket and friends!


However, we've got our fingers crossed that it will be published as a book before too long! My agent is working on finding an interested book publisher. The book (in its current form) is called The Witching Wild--and the entire story of "The Star Shard" is only the beginning of the book, so there's a lot more to the story of Cymbril and Loric!


So...please enjoy the story now in Cricket. But make yourself a note to keep your eyes open in another year or two for a book called The Witching Wild!

submitted by Fred Durbin, Japan
(June 29, 2008 - 10:23 am)

Dear Mr. Durbin,

I love "The Star Shard"! Where did you get the ideas for your book's characters? Every time I write a story I can't think of any characters to put into my story. Fantasy is personally the best type of story. What is your favorite type of story?   


p.s: I think Cricket is a really cool magazine!!!


submitted by Nicole
(June 30, 2008 - 4:08 pm)

Dear Nicole,


Thank you! I'm very happy that you love "The Star Shard"! I've always loved stories. The main reason I've always wanted to write is so that I can have a part in giving the enjoyment of stories to other readers. It's a wonderful feeling to hear from someone who has loved a story you've written--so I encourage you to keep writing your stories! It's truly a good way to spend your time and energy.


I've partly answered your question about characters in some other letters on this page, but I'll add that, when you're creating the main character in your story, try to imagine that you are she or he. The character should think and feel many of the same things you think and feel, because 1.) you know those thoughts and feelings and can write about them convincingly; and 2.) all people share a great many of the same ideas and feelings, so if you put yourself carefully into your main character's place, you'll be able to write a character that many readers will understand and identify with.


Let's say you're writing a story about a girl who has just been sent to a castle to help with the cleaning and other chores. Pretend that you are in her place. How do you feel when you see the royal family? Are they nice to you? Do you wish you were one of the princesses, or are you relieved you're not? Are you happy in the castle? What do you like best about it, and what do you hate about it? Are you lonely, or do you find an interesting friend you did not expect to meet? Suddenly, you're given the job of taking care of the princess's pet winged horse. How does that make you feel? What is that horse's personality like? What if you leave the stall door open for a minute, and the horse flies away? What will you do? . . . And on and on. The more you put yourself in that situation, the more choices you have as a writer--the story possibilities are endless!


I guess what I'm saying is this: you can develop characters easily by just putting them into a situation and letting them act naturally there. The things they do, the choices they make, will help us readers get to know them. In no time, your story will be full of interesting characters!


I thought of the characters for "The Star Shard" by asking and answering practical questions. First, I knew I wanted to write about the Thunder Rake. I had to ask myself: who is in charge of it? What kind of person would he or she be?--and the answer was Rombol. I asked, how would such a huge city wagon move from place to place?--and the answer was the Urrmsh. I asked myself: if Cymbril were a slave on the Rake, what would her job be? What would she like and dislike about her life there?


See? The process of writing a story involves a whole lot of asking yourself questions and answering them!


I TOTALLY agree with you: fantasy is the best kind of story!


P.S.--I think Cricket is a really cool magazine, too!





submitted by Fred Durbin, Japan
(July 1, 2008 - 10:35 am)


I really like "The Star Shard".  It is very unique and creative!  How did you ever come up with it?  I'm not sure what I'm going to be when I grow up, but an author is on my list!


It is amazing that you've recieved every Cricket since the beginning!  That must be fun looking back on them. :) Has it changed a lot?  I've only gotten Cricket for a couple years!



submitted by Anonymous
(June 30, 2008 - 7:03 pm)

Hi, Anonymous!

Thank you for your kind words about the story--I'm glad you like it. You sound just like me when I was a kid--I didn't know what I was going to be, but I knew that whatever I ended up doing, I'd also be writing. Isn't that great about writing? You can do it wherever you are, and you don't need a lot of equipment to do it.

How did I ever come up with "The Star Shard"? I really don't know--all I know is that I love stories, so I'm always reading them, and I like to be physically active--I think going for a brisk walk sort of shakes up the ideas in my head, and they line up into stories.

I have memories of writing "The Star Shard" while sitting at a white kitchen table (no tablecloth) in Japan during a cold winter while helping to take care of a sick cat.

Yes, it is fun looking back on old issues of Cricket! Actually, I can't give you a better answer right now about how it's changed, because I live in Japan, and most of my Crickets are back in my house in the U.S.A. My impression is that it hasn't changed that much. Old Cricket has always been old, and Cricket has always been full of stories that sweep me away into other worlds.

submitted by Fred Durbin, Japan
(July 1, 2008 - 12:48 pm)

I have a question I'd like to ask readers. People who have read "The Star Shard" sometimes wonder about how to pronounce Cymbril's name. Some say the C is soft, like the first C in "circle." Some say it's hard, like in "cake." Is her name pronounced SIM-bril or KIM-bril? What do you think?


With warmest regards,


Frederic Durbin

submitted by Fred Durbin, Japan
(July 1, 2008 - 10:42 am)

Dear Fred, I think that Cymbril  has a soft C.

Fondly, Mayr

submitted by Mayr , age 11, New York
(July 7, 2008 - 5:30 pm)

I'd say KIM-bril.

submitted by Shannon, age 12
(July 15, 2008 - 8:08 am)

I never, even for a moment wondered how to pronounce Cymbril. Being a musician, for me it's automatically a soft C, like the beginning of cymbals—crash, bang!

submitted by Julie P., age Young at h, La Salle, IL
(July 17, 2008 - 9:26 pm)

I had no trouble in deciding that it was a soft c. Most words that begin with c and then a vowel have a soft c at the beginning as opposed to a hard one, like Cyclops, cymbals, cytoplasm, city, cigar, etc.

submitted by Jeremy P, age 12, Pittsburgh
(July 30, 2008 - 7:34 am)

Hi Fred!


Just wanted to drop by and say that I absolutely love your story.  There's a rare few authors who describe sights, sounds, smells, and even sensations with the same skill you demonstrated in these chapters.  It's beautiful to read. All that, and you've made elves actually seem otherworldly, no mean feat when we've got so many Legolases running about these days.


I especially love the imagery of the Strongarms rowing the Rake.  If you could have The Star Shard turned into a movie, would you rather have it filmed as live action or animated?  And who would you pick as the director? 


Be well! 

submitted by Michael Tresca, Fairfield, CT
(July 2, 2008 - 10:40 pm)

Hi, Michael!

Thank you very much! I'm thrilled that you like the story!

A number of readers have said that Loric is their favorite character. I think Ms. Fiegenschuh's wonderful illustrations of him have a lot to do with that! (Of course, I also love the way she depicts Cymbril....)

I have a great fondness for the Strongarms, too.

If "The Star Shard" became a movie, I'd definitely push for live action. As for director--well, I think I'd interview Guillermo del Toro, Tim Burton, and Peter Jackson, and see whose vision for the film impressed me the most! Heh, heh!

Be well, you, too!


submitted by Fred Durbin, Japan
(July 5, 2008 - 12:48 am)

Where did you get the idea for this story? I love it!!

submitted by Amy, age 10, USA
(July 3, 2008 - 10:59 am)

I really love the Star Shard. You are an amazing author!! I eagerly anticipate each Cricket issue just so i can read your story and i wish the magazines came faster. There is one thing i am confused about : what is the actual "star shard"? I was looking at pictures that Emily drew of Cymbril with the star shard (they are fabulous might i add), but i don't remember anything about an actual star shard in the story. If you could tell me i would really appreciate it.



submitted by Elodie, age 13, Massachusetts
(July 4, 2008 - 11:40 am)