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."

Hi, Elodie!

Thank you for your kind words about "The Star Shard"--I'm delighted that you really love it! I agree with you that Emily's illustrations are wonderful!

As to your question about what a "star shard" really is, please keep reading the story. :-) I think you'll find out in the part that's coming up next! (Or very soon, anyway.)


submitted by Fred Durbin, Japan
(July 5, 2008 - 12:32 am)

Where did you get the idea for the story?

P.S.I LOVE fantasy!!!

submitted by Amy
(July 6, 2008 - 10:10 am)

Hi, Amy!

Thanks for writing! I LOVE fantasy, too! As to your question: several readers have written in to ask that, so if you'll read through the other letters here, you can see how I've tried to answer it in a couple different ways. The final answer, though, is that the idea didn't come from just one place, and it didn't come all at once. For me, that's how it often works: I'll have a general idea for a story, and when I start writing it, I find out little by little what the story is really about.

It's kind of like how it must be to dig up a dinosaur bone. First you see a little part of it, and you know something interesting is there, hidden under the soil. So you dig very carefully, brush and blow away the sand, and do all you can not to break the bone. You remove the parts that aren't the bone. Sometimes what you discover is a small bone; sometimes it's part of something very large. You never know the full picture of what you've got until you get it all out of the ground.

Writing a story is a lot like that! :-) You explore your basic idea, keep asking yourself more questions about it, and let your characters behave like themselves. Once you start the story moving, it usually starts rolling by itself -- you just have to stay out of its way and make sure it doesn't run over your foot!


submitted by Fred Durbin, Japan
(July 7, 2008 - 10:19 pm)

Dear Mr. Durbin,

Thanks for replying to me. I love writing, reading, and spelling. I know what you said was true about when you start writing the story, after a little while it just flows. It's very fun to write them, too!!!:) Thanks!!!, Amy

submitted by Amy
(July 12, 2008 - 2:01 pm)

Dear Amy,

You're welcome! I'm glad to hear you love spelling! Nowadays, good spellers are getting fewer and farther between. I'll bet you're like me, then: do you also love your dictionary?

And of course I'm delighted to hear that you enjoy writing stories. Please keep it up!


submitted by Fred D., Japan
(July 15, 2008 - 10:32 am)

Yes, I do like the dictionary. I like to learn new words from it. Thanks again!

submitted by Amy
(July 16, 2008 - 6:54 pm)

Dear Fred or Mr. Durbin,

Thanks for all your advice!!!

submitted by Amy
(July 18, 2008 - 5:22 pm)

You're welcome, Amy! Keep on reading, writing, and spelling!


submitted by Fred D., Japan
(July 31, 2008 - 12:42 pm)

Dear Mr. Durbin,


Your story, The Star Shard, is amazing! I Love all books and stories, but I think that fantasy stories are some of my all time favorites! I love the plot and the characters. It's so awesome that the story is going to last a whole year of Cricket magazines! Stories that continue in the magazine just add to the fun of getting the next one! Wow, it must be AWESOME to have all of the Cricket magazines from the first issue! I'm so envious! Do you have any favorite fantasy book and\or story? I have to many to count, but a few of my favorites are Ella Enchanted, Inkheart, The Legend of Holly Claus, Eragon, Eldest, The Hobbit, and Anderson Fairy Tales just to name a few. I was writing a fairy tale myself, but when I was jut a few chapters away from finishing it, the computer shut down and it erased the whole thing. I'm writing a new book now. It's not a fairy tale, but I might work on fairy tales again sometimes. Thank you for writing such a wonderful book!       

submitted by Kimberly B, age 12, Cottonwood, CA
(July 6, 2008 - 11:54 am)

Hi, Kimberly!

Thank you for your very kind words about "The Star Shard"! I'm so glad you like the characters and the story!

Yes, it is really something to see all of the issues of Cricket since 1973 all together in one place! I started out keeping them in a wooden credenza with doors that pull outward. My mom would read every issue, too, and sometimes even my dad. When we were all finished with one, we'd add it to the stacks in the credenza--month by month, year by year. About five years ago, the whole credenza got so full that I couldn't fit in even one more issue! So I had to start on a new wooden case. Two years ago I had to move the collection from one room to another, and it was a MAJOR job!

I'm like you: I have too many favorite fantasy books to count! From your list, I also love The Hobbit and Andersen's fairy tales. I adore Watership Down (I think it counts as fantasy, although nearly all the characters are rabbits). When I was in lower elementary school, I loved My Father's Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett. As I got on into junior high and high school, I fell in love with The Lord of the Rings and the work of Lord Dunsany.

Computers can be so frustrating! They're wonderful when they're working right, but when they "eat" something we've worked on for hours and hours. . . . I've had such experiences, too--now we know to save often and keep hard copies as we go along, don't we?

I'm glad to hear you're writing! Please keep at it! And thank you again for letting me know you like this story!


submitted by Fred D., Japan
(July 12, 2008 - 1:31 am)

Hey, thats one of the best stories I've read in a long time! Now that I've read it, I'm hooked!! I've read the first two parts and I'm dying to know the rest of the story!! If you have written it yet, where can I find it? If you haven't, then will you?


Hayley O.

submitted by Hayley O., age 12, Shrewsbury, MA
(July 12, 2008 - 9:35 am)

Hi, Hayley!

Thank you for your very kind words about the story! For a writer, just about the most exciting thing is hearing that a reader is hooked on the story.

The place to find the rest of "The Star Shard" is right here in Cricket Magazine! It will keep running in every issue until the story is finished. But also, as I've said to some other readers (above), we hope it will be a book someday before too long--a book called The Witching Wild. My agent is talking with some book publishers who are reading the story. The book-length version is actually much longer than "The Star Shard"--so if you like this story, you'll be able to read more about the characters in the book. But anyway, for "The Star Shard," Cricket is the place to be every month!

Thank you again for your encouragement!


submitted by Fred D., Japan
(July 15, 2008 - 11:00 am)

Hi. I sure like your stories in Cricket. I'm looking forward to more parts. I saw that you were a cantor in school. What doesa sacristan do? I never heard of one.


submitted by Carl S., age 11, river forest, i
(July 24, 2008 - 4:01 pm)

Hi, Carl!

Thank you very much!

At the college I went to, in the chapel services, cantors led the liturgies by chanting; lectors read aloud lessons from the Bible, and acolytes lit and extinguished candles. (There were also crucifers who carried the cross in special processions and lucifers who carried candles--yes, "light-bearers" are really called "lucifers"!)

The sacristan's job was to see that all the other jobs got done. Sometimes we had to make schedules of which people were assisting in chapel on which days. And if, for example, a lector didn't show up on a certain day, the sacristan on duty would have to step in and be the lector for that day. It was a lot of fun!

submitted by Fred D., Japan
(July 25, 2008 - 1:22 pm)

I absolutely LOVE "The Star Shard." I am a writer too, and I find it hard to continue a story after the first few pages. I always start thinking that the story is stupid and don't continue it. I can also never figure out what happens in the middle of the story, only the beginning and the basic problem (sometimes not even that). Do you have any suggestions?

I also have some question. Do you write your books/stories on the computer or on paper? Which do you like better?

How long did it take you to write the rough draft for "The Star Shard"? And did YOU have a clear idea of the whole story when you originally started writing it?

By the way, I say Cymbril with a soft 'C'.

submitted by Hadar, age 13, Israel
(July 30, 2008 - 8:16 am)