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, Brooke!

Thank you for your kind words about "The Star Shard"! I really hope it will be a book someday soon, too! We're working on it! To be a book, it has to be expanded just a little. A very good editor has made notes for me on his ideas for expanding it. I'll be following his advice in the next few months, and then let's keep our fingers crossed!


submitted by Fred D., Japan
(September 26, 2008 - 2:43 am)


I love, love, LOVE The Star Shard! I love all the characters and my favorite one is the Thunder Rake itself.  What a perfect story.  When will it become a book and how many books do you think will be in the series in all? 

My subscription to Cricket was running out in a month or two, and we weren't going to renew it this year, but now of course I have to see how it all ends.  This is the best story I have ever read in the magazine so far. And the pictures are so great! 

I don't even know what to ask you about but I do want to say thank you for writing it and please keep them coming.  When will part 4 of The Star Shard be added to the site so I can tell my friends who don't get Cricket when it is available online?

Eagerly waiting at the mailbox for Part-5.

submitted by Abygael, age 12, NYC
(September 24, 2008 - 1:33 pm)

Hi, Abygael!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your great encouragement about "The Star Shard"! I'm delighted that you love it! I think I agree about favorite characters: the Thunder Rake itself is perhaps my favorite "character," too! And right up there are the Urrmsh. But yes, I'd love to explore the Thunder Rake. In my novel Dragonfly, the best "character" is the spooky town in which it takes place. And in a not-yet-published novel I have, the best "characters" are the ships on which most of the book is set. So you can tell I really love large vehicles and places with a special atmosphere!

I don't know when it will become a book, but I'm sure hoping that it will! (Please see my response a little higher on this page. Another reader was just asking the same thing!) :-)

I think I'd like to write it as a three-book series, but I'm not sure yet. It may grow and become a longer series!

I'm really happy that this story convinced you to renew your Cricket subscription for another year! Why would anyone want to stop getting Cricket? [Smiling.] I still subscribe to it, and I'm 42! My mom read every issue all her life, and she lived to be 74! (She was a teacher and a school librarian, and she got me my subscription when I was in first grade.)

I think Part 4 will be up on the site soon! Again, thank you so much for your wonderful words!

Warmest regards,


submitted by Fred D., Japan
(September 26, 2008 - 3:00 am)
Dear Fred, (It's me again)
I've been in New York, (and glued to my book since) I went for the midnight release of Brisinger, Christopher Paolini's third book.  I met the author and had my book signed along with several of the kids from the family I stayed with.  I just wanted to write to you and let you know how The Star Shard reading went with them.  As I said before I was going to visit friends in NY who have seven children and I brought my Crickets along for the first four parts of the story.  I had a pretty good feeling that the 9-15 year olds would LOVE it, and I was right.  However, the 4 year old (she's mine) and the 7 year old and the 17 and the 19 year old listened along, and the mom and the grandmother also joined in.  SO there we were, I sat on the floor with the middle of a big couch behind me.  I had one child on my lap and one on each side of me and a whole PILE of kids squeezed above me on the couch, peering over my shoulders to get a good look at the pictures.  I read the first part and we talked a little bit about it and then jokingly I said, "THE END" when I got to the bottom of the page, and they all in unison said "NOooooo!"  So I brought out the next part of the story and continued until I got to the end of that and again I said "the end" and the same answer was unanimously given (even louder this time).  When I asked if anyone wanted to stop or take a break, they all looked at me like I was crazy!  So on to part three, at this point they were so into it, everyone was hooked!  Kids began saying out loud little guesses about the characters and what they thought might be going on etc.  I heard excited sounds and hold your breath sounds and lots of smiles... and those were the only sounds, I have never seen a group of kids sit for so long and focus so intensely as they all did while listening to your story.  Of course when I got to the end of part four and I read the part about Rombol's hound coming they all said "NOooooo" even before I could say "the end", followed by some groans due to the fact of my not having part five.  The conversation that broke out then was wonderful, everyone was full of ideas and comments and a few "I knew it's".  I think that one of my favorite memories will be sharing your story with this family, it was really a wonderful moment.
I was wondering if there is anything besides keeping our fingers crossed (which mine are) that would help to get this story (or stories) published?  I can't tell you how much I would love this story to become a series.  I have scanned thru the letters on this site, so I don't ask you a question you have already answered several times, but I am sure I missed quite a bit, so just refer me to the date of your answer if I repeat a question.  I would love to offer support in any way I can if there is something we (Star Shard fans) can do.  I do not know anything about the publishing world at all so I need advice here, and maybe there is nothing but hope and finger crossing that will help.  I was wondering if you have an e-mail address people could send letters to, that say we want this story to become a book and a series, a way that would be like a vote for it to happen?  I know LOTS of people who love your story and I know that if it was as easy as sending an e-mail, every one of them would send a letter for you.  It's just a thought.  BTW- I love the name Halcyon Fey, it is wonderful!  Tho The Witching Wild is catchy as well.  I will keep an eye out for all of the titles mentioned in bookstores everywhere!
Thank you again for your answers back to my questions, I have loved your answers to me and to others in regards to the characters you have written.  I do love Cymbril but it is impossible to choose a favorite character.  She perhaps intrigues me the most due to the duality that exists within her, that you (the reader) aren't sure where it comes from, and neither is she... until the end of part four.  It is the feeling that who she is comes from somewhere inside her and that it won't be diminished by her circumstances.  That makes her such a unique character, and her discovery of who she is will only allow her to trust that 'somewhere inside' feeling, and then nothing will be big enough to keep her... and that is going to be great!  It may sound boring but I equally love Cymbil and Loric, The Strongarms may be my favorite and the Rake itself of course.  But Cymbril makes me think.  The part you mentioned about the clash of cultures between humans and the Sidhe was one of my favorite moments as well as for the kids in NY.  When I read it the first time and Loric closes his eyes so he can't look at anything that isn't his, I actually giggled out loud and the kids also laughed when I read it to them.  It was a great way to understand his character, in just one sentence the reader really gets an idea of how different he is from the others.  I also loved the line he says to Cymbril about how impossible it would be for her to hide under her hood, especially there, on the Rake.  I think what I love the most about your stories is that even tho they are definitely for children, they are complex and layered and not oversimplified like some children's stories are, they will appeal to such a huge variety of people and ages and to both boys and girls (I have both and they equally loved it). 
I hope it is OK that I have written to you here on the Cricket site, I know it is for kids but I just had to tell you what your story means to our family and I had no other way to reach you.  Thank you again-
All the best, Tricia
submitted by Tricia, PA
(September 26, 2008 - 12:46 pm)

Dear Tricia,

How wonderful your letter is! I loved your account of reading "The Star Shard" aloud to the audience on and around the couch. It is an incredible honor that you would choose my story for that! I think the audience's enjoyment had a lot to do with your own skill for oral interpretation and the attention you were giving them--but still, hearing about it made me very happy! Thank you for doing that, and for taking the time to tell me about it! Hearing accounts such as that certainly make the hours of work worthwhile. That--the love of story, of a story shared with others--is precisely why most of us write. Those kids don't know me from Adam, but they sat there holding their breath as they followed Cymbril on her adventures. That's a fantastic feeling! Of all the books and stories you might have chosen to read to!

How are those Paolini books? (Obviously good, if you made a special trip for the late-night release of one!) And you met him in person! I'm sure the young readers you took along will never forget that, either. I truly applaud you for being such a loving, enthusiastic celebrant of art--and for doing all you can to pass that enjoyment on to children!

Thank you, too, for your willingness to lend support to "The Star Shard"'s journey toward becoming a book. You've already done a great and helpful thing by writing to me here with such enthusiasm for the story. I've kept my agent informed of what people have been writing here in these letters, and he's passed along the link to potential publishers. I've also talked about these letters and included the link on my blog. So you are being extremely helpful! I'll see if I can get my agent to read your letter specifically. But he's not the guy who needs convincing. He wouldn't have taken on representation of the book if he didn't believe in it. When I finish the revisions suggested by the editor, I'll be sure to remind him of these letters, also.

I really liked reading your notes on characters! I'm glad the duality in Cymbril worked for you, and I'm happy that you like all the potential titles! :-) I hope your expectations aren't too high for how the story ends!

Thanks for the comment that it's not a simplistic story. That is a point I remember discussing with the Cricket editors. Even in my children's stories, I'm not consciously writing for children--I'm writing for myself, a story I'd love to read. I think kids pick up on that. I'm delighted that both boys and girls like it!

I can't get my e-mail address onto this screen (there's part of the software that blocks it, for security reasons). But there is a way for you to find it. If you'll Google me, you'll find two websites. If you go to the older, bluish one (not the newer, green one), you can click on my name at the bottom of the main page, and I think it gives you my address. Some people have reached me that way. :-) You might enjoy my blog, too (you can get to it from the green website)--I haven't posted much while I've been on summer vacation, but now I should be able to get back to it. It's mostly about the writing life. I don't know if you're even interested in all that, but anyway.... :-)

Once more, thank you very, very much for writing, and for that story of your reading event that made my day!

Warmest regards,


submitted by Fred D., Japan
(September 28, 2008 - 1:30 pm)

Hey, Fred,

You're welcome regarding the letter, and I am glad it made your day.  Don't worry about how I will like the story ending, I think I will enjoy it just fine. I have no expectations, just enjoying the ride.

The Paolini books, Hh'mmmmmmmm... let's see.  I do love them. I began to read the first one right after Eldest was released.  I read it to proof it for my son, and by page 80 it became MY BOOK!  I had gotten it for him for Christmas almost three years ago now, I believe (maybe two?), and I borrowed the second book the same day I finished Eragon.  It has been a long wait for the third one (Brisingr) but worth the 5 hour (lots of traffic) drive to NY and the 4 hours we stood in line to get into the Barnes & Nobel.  My favorite authors are still JRRT and CS Lewis, but I honestly would never have tackled The Lord of the Rings if I hadn't read Paolini's books; it was my intro into fantasy really. (I had read Narnia as a child.) I'd read no other fantasy book until a couple of years ago... NOW I just love it. It amazes me that he wrtoe the first one at 15; it is worth reading just for that fact and to see the way he writes in the different books as he gets more courageous each volume.  Hope that is enough of an answer.

I did google you and I found your site. I read a little; it is a great blog. (The photos are the best.)  I am not great at figuring out computers but I did find it and it was fun to see what writers talk about.  I found an e-mail for you and I tried to send you a note but I have no idea if you will get it or not.

Part five should be here anyday... my whole family can't wait!  Bye, Tricia 

submitted by Tricia, PA
(October 3, 2008 - 5:38 pm)

Hey, Tricia!

Yep, that was a pretty definitive answer regarding the Paolini books--I can tell you really love them! Wow--driving for five hours and standing in line for four! So those books really got you into reading fantasy. I always love hearing what different people's doorways into fantasy were. For me, I think it was growing up in our family's bookstore, seeing the books on the shelves. . . . I can still remember an advertising poster for The Lord of the Rings that hung in one window of our store--it really made me want to read the books. I asked my dad about them, and he had never read them, but he had a general idea what they were about. I think he had Tolkien and Wagner mixed up, because he thought Tolkien was German. Different "Ring" cycle--heh, heh!

Actually, I didn't really see fantasy as a genre until much later. I grew up with fairy tales, monster stories, adventure tales, etc.--years later, I learned that those best books that most appealed to me were called "fantasy."

Thanks for taking a look at my blog! I'm glad you like it. Apparently your e-mail message didn't get through. I'm sorry to have sent you on a wild goose chase. H'mm.... There are probably some other ways around the barrier. I'm not sure how much more trouble you want to go to. :-)

I'm looking forward to Part 5, too! Thank you again for caring about this story!



submitted by Fred D., Japan
(October 5, 2008 - 10:10 am)


I lived in Japan in 2005 and I learned some Japanese.... I have continued my studies a little bit. I loved Japan, especially biking around and going to school there.  

I LOVE "The Star Shard." The only thing I don't like is that I do not like to have to wait for the next part.

Do you have the whole story written down already???





submitted by Isabel G., age 11, Tennessee
(September 28, 2008 - 8:54 pm)

Hi, Isabel!

Konbanwa! or Konnichiwa, or Ohayou, or Oyasuminasai! -- I'm not sure when you'll be reading this! I'm glad you liked Japan! I also ride my bicycle a lot here. Where I live, they're harvesting the rice now. This area is especially famous for its rice.

I'm thrilled and delighted that you love "The Star Shard"! Thank you for letting me know! I know it's hard to wait for the next part. That's the only bad thing about serials.

Yes, the whole story is written down already. It had to be all finished before the editors could make the decision of whether or not it would be right for Cricket's readers. Fortunately, they thought it would be! :-)

Best wishes to you!


submitted by Fred D., Japan
(September 28, 2008 - 11:43 pm)

The Paolini books are awsome!  They are, in a way, like Lord of the Rings.  Not plot-wise, but what Paolini has done!  He created a whole new, detailed world!  He even made 2 new languages for the book!  

The books are funny!  Not only are they funny because of the jokes told, but you can see the character's face, and it's just funny!  It's not the words said, but the expression that you know is on the character's face at the time.

You watch Eragon (the main character) grow and change how he thinks and what he believes because he is shown new ideas and new point of veiws, which is fun to read.  You watch several other of the characters do this as well.  

In the beginning, the story is told through Eragon's point of view, but as the series goes on, it changes.  You still see Eragon's point of veiw, but other people start to tell the story, because Paolini is telling (at this point) 3 different stories, Eragon's and 2 others.  I love it when authors do that.  I like as many points of view in a story as possible.  It fascinates me and I understand the characters better.  I also see what other people think of a character and I understand WHY they think that.  Again, it helps me understand a character.

The first book is addictive.  I must confess I was not very interested, but it had been on the bestselling book table for a couple of months and I was curious.  So I bought it and a week later I made myself start reading it.  For the first time in my life I found out what it meant by not being able to put a book down.  And I didn't read ahead either, something I was in the habit of doing at the time.  I couldn't.  I didn't want to.  The page I was on kept me glued.

Well, I hope this helps.

Julianna H.

submitted by Julianna H., age 16, Missouri, US
(October 5, 2008 - 12:22 am)

Thanks, Julianna! Yes, that does give me a much clearer picture of what the Paolini books are like. They sound amazing! There's no higher praise than for a reader to say s/he couldn't put the book down--and didn't skip ahead.

I also love it when an author will give us views of the characters through one another's eyes. It's thought-provoking and teaches us about life, too, because few things are completely one-sided in the real world. For example, even the villain in a book has reasons for doing what he or she does--that person probably doesn't think, "I am evil and I'm going to cause trouble for the world." The person is acting according to a set of priorities that seem right to him/her. It's great when the writer can show us how complex and many-sided the characters are. To write like that must take some real powers of observation and insight into what people are like.

Your letter is really lucid and explains very clearly why you like Mr. Paolini's books. You know what else makes me happy about hearing this? During the height of the Harry Potter craze, it almost seemed as if the world had forgotten there were other really wonderful books out there. So I'm delighted to hear you speak in such glowing terms of the Inheritance books (that's the name of the series, isn't it?).

Go, books! Yay, books!


submitted by Fred D., Japan
(October 6, 2008 - 11:04 am)


Hi, Mr. Durbin,
Part 5 came in the mail! It was awsome!!!  I like how Loric overcame iron, that was my favorite part.  He experimented and he found a way and it turns out to be very usful that he did.

Yeah, on the trivia it was awesome. There were lots of people there maybe 200 kids and adults and the top five teams went to the finals. I was in second place at the end of the all-around and I am 99% sure I was the only child to make it to the finals. I dropped to third place on this question; let's see if you know it without looking it up?
[What sound did Obi Wan Kenobi make (what animal did he imitate) that scared away the Sandpeople (Tuskin Raiders)?]  You have 1 min :-)

I think I know all of the Original Trilogy movies and could quote most of the lines from them, but I am learning the Episode one and two also. Other movies I like to quote are The Three Musketeers and The Scarlet Pimpernel and Robin Hood. Oh, and The Princess Bride (I am not left-handed either). So you like to quote Jaws? I have heard about it, but it sounds creepy. How old were you when you saw it? I want to see The Lord of the Rings so bad, but I have to read the books first. Maybe I will read The Fellowship of the Ring this summer. I have lots of the action figures of the characters and I make up my own stories of Middle-Earth with them. Your Loric reminds me of if Legolas was still a boy, and it is how I have imagined him lots of times.I wish I knew about the WFC last year because I go to NY all the time. We lived there all my life, and I just moved away last September, but I still visit my friends in NY, and it's only a three hour drive away. I have never been to Canada will it ever come back to NY again someday?

It was funny that the day after I asked you about part 4 it came out on the site the next day! Now I can't wait for October. I hope we get to find out more about Loric and Goryv Glen. I love mysteries. I like to write all kinds of stories. Lots of them are space adventures and copying what I like from the movies and books I love. I also like to write stories that are the rest of what could happen, like a part 2.  If I read a book sometimes I decide how it would all turn out and write my own ending. Or sometimes I rewrite the same story but from a different character's perspective. Like once I wrote about the snakes viewpoint and then the story was very different when she was the main character. And I love to write comic strips because I get to do the art and the story.

When did you first get your idea for the Thunder Rake? I read that one of your ideas was from the sand crawler.  I will send in Star Shard Fan Srt as soon as I finish it. 


P.s. a big space slug like Jabba" lol.  I liked Star Wars The Clone Wars a lot.

P.s.s. What time is it there in Japan when it is 12:00 midnight Cricket time?

submitted by Ethan, age 11
(October 6, 2008 - 3:56 pm)

Hi, Ethan!

I'm really happy that you liked Part 5! I just got my copy in the mail today, too! (So you saw it before I did. That's one disadvantage I have in living so far away. I'm the last person to see each new Cricket! But they're always worth the wait.)

Since you brought it up, the part about Loric overcoming iron is a prime example of how much a story can benefit from a great editor. When I wrote "The Star Shard," I had completely forgotten the common folkloric belief that metal worked by human hands is poisonous to the Fey people. I'd heard/read that before, but I'd forgotten it. So I wrote the story, and when the editor at Cricket read it, she asked me what was going on--why wasn't the metal collar poisonous to Loric? I wanted to keep the collar in the story, so I had to invent a reason why he was able to stand having it around his neck. When I came up with the solution, I found that it helped to develop Loric's character: his process for overcoming iron shows that he is a problem-solver, that he's smart, and that he has patience. We'd be missing those details if it weren't for the editor asking me about that collar!

Again, that's fantastic how well you did at the Star Wars trivia competition! I have to admit, I don't remember the name of the animal Obi-Wan was imitating to scare off the Sandpeople. I know it was a [Something] dragon call, but I don't remember what kind of dragon. I remember how he delivered it, though, and what it sounded like, and how he was flapping his arms back and forth.

The Princess Bride is an awesome movie! ("The Dread Pirate Roberts"!) ("My name is Inago Montoya....") I saw Jaws when I was 9 or 10. It was really touch-and-go whether or not my mom was going to let me see it, because back in its time, it was considered a shockingly violent and scary movie. But I'd always loved monsters. My cousin and I used to make audio tapes of our own version of Jaws, being quite faithful to the movie itself. We used the real musical soundtrack, and we made the ocean noises by splashing water in a tub. We're lucky we didn't electrocute ourselves, splashing water around tape machines and record players! (That was back in the days of 33 1/3 RPM record albums. I would sit in front of the stereo and listen to the Jaws and Star Wars soundtracks for hours, reliving the movies in my head.)

You're right: definitely read the books of The Lord of the Rings before you see the movies.

Oh, yes, I'd guess the World Fantasy Convention will come back to New York (or someplace nearby) before too long. NY is such an important place for book publishing. Since so many publishers, editors, agents, and writers are concentrated in that general area, it makes sense to hold it there.

It's excellent that you write space adventure stories! Yes--when I was your age, I was doing the very same thing--imitating the stories (books or movies) that I loved, and also writing new parts to the stories--continuations of them after "The End" appears. And writing the same story from a different character's viewpoint is a terrific way--I'm applauding you!

Comic strips are an exciting medium! I've tried some, but I have no art training; I think I have plenty do with just the words. :-) But I truly admire a person who can do both pictutres and the text. I've always said I love writing because it lets me play all the parts, plus be the cameraman and the director!

I think my first idea for the Thunder Rake came about 20 or 25 years ago! I knew the name back then, too. But I didn't work it into a story until "The Star Shard"! Yes, the Jawas' Sandcrawler was a big influence.

I'm thrilled that you'll be submitting artwork to the "Star Shard" drawing contest! I can't wait to see it!

About the time difference: well, let's see. If it's 12:00 midnight Thursday in Cricket Country (Thursday just ending, that is, and becoming Friday), and we're on winter time (not Daylight Savings Time), then it's 3:00 p.m. on Friday here. Japan is 15 hours ahead of U.S. Central time--14 hours ahead during Daylight Savings.

Thank you once more!


submitted by Fred D., Japan
(October 8, 2008 - 12:16 pm)

Thanks for telling me about the editor and why you made up the story about Loric's iron collar; it does make the story more interesting.  I had a question about folklore that I wanted to ask you.  Is Loric's name from the word folkloric?  It probably isn't, but I was going to ask you and then you said it in your answer to me.  And did Cymbril's name come from the word cymbal? Her name makes me think of the sound music makes when it shimmers in your ear.

Now for the answer: It is a Kryat Dragon.
You did know almost all of it; you would do well in the contest.

submitted by Ethan, age 11, Hershey, Pennsy
(October 9, 2008 - 3:05 pm)

Hi, Ethan!

Oh, yes -- I was definitely thinking of the words "lore" and "folklore" when I came up with the name Loric. My idea was that the Sidhe would be a people who take great delight in stories, legends, and folklore.

And yes -- you're absolutely right about the name Cymbril, too. I wanted a name that sounded like music shimmering in the ear.

A Kryat Dragon! I never would have remembered it. I remember reading it at some point, but I'm not sure where. Maybe the original novel? That name doesn't actually show up as a line in the movie, does it? Or does it? :-) If it's in the film, I sure don't recall the line.


submitted by Fred D., Japan
(October 10, 2008 - 3:44 pm)