Posts Tagged ‘Cymbril’

Gallery of Wonders (Brought to You by “The Die-Hard Star-Shard Fan Club”)

February 18, 2009

There’s very little I have to say in this posting. A picture, it is said, is worth a thousand words. One might also say that a poem is worth a thousand pictures. If that’s true, then you’re getting a 1,007,000-word value here — one amazing poem and seven amazing pictures. (That’s as mathematical as this blog will ever get: it took me about five minutes and a calculator to figure that out. . . . Don’t even ask me about going to St. Ives!)

These extraordinary works by fans of “The Star Shard” are used with the permission of the young artists and their parents. My deepest gratitude goes to all of them — both for creating these images and for allowing me to post them here.

Oh! — all right, you do have to wade through some news from me first. I finished the latest round of revisions to The Star Shard (novel version). It grew from about 53,000 words to almost exactly 55,000. My agent gave it a very careful read-through and made extensive notes for me on some concerns he had. He pointed out 72 separate things he wanted me to re-examine, ranging from cutting or changing a word or two to rewriting entire sections. He emphasized, of course, that his suggestions were merely that — ideas for me to evaluate and make up my own mind on. I only disagreed with him on 5 of them. I left those done my way, and I convinced him to withdraw a 6th point (as being not a concern); so that means I took his advice on 66 of his 72 suggestions. (This posting is just determined to get mathematical, isn’t it?) So his time was well spent, and I am extremely grateful to him — the book is much stronger as a result of his attention. He has a great critical eye and knows his business. So now let’s keep our fingers crossed that our interested editor will be as excited about the new draft as we are, and that he’ll be able to persuade the powers-that-be to turn The Star Shard into a book!

One final note: I’m quoting here from a letter by “Star Shard Luver,” written February 12, 2009 and posted in the “This Issue” section of the Chatterbox in Cricket Country on the Cricket Web site:

“Yes, you should read it! The story is so awesome, and you can read any parts you’ve missed on Cricket‘s site. I read all the time and I have been reading Cricket for years, and it is the best story EVER! From the point where Loric and Cymbril talk for the first time the story just flies, and I never want it to end!” (On the site, Cricket also asked readers how they think “The Star Shard” will end — alas, the end is coming with the April issue — and speculations are running wild!)

Okay! On to the main event! Soli Deo gloria, and thanks to The Die-Hard Star-Shard Fan Club!

Loric -- Crossing the Groag Swamp, by Ethan, age 11

Loric -- Crossing the Groag Swamp, by Ethan, age 11

Look at those fantastic boots stitched of leaves! I love the sword and sheath, those great stunted swamp trees, and the shading around Loric’s eyes! (And also the luminous quality of his eyes!)

The Rake's Cats, by Aria, age 4

The Rake's Cats, by Aria, age 4

I love the colors and the poses of the cats! And did you note the differences in their expressions? The tom is serious, probably worried about Cymbril out on that high ledge; Miwa has her enigmatic, knowing smile. She’s the Mona Lisa of cats!

Loric, by Andrew, age 15

Loric, by Andrew, age 15

Isn’t this an excellent costume design? I’m impressed by the deliberately asymmetrical cut of the shirt, and by the wrinkles/folds in the trousers. And again, superb face quality!

Sidhe Cymbril, by Andrew, age 15

Sidhe Cymbril, by Andrew, age 15

I just love the hem of the dress, and also that beautiful, dreamy facial expression! Notice the delicate collar bones that real girls have. And the leaves on the dress — a very Sidhe design!

Cymbril, by Andrew, age 15

Cymbril, by Andrew, age 15

I totally admire the use of color, pose, and motion here! We’re looking at a living instant frozen in time. Andrew, you’d better become a professional artist! Maybe a manga artist. . . .?

Little Thrush of the Iron Cage, by Irisa, age 17

Little Thrush of the Iron Cage, by Irisa, age 17

 

“Little Thrush of the Iron Cage”

by

Irisa

 

Little Thrush gently singing

A dreamer’s song of a wide bright sky

Caged by fate

You dance in the day

Yet in the night you cry

Tears shining with lost hopes

Drift away, little bird

To the distant clouds

Spread your wings

Know that the rain

Cannot reach the sun

As long as your heart still sings

Hope is eternal, little bird

Believe once more in her quiet power

Even though the bars

Of this cage are cold

The warmth of inner light

Can shine out and melt the deepest fog

Showing a tomorrow where you can

Sing your truest song

 

I held off my comment until after the poem, because the poem and picture go together. Isn’t this breathtaking work? What strikes me so deeply about the picture is its use of symbol. Cymbril doesn’t really have wings, but by depicting her that way, the artist is drawing the parallel to the “caged bird” motif. I love the colors, lines, and pose here, too, as if she’s just floating there, an angel in the air. And the poem — such exquisite use of language! And such a message of hope!

Loric, by Maya, age 12: "Patience has limits, collars have to come off."

Loric, by Maya, age 12: "Patience has limits, collars have to come off."

Look at the way the artist has used her pencil in evoking the hair, the shirt, and the chain! The chain looks hard and cold, and everything around it looks flowing and soft. How do such young people know so much about art already? What will they be doing when they’re old and gray and 20? I can’t wait to see what they produce!

Haven’t we just seen and read some wonderful things? This blog is greatly honored by these young artists and poet. May they continue to create their work and develop their skills for their ongoing part in the Great Song!

Jan Retro

February 4, 2009

No, that’s not a fictional character. It’s short for “January Retrospective.” What a month January was! Part 8 of “The Star Shard” is on stands now (the February issue of Cricket), and Emily Fiegenschuh’s illustrations just get better and better. Before Part 8, my favorite portrait of Cymbril was the one where she’s kneeling at the door to her bunk, listening. Now I think it’s the one from Part 8, the picture of Cymbril, Bobbin, and Argent in the wagon. Emily pays such attention to detail! See the leaves embroidered on Cymbril’s cloak? Those are there in the text description! Bobbin reminds me a lot of the world of manga — maybe it’s the super-long ponytail. Oh, and I love the opening portrait — Part 8 — of Cymbril, too, at the rail with the two cats. Is it my imagination, or is Cymbril getting steadily prettier? Maybe she’s growing up. . . . I’ll bet there are more than a few teenage boys in love with her. I know I would be if I were the age of most Cricket readers.

Anyone who’s not getting the magazine (and even if you are) — you can see Emily’s astonishing illustrations for this story on her Web site. Go to www.e-figart.com. Click on “Gallery” and scroll down: she has an entire discrete section dedicated to “The Star Shard.”

But back to the point. Here are some January goings-on:

I have to quote this fantastic letter from a reader named Celia: “My favorite story is ‘The Star Shard.’ I think you should make the episodes longer! . . . . I love the illustrations. . . . They make Cymbril look so pretty. I love that name. If I ever have a daughter, I am going to name her Cymbril.”

Isn’t that far out? I remember reading — and feel free to correct me on this, if you know differently — that the name “Wendy” entered our culture through Peter Pan. That is, there were no girls named Wendy before that character came along. After the book, there were lots! There was a Wendy in my class in school. So just maybe a generation of Cymbrils is coming!

In the latest issue’s The Letterbox, Henrietta C. writes: “‘The Star Shard’ is one of the best stories I’ve read. I think that we should have more stories from Frederic S. Durbin in this magazine.” And A.J.H. writes: “Right now, my favorite story is ‘The Star Shard.’ I love fantasy books!”

I think I already quoted the poem written by Amanda based on the September cover — “A cat by her side, eyes bright and green, / Sees what the girl thinks cannot be seen. / A stone to her forehead, magic inside; / An elf on the other end, linked to her mind.” There were three poetry contest winners who wrote poems inspired by that September cover picture of Cymbril in the windy night, standing on that high ledge on the Rake’s prow. You can read them all on Cricket‘s site! (www.cricketmagkids.com)

Also, the latest poetry contest invites readers to write “a song the Urrmsh might sing”!

And there’s new fan art up! The number of pictures doubled this month, and every single one is just amazing! On the “Corner” page, click the icon that says “Fan Art.”

But here’s perhaps the most jaw-dropping story of the month: in a U.S. state which I shan’t disclose, a wonderful mom began reading “The Star Shard” aloud to a group of kids–her two, plus six more from another family. The kids range in age from well below the typical Cricket demographic to well up into the Cicada range, and everything in between. This group sent me a photo of themselves (which was also sent to Cricket). Each of the kids is holding up a copy of the magazine, open to the story, all 8 parts represented. The group calls themselves “The Die-Hard Star-Shard Fan Club,” and they even managed to superimpose that name across the top of the picture digitally. And it gets still better! The club members are all dressed up as their favorite characters from the story and/or Sidhe in general! Right smack in the center of the photo are a boy and girl just the ages of Loric and Cymbril, dressed as Loric and Cymbril! The girl (who looks like Cymbril) is holding up that September issue, and her dress and cloak are the same color and style as those Cymbril is wearing on her high ledge! And it gets still better! I’m told that the kids play “The Star Shard” in their costumes, acting out parts and making the continuing story their own, much as we played The Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and Star Wars as kids. In other words, the story has gone on to a life of its own, quite apart from me, just like a real story, not just something I wrote. Now, how is that for something to make a writer’s entire year, although it’s only January? Talk about a humbling experience! “Who am I, Lord?” Soli Deo gloria!

In other January news: I heard from Stefan Dziemianowicz that the anthology which includes my Hallowe’en tale “The Bone Man” is finally moving into the pipeline for publication. They had quite a time getting all the authors to sign the contracts. But the book is on track again now and should be out sometime this year! Woo-hooo!

Oh!–the most recent word from my agent is that he’d gotten about 2/3 of the way through the novel version of The Star Shard and is still really liking it. Whew! Haven’t heard from him in over a week. I hope he didn’t hate the last third! [Writer angst attack.]

Okay, those are the big things. Let’s see. . . . When I visited my friend “Marquee Movies” last summer, he took me for the second time to an extraordinary comic book shop, where I bought a Buffy the Vampire Slayer calendar. (Best TV series I’ve ever encountered, I kid you not.) This month’s page is all about Willow, my favorite character on the show. The picture on my William Blake calendar this month is his painting God Judging Adam; and moving down the row, the Tolkien calendar’s February picture is By Moonlight in Neldoreth Forest, by Ted Nasmith — a painting of that famous daughter of Thingol and Melian dancing in the lunar glow.

Finally, here’s another good night story (remember my one about encountering the maybe-a-chupacabras?):

I was walking home tonight from a nearby convenience store, where I’d paid a utility bill (can you do that in the States? It’s a really handy thing here in Japan). The street and sidewalk were very dark. It was a stretch of almost no car traffic. Light from an intersection far away behind me was projected at a low angle across a white metal fence in front of me. And suddenly, there on the fence, captured in that light from far off, was my shadow — only it wasn’t my shadow. It was in the right place for my shadow; it was the size my shadow should have been. But it was very clearly not my shadow. The shape, the clothing, and the movements were all wrong. Talk about unsettling! It was clearly the shadow of another person, although I seemed to be casting it. Eerily, there was no one else around me — I looked in every direction.

Finally, I figured out that it was the shadow of a lone teenage guy way, way behind me, back by the intersection. The light was just low-angled enough, and he was just far enough away, that his shadow was thrown onto the wall at a size and in a position that made it look like it should have been my shadow. Fascinating illusion!

So yes, I go on living in my twilit world of dreams and phantasms. . . .

Also just tonight I sent off the signed contract for Part 10 of “The Star Shard.” That’s the final part. I know, I’m starting to be sad already. When this story’s run is over, it will be for me like the end of that three-year golden age of The Lord of the Rings in theaters — very sad. But it has been, and that’s a significant comfort and encouragement. It was; it is a part of Cricket‘s venerable history. And, Lord willing, maybe it will yet be a book . . . a series? May it be like King Arthur: a “once and future” story!

It’s Away!

January 19, 2009
"Behold, the Argonath! The Pillars of the Kings!"

"Behold, the Argonath! The Pillars of the Kings!"

Heh, heh — they’re actually maneki neko, which means “inviting cats.” But I couldn’t resist pointing out the similarity to a certain mighty landmark in Middle-earth. I’ve never seen maneki neko in a paired set like this before. Maybe as the economy gets bad, more cats are getting jobs as inviters, sitting atop roofs. . . . Seriously, in Japan, the “come here” gesture is made that way, with the palm forward and brought

"They are Isildur and Anarion, my forefathers of old."

"They are Isildur and Anarion, my forefathers of old."

 down in a scooping motion — just the opposite of the Western upward scoop for “come here.” So these two cats are beckoning wealth: they’re positioned atop a booth that sells lottery tickets. People often have smaller versions of them in their homes or shops to call in people, good fortune, and prosperity.

Anyway — grrooinnk! (the sound of my changing subject) — it’s often pointed out by history buffs that the Persian Gulf War  was the first war that the general public could see unfolding before their eyes, through the “miracles” (?) of television and modern reporting. Through the miracle of a blog, this is the first time I’ve finished and submitted a manuscript “with the world watching.” (Delusion of Grandeur: $25 fine.) Okay: with a few people watching, which is way more than usual. Usually writing is the most solitary endeavor in the world.

So, The Star Shard is off to my agent. That’s always a good feeling, to send something out the door. Here’s your handkerchief and your lunch, little manuscript. Take care — send a postcard! Make us proud! And yes, you can always come home. If you come home all torn and coffee-stained and sadder but wiser, we’ll welcome you back with open arms and tend to your wounds and nurse you into better health, and you don’t have to leave again until you’re ready.

Grroinnk #2: Cricket had a poetry contest in which they invited readers to write poems inspired by their favorite Cricket covers. Three of the winners wrote poems based on the September cover, that hauntingly mysterious image of Cymbril on the high ledge outside the hatchway on the Rake’s prow. You can read these and all the winners on Cricket‘s Web site (www.cricketmagkids.com). I am totally impressed by the quality of the poems these kids write! My favorite of those three is one by a girl named Amanda. (Well, I’m assuming “girl.”) I can’t post the poem here, but I can quote you some snatches of it: “A cat by her side, eyes bright and green, / Sees what the girl thinks cannot be seen.” And how about this? — “A stone to her forehead, magic inside; / An elf on the other end, linked to her mind.” Very cool stuff — and so humbling to think about the reality of it: young readers drawing artwork and writing poetry based on Emily’s illustrations of my story. “Who am I, Lord?” Again: Soli Deo gloria!

By the way, that picture (Cymbril on the high perch, with the night mists and the swooping owls) is available as a poster in two sizes through Cricket‘s  Web site. Yes, I have my own framed copy!

Grroooiiinnk #3: Thanks to the engaging discussions you’ve all taken part in, the blog has broken its own record for visits in a single day this past week — thank you all for being here! A blog is the one aspect of the writing life that isn’t lonely! (Maybe that’s why everyone recommends them….)

Grrooinnk #4: Awhile back, a good friend recommended to me a film called Cannibal, the Musical. I finally got around to tracking down a copy and watching it. Oh . . . wow! I have not laughed so hard in a good, long while. It is absolutely hysterical — brilliantly done, and probably not like anything you’ve ever seen. A few warnings are in order: as you can gather from the title, it’s probably not for most children. The guys who made it are the guys who also did South Park, if that tells you anything. There is some language, some simulated gore, and . . . well, some cannibalism. But anyone who grew up with Monty Python will laugh so hard at Cannibal, the Musical that s/he’ll have tears streaming down his/her face. (Whew! What an awkward sentence!) Just to give you a hint of what you’ll encounter: in one scene, the prospectors and the fur trappers nearly come to blows over precisely what key a song is in. And you’ll see the most suspicious Indians you’ve ever seen: “What? Don’t you think we are Indians? But loooook at all these teeeeepeeeees! We have teeepeees because we are . . . Iiiindiaaans!” (They’re actually extremely Japanese, with names such as Junichi and Tomomi.)

And one more warning: you’ll have some catchy songs stuck in your head for about a week. But I’ll say this: this is one worth owning, not just renting, because you’ll want to watch it over and over.

Okay, that’s it for now — talk to you soon!

Encouragement

January 13, 2009

Yes, it’s a lame title, I know. But good titles are hard to come up with, aren’t they? Just a little while ago I was complaining to a friend about the trouble I’ve had finding a title for one of my works-in-progress. I was calling it The Fires of the Deep until an editor told me I’d better change it so that no one would confuse it with Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep. Recently, I thought I had it all figured out: I was going to call it The Twilight. Beautiful, right? But what is every girl and her mom in America reading right now?–yep, a little something called Twilight. Sigh. Anyway, titles fascinate me. (Back in the early days of this blog, I asked readers what some of their favorite titles were. Anyone else want to ring in on that? I still say the current reigning champion is The Pillars of the Earth. I’m not talking about content, mind you: just sheer titular awesomeness.)

But anyway! I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness this week for the letters that continue to come in, either to Cricket (which Cricket very kindly forwards to me) or on the Web site (www.cricketmagkids.com/corner/frederic-s-durbin). Now, to keep things in perspective, not 100% of readers like the story. On the Web site, in some of the discussion threads, there are a few readers who say they haven’t read it — that they’ve avoided reading it — which is understandable. As a kid, I was put off by continued stories. I disliked them in comic books, I disliked them on TV, and I disliked them in magazines. I much preferred stories that ended inside one cover. Long was fine, but I never wanted to see “to be continued.” So I understand where those readers are coming from.

There are also some readers who say “What’s all this fuss about ‘The Star Shard’? I don’t like it.” Those always upset me, and that’s human nature, I suppose: no matter how many kids say they love it, when one comes along who says s/he doesn’t, I’m all aargh and ouch. I walk around for the rest of the day with one of those smoldering cartoon balloons over my head — the kind that are just full of dark scribbles. The worst was one who said she didn’t think Cymbril acted like a real girl. Coming from a real girl, that hurt! Another wrote that she didn’t think Cymbril really wanted to escape from the Thunder Rake — and actually, that’s quite a fair and astute observation. Cymbril does have mixed feelings about escaping, and that’s an important part of the story for me. It explores the true nature of happiness. What is the difference between a blessing and a burden? Is there always a clear difference? Can there be an overlapping of the two? What is the nature of freedom? “Stone walls do not a prison make, / Nor iron bars a cage.”

Most often, though, the naysayers then go on to rip on the illustrations — and if anyone starts ripping on those, which are breathtakingly gorgeous and perfectly appropriate to the story, then I know the commenters are just plain out to attack, and I don’t feel as bad. It’s like how, if someone starts spouting racial slurs, for example, you know you don’t have to worry too much about that person’s opinions.

(To be clear: most readers are saying good things about “The Star Shard” — I don’t want to give the impression that it’s a controversial story. To the best of my knowledge, the response to it has been quite good.)

But to speak of the illustrations brings me to another point: I am fully aware that a lot of the enthusiasm readers have for “The Star Shard” is on account of the pictures. Some readers have said, “I love this story — especially the pictures!” I can tell that some love Loric because of the way the artist has drawn him. If this story were published without the artwork, I don’t think it would be nearly as popular. One of the funniest things is how Cymbril’s dresses have built up a fan base among younger teen and pre-teen girls! That’s something I certainly didn’t think about when writing the story, but the fact that her Master dictates exactly what she wears at each of the markets is another significant part of the character’s development . . . and the artist has made the costumes all look so good that we get letters and fan art centered on Cymbril’s wardrobe! (If the series ever does well enough to generate a line of action figures, we’ll have to have Pink-Dress Cymbril, Green-Dress Cymbril, Puffy-Sleeves Cymbril. . . .)

Three letters this week have been particularly encouraging. One reader wrote: “I wanted to tell you that I am totally hooked on ‘The Star Shard’ (April 2008-2009)! It is one of the most incredible continued stories I have read. . . .”

Another was from a young person whose life was completely turned on its side recently when she was diagnosed with diabetes. Now she has to endure daily injections, and everything is different; but she says Cricket and “The Star Shard” have been a source of fun that she really looks forward to. When you hear things like that. . . .

Finally, just today I read a letter that said “The Star Shard” made the person start reading Cricket! She had always considered Cricket to be her sister’s magazine. One day she picked it up idly and read Part V of my story, and she was so captivated by it that she went tearing around the house digging through National Geographics in search of the earlier installments in Cricket! She went on to say that if this becomes a book, she’s definitely going to buy it.

And a great many fans have said that — they’re clamoring for a book. One wrote that it’s the sort of story one curls up with on a rainy day and reads even though one has read it many times before — wow!

So it continues to be an overwhelming, humbling experience. I never dreamed I’d be in this place as a writer — even a year or two ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. Soli Deo gloria — “To God alone be glory”!

By about the end of this week, Lord willing, I’ll be delivering the novel-length version of The Star Shard to my agent. If he finds no problems with it, he’ll pass it along to the editor who has expressed a significant interest in it (and whose detailed notes I used carefully in the expansion process). This is a critical phase: will the story stand up without the illustrations? Have I successfully built a novel — or rather, helped a novel to grow — around the more streamlined version? I feel good about it and would certainly appreciate the prayers of anyone so inclined that The Star Shard will find a publisher as Book One of a series — and that readers will embrace the book as they have the magazine story!

Okay, on a humorous note: my computer’s grammar- and spelling-checker cracks me up! It always goes nuts over my fiction, griping endlessly about my use of commas. It hates all reflexive pronouns, even when they’re used correctly — like photocopy machines made after about 1990, it thinks it knows better than any silly human what needs to be done. Again and again, my grammar-checker says to me, “You can’t be serious,” to which I reply, “I’m deadly serious. Now back way off.”

This is the hilarious part: this evening I was making a worksheet for my academic writing kids. It was a whole sheet of sentences with no punctuation whatever — my students will be adding the commas, colons, and semicolons needed. By force of habit, I ran the spell- and grammar check — and the computer instantly gave the green light to the whole page. No problems at all!

So there you are. If you want to be really correct, just don’t use punctuation. Don’t use any. None. Just don’t use it. Let your sentences run on and your clauses commingle.

It’s just like how our society believes that “I” is always more correct than “me.” Always, in every case. “Me” is for unschooled cretins. And every single “s” should have an apostrophe in front of it. In fact, I think they’re teaching the alphabet that way in schools now, aren’t they?

. . . O P Q R ‘S T U V. . .

On that note, until next time — many ble’s’sing’s!

Perspectives and Punctuations

July 17, 2008

“So what I said was true,” says Obi-Wan to Luke, “from a certain point of view.”

A friend of mine is making a whole bunch of hats to sell. She has her sewing machine humming away, and every day she adds to the mound of hats, each one a unique design. It’s looking very Bartholomew Cubbins-like around her place.

Well, the  other day when I stopped by, she asked, “Kyou no mitai?” — meaning, in Japanese, “Do you want to see today’s?” — that is, did I want to see the hats she’d made that day?

But here’s the way my mind made the word-breaks: “Kyou nomitai?” — “Do you want to drink [alcohol] today?” To which my response was, “Huh?!” (That’s not the sort of question she would typically ask!) We eventually had a good laugh over it. Or at least I did. Her reaction was more a rolling of the eyes. But it all ended well as I admired the day’s hats.

The experience reminded me of something I heard last week. Supposedly a scientific study was done (though it wasn’t verifiably cited — I suspect maybe someone made up the part about its being an actual study) in which a teacher wrote the following sentence on the chalkboard and asked students to punctuate it:

A woman without her man is nothing

According to this tale I heard, the male students mostly did it this way:

A woman without her man is nothing.

And the female students rendered it as:

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

 

Next story: my dad used to tell me about a prisoner in the old Soviet Union who was set free because the jailer in charge of him received orders without punctuation. The commander sent this telegram:

RELEASE IMPOSSIBLE TO BE SENT TO SIBERIA

The commander had intended: “Release impossible. To be sent to Siberia.”

The jailer understood: “Release. Impossible to be sent to Siberia.”

Again, as the old Italian proverb goes: “It may not be true, but it makes a good story.”

 

Finally, another story of my dad’s: A traveler wandered into town and got along pretty well there, but one feature of the antique setting always mystified him, and no one seemed inclined to say much about the subject. In the center of the ramshackle town where the dusty streets converged, visible to all like some icon of a long-forgotten religion, was a weathered standing stone, tall and narrow, its surface pitted with untold years of sun and rain, freezings and thaws. And still clearly visible, these letters etched into it:

TOTI

EMUL

ESTO

Some travelers who came into the town seemed to understand the signficance of the inscription and would nod or even walk away chuckling, perhaps at some esoteric spiritual enlightenment. Others, like the first traveler, could only scratch their heads and go look for clues in Leonardo’s paintings.

The message for us as writers in all this: have fun with words. Be aware that what you take for granted about a sentence you’ve written may be understood in a nearly opposite way by your readers — do all you can to cover all bases, which normally means bouncing your stories off lots of test readers. And finally, as an editor’s rejection letter once brusquely advised me: “Learn standard punctuation.”

Oh! One more somewhat related note: In “The Star Shard,” now appearing monthly in Cricket Magazine, the main character’s name is Cymbril. I know how I pronounce the name, and I never imagined anyone would think to pronounce it any differently. But during the editing process, the editor asked me whether the C was hard or soft — was it “SYMbril” or “KYMbril”? (The editor, by the way, was pronouncing it the opposite of how I was.) I told her my way, but I suggested the Bugs in the margins of Cricket not tell the readers how to pronounce it. The editor agreed.

So then, on Cricket‘s Web site where readers are writing in with questions (www.cricketmagkids.com/corner/frederic-s-durbin), I put the same question to readers: How do you pronounce Cymbril’s name? So far, the results are 50/50 — the Symbril school and the Kymbril school! What do you think?