1. The Difficulty of Writing about War

    December 16, 2017

    During my school appearances, students often suggest topics for novels they’d like me to write.  The request I get most often is for war stories. However, students are often surprised when I tell them that writing about war is very difficult for me.

    Half way through the first draft of my novel, The Winter War,  I was giving a talk at a middle school  in Park Rapids, Minnesota. After I’d finished my presentation, one of the students asked if I was working on any new books. I told him that I was part way through a novel about the 1939 war between Russia and Finland. Several of the boys got excited and said that they were looking forward to reading the story. When I told them that it had been a very hard book to write,  one boy asked me why.

    Instead of answering, I turned the question back to the students, asking, “Why do you think it might be challenging to write  about war?”

    After a long pause, a girl in the middle of the room raised her hand and said, “Since wars are so violent, it could make you sad writing about all the battles.”

    “Very true,” I agreed.

    Next, a boy beside her added, “And the reader might get grossed out if you put in too many gory things.”

    “Yes,” I nodded.

    Then a girl near the front said, “It also might be hard to write about war because wars happen on so many fronts at the same time. It would be hard to show all the action.”

    I agreed that a rapidly changing setting can be very problematic for an author.

    Another girl said, “And if you weren’t in the war you’d have to get all your information from other people, and they might have trouble remembering things or they might not want to talk about it.”

    “An excellent point,” I said.

    Finally, a quiet boy in the back of the room raised his hand and spoke in a soft voice. “If you wrote a war book too good and made it sound really exciting, kids might think it was cool to go off and join the army and fight in a war.”

    “Exactly,” I said. “That is, no doubt, the greatest challenge of all.”

  2. Northern Lights Teacher Workshop, History Center

    November 2, 2017

    Northern Lights Academy, Teacher Workshops
    Minnesota History Center

    Monday, November 6th

    I’ll be speaking on
    Techniques and Sources for
    Writing Historical Fiction

    To sign up contact the MN History Center

    Join us for our annual Northern Lights Academy! This conference-style workshop features sessions from content experts and Northern Lights teachers. Participants will have the opportunity to choose from a variety of sessions related to the Northern Lights curriculum and network with 100+ Northern Lights educators from around the state. Print and Interactive eBook users will find this workshop equally beneficial.

    Sessions will focus on content and resources in the revised second edition of Northern Lights, published in summer 2013.

  3. North Dakota Reading Association Conference

    September 15, 2016

    margi p me

    North Dakota Reading Association Fall Conf.

    I’m looking forward to visiting with my friends from North Dakota at their fall conference in Fargo. And I’m excited to me a part of a historical fiction panel with Margi Preus.

  4. Young Author’s Conferences

    May 24, 2016

    Though I enjoy visiting schools, and I appear at 50+ middle and elementary schools annually, I have to admit that working with students at Young Author’s Conferences is my favorite thing to do.  It’s a privilege to work with students who have declared an interest in writing and the arts.  In each and every session I can see the excitement in the young author’s thfaces and sense how eager they are to get started.  As a bonus, I often get personal feedback from the kids, who share what a great experience it is for them.

    I was recently at St. Ben’s  College for a YA conference sponsored by Resource Training & Solutions and managed by Sandy Cordie.   A student, who I’ll just call B to maintain his privacy, left a touching note on my desk:

    Dear Mr. Durbin

    Hi, My name is B. I’m from UK. I never really liked reading. When I read THE BROKEN BLADE I got inspired (instantly!). I never thought you would be my teacher!  You inspired me to start writing and drawing. Thank you for being such an inspiration.

    Now your student, B

  5. Still Time to Sign Up

    September 18, 2015

    Still time to sign up for the Grand Marais Art Colony North Shore Readers and Writers Festival

    Writers Festival poster_digital

  6. Grand Marais North Shore Readers and Writers Festival

    August 25, 2015

    gm2I’ve been invited to be a part of  the

    North Shore Readers and Writers Festival:

    A Minnesota Voice Lorna Landvik, Keynote Author

    Grand Marais, Minnesota November 5 – 8, 2015

    I’ll be teaching three writing workshops during the  Festival.  Here’s a link for registration if you’re interested.



The Broken Blade Wintering The Journal of Sean Sullivan The Journal of Otto Peltonen The Journal of C.J. Jackson Song of Sampo Lake Blackwater Ben The Darkest Evening El Lector The Winter War