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For years I’ve dreamed of hosting a Storystorm Workshop. Back when the event was still PiBoIdMo, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and I researched what we needed to make it happen—venue, faculty, meals…and found we couldn’t make it work unless we had a hundred attendees or more.

No. I wanted an intimate group in a cozy setting, where everyone could have access to the faculty and truly feel supported in every way. It would be special, small, and elevate every attendee’s career.

Then I discovered the Highlights Foundation! The location! The private cabins! The Barn! The FOOD!!! (I’m a huge fan of Chef Amanda!)

With the help of the Foundation staff—Alison Green Myers, George Brown, Jo Lloyd—we pulled it all together for March 5-8. I reached out to the best picture book author-teachers I know and we had our faculty:

  • Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
  • Heidi E.Y. Stemple
  • Courtney Pippin-Mathur
  • Josh Funk

Now all that’s missing IS YOU!

We have just a few spots left!

Here’s a sneak peek at our schedule:

Storystorm 2020 Picture Book Retreat & Workshop

Thursday, March 5, 2020
3:00pm Arrival
4:00pm Orientation—learn about the Highlights campus
5:30pm Appetizers (Barn)
6:00pm Dinner (Barn)
7:00pm Tara Lazar Welcome and “Stuff No One Tells You!” Presentation

Friday, March 6, 2020
6:30am Yoga in the Loft (Optional)
7:45 – 8:45am Breakfast (Barn)
9:00 – 11:00 Tara Lazar “Elevate Your Picture Book Game” + Q&A
12:00 – 1:00pm Lunch (Barn)
1:30 – 2:30pm Josh Funk “What Rhymes with Storystorm?”
2:45 – 3:45pm Optional Walk with Heidi Stemple: Gathering Ideas for Texture in Stories
4:00 – 5:30pm Story Ideas Roundtable Discussion: Four Groups w/Faculty Leader
5:30 Appetizers (Barn)
6:00 Dinner (Barn)
7:30 Evening Creative Activity with Tara & Courtney (Optional)

Saturday, March 7, 2020
7:45 – 8:45am Breakfast (Barn)
9:00 – 10:30am Courtney Pippin-Mathur “How to Write by Drawing First”
12:00 – 1:00pm Lunch (Barn)
1:30 – 3:00pm Sudipta Bardan-Quallen “7 Revision Tips to Take Your PB from WAH to WOW”
3:30 – 5:00pm Heidi Stemple “Finding Your Non-Fiction Voice”
5:30 Appetizers (Barn)
6:00 Dinner (Barn)
7:30 Open Mic with Josh, Sudipta & S’Mores (Optionally Mandatory)

Sunday, March 8, 2020
7:45 – 8:45am Breakfast (Barn)
9:00 – 10:00am Tara Lazar “Humor Trends in Picture Books”
10:30 – 12:00pm Q&A with Faculty (Barn)
12:00 – 1:00pm Lunch (Barn)
1:00 Closing Remarks
1:30 Check-out

You can sign up at Highlights Foundation and room with a friend for a discount.

We hope to see you there soon!

Thank you to Melissa Sheperd for the photos of the Highlights Foundation Campus.

by Courtney Pippin-Mathur

You must play if you want to create.

HI, I’m an illustrator.

An illustrator that loves to draw.

An illustrator that loves to draw and paint with watercolors.

An illustrator that loves to draw and paint with watercolors and create stories.

An illustrator that loves to draw and paint with watercolors and create stories who doesn’t like to sketch.

Oops.

It’s the truth.

The doodles I do create are abstract pattern designs taken during PTA meetings, where I dream of being home in my PJs. (No offense to PTA meetings, I just have a love affair with sweatpants and PJs and it starts at 6pm sharp every night.)

But I was running low on ideas. I had written and illustrated two picture books and I needed more. More ideas, more stories, more art.

But when I sat down to write, nothing happened. When I tried to sketch ideas, nothing happened. The graphite ran dry. I hated everything I made and grew frustrated with each attempt. The burden of creation had stifled my brain. Because I felt as though I HAD to come up with more ideas, I could not come up with ANY ideas.

So, I decided to just play.

Instead of making myself sketch in order to get a story, I sketched because I love to draw. And I drew what I loved.

My niece who loves to act like a dinosaur.

My daughter who was so shy in big family gatherings with her father’s family.

Witches

 

Mermaids

 

And I played with my first love, watercolor.

I started to combine my abstract watercolors with my drawings and felt the magic come back. The magic of inspiration and story.

Sometimes the story comes to me right away.

And sometimes I let it sit and the story comes to me through stages.

If I just play and put no pressure on myself that every drawing or painting has to become a story, the stories come. Some shamble in like half dead zombies, some strike like lightening but if I move my pencil or my brush and just PLAY, the ideas arrive.

Even if you’re not a visual artist, you can play. Play with watercolor, play with oil pastels, play with colored pencils, crayons or markers. Just play. Allow yourself to do something creative that isn’t tied into words and see what happens.


Courtney Pippin-Mathur grew up in East Texas and passed the hot summer days reading, drawing, watching She-Ra and exploring her grandma’s farm. She doodled constantly through elementary, middle and high school but didn’t think about art as a career until a fateful art history class at The University of Texas at Austin. After transferring from Government to Studio Art, she moved to the east coast, and started pursing a career in children’s books where she could combine all my favorite things.

She now lives in Northern VA now with her husband and three kids. Her picture books include MAYA WAS GRUMPY, DRAGONS RULE PRINCESSES DROOL and the upcoming HAPPY DIWALI with her sister-in-law, Sanyukta Mathur. Visit her online at pippinmathur.com, Twitter @pippinmathur and Instagram @pippinmathur.


Special announcement! Courtney will be teaching at our premiere Storystorm Retreat at Highlights Foundation, March 5-8, 2020. We’ll be playing with watercolor!

You do not have to be a Storystorm 2020 participant to attend the retreat! It’s open to anyone serious about developing a picture book and a writing career.

Learn more about our fun and intensive picture book retreat here!

This event will fill up quickly! Sign up today!

Hope to see you there!

 

by Courtney Pippin-Mathur

Today is the day that my second written and illustrated picture book DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL! will be released into the world!

It’s the story of a dragon whose land had been invaded by two adorably horrible princesses who change everything. As you have read on other posts on Tara’s awesome blog and during Storystorm, you know that characters are very important in picture books. A strong character can inspire strong emotions and getting his/her/their look is extremely important to the book.

DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL is comprised of three main characters; a grumpy dragon and the two princesses who have invaded his land.

Below, I’m going to share a quick, edited run through the many, many, many different versions of the Dragon and the Princesses. Just like revisions in the text, there are revisions in the art.

The story originally started out with the dragons invading the princess’ land, but in a Eureka moment (brought on by delirium from the stomach flu) I flipped it.

After I settled on this new plot, I wanted to create the cutest dragon I could. These were my first attempts; I was going for a combination of a dinosaur and a chicken.

Here it is with various emotions.

Reasonably happy with this version, I did a few color character studies to try and learn exactly who the dragon was. (You’ll see that I call him Fred.)

I wasn’t totally happy with this version, so after several sketches, I decided to try to combine two of the coolest things ever—Elvis and an alligator.

I had it! The perfect image of a snotty little dragon. Here he is on a sketch of the first page of the book. I loved him.

A color sketch:

I completed the first draft of the dummy, sent it to my art director and waited. A few weeks later, I got an email from her. It was wise. It was great advice. It was tragic. (Not really, but it might have felt so at the time)

She noted (with great wisdom) that the dragon looked a bit too snotty. Perhaps we needed to make him cuter.

So, I created 4 new sketches, cleaned them up and sent them to her.

As you can see, I really wanted to keep the Elvis hair.

Can you guess which one she picked? Yup. The only one without the pompadour. (cue tiny violin music).

I did a version in full color. And once again, I was in love.

After a few more tweaks, he started to look like this.

And then, at the very last stage of illustrating the book, he got a snout job.

The princesses did not take quite as many attempts. This is how they looked in one of the first color pieces I created for the first dummy.

They were not quite right, so I did a few more sketches.

and a few more…

and this tiny one.

She was a winner! But none of the other princesses seemed right, so back to the drawing table I went.

I knew how I wanted her face to look. We (me and the wise AD) just weren’t sold on her hair.

And then I sent this.

Finally, we had our main characters. While all of this was happening there were also settings, other dragons, creatures and princesses ball gowns considerations as well as a general color pallet.

But that is for another post.

For some more dragon-y fun, you can take a personality quiz based on DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL! Are you a dragon, a princess, both or something else entirely?

www.pippinmathur.com/quiz

You can also follow me on Twitter at @pippinmathur.

Courtney Pippin-Mathur moved from Texas to a suburb outside of Washington, DC. She shares her home with a knight, a princess, and two unruly dragons, which leads to many exciting and loud adventures.

Thanks, Courtney, for showing us how art edits evolve. (And as an author-only,  I will never complain about edits again! Well…we’ll see…)

Courtney is giving away a copy of DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL!, which releases today! Leave a comment below to enter. A winner will be randomly selected in about two weeks.

Good luck!

by Courtney Pippin-Mathur

For PiBoIdMo, I’m giving you a very special gift.

Your very own Inspiration Fairy!

This Fairy will grant new ideas and make your kidlit dreams come true!

All you have to do is the following:

  1. click on her for the full size image
  2. print
  3. cut
  4. color
  5. attach her somewhere close to your work space.

Next, (and this is the only way to make fairy magic happen:) You have to believe.

And in order to believe, you have to work. You have to write or draw something as often as you can. And never give up! (for more than a few minutes or days at least)

The things you create can be things that are wonderful, horrible, short, long, happy, funny, sad and even things that will probably be better off in the recycling bin.

But, you have to do it.
You have to work for it.
And you have to believe.

I speak from experience. It took five years to get my first book published. It was the first book I wrote and the first publisher I sent it to. But, it took five years for the planets to align, my skills to improve and to get the yes. During these years, I hoped, despaired, submitted and almost quit a million times.

I give you this fairy to remind you that the kidlit adventure is dangerous, slow and might even bring you to tears occasionally.

But, hang in there, keep at it, work it and most of all, believe.

Courtney Pippin-Mathur is an illustrator and writer. Her first picture book as a writer and illustrator, MAYA WAS GRUMPY, is coming out Fall of 2012 with Flashlight Press. She juggles paint, paper, keyboard and three kids. She wouldn’t wouldn’t have it any other way.

Courtney is giving away an original watercolor painting of the Inspiration Fairy to a lucky commenter. A winner will be selected one week from today! Good luck!

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

BLOOP!
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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