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by Courtney Pippin-Mathur

First off, thank you to Tara for hosting my cover reveal on her blog!

HAPPY DIWALI is my most personal book, yet it has been a first for me in a lot of ways.

It will be my third picture book, but it is the first one that I wrote with someone else. The story is about a small girl celebrating Diwali with her family and how she overcomes her initial shyness. It was inspired by my daughter Kiran, and her love of family celebrations but her nervousness of large groups of people.

Diwali is the Hindu celebration of good over evil, light over darkness. This book follows how my sister-in-law Sanyukta brings the joys of Diwali to our culturally- and racially-mixed family in the US.  Sanyukta has been involved every step, from writing the first draft (on the phone) to revisions, cultural notes, tips on how to draw a sari, or what should be on the endpapers. When we couldn’t meet in person, we would meet on Zoom. It has been an amazing experience to create a book with her! The photo below is our author photo in the book. It is from long ago but is our favorite picture together.

It is the first book in which every character except one (the main character) is an actual member of our family. I emailed or messaged each parent and asked for photos and tried to include every child in the family. Some might resemble the actual child more than others, and I did age down most of them, but it was a lot of fun!

Here you can see my daughter in her favorite lehenga, and how I drew it in the book.

Below is one of my favorite images from the book. In in, the kids are painting diyas. Every year Sanyukta creates a craft, my favorite is painting clay diyas because I can re-use them every year.

It is the first book where the (amazing) editor who acquired the book moved to a new publishing house during the illustration process. Thankfully, the book was left to another wonderful editor. The publisher and art director also moved to new publishing houses, but we were very lucky in that our new editor kept everything chugging along.

It is also the first book I worked on during the pandemic. It took me a few months after Covid first hit the US and everything shut down before I could draw again. Thankfully I had been allocated plenty of time.

Because it had been so long since I have seen many members of the family in the book, I keenly felt the loss of family gatherings as I worked and really look forward to them again soon.

I hope this book can be a thank you from me to my husband’s family for making me feel so welcome in their homes and for always including me in and teaching me about their traditions and culture.

The designer pulled an image from the interior of the book to make the cover.

Here is the color sketch:

And here’s the final cover!

On the front is my sister-in-law Sanyukta and her daughter Priya drawing rangoli. They do that every year to welcome the guests. On the back cover is a group image of the kids eating, which is one of my favorite things to do at Diwali!

Courtney, thank you for sharing this beautiful book and your family traditions.

HAPPY DIWALI will be released September 28, 2021 and is available for pre-order now.

Blog readers, you can win an original sketch of a character (Rajini) from Courtney’s book!

Just leave one comment below to enter and a random winner will be selected soon!

Good luck!


Sanyukta Mathur is a social scientist and studies how to improve the health and well-being of young people around the world. She is the author of various research publications; HAPPY DIWALI! is her first children’s book. She lives in Maryland with her family. 

Courtney Pippin-Mathur is the author-illustrator of MAYA WAS GRUMPY and DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL!. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband, three kids and one very energetic dog. She is hugely grateful to be part of a diverse and welcoming family who work hard to bring their traditions to the United States and to pass them to new generations. You can find more of her work at pippinmathur.com or on Instagram @pippinmathur

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!

 

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
January 2, 2022

TIME FLIES
"7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I" BOOK #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 2022

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