So You Want to be an Author/Illustrator? Online Course Feb-Mar 2021

February 4 - March 25, 2021

Online Course Info:

This is an eight-week online, hands-on workshop featuring:

  • Live Zoom sessions with faculty for lessons and assignment check-ins
  • Pre-recorded lectures and learning materials
  • Structured practice, creative, and revision assignments to move you toward a finished picture book dummy (mock-up)

This course offers an intense level of feedback on your work. In addition to peer feedback, you’ll receive close attention from Courtney, who will give feedback on your:

  • First draft
  • Character sketches
  • Pitch
  • Pacing
  • Final dummy, if you turn it in after the course

Online Workshop Participant Cap:


Join Us Online To:

Explore the possibilities of moving from Illustrator to Author/Illustrator, or becoming an Author/Illustrator. Learn how to find ideas and move from sketch to story ideas. Explore narrative drawing, pagination, thumbnail sketches and dummy (mock-up) creation.

This course is divided into 8 sessions:
Scroll down to see a detailed agenda.

  • Session 1: Meeting, Sketching and Sharing
  • Session 2: How to Turn an Idea Into a Story
  • Session 3: What Makes a Picture Book?
  • Session 4: Polishing the Story
  • Session 5: How to Make a Dummy
  • Session 6: Teacher Feedback on Revisions and Plans for Dummy
  • Session 7: Dummy Submissions
  • Session 8: What Happens Next?

Please note:
If you’re unable for any reason to attend any sessions, you’ll have access to the recordings of each through April 30, 2021.

What You’ll Learn & Experience:

During this workshop you will:

  • Find out how to get ideas and keep them flowing.
  • Use story sketches to spark ideas.
  • Examine the elements of a picture book.
  • Discover how to leave room for the illustrator–even if you are the illustrator.
  • How to paginate your story and use thumbnail sketches to create a dummy.
  • Move toward a finished picture book dummy (mock-up). With focus, participants should be able to complete/revise a working dummy in its entirety to submit for faculty critique after the course.

“I loved, loved, LOVED the feedback. Gave me good info to work on, also was able to ask questions pertaining just to my personal concerns. Yeah!!”—course alum

Watch as workshop leader Courtney Pippin-Mathur talks to George Brown about what to expect from the course, who should attend, what the course structure is, and more:

Join Us If:

  • You’re an illustrator and you would like to try to create both the text and illustrations for a picture book. This course aims to help you with both ways of storytelling!
  • You’re a beginner who knows you’d like to both illustrate and write your picture books.
  • You’re ready to devote some time to learn and practice. This course offers long-term support over 8 weeks and allows you to learn at your own pace.


This course is divided into 8 sessions:

Week 1: Meeting, Sketching and Sharing
February 4, 8:30 pm Eastern
Live Zoom session: Course Overview, Introductions, “Let’s Draw” Presentation.

Assignments: Character sketches (free and prompt based)
Discussion, Sharing of Sketches and Poll

Week 2: How to Turn an Idea Into a Story
February 11, 8:30 pm Eastern
(PLEASE WATCH pre-recorded video: How to Find the Story in the Week 2 Chapter of this curriculum prior to our LIVE ZOOM)
Live Zoom session: After watching the video, we’ll meet and discuss favorite character sketches and brainstorm ideas.

Assignments: emotion drawings, elevator pitches, and where is the universal love connection?

Week 3: What Makes a Picture Book?
Week of February 18: No Live sessions this week
Pre-recorded video: What is the Story? Plot, character development and emotion in 32 pages and under 500 words.
Assignment: first draft of the story
Share first draft of the story text with faculty

Week 4: Polishing the Story
February 25 *Meet early: 7:00 pm Eastern
Live interview with art director and illustrator Aram Kim, author/illustrator Kelly Light, and Courtney Pippin-Mathur
LIVE Zoom Roundtables with Faculty to Critique Submissions
Assignments: Paginate your story, create thumbnails/storyboard, create one full color piece.

Week 5: How to Make a Dummy
March 4, 8:30 pm
Live session with Kelly Light: Thumbnail Sketches

“How to Make a Dummy” resources
Assignment: complete your first dummy
Discussion board: open for questions and to share

Week 6: Teacher Feedback on Revisions and Plans for Dummy
Week of March 11-18
Live Zoom calls to discuss questions and progress (times based on individual sign ups)

Week 7: Dummy Submissions
Week of March 18: No Live sessions this week
Finish your dummy and submit it!

Week 8: What Happens Next?
March 25, 8:30 pm Eastern
Pre-recorded video: Revision–the Best of Times, the Worst of Times
Peer dummy review & discussion
Live Zoom call to celebrate! Q&A with Aram Kim, Kelly Light, and Courtney Pippin-Mathur

After the course:
Optional (and encouraged): submit revised dummies to faculty for further critique–$100 for full review.


Crafting a Picture Book Dummy
How to Write a Picture Book (When You’re An Illustrator)
Breaking Through Those Creative Blocks
Illustrator Inspiration from Shadra Strickland & Kelly Light (video)


“I loved, loved, LOVED the feedback. Gave me good info to work on, also was able to ask questions pertaining just to my personal concerns. Yeah!!”

“I have a PB dummy with characters that have great personalities because of what I learned in this course.”

“Courtney was clear in her directions and very encouraging. She was a real cheerleader and at this stage of our development I think that was appropriate. I learned a ton. The exercise of going through the book dummy process and getting good guidance with examples and foundational information was really excellent. I know a lot more now than I did at the beginning of the class.”

“This was my first experience taking a Highlights course and it was a truly wonderful informative experience. I was an editorial illustrator many years ago and this was my step back in–Courtney really taught the class to every level of artist/writer there. I learned so much and ended up with a book dummy I am proud of and can’t wait to try and get published. Courtney was so generous with her knowledge sharing real life info about the children’s book industry.”


Courtney Pippin-Mathur

Author/Illustrator Courtney Pippin-Mathur creates humorous and heartfelt books for kids, including Maya was Grumpy (Flashlight, 2013), Dragons Rule, Princesses Drool…
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Kelly Light

Special Guest Kelly Light lives in New York but grew up down the shore in New Jersey surrounded by giant…
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Aram Kim

Aram Kim is a children’s book author/illustrator and a picture book designer. She was born in Ohio, raised in South…
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