So You Want to be an Author/Illustrator?

August 11 - September 15, 2022


Please Note: Program is fully booked. Please click here to join the Waitlist.

Multi-Week Online Course

Explore the possibilities of illustrating AND writing your own book, with a focus on craft and an intense level of feedback. Participants who complete all assignments should be able to finish or revise a working dummy in its entirety during the course.

  • Live sessions (with closed captioning available) Thursdays at 8-9pm EST (August 11 [Note: this intro session only begins at 7:30pm Eastern for introductions], 18, 25, September 1, 8, and 15)
  • Recorded content and resources in the virtual classroom throughout the course
  • Weekly assignments August 11 – September 8 (posted in the virtual classroom)
  • Connection with peers in a community forum
  • 1:1 consultation which includes discussion on your work-in-progress, any problems that you are having, and any ideas that you’d like to try
  • Optional paid written critique of your completed dummy following the course
  • 24 participants max


  • Informal written feedback from faculty and peers in the virtual classroom following each assignment
  • Peer discussion during a live session of your written manuscript
  • 1:1 consultation during the course with Courtney Pippin Mathur (discussion of your work-in-progress, problems you are having, and ideas you’d like to try)
  • Optional post-course paid written critique of your completed dummy



Are you an Illustrator who wants to become an Author/Illustrator? Are you a beginner who wants to blend written and visual art to be an Author/Illustrator?
So You Want to Be An Author Illustrator?
This workshop will help you:

  • Get ideas and keep them flowing.
  • Use story sketches to spark ideas.
  • Examine the elements of a picture book.
  • Leave room for the illustrator (when YOU ARE the illustrator).
  • Paginate your story and use thumbnail sketches to create a dummy.
  • Move toward a finished picture book dummy (mock-up).
  • Make dummies (mock-ups) with tech tips including Photoshop and PDFs.

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

  • Manuscript draft
  • Character sketches
  • Pitch
  • Pacing
  • Dummy (mock-up) draft

With focus, participants should be able to complete or revise a working dummy in its entirety during the course.

What level of digital illustration skills are needed to get the most out of the course?
The most helpful skill is to be able to scan in your art (if it is created traditionally) and add text to the art. We have had students who learned how to do this in class! Courtney is also happy to provide tips on other resources such as how to share your dummy as a pdf file via Dropbox or Google.

We’re also excited to have special industry guests join us for small group workshopping of manuscripts and a Q&A panel at the end of the course.

It’s a Great Fit for:

  • Illustrators or artists who want to become Author/Illustrators.
  • Authors who have artistic skills or who need help with page turns and pacing.
  • Beginner or novice Author/Illustrators who are serious about making progress on a project. Having a manuscript already drafted is helpful, but not necessary.

Watch as workshop leader Courtney Pippin-Mathur talks to George Brown about what to expect from the course, who should attend, and more.  Please note: This video is from 2021. Some special guests and course details have been updated for 2022 and will vary, but the video still offers a great overview of the course.


Week 1: Meeting, Sketching and Sharing
Thursday, August 11, 7:30pm – 9pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session

  • Course Overview
  • Introductions
  • “Let’s Draw” Presentation

Throughout the Week: Virtual Classroom Work

  • Pre-recorded video: How to Find the Story Webinar
  • Assignments: Character sketches (free and prompt based)
  • Discussion, Sharing of Sketches, and Poll

Week 2: What Is Story?
Thursday, August 18, 8 – 9pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session

  • Community Brainstorming and Discussion
  • Story Ideas

Throughout the Week: Virtual Classroom Work

  • Pre-recorded video: What is the Story?
  • Pre-recorded video: 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 by August 23, 2022 (if you don’t have a full draft, it’s OK to list ideas or offer manuscript in a narrative format)

Week 3: Polishing the Story
Thursday, August 25, 8 – 9pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session

  • Roundtable groups to workshop manuscripts in progress with Courtney Pippin-Mathur, Kelly Light, Aram Kim, and more!

Throughout the Week: Virtual Classroom Work

  • Resource: Tech tips for creating your dummy (mock up)
  • Resource: Pagination tips
  • Resource: How to do background studies
  • Assignment: Paginate your story
  • Assignment: Create one full color piece

Week 4: How to Make a Dummy
Thursday, September 1, 8 – 9pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session

  • Special Guest Presentation with Kelly Light: Thumbnail Sketches

Throughout the Week: Virtual Classroom Work

  • Resources: “How to Make a Dummy”
  • Assignment: Create thumbnails/storyboard
  • Optional Assignment: Post progress on your dummy
  • Sign up for 1:1 consultation

Week 5: Peer Office Hour & 1:1 Consultations with Courtney
Thursday, September 8, 8 – 9pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session

  • Open Peer Hour: Come chat about your work in progress with fellow creators (facilitated by the Highlights Foundation)

Throughout the Week: 1:1 Consultations with Courtney

  • What’s finished?
  • What’s not?
  • What has you stuck?
  • What questions do you have?

Week 6: What Happens Next?
Thursday, September 15, 8 – 9pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session

  • Guest panel with Courtney Pippin-Mathur, Kelly Light, and Aram Kim
  • Closing Q & A

Throughout the Week: Virtual Classroom Work

  • Pre-recorded video: Revision (The Best of Times, the Worst of Times)
  • Resource: How to find an agent
  • Post your dummy progress for informal peer and faculty feedback

Post-Course Submission for Critique (Additional Cost; Optional)
An optional full dummy critique on the revised project from class (or a new project) will be available. The critique includes written feedback and a live Zoom 1:1 (scheduled at a mutually convenient time). The cost of this optional, after-the-course critique is $125.

A note about workshop agendas and how they change and evolve.


This multi-week online program is best if you attend and engage in all the sessions live. (Note: If your schedule does not allow you to attend all the live sessions and you would still like to register, that’s OK! You’ll have access to the recordings with closed captioning. They’re posted the day after the session, and they’ll be available through October 31, 2022.)

The Highlights Foundation strives for a safe and inclusive environment. You will have access to our Community Standards prior to the workshop where we ask for your respectful engagement with fellow creatives, including our faculty and staff.

Trying to figure out how this course fits into your schedule? Read some ideas about planning for the right level of commitment.


Picture books are the first entry point for getting children engaged in story. At this workshop you will learn how text and pictures join together to create powerful picture books.

Why do we mention this? Learn about the Highlights Foundation mission.


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)
Nervous about critiques? See how the Highlights Foundation approaches the process here.


“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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Aram Kim

Special Guest Aram Kim is a writer and illustrator as well as a designer of picture books for children. She…
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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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