From Idea & Sketch to Dummy & Submission: An Author/Illustrator Online Course

Online | Picture Books, Illustration, Business of Publishing
If you are illustrating AND writing your own book, and wondering how to prepare your submission, this is the course for you. You will focus on the craft of writing and illustrating a picture book with an intense level of feedback from faculty.

September 24 - October 29




Multi-Week Online Course

If you are illustrating AND writing your own book, and wondering how to prepare your submission, this is the course for you. You will focus on the craft of writing and illustrating a picture book with an intense level of feedback from faculty Courtney Pippin-Mathur and special guests, Natasha Khan Kazi and Aram Kim. Participants who complete all assignments should be able to finish or revise a working dummy (mocked up book) in its entirety during the course, preparing for submission to editors, agents, or art directors.

  • Live sessions (with closed captioning available) on Tuesdays
    • 7:30-9pm Eastern,  September 24 (to allow time for introductions)
    • 7:30 – 8:30pm Eastern (October 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29)
  • Recorded content and resources in the virtual classroom throughout the course
  • Weekly assignments September 24 – October 22 (posted in the virtual classroom)
  • 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 written critique of your completed dummy following the course (for an additional cost)
  • 24 participants max

Why This Workshop?

Do you have an idea for a picture book as an illustrator, and you’re looking for support as you write the story?

Do you have an idea for a picture book as a writer, and you’re looking for support as you illustrate the story?

Join Courtney Pippin-Mathur and special guests Natasha Khan Kazi and Aram Kim for a comprehensive course that takes you from picture book idea to finishing your dummy: a mocked up picture book with art and words. We’re excited to have special industry guest author/illustrator/art director Aram Kim join us for small group workshopping of manuscripts and a Q&A panel. Author/illustrator Natasha Khan Kazi will be a part of the small group workshopping, Q & A panel, and offer a presentation about her practice.

Each week of the course includes written resources, hands-on exercises, and a live session. 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.

Courtney will offer informal feedback on your:

  • Manuscript draft
  • Character sketches
  • Pitch
  • Pacing
  • Draft

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

Feedback Expected

  • Informal written feedback from faculty and peers in the virtual classroom following each assignment,
  • Peer discussion of your written manuscript during a live session with a publishing facilitator: Courtney Pippin-Mathur, Aram Kim, or Natasha Khan Kazi.
  • 1:1 consultation during the course with Courtney Pippin-Mathur (includes a discussion of your work-in-progress, any problems you are having, and any ideas you’d like to try),
  • Optional post-course paid written critique of your completed dummy with a Zoom conference to follow.

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 story idea is helpful, but not necessary.

Note: 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.

Detailed Agenda


  • One week prior to your course, you will receive a link to our virtual classroom where you can introduce yourself to fellow author/illustrators, and engage in Highlights Foundation related resources (including our Community Standards). This classroom will be our hub throughout the program where you will post weekly assignments.

All Times are Eastern Standard Time.  Click on the headings below to explore the agenda in more detail.

Week 1: Meeting, Sketching and Sharing
Tuesday, September 24, 7:30pm – 9pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session (Longer session to accommodate introductions.)

  • 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?
Tuesday, October 1, 7:30 – 8:30pm 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 text by October 7 at noon. (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
Tuesday, October 8, 7:30 – 8:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session

  • Roundtable groups to workshop manuscripts in progress with Courtney Pippin-Mathur, Natasha Khan Kazi, and Aram Kim!

Throughout the Week: Virtual Classroom Work

  • Resource: Tech tips for creating your dummy (mocked-up story with words and art)
  • 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
Tuesday, October 15, 7:30 – 8:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session

  • Special Guest Presentation with Natasha Khan Kazi

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
Tuesday, October 22, 7:30 – 8:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session

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

Throughout the Week: 1:1 Consultations with Courtney (scheduled at mutually convenient times)

  • What’s finished?
  • What’s not?
  • What has you stuck?
  • What questions do you have?
Week 6: What Happens Next?
Tuesday, October 29, 7:30 – 8:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session

  • Guest panel with Courtney Pippin-Mathur, Natasha Khan Kazi, 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 (OPTIONAL)
An optional full dummy critique on the revised project from class (or a new project) is available following the class. The critique includes written feedback and a live Zoom 1:1 (scheduled at a mutually convenient time, 4-6 weeks after submission). The cost of this optional, post-course critique is $150. Optional post-course submission details will be shared during the October 29th class.

Commitment Required for the Best Experience

This multi-week online program is best if you attend and engage in all the sessions live, and commit to making progress on your dummy during the course. (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 November 30, 2024.)

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.

How It Impacts Kids

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.

Testimonials from Our Community

“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.”

Meet the Faculty

Special Guests


September 24 - October 29




When you register for this course, you’ll receive information via email to confirm.

For mini courses (one or two nights only), you’ll receive webinar links immediately to use on the evening of the course.

For longer courses, you’ll receive an invitation to your virtual classroom as the workshop approaches.

Learn more about the technology that we use for our online workshops.

Our Mission in Action

Share Your Story, Inspire a Child
Equity & Inclusion in Kidlit
Partners & Sponsors

The Highlights Foundation positively impacts children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about our impact.