A few years ago my sister in law asked me how my books were coming and I replied (in typical angsty artist mode) that things were terrible. I had hit a wall and could not think of another idea to save my life.
She smiled and suggested, “What don’t you write a book based on your life?” A story about a princess whose life is invaded by dragons? “
This was brilliant! Why hadn’t I thought about it? My 5 year old daughter had been a good sport about her life being invaded by twin brothers but it had pretty much taken all of the pink and purple and replaced it with diapers and crying.
The story flowed. My agent liked it, we made revisions. and more revisions and a few more. Then I created a book dummy filled with drawings. Revised those. Created two finals paintings that went through a few revisions as well.
Finally, it was ready to go out to editors. I made a list of whom it was going to and daydreamed about the publishing houses I would work with in the future. We even used the book as inspiration for our family Halloween costume that year.
We got a few passes, then a few more and finally we realized that the book was a no go. Something was missing.
I would like to say I handled this in stride but the truth is that chocolate and a lot of whining saw me through those days of despair. I loved that book! Why didn’t anyone else? Then, life intervened in the form of three children. I put the book in the special waiting cabinet in the back of my mind (it’s red with wooden handles) and went about my motherly duties.
This was in the Fall so along with colorful leaves, cool weather and school , the germs arrived. Stomach flu germs to be exact. After a hellish week where I was the last to succumb, I laid in my bed, too weak to do anything but close my eyes and try to drift off to sleep, when it hit me.
Flip the Plot.
At this point, I would love to tell you that I sent the story to my agent, revised and sold it a few months later. Unfortunately it took about a year and a half later with much life stuff happening in between.
BUT, it did sell. To the first editor who saw it.
“Dragons Rule” (Little Simon, 2017) is the title and the story, drawings, characters and yes, especially the plot is so much better than my original idea.
The point I learned through this? Sometimes, we have the brilliant ideas that pop in our heads and sometimes it takes blood sweat, tears and years to get it right.
And, sometimes you can speed things up by trying to flip an element or two of your story to make a much more interesting book.
Courtney Pippin-Mathur grew up in small towns across East Texas where the days stretched long and hot. She would alternate playing outside with hanging out under the air conditioner reading books, creepy gossip magazines and watching cartoons. She discovered she could draw when she impressed her little sister with a drawing of the Genie from Aladdin. She discovered she could draw for a career when she took an extra curricular class in Art History and immediately transferred from Government to Studio Art at the University of Texas at Austin. After that, she got married, had a baby, moved to the east coast, had two more babies, and drew and painted and wrote in her spare time. (She still misses Tex Mex)Her first book, Maya was Grumpy was published in 2013, by Flashlight Press.Her second written & illustrated picture book, Dragons Rule will be released in 2017 from Little Simon, Simon & Schuster. You can learn more about Courtney at http://www.pippinmathur.com/
Courtney is giving away a signed sketch from her upcoming book, Dragons Rule (Little Simon, 2017) . If you are a registered Summer School student and would like a chance to win her sketch, please leave a comment on this post to be entered into the drawing. Good luck!
If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Courtney’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.
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