Courtney Pippin-Mathur: Flipping the Plot and GIVEAWAY

Maya_BookcoverA 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.

Dragon-Rules_sketchThe 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.

Dragon-Rules_painting Instead of a princess whose land is invaded by dragons, how about a land of dragons that is invaded by a princess or two?

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

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.

If you haven’t registered for #KidlitSummerSchool yet click HERE.



149 comments on “Courtney Pippin-Mathur: Flipping the Plot and GIVEAWAY

  1. SevenAcreSky says:

    “Blood, sweat, tears and years…” writing reality in a nutshell. Thanks for helping us see the possible, Courtney. Great post.


  2. Glad you pressed through the trouble spots and got something great out of it! Congrats!


  3. carolofparis says:

    I do feel like i get to a point where i am stuck.And kind of there right now! So i really appreciate the flip it portion of this post. And i love the idea of princesses invading the dragons. So going to get that book. Thank you.


  4. Laurie Young says:

    I flipped for this! Thanks!


  5. hethfeth says:

    I’ll slip the “flip it” idea into my bag of tricks. Maybe it will come in handy. Thanks!


  6. Maria Marshall says:

    Great inspiration to keep trying. wonderful tool to have in the toolbox. Thank you.


  7. Thanks for the idea, Courtney. I will try plot flipping out on the manuscripts that are languishing in the back of my own mental cabinet.


  8. mona861 says:

    mmmm, plot flip! What a great idea. Why didn’t I think of that? Thanks, Courtney.


  9. Dee Knabb says:

    Plot flipping sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing your journey.


  10. sharon giltrow says:

    Thanks Courtney for showing us the power of perseverance.


  11. Jenny Murray says:

    Thanks for the great post!


  12. Val McCammon says:

    Inspiring story of story struggle followed by success — and the Flip the Plot is something I want to try with a story I am currently struggling with. Thanks, Courtney.


  13. kirsticall says:

    I think I’ll look at some of my stories and try to flip the plot. Great idea, Courtney!


  14. Ellen Sirianni says:

    Thank you for sharing. I’m going to try flipping the plot on a few of my stories. Looking forward to reading DRAGONS RULE.


  15. yangmommy says:

    Very interesting idea about flipping the plot. Thanks for sharing it! And I love the “new” idea for your PB…congrats on its upcoming release!


  16. LauraHB says:

    This is such a great story of how a book came to be… THANK YOU for sharing!! Your honesty and inspiration are much appreciated! (as well as the “flip” tip!)


  17. Oh, that waiting when you love a story is so agonizing…. It takes a lot of courage to flip a story! Thanks for sharing your ups and downs with us.


  18. Your post gives so much encouragement, since it seems like this idea/writing/rewriting/waiting/etc process is never-ending. Good to hear there are happy endings out there. Thanks for a terrific, helpful post! I’m going to try flipping a few of my ideas right away!!


  19. Ashley Bankhead says:

    Thank you! Thank you! I really needed to read this post today. It both inspired me, and made me want to rethink the plot on some of my manuscripts. Thanks for sharing.


  20. Juliana Lee says:

    I not only appreciate the fact that the plot flip saved your story, but also that it takes time… lots and lots of time! Thanks!


  21. laura516 says:

    Flip the plot. I think I need to make that into a poster and hang it right above my desk to remind myself to think outside the box when it comes to revision. Thanks!


  22. Flip the plot! (smacks head with hand) why didn’t I think of that? This is a brilliant idea. Thank you.


  23. Flip the plot- I’m on it!


  24. Nadine Gamble says:

    Fabulous! thanks for the inspiration…


  25. JEN Garrett says:

    Oh, why, oh, why was this fabulous article posted on Sunday? I can’t get perfect attendance star if there’s class on Sunday.

    Anyway, I’m so glad I saw it. I did the same plot flip with my current polished PB. An alien (the outer space kind) is forced to try food that his Earthling grandma cooks.


  26. Melanie Ellsworth says:

    A great idea, and a really funny book concept! Looking forward to reading DRAGONS RULE.


  27. Head over heels with the flip!


  28. I have a few manuscripts tucked away… just waiting for that moment when I finally figure out what to do with them. I am going to pull them out and try flipping the plot!


  29. It always helps to set aside a story and come back and look at it later.


  30. Susan Cabael says:

    Dragons Rule sounds like a flippin’ fun story!


  31. writersideup says:

    You say “flip the plot” and it’s amazing how three little words seem SO easy and simple when, as you very clearly and perfectly stated—it can take years to come to that “simple” realization. Just love this, Courtney! Thank you 🙂


  32. Rachel H says:

    PB ideas are tough! I’m looking forward to reading about your dragons!


  33. Dragon world invaded by princesses–I love it!!


  34. Susan Schade says:

    I loved this post! I am motivated in hearing how a seed of an idea grows into something wonderful. Even your flu story was inspiring! Thank you!


  35. Thank you, Courtney, for encouraging me to think out of the box through a different perspective. I must try your tip for flip-flopping the plot.
    ~Suzy Leopold


  36. I really like this….it gives me some hope for some older stories.


  37. MaDonna says:

    Great idea that I should look at with some of my shelved stories…Thanks!


  38. An encouraging and honest anecdote–thanks!


  39. susanzonca says:

    Hmmm…quite interesting what flipping does to my PB.


  40. Jacqui says:

    Thanks for your honesty…especially about the rejections and how long it took for an editor to like your book.


  41. ptnozell says:

    So glad you kept at it, had an “aha” moment (even if you were sick at the time), and your idea will see the light of publication. Makes me want to revisit some old manuscripts & see how they can be flipped!


  42. colleenrkosinski says:

    Hmmmm, flipping the story. Might try it.


  43. Cindy C. says:

    It’s interesting that it took “down time” to have the light bulb go on. In trying to make something work, we wear ourselves out. If we don’t take a break, our bodies (our family stuff) helps us to do it. It’s also a good lesson in not “flipping out” when bad stuff happens!


  44. Barbara Rappaport Senenman says:

    Great and fun advice.


  45. Priya says:

    What a great idea. I’ve got some ideas that don’t work. What if I flip the plot? Thanks!


  46. Lauri Meyers says:

    Courtney, love this post and all the courage involved to take a perfectly good story and give it a full rewrite to make it a perfectly good story which sells!


  47. kpbock says:

    Thanks so much for sharing!


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