Meet Guest Author Courtney Pippin-Mathur!
DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESS DROOL by Courtney Pippin-Mathur



How was everyone’s Day 2? I enjoyed reading your comments on the blog and photos on Facebook about where everyone wrote – from cozy chairs to a rainy creekside to the subway to crackling fireplaces to even one person using a TREADMILL!

For me, I did a little bit of research in my Supergirl work office (pictured above with my faithful Superbear) when we were on a break from a meeting for another picture book biography I want to write. I read through the research I had already done earlier this year (notes from books, downloaded articles from the Internet etc.)  and cobbled together a rough outline. I decided I would write the actual DRAFT of this bio later at night at home.

After work, I had a dinner date with some writer friends. During our dinner, somehow the conversation led to how we procrastinate with our writing. I mentioned how I recently had become addicted to the game called “The Room” on my iPad. (Link here if you’re curious: http://www.fireproofgames.com/games/the-room)

After dinner, I drove home. I sat down with my laptop on the couch in the living room, determined to do Book No. 2 based on the rough outline I had organized earlier in the day.

Instead… I could not stop thinking about The Room game. I love this game so much!

So then I had a last minute brainstorm – what if I wrote a very young picture book that was about an “escape room”?

And then the words flowed – I wrote a sort of half-poem/prose very young picture book about being stuck in a room and trying to use the clues in the room to figure out how to escape. And yes, a cat was involved. 🙂

So much for my Day 1 resolution to do ALL picture book biographies for this year’s NAPIBOWRIWEE.

But now my goal is to use Day 3 to work on my picture book biography based on my earlier research and the outline I wrote on Day 2. So let’s hope I can do that!

So that was my Day 2! A surprising day in which I wrote an impulsive last minute very young picture book about an escape room based on a dinner conversation with my friends! See, this is what I love about NAPIBOWRIWEE – sometimes ideas come out of nowhere or where you least expect it! A reminder that this event is sometimes about improvisation and being flexible! 🙂

And now… it’s time for our Day 3 Guest Author Q&A below! 🙂




BIO: Courtney has always been a reader and fell in love with the idea of becoming a writer after repeated viewings of “Romancing the Stone” as a kid. She  combined her love of muppets, bugs bunny, fine art and words and became an author/illustrator of picture books. Her first award winning book, “Maya was Grumpy” was published in 2013 by Flashlight Press.  Her second book, “Dragons Rule, Princesses Drool” will be out May 2nd from Little Simon. She lives near Washington DC with a knight, a princess and two dragons and has many adventures with lots of breaks for reading.

PUBLICATION INFO: DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESS DROOL by Courtney Pippin-Mathur (Simon & Schuster – out on May 2, 2017. Dragon has just met the two most dangerous creatures to have ever entered his kingdom-princesses!-in this charming picture book about an unexpected friendship.Scales and claws and fire-breathing jaws, that’s what dragons are made of.Pink ribbons and pearls, all the sweetness in the world, that’s what princesses are made of.Until now…When princesses invade the dragon’s land, how will they ever learn to get along”Dragons Rule, Princesses Drool!” is a hilariously fire-breathing tale about finding friendship where you least expect it.


— What inspired you to write or illustrate picture books? 

I was a Studio Art major but the “Fine Arts” didn’t feel like quite the right fit. (Basically, I wasn’t serious enough) One day, my watercolor professor brought in Stephen Gammel’s “Monster Mama” and I knew that picture books was where I belonged.

— What is the most challenging part about writing picture books?

Getting that right mix of simple, lyrical text that conveys humor and heart.

— Tell us about your first published book – what inspired the idea?

I was sitting at my laptop, determined to write something. My (then 3 now 13 year old) daughter stomps into the room, stops right in front of me, puts her hands on her hips and declares, “I am SO GRUMPY”. So, I typed in, ______ was so grumpy.” (The name came later)
— Any fun or interesting details about the road to your first book’s publication?
Yes! It took me eight years (after finishing college and having three children) to get “Maya was Grumpy published”! In the golden era of blogging, I had noticed a comment on one of my paintings from an actual editor! So, I gathered my courage and emailed her thanking her for her comment and we started communicating via email. It was about 2-3 years of occasionally sending stories and illustrations and Shari taking the time to give me helpful tips. One day out of the blue, (in the early days of iPhones) I was holding my twins after they had fallen asleep, when an email popped up, completely out of the blue. It was Shari asking if they could publish Maya! I put my twins down as gently as I could and shrieked for my husband to come down. He ran down stairs terrified that something was wrong with one of the boys. Luckily, it was great news instead!

— Do you have a favorite picture book or a picture book that most inspires you? If so, which one is it and why?

I love “Wild” by Emily Hughes for the gorgeous illustrations and simple but deep story and “ Kid Sherrif and the Terrible Toads” by Bob Shea and Lane Smith for the unexpected touches, humor, pacing and illustrations.

— Where is the best place for you to write your books?

I write best sitting in front of my computer but I draw best everywhere else. I prefer to start every illustration with copy paper and a few sharpened pencils and I do my best work anywhere but my desk. For the painting and final photoshop clean-up I go back to my computer.

— If you weren’t a writer/artist, what would you be?

A librarian or art teacher.

— Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.

I was hit by a car when I was 12 and am now very cautious crossing streets.

– For the artists: When you write and illustrate your own picture book, do you write the story first or do you come up with a certain image first?

The beginning glimmer can come either way but I never feel fully invested until I’ve found the main character through many, many sketches.

— There’s been a growing demand for more diversity in children’s book publishing. What are your thoughts on that?

Diversity is very important to me. My husband is from India and seeing the world reflected through him and my children has made me very aware of the need to showcase ALL types of children.

— There’s been increasing pressure for writers to be active on social media. Are you on social media? If so, where can your readers reach you? Has social media helped your writing journey and career? Any advice for writers who might feel overwhelmed by the social media “burden”?

Well, blogging did help me get that first book deal. I don’t blog anymore but I’m on twitter @pippinmathur, and Facebook @pippinmathurillustration. I like the sharing aspect with my art but am not as dedicated  or as well versed as most of my colleagues. I’m working on it! (Courtney’s website is www.pippinmathur.com)


Applause for the awesome Courtney Pippin-Mathur for her wonderful answers and advice! And grateful thanks for her generosity in donating a signed copy of her latest book for a lucky winner chosen at random for our prize drawing! (Winners announced on May 8, 2017.) (Note: To participate in the contest, all you have to do is post at least one comment on my blog and I’ll include you in the drawing!)

And now it’s that time again… for us to WRITE! Good luck on Day 3. Please remember to post your comments about how your Day 3 went!

My Day 3 Question For You: What do you like to eat when you write? What are your guilty pleasure snacks? What food helps you write? I’m a total foodie so I’m curious to see what people like to eat/drink when they write! 🙂 Let me know in the comments in our Day 3 Blog and/or on our Facebook page or on Twitter!

Please come back for our Day 4 Guest Author Terry Pierce tomorrow (all blogs post at 9 AM EST/6 AM PST)! Until then, HAPPY WRITING! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! 🙂


  1. I try not to eat while I write because I’m messy and it takes me out of the “zone,” but I need lots and lots of coffee or Earl Grey tea!

    Happy book birthday to Courtney— can’t wait to read DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL!

  2. I don’t usually eat when I write. But I do enjoy a tasty beverage. Water, beer, wine, coffee or juices. Although the beer and wine tend to make me sleepy and I end up not writing much.

  3. Paula– I loved hearing your Day 2 manuscript story! Thank you for reminding us about the value of flexibility and improvisation!
    Courtney– Thank you for taking the time to share your story (including “the call”). I appreciated your words of wisdom!
    I ALWAYS eat and drink while I write– it stimulates my brain (for better for worse). My favorite foods are anything crunchy– carrots, pretzels, nuts and chocolate– of course, chocolate! I always have a giant beverage, whether it is hot tea, an Arnold Palmer or my new favorite– hot vanilla almond milk mixed with chai tea! YUM! My kettle ball and weights are always at the ready to distract me and get my brain moving when I’ve reached my food limit- and counteract guilty pleasure food choices. 🙂

  4. I usually write first thing in the morning which means a morning green smoothie. I also write during lunch and wait to eat until after I’m done writing. Usually too excited to write and I forget to eat.

  5. Protein bars have been my go-to for a few weeks now (I tend to go in phases). Quest’s mint chocolate flavor is one of my faves. My last phase was Starburst jelly beans, so don’t let the pseudo-healthiness of the protein bar fool you 🙂

    Thanks, Courtney, for the snippet about a few words from your daughter eventually becoming a book. I love to hear about a variety of approaches to writing. And I’m particularly interested in the characteristics of those initial sparks.

  6. Coffee! Coffee! Coffee! Mainly because I’m an early morning writer also.
    Courtney, this is the second interview of yours I read in as many days, I’ve enjoyed both tremendously and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Dragons Rule!

  7. I’m really humbled by this challenge. Feels like we’re diving right in without any swimming lessons…or shall I say it’s more like purging –not with Netflix, but with my brain—or maybe it feels more like cramming for finals. Either way, I’m brain dead…in a great way! Hurray for NAPIBOWRIWEE!!

  8. I’m not really an eat-while-writing person…but I’ll take a caramel toffee or a mint!

    Wrote in the orthodontist’s waiting room today while my kiddo had her braces adjusted. Overheard tween/teen dialogue for an MG book though!

    Thanks to Courtney for her post!

  9. Loved this post. I don’t eat much when I’m writing but lately I have been having cravings for an avocado smash on toast – so I’ll sometimes grab one when I take a break.

  10. I start with coffee, tea, fruit. Things usually go off the rails after a bit: chocolate, cold pizza, avocados, whatever lurks in the fridge. I’ve gotta get out of this kitchen!!
    But enough of my bad snack habits. Thanks for a great post, Courtney! I look forward to reading Dragons Rule, Princesses Drool – your flipped concept sounds really fun!!

  11. Courtney, it is always interesting to read about which comes first – idea or image. As total wordy (someone who doesn’t draw), I see the words as images as I write. Thank you for sharing how you got started as well as your process.

    Paula, as for eating and writing, I don’t allow myself to do it until I at least have written for 20-30 minutes. Most days I set a timer. This forces me to get up, have a stretch and reward myself with a small snack!

  12. Love Maya was Grumpy! Can’t wait to read your latest 🙂

    Day 3 and draft 3 are complete. And I ate a PB english muffin in the midst of it 🙂

  13. Avoiding food is the key to productivity for me. If I snack, I procrastinate. On cold days I have been known to nurse a 20oz Mickey Mouse mug of Lady Grey to keep my fingers from getting stiff. BTW, just finished my VERY rough draft of a picture book that’s been stashed in my idea notebook since 2015! ‘Bout time. Looking forward to reworking it tonight if I can. Thanks!

  14. Thanks Courtney for your post….it inspires me to keep on working! I loved that in another career you would have been a librarian or an art teacher. I was a career art teacher who dreamed of someday being a picture book writer…so now I have the chance to see where that will take me.
    As for eating while writing. I have to say, I’m feeling like a foodie slob reading all the well disciplined writers on here that refrain from snacking. My choices vary on how lazy I am…if I want healthy snacks, that means I have to do some prep., so my go to’s are usually simple….yogurt pretzels, chips and guacomole, pistachios, always chocolate, crackers and cheese and anything else that I can place on a plate beside the computer….(always keep my walking shoes and weights in sight as a reminder to someday find a good use for them!)

  15. Posting early today for me–before my draft #3 is finished cuz I started reading the blog in my chiropractor’s waiting room! Last night, I did pop some popcorn, but I’m much more productive, I’m observing of myself, if I’m NOT eating (sounds like many others here–same). I DO like a drink next to me though. Practically at all times. That could be a Monster (cuz they’re delicious, not cuz I need energy) or the less-exciting water or a homemade Earl Grey latte, oR a skinny, iced caramel macchiato.
    Now… back to my draft (& drink)!

  16. Paula, Hot cocoa and popcorn and grapes are my three major food writing groups.
    Courtney, I enjoyed learning about your process. It’s amazing where one line can take you if you’re willing to follow it!

  17. Hmmm—I see that tea plays a significant role for several, with a special mention of Earl and Lady Grey–favorites of mine, too. Will plan to have some tomorrow to stay strong for draft 4.

    To my amazement I did make a (silly) draft 3 today– this morning I thought I might take the day off. But somehow this endeavor is addictive . . .

  18. I have to say I can’t snack and write at the same time. I’m not coordinated enough. Day three was nice, but I tried to go bird watching and write at the same time. In the end I was happy with the results, but it was a struggle. Like I said, I’m not good at doing two things at once.

  19. I don’t usually eat while writing, but if I do, it’s usually something salty and crunchy. Water is always within arm’s length.

  20. I do not eat while I write, but I do enjoy an iced soy vanilla latte. Just typing that makes me want one. Okay, yes I need to make one right now.
    With a drink in my hand it is time to write draft #3!

    I am looking forward to reading Courtney’s book, such a great title. Congratulations on your book birthday yesterday!

  21. What a fun post full of great reminders that there is not 1 way to create or get published! I try not to eat while writing because cleaning my fingers off is distracting. But, I mostly write at night which is also my favorite time to snack! Hot chocolate and granola bars are my go to snacks 🙂

  22. Happy Book Birthday! I can’t wait to read Dragons Rule, Princesses Drool!! Thank you for giving us a peek at your writing process. I am always fascinated at how others began their writing journey

  23. I can’t reallly eat when I am writing but after–I go to my favorite place yum -yums and get glazed miso slamon–salmon–LIKE RIGHT NOW BEFORE THEY CLOSE
    a cupcake.

    Hey I deserve it on day 3

  24. Mint chocolate chip gelato or a black raspberry milkshake are my go to mental foods. And sometimes sushi in the afternoon. As for my writing today, a little more motivated so this draft is as rough as sandpaper

  25. Love the unexpected story ideas that pop out of nowhere. Courtney, how awesome that you are an author/illustrator. 🙂 I wish I could do more than stick people. lol
    Tea is my favorite beverage when I write. Thanks for a fun post.

  26. Courtney, Thanks for sharing. I rely on cups of tea and handfuls of nuts to keep me going.
    Today, I didn’t stick to the NAPIBOWRIWEE rules.
    Yesterday, the puppy story that I thought was perfect was rejected. So I read through a stack of library books, which included one titled GUYKU. This morning the only voice in my head was yelling, “Haiku!” Thus, I rewrote a PB instead of writing a first draft. I’ll return to writing a first draft tomorrow. Promise.

  27. Thanks, Paula and Courtney, for your inspiration and advice! My PB today is very unfinished–I started writing a mystery and I’m still working out the solution, smile. But what fun! When I write, I usually drink decaf flavored coffee (spiked with a little caffeine) or flavored tea. I consider coffee and tea my fuel! Thanks so much for coordinating NaPiBoWriWee, Paula!!


    THANK YOU, Courtney for your Q&A. Hearing about how other writers/illustrators work is SO BENEFICIAL and INSPIRING!!! GOOD LUCK with your new book — it sounds like one I MUST read (I’m a dragon gal all the way!)! Also, your first book captured the CRAZY red hair of a little girl I just so happen to know and love. It made me smile!

    Day 3 went better than day 2. I might have dozed off during my first attempt early this morning, but I finished it later in the evening/night, and even managed some research for it. EXCITED to have the story FINALLY taking shape on the page after a few years of it rattling around in my noggin!

    As to what I eat during the writing process: Nothing . . . well, unless chocolate happens to cross my path . . .

  29. Courtney thanks for sharing, loved your grumpy daughter and your ‘carefully’ putting your twins down when you got the call- so you could do your happy dance I assume.
    Paula, I eat whatever and whenever I feel like when I write so I either eat and drink nothing and then usually end up with a headache or I binge on junk like cheese and crackers or …chocolate of course

  30. Conversations and friendships go along way. Looking forward reading your newest book Courtney. As what I eat when writing, I usually make tea. If I get particularly peckish, I will eat dark chocolate. If I get on a good roll, I may not even realize I haven’t eaten until it gets dark.

  31. Thanks for sharing your journey Courtney, so inspiring. As for what I eat… popcorn is my go to snack, and I’ll sometimes have a piece of chocolate or fruit. I write later in the evenings, so I can’t have too much. Day 3 and going strong – though I was just able to squeeze one in tonight. It has been a great process!

  32. Hi Everyone! Thank you again for your wonderful comments and answering my fun silly questions. It was interesting to see that the most popular writing beverage was Earl Grey tea, with coffee and hot chocolate right behind it. A lot of tea drinkers here! (Myself included). Chocolate and protein bars were also popular. 🙂 We are a healthy conscientious bunch! 🙂 Today I had a handful of pretzels and of course cheese (tonight it was smoked Gouda with apples and okay, a glass of very nice Chardonnay). I wrote a TERRIBLE NO-GOOD ROUGH FIRST DRAFT of another picture book biography (based on the outline I cobbled together YESTERDAY). I think I’m exhausted on biographies so my idea of doing 7 picture book biographies in 7 days is NOT going to happen. BUT the good news is that this TERRIBLE NO GOOD ROUGH FIRST DRAFT of this biography? I loved the idea so much I am going to definitely work on this after NAPIBOWRIWEE ends and submit it to my agent later when it’s ready. More on that in a future blog! Okay I am exhausted and have a busy day at work tomorrow, and am grateful the weekend is coming up so I can play catch up. My event is ALWAYS May 1-7 and so sometimes it falls in the middle of the week which makes it hard for some folks, but this year, we fell back on May 1st being on a Monday so lucky us, we get a weekend to write Books 5, 6, and 7! 🙂 You guys are awesome. See you tomorrow for Day 4 with Guest Author Terry Pierce! xo P.

  33. Loved hearing about Courtney’s inspiration … it can indeed come from anywhere and at any time … just got to keep the brain open to the possibilities when something floats by! Day 3 was spent teasing out a germ of an idea and getting it to develop into a coherent first draft. I’m pretty sure I got there in the end, and it’s definitely a story that I will revisit and try to get a polished manuscript from. I am also a tea drinker, but don’t tend to snack while writing, unless I am in “ideas” mode where I am just letting my mind drift with a notepad on the sofa. When I’m at my computer in writing mode, I have to fully focus on that. However, it helps to always nice to know that I have a foodie reward (in whatever form) waiting for me once I’ve been working for a few hours. Day 4 … here I come!

  34. Coffee – must drink coffee! 3 days – 3 drafts… almost hit the wall though – much better writing in the mornings!!!

  35. Ack, I somehow missed commenting on this post! I like sucking on peppermints or chewing gum. I never chew gum unless I am at my desk. The was great info from Courtney! I am glad to see that many writers have a long “overnight” success. Paula, I am glad to see that we can be spontaneous in this challenge, too. Rock the bio, girl.

  36. Thank you so much for all of the kind words! My latest dummy (out on submission, everything is crossed) is based on one of my twins misidentifying a baby bathtub. I remembered his comment, sketched lots of images of it, completed a piece for my portfolio from it, had an editor make an offhand remark about it and then found the story, wrote and revised it (and repeat) and drew all of the images for it. Only took about 3 years. 😉

    All of that is to say that I have learned to keep the idea part of my brain open to inspiration. Some days it’s harder than others!

  37. I’m eating Pinkberry frozen yogurt right now while I’m reading and writing! Great interview with Courtney – I love your story, Courtney, of how you heard the great news about your first book. Looking forward to reading your new work! Congratulations!

  38. What a beautiful story about an editor who took an interest in you! I love it. I will echo the coffee and wine sentiments:) but you kind of did just make me want a snack!

  39. Food/Drink: Iced coffee (or hot, depending on the season and always, sadly, decaf) + those thai lime cashews from Trader Joes (or sunfower seeds — IN the shell, so I have something to work on).
    I was less enthused about my work on day 3 than on days 1 and 2. Though still passable. I am writing everything in dialogue this year, for reasons unbeknownst to me. And all animals.
    (The other project I’m focussed on right now in my non-NaPiBo writing life is a lyrical PB bio, so maybe I’m intuitively seeking some sort of balance…)

  40. I enjoyed the two PBs you mentioned (thanks) and was most interested in the post you have elsewhere showing the development of your princess and dragon character illustrations. Good luck with the book.

  41. Just read Maya Was Grumpy earlier this year! Wonderful book.

    I don’t eat when I write, but I love a cup of coffee (black) or tea. Writing is thirsty work…and if it is after 5pm, well sometimes a beer helps get those creative juices flowing.

  42. I write a lot in the morning before work. I write in my office next to my bird’s cage and in the morning I warm up beans for my bird, and then I grab myself a hard boiled egg. Once I settle my bird in, I review what I have written the day before, read a picture book, or begin planning the days work and I eat a hard boiled egg while I get ready! After the egg is done, I write…write…write.

  43. Thank you Courtney and Paula for a heart-warming blog. I drink coffee and eat oatcakes and cheese. Mmmmmm, cheese.

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