Success Story Interview - Courtney Pippin-Mathur

An Interview with Courtney Pippin-Mathur (illomama on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary & Media.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
It's a picture book about Gro, the smallest viking in her village. She smells of lavender, can't grow a beard and yet she wants to be the biggest bravest viking ever.

As a writer/illustrator, my best stories start with a character in my sketch book. I had vikings on the brain for some reason and Gro appeared in my sketchbook one day. I liked how she looked and decided she had a story to tell.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
Five years.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
Seven months.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
Yes. Many, many times. Support from my online peers, love of the field and pure stubbornness.
QT: Is this your first book?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
Nope. My fist picture book, "Maya was Grumpy" will be published in 2012 by Flashlight Press.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
No. All of my formal training is in art.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
With three kids, it's difficult. When I have access to child care I work in the morning. Otherwise, I work after bedtime.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
At least 4, possibly a 100.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
Yes, a wonderful writer who I "met" on a message board for children's writers and illustrators and a group of other writer/ illustrators, some of whom I know in real life and some who live in my computer.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
From the hip. I sit at the computer or doodle and wait for the ideas to flow.I keep all the promising words or phrases in a file on my desk until one really appeals to me.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
For this book, five months. For other books, about a year.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
15. The list of agents who take on picture books is pretty small. I narrowed it down after extensive cyber stalking, I mean research.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
What type of story they liked ( my stuff tends towards funny and quirky, and that's not for everybody. ) How they came across in interviews and (if possible) at conferences.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
A little. If I could find specific information online about what they preferred, or I loved their clients work, I mentioned it.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
Hang in there! Keep writing or drawing and improve your style but always stay true to your vision. If you keep at it, you will find an agent who loves your work.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Courtney Pippin-Mathur:
Sure. As a picture book writer, it's best to keep it short and sweet.

Query Letter:

Hi Joanna,

I am an author and illustrator of children's books. I have a BFA in Studio Art and my first book will be published in 2012 by Flashlight Press, titled "Maya was Grumpy". I am searching for an agent to be my cheerleader, publishing spy and business partner. My portfolio can be viewed here:

Query: Gro wants nothing more than to be the biggest, baddest viking in her village. Unfortunately, she's barely as tall as a mead cup, smells like lavender and can't grow a beard. No one in her family will let her do anything fun but Gro knows her heart is a as rough and tough as the biggest, smelliest, warrior. So, late one night, she sets out on an adventure of her own that will show everyone how fierce she truly is.

I have the dummy in pdf form available if you are interested.

Thank you in advance for your time and attention,

Courtney Pippin-Mathur