Three years ago, after attending the June NJ SCBWI conference, I was standing on the platform of the Princeton Junction station waiting for the New York train. Another woman was also standing on the platform and we struck up a conversation. Little did either of us know how that chance meeting would change both of our lives.
Shortly after the conference, Tori started working with my writing teacher, the amazing Jill Davis (please see my interview of Jill posted on September 24, 2012, http://robinnewmanbooks.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/the-amazing-jill-davis/). And shortly thereafter Tori signed with Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. And Liza sold not only one but two of her picture books to Sky Pony Press that will be hitting store bookshelves in the next few weeks and spring 2014.
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with my friend, the amazingly-talented Tori Corn.
Tori, did you always want to be a writer?
No, but I do remember sitting in my room when I was a teenager and writing a novel. It was a love story. Actually, what I really wanted to be was a ballerina or an artist.
Are there any books that have particularly influenced you as a writer?
I love so many picture books, but Wemberly Worried, Doctor De Soto, My Lucky Day and Dandelion are probably among my all-time favorites. I also love James Marshall’s retelling of Red Riding Hood, as well as Hollie Hobbie’s Toot and Puddle (her illustrations are simply exquisite). But if I had to pick one author who has influenced me the most, it would have to be Kevin Henkes.
How did What Will It Be, Penelope? and Dixie Wants an Allergy come about?
When my children were young, we lived across the street from a park where a Mister Softee ice cream truck was frequently parked (over the years, I bought a lot of ice cream for my kids!). In any event, there were lots of choices and many children would take forever to make up their minds, including my youngest son! And I found myself thinking: “Come on . . . what will it be?” and that’s how the idea to write a picture book about indecision came about.
Dixie Wants an Allergy was inspired by my other son’s allergy to gluten. He felt bad that he was the only one who had to eat special food at school. So, I wanted to write him a funny story that would make him feel better about his allergy.
I know that you’ve also been working on a historical fiction novel. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?
I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s based on an extraordinary event that occurred in Europe during World War ll. And the incident saved many, many lives. It’s an incredibly inspiring story. I’m still very much in the research phase, but stay tuned!
Are you working on any other books at this time?
Yes, I tend to juggle projects. I become obsessed with whatever I’m working on until I hit a brick wall and then I put the manuscript aside for weeks or months. I find the distance is very helpful. I always seem to have greater clarity when I return to the manuscript after some time away. Right now I’m working on a picture book called Mootilda’s Big Moove.
Can you give us some insights into your creative process? Do you create a dummy of your picture books?
I’m always amazed when I sit down at my computer and the next thing I know three hours have passed. When things are working well, I find it difficult to stop writing.
In general, when I get to the point where I feel like I’m finished with a draft of a picture book or a chapter, I share it with my writing group and they critique it. Sometimes they say things that inspire me and I can’t wait to go home and make the changes. Other times, they say things that make me feel like I’m not on the right track. When that happens, I usually put the project aside and work on something else. When I go back and read the story a few weeks (or months) later, I can usually figure out what’s not working and have some idea of how to make the changes.
When I’m finished writing a picture book, I create a dummy. That makes it easy for me to do the final edits. I usually have too many pages and creating a dummy helps with the cutting. It used to be difficult for me to edit my manuscripts but now I actually enjoy the process.
Do you have any advice for writers who are just starting out?
My advice for writers who are just starting out is to join a writing group, attend SCBWI writing conferences and workshops, take classes and stay on the path no matter what. Be open to criticism and listen to what editors, agents and other writers have to say. They want to help you! If five people are telling you the same thing, you should listen. All that said, sometimes you have to stick to your guns and stay true to yourself. If you absolutely love something about your story, you should leave it in, unless of course, an editor or agent is asking you to change it! The most important thing is don’t give up!
I know that in your past life you were a colorist/textile designer. Have you also considered illustrating books?
Yes! I’ve taken picture book illustration classes at the School of Visual Arts. I love to paint and draw and hope to one day illustrate some of my own books. I illustrated the cover for my website, http://www.toricorn.com.
How can your fans get a hold of you?
And how can your fans get their first copies of What Will It Be, Penelope?
It’s available for pre-order at:
Barnes and Noble
Tori is having a book signing of What Will It Be, Penelope? at The Corner Bookstore, located at 1313 Madison Avenue, on Tuesday, May 22nd from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
I hope everyone can make it! I can’t wait to buy my first copies of What Will It Be, Penelope? Woo-hoo!
Tori, thanks so much for answering my questions. All the best and much success.
 Thanks to Tori I also signed with Liza Fleissig.