Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 22, 2013

Interview with Debut Author Tori Corn

toricropped290I met Tori years ago at one of the first events I put on as Regional Advisor of the New Jersey Chapter of the SCBWI. I got to see the effort that Tori put into her books and making sure her work was seen by editors and agents.  She is represented by the Liza Royce Agency and was one of their first clients.

Tori’s interest in children’s books began when her daughter was born. She fell in love with picture books after spending countless hours at the library reading to her daughter. By the time her sons were born, she was inspired to write her own stories and quickly became hooked on writing. She also studied picture book illustration at the School of Visual Arts. Tori joined New Jersey SCBWI and attended writing conferences where she learned the ins and outs of the publishing industry.  Writing and illustrating children’s books became an unexpected, exciting second career for her. She has expanded her writing for children of all ages and is currently working on a historical fiction novel.

PenelopeHer debut picture book, What Will It Be, Penelope? hits the book shelves on June 4th.

You can meet Tori Corn (author)and Dannielle Ceccolini (illustrator) at The Corner Bookstore tonight to celebrate the publication of What Will It Be, Penelope?

Wednesday, May 22nd – 6:00 p.m.

RSVP: (212) 831-3554 or

Here are a few questions I asked Tori that I thought you might be interested in reading:

Can you tell us about your journey with What Will It Be, Penelope?

Watching children try and decide what flavor ice cream they wanted is what inspired me to write the story. Sometimes my youngest son would hold up the line at the Mr. Softee ice cream truck! Of course there’s a bit of me in the story. I’ve been known to take forever to decide something silly like which soap to buy at Target! Penelope was the first picture book I wrote that wasn’t written in rhyme. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many versions there are!

How long ago did you write What’s Will It Be, Penelope?

It’s hard to say. I wrote the first version about seven years ago but I put it aside and didn’t look at it for years. It was way too long, around 850 words, which is a common mistake for picture book writers who are just learning their craft.  It took me a while to figure out how to tell a story in only 500 to 600 words.

Did you do revisions? 

Did I do revisions? All I did was revisions! And once I sold the manuscript, I still had to do more revisions!

What did it feel like to sign that first contract? 

It was a really special day for me, especially since I’d been envisioning the moment for such a long time.

Can you tell us a little bit about Sky Pony Press? 

Sky Pony is a wonderful publisher.(I’m not biased.) Launched in fall of 2011, it’s the children’s book imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. Their list includes picture books, middle grade, young adult, educational books and reissues of some well-loved classics. Since their first list in Fall 2011, Sky Pony now has over 100 books in print. I feel so blessed to have Penelope on that list. Next year, I’ll have another picture book called Dixie Wants an Allergy on the list too. What I love about Sky Pony is that they make decisions quickly and are capable of producing their books in record time. I signed my contract in Jan 2012 and I was holding a copy of my book in my hands in May 2013! Amazing.

Did you have any input into choosing the illustrator?

No I didn’t, but I’m glad that Sky Pony chose Danielle Ceccolini to do the illustrations for What Will It Be Penelope?  In general, the publisher chooses the illustrator, not the author.

Do you ever think you will try your hand in illustrating one of your books? 

Yes! I was an art major at SyracuseUniversity. I love to draw and paint!  As a matter of fact, I illustrated the cover for my website. You can probably tell by looking at it that I was a textile designer because of the textures and the prints on my character’s clothing.

I took picture book illustration classes at The School of visual Arts and began working on a book dummy for my picture book called Sometimes I Wake in the Middle of the Night. Hopefully I’ll finish illustrating it someday. And you never know, maybe I’ll write and illustrate a story about the mice on my website!

Do you have any other books on the horizon?

I’ve written eight picture books and I’m currently working on a historical fiction novel.

What types of things have you done to help get prepared for your book launch? 

Well, for one thing, I had a website developed.  I’ve also purchased some cute Penelope giveaways to give to kids after I’ve read my book during school visits. I’m hoping the children will go home and ask their parents to buy my book and these items will help them remember the name of my book!

Do you have any words of wisdom to share that would help unpublished writers? 

The most important advice I can give writers is to be thoughtful when deciding who to send their manuscripts to. This cuts down on the amount of (and type of ) reject letters you get. For instance, I only sent my manuscripts to editors and agents that I met at SCBWI conferences and I didn’t send them to everyone, only those whom I felt were seriously interested in my stories. That way, I only received encouraging reject letters! Most of them had excellent editorial comments so instead of feeling bad, I actually felt  inspired to work harder to improve my manuscript.

My second piece of advice is for writers to envision their books getting published. That’s really important. Someone once told me to “Stay on the road and keep looking forward” which is what I did. I think it’s also important to join a writing group so you can have your manuscripts critiqued often and learn what other authors are doing right and wrong.   And remember, if a few people are saying the same thing, you should listen. That said, always stay true to yourself.

Thank you Tori for sharing your experience with us. Best of luck with the book. Stop by to see Tori’s new website.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Tori, it was so much fun seeing your name in this context instead of just SCBWI-related stuff 😀 Adorable illustrations on your site (that Kathy did!) and the book looks SO cute 🙂 I hope you really enjoy your signing at the bookstore tonight. Congrats!


  2. Great interview, Kathy! Tori, I can’t wait to get my signed copy. Mega congrats! Woo-hoo! 🙂


  3. Congratulations, Tori! Your book sounds adorable! Enjoy all the fun (and hard work, I know) surrounding a book debut!


  4. Hi Tori,
    Your interview with Kathy was wonderful.
    I popped over to your site and I love your mice.
    Congratulations on your new book.


  5. How inspirational!


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