2013-04-03 Corey_PhotoCorey debuted as a picture book writer in 2006 with the fabulous Hop! Plop! (Walker Books).  Of her latest book, The Three Ninja Pigs (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2012), The New York Times writes, “A fractured fairy tale to outcharm the original, ‘The Three Ninja Pigs’ manages to one-up the well-worn story by setting it in Japan, sprinkling it with the language and discipline of martial arts. All in hilarious, impeccable rhyme.”  Her upcoming books, Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears and Ninja Red (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), offer further twists on the traditional fairy tale genre and more ninjas.  Corey has been a member of Women Who Write since 2007 and has participated in critique groups as well as served on the board.  She lives with her family in Warren, NJ, where she is an excellent Scrabble player.

What inspired you to write picture books?  

Picture books always felt like the right fit for me…a genre that plays to my strengths.  Then one year at the Rutgers’ conference (hosted by the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature), our group leader asked us to go around the table and state two things:  (1) our name  (2) the age we felt inside.

I said, “I’m a four year old.”  I didn’t even have to think about it.  Some of us were 8-9.  Others were 11-12.  But for most of us it was easy to answer.

The leader then said, “THAT is the age you should be writing for!”

So, I guess my instincts were right all along!

Have your own children helped you in the process of writing for young children?

Yes!  A ton!  In fact, THE THREE NINJA PIGS would probably never have been written if it weren’t for them.  When my daughter was four and my son was three, we went to a restaurant and started talking to a waitress from Peru.  Jordan said, “I can speak a little Spanish.”  The waitress asked Josh if he could speak Spanish, too.  He said, “No, but I speak a little karate.”

And I knew immediately…there’s a picture idea here somewhere!

How was your experience co-leading a workshop at NJ Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in June 2012?

It was a lot of fun!  I presented on meter and rhyme, a topic I am very passionate about.  My friend Tiffany Strelitz Haber and I refer to ourselves as the Meter Maids and we call people out on the crimes of rhyme!

I highly recommend the NJ SCBWI conference for anyone who writes for children or teens.

How have you balanced your writing with the other aspects of your life?

Um, I haven’t.  There are piles of laundry everywhere!   I have completely given up on ever getting back to the gym and the last time I went shoe shopping for myself, there was a Bush in the White House.  I’m fortunate though to have an extremely supportive husband who likes to joke that we were living in our new house for six whole months when I asked him, “Honey, how do you turn this oven on?”

How much marketing are you expected to do as an author?

A lot of marketing responsibility falls on the author.  Authors are expected to create a website and swag for their book.  I have printed and distributed over 10,000 Ninja Pigs bookmarks!  We are also encouraged to do as many events as possible.  I’ve done programs at schools, libraries, and bookstores.  I’ve also tried to think outside the box.  Since my book is about martial arts, I have arranged readings at many local dojos where I have a built-in target audience!

Have the social media networking tools you’ve employed  (your blog, twitter, Facebook, etc.) been valuable resources?

It’s hard to measure the effects, but I would venture to say that they have helped enormously!  I have not only used social networks to communicate with my own friends and followers, but I have also used Facebook and Twitter to reach out to martial arts schools to ask if they would kindly post my book trailer for their fans to view.

Do you start writing new books during the marketing phase? 

I’m supposed to, but I haven’t been able to focus at all on writing.  See question # 3 on my inability to multi-task 🙂

How involved are you in the illustrating process? 

This may come as a surprise, but the answer is… NOT AT ALL.   I would love for the process to be more collaborative, but that is not how it is generally done.  The publishing house chooses the illustrator and the writer often does not see any art until the dummy is pretty much finished (at which point it is too late to provide any input!)


What advice would you give to picture book writers and writers in general looking to be published?

I would say network, network, network!  Attend conferences, join critique groups, and reach out to agents, editors, and other writers online.  You never know who will give you that one critical piece of feedback that helps you fix your manuscript or who will give you that referral that leads to a contract.  So, get out there and interact with people in your industry as much as possible!

What’s next?

Well, I have two more fractured fairy tales coming out with Putnam in 2014:  GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS and NINJA RED.   I plan to shop a couple of other manuscripts this year and of course I hope to get back to writing sometime soon!

Emily Becker interned for Women Who Write in the summer of 2012.  She is a sophomore at Connecticut College majoring in English and hopes to work in publishing one day.