Tuesday, January 3, 2012

An Interview with Maria Modugno, Part II

Week of January 1, 2012: An Interview with Maria Modugno
Tuesday, January 3—An Interview with Maria Modugno, Part II
This is the second installment in a four-part interview with Maria Modugno, Vice President and Editorial Director of HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Rob Sanders: Maria, let’s talk plot. Three-act structure, Freytag’s pyramid, the clock plot—what do you look for in the plot of a picture book?

Maria Modugno: I’m not that scientific—I keep a blank storyboard in my head and sort the story out to fit those pages. I’m embarrassed to say it’s something I feel instead of know.

I also think you have to keep your audience in mind, but never underestimate them.

RS: Event-driven or character-driven, which do you prefer and why?

MM: I believe you need both. Although you only have 32 pages, the events will propel the reader to turn the pages but unless the story has a good character, no one will care.

RS: Writers are often told that their writing is too quiet. What does “too quiet” mean to you? 

MM: Nothing happens . . . just a series of lovely sentences.

RS: If you could give picture book writers three key words of advice, what would you say?

MM: Read as many books as you can. Look in bookstores. Listen to kids.

RS: Writers always want to know what is selling and what the latest trend is. What guidance would you give us about trends and markets?

MM: It’s a very tough picture book market. The whole distribution landscape is changing and we are at the beginning of a digital revolution. All publishers are cautious. When you publish a new book in a picture book series, you are giving the consumer something that is both tried and true AND new.

Publishers are also looking at different financial models. Be open-minded and remember that the publisher wants to make money as much as you do.

RS: People always ask editors, “What are you looking for?” What’s your answer, Maria?
MM: I always want the best of what’s out there. I have total recall of what it felt like to read a picture book when I was a kid and I want to experience that same thrill every time.

Wow! What great info! You won’t believe what’s up next!
Come back tomorrow for more wisdom from Maria!


Tina Cho said...

How did you land an interview with Maria? I'm drawn to picture books published by Harper Collins. Usually books I pick up at the bookstore are published by them. Thanks for this insightful interview, Rob and Maria!

Rob Sanders said...

I agree. HarperCollins publishes some wonderful picture books!