Week of January 6, 2013: An Interview with Maria Modugno
Wednesday, January 9—An Interview with Maria Modugno, Part III
This is the third installment in a four-part interview with Maria Modugno, Editorial Director, Picture Books, Random House Books for Young Readers.
Rob Sanders: Maria, I know you’re still fairly new at Random House, so you may need to look back to HarperCollins to answer this question. What have you acquired recently that you love and why?
Maria Modugno: Hey, no fair. It’s like asking me which kid I love best. But some recent titles include: Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter Reynolds, Lucky and Squash by Jeanne Birdsell and Jane Dyer, Foxy by Emma Dodd, Emeraldalicious by Victoria Kann, a new as yet untitled book about Splat with Rob Scotton, and Hugs from Pearl by Paul Schmid . . . I could go on and on. I was sad to leave Ruby Rose: On Her Toes behind since working so closely on the text with the author made me almost believe that she is real. We also found a terrific artist, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, who I was looking forward to working with. I'll just have to cheer these books on from the sideline.
RS: Maria, some people consider you the queen of picture book series. What advice can you give us about writing a series?
MM: Now I’m embarrassed. I approach each series book by book. I don’t always know which characters will endure beyond the first story.
RS: What makes a picture book series character such as Fancy Nancy or Pinkalicious or Splat the Cat have longevity?
MM: I think kids fall in love with these characters and want to know more about them. (There’s also a very structured publishing plan that is developed in conjunction with sales and marketing to launch and continue to publish such books.)
RS: Picture book writers are consumed with word count and everyone is revising to get their manuscripts down to 500 words or less. What is your opinion of word count and what guidance can you give us?
MM: I’m not too good at counting. I say use all the words that are necessary and no more than that.
RS: Writers work so hard to craft a cover letter, deliver the perfect pitch, format a manuscript, and so on. We are concerned that the smallest thing might get our manuscript “disqualified.” What (if anything) turns you off about a submission or makes you stop reading?
MM: I usually skip cover letters. I read that Margaret McElderry was always waiting for something that was irresistible before she would pursue it. Good writing from the beginning of the story is important.
I know you’re clicking your heels in joys from Maria’s insights.
Come back tomorrow for more!