Monday, January 3, 2011

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!

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