Wednesday, January 4, 2012

An Interview with Maria Modugno, Part III

Week of January 1, 2012: An Interview with Maria Modugno
Wednesday, January 4—An Interview with Maria Modugno, Part III

This is the third installment in a four-part interview with Maria Modugno, Vice President and Editorial Director of HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Rob Sanders: Maria, 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.

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 Pete 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 tomorrow!

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