Interview with Maria Modugno, editor of There Was an Old Dragon by Penny Parker Klostermann

DRAGON coverCalista: Do you remember what it was about this manuscript that made you go, “I want it,” when you read it on submission?

Maria: Not only did I think, “I want it,” I also thought, “I love it!” A huge percentage of the submissions I receive are written in rhyme. And a huge percentage of those manuscripts just don’t scan. I loved that this book would appeal to both boys and girls. After all, who doesn’t love a dragon? I also thought the burp moment was deftly handled with just enough “eewww” and humor to make me laugh out loud.

Calista: What comp titles* did you reference when you were acquiring this book? Why?

Maria: I’m personally drawn to cumulative tales. I think repetition and good rhyme are excellent traits for a picture book text, especially one that will be read aloud. And DRAGON is a text that begs to be read aloud. The other key ingredient is humor, one of the most difficult qualities to pull off in a universal way.

I actually comped this to the first book I ever signed up as an editor years ago, The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood. When I mentioned this to Penny, it was pure serendipity that she was in touch with someone trying to locate Don in order to return a piece of original art from the book. We made the connection and the oil painting is back with Don in Hawaii. I know this piece meant a lot to him because Don always said that illustrating a picture book was like having your very own personal art gallery!

Calista: How – if at all – did the text change during the making of the book?

Maria: Penny and I discussed “It’s not polite!” versus “It isn’t right!” for the key line. Perhaps because it was such an important line, I wanted to make sure we settled on the right one. Penny actually presented me with the two options. At first, I chose “It isn’t right!” but when I re-read the manuscript six months later, I knew “It’s not polite” was the one.

Calista: What’s your favorite line from this book?

Maria: That’s too hard to answer. I would say: “clippity, clippity, lippity clop.” It’s brilliant and original and adds an unexpected dimension.

* Comp title = “comparison title”. Frequently an editor will be asked to provide comp titles for a book when presenting it to the acquisitions team at the publishing house, to give the sales and marketing and publishing teams a sense of where the book will “live” in the marketplace.

Comment on any post this week for a chance to win your very own SIGNED copy of There Was an Old Dragon.

Or buy a copy right away. You can find one at YOUR local indie bookstore here: Indiebound

Or, you can order online through Barnes and NobleAmazonBooks-A-Million, or Powell’s.

For personalized signed copies of There Was an Old Dragon, you can order fromTexas Star Trading Co. and give your dedication details in the Gift Message box. You can also contact them by email at or call  (325) 672-9696.

Calista Brill is a writer and editor based in New York City. During the day she edits award-winning graphic novels, and at night she writes stories for children about pixies, pirates, princesses, and pterodactyls. Her first picture book will be published by HarperCollins in 2016.


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20 responses to “Interview with Maria Modugno, editor of There Was an Old Dragon by Penny Parker Klostermann

  1. What wonderful praise from Maria, Penny! She bought a manuscript from me seven years ago and I found she is quick to make a decision and is incredibly supportive and insightful. Congrats on this AND on the second manuscript she bought. Wa-hoo for you!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m reading lots of wonderful things about this book! Congratulations Penny and Maria.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Congratulations on the book, Penny. It sounds like a fun, fresh romp!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful interview. I’m glad that “it’s not polite” was chosen. It’s hilarious! Can’t wait to get my copy!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I can hardly wait to read this cute book!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mariagianferrari

    Wonderful interview, Calista! I love how you always bring in comp titles–that’s so interesting to hear that side of the acquisitions business. And many congratulations to you, Penny on a such a perfect debut! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Robin S

    I can’t wait to get my hands on this book!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love hearing more tidbits about the book! So excited, Penny!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: What would YOU feed a hungry dragon? | EMU's Debuts

  10. tamaraellissmith

    I love reading these interviews, always! And this one is no exception. So cool to know a little of the behind the scenes of this amazing book. It’s already a staple in our house!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. laura516

    Congratulations on your debut, Penny! My boys and I can’t wait to read it. (They will be especially thrilled that there is a ‘burp’ scene 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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