Art + Design

A One in Ten Thousand Story

One of the very best things about being a book editor is getting to work with awesome authors. And I don’t just mean authors who make awesome books—though they do that, too, and how!—I mean authors who are awesome people. I could rattle off a list of dozens of such folks it’s been my pleasure and honor to work with in my years around this joint, but recently my heart was especially moved by two in particular: husband and wife author/illustrator team Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr. Here’s what Matthew and Robbi look like inside the world of their own rather twisted, deeply hilarious, quite wonderfully creative minds:

Just recently I sent these two a box containing early advance copies of their upcoming Fall 2013 book Ten Thousand Stories (an utterly fabulous turn-the-flap adventure book for grown-ups). The next day I got an email from them, saying they’d received the package but hadn’t opened the box yet. Huh? What was this? Most people tear into those boxes like it’s Christmas morning. Several days passed and, as far as I knew, the box had still not been opened. And then they sent a link to this. By far the sweetest, most thoughtful, most downright humbling story of authors opening up their box of advances I’ve ever heard.

They say lots of nice things about me and my colleague in there, which make me blush, but I feel even more privileged to have turned up in a few of the illustrations, such as this one. Not only am I hugely flattered to be caricatured by these guys, but the prescience with which Robbi’s drawing captures the scene is downright eerie. As any of my editorial colleagues will tell you, this is exactly what it looks like when an editor buys a book from an agent. The trench coat. The fistful of dollars. How did she know?

And of course this is how we celebrate afterwards. But today I raise my sloshing mug of beer to these two fantastic authors—here’s to you Robbi and Matthew! And to all the fab authors and artists who write the words and create the images without which we’d be in the business of selling blank pages between blank covers (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Ten Thousand Stories comes out in September, but you can pre-order it now. You won’t regret it!

Bridget Watson Payne

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Bridget Watson Payne

Senior Editor, Art Publishing. You can follow her at @WatsonPayne and read about her latest projects at

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  • Robbi June 17, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    I would have commented earlier, but I was so excited I didn't open my Chronicle blog box until just now so I could savor the excitement. It was worth the wait! Aw shucks!

    But what Bridget neglected to mention was how we could have been real pains in the watoosies if she hadn't been such an awesome editor. I credit her with nurturing our awesome instead of giving us art fits. She really is the best.

    In other news, all of this excitement is wearing me out. I hope I can make it till the book actually releases.


  • Bridget June 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

    My turn to say "aw shucks" back. Again! (uh oh, will this ouroboros of our mutual admiration now never end?!)
    Agree: cannot wait for this book to come out! woo!


  • Lisa April 23, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    The story of how this book came to be is so wonderful- I even teared up a little. As an illustrator, I could definitely see why it would be hard to open that package and see that book for the first time in real life- I'm so happy for them!


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