November Theme: Gratitude

By Mike Townsend

This is a story about how grateful I am for my first editor...

Ever since I was little I always wanted to draw and write stories for a living. I wanted a chance to make great picture books and write awesome adventure comics about treasure and what not. After I finished art school my first goal was to first try and get work as an illustrator. I began to mail out postcards promoting myself (along with some other promotional things I came up with). If that worked out then I would try to get work writing AND illustrating. In the meantime I worked as a waiter in Philly.

After receiving many beautiful and thoughtful form rejection letters I began to wonder if I would forever be a waiter of food but then it finally happened. An editor from a big publishing house in N.Y.C. asked me if I would want to come up for a portfolio review. I was so excited that I actually seemed to mean it when I thanked my customers for their crappy tips.

The meeting was awesome at first. The editor liked my work, which meant we had a lot in common (I liked my work too). All during the fun meeting I was waiting for her to say, “I have a job I want you to do,” but it never happened. She actually told me that she did not have any work for me. I was devastated. “But,” she continued, “I have read the comics on your website and I would love to see what you would write for children!” I was no longer devastated. I had just been given a chance to show somebody in the biz what I could do! I happily told her that I would be sending her some stuff real soon. A month later I sent her my first picture book dummy.

‘My first Sale’ didn’t happen over night it took a bunch of months to even hear back and then many more months until I got the call that they wanted to buy my book!

At first I was excited. I got to skip the first step of my career game plan and go straight to writing AND illustrating a story but then I began to freak out. What if they realize that I’m an imposter and that I don’t know much about writing professional like stuff? I didn’t have time to re-learn all the years of grammar lessons I doodled my way through. I quickly learned that my first editor was extremely patient and was willing to work stuff out with me. Draft after draft after draft she took the time to help me understand what was wrong and what needed to be fixed until eventually it was done.

Her encouragement didn’t end there. She continued to send me books and notes saying stuff like ‘Hey, this book is up your alley, would you ever want to make something like this?’ and that was awesome. So, because of her light pushes and encouragements I continued to get to work (in both the picture book world and the middle grade world).

I still have a ton to learn about writing, making art, grammar, and the business side of those things but thanks to my first editor I get to learn by doing.

Thanks Cecile for your patience and exuberance and being the first to give me a chance,



  1. Thanks for sharing, Mike. Isn't it something how the encouragement from one person can make a world of difference?

  2. I got quite a few of those "beautiful and thoughtful form rejections," too...Cecile sounds like a fabulous editor!

  3. Sounds like least from this end of the timeline. ;) Glad you stuck with it.

  4. Trudi- YES
    Holly- She is!
    Suzanne- Me Too!


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