Guest Post: Illustrating The Story Circle by Wendy Martin

I’m excited to have a special feature today! Illustrator Wendy Martin is here to share a behind-the-scenes look at the process of illustrating her new book, The Story Circle. Enjoy!


On June 1st I shared my art creation process for a single image on Smiling Otis Studios’ blog. Today I’ll show you the big picture of the book art process.

For a lot of my picture book art creation, I do things in batches. I begin with a couple of sheets of copy paper with squares to represent each spread printed on them.


There were 14 spreads and 13 vignettes to ink for The Story Circle. I ink in Adobe Illustrator. After all the inking is done and I double and triple check to make sure the characters remain consistent from the beginning to the end, I transfer everything on to watercolor paper. I take my AI files, which are created at 150% of final size and import them into Photoshop and change the color of the black lines to a tint of a color that will blend well with my palette chosen for the story. Then each image gets printed onto watercolor paper. I decided to use a hot press paper for this book to avoid the shadows that can be caused by cold or rough press watercolor paper textures.

It took me most of a day to print out the 27 pieces.


I start with the largest section of the background. In this case a creamy pale orange-yellow on the classroom walls and the dusty red-tan for the rug on the floor. As you can see, I haven’t stretched and taped my paper at this point. So the pages are buckling and warped. Not to worry, once I have the big washes down, I will do that. My trick is to mist the back of each painting and let it soak in before flipping it and attaching it to a white felt covered canvas board. I use regular masking tape and make sure to tape outside of the crop marks, which I include in the file I print to the watercolor paper.


There are 7 children and the teacher as the featured characters in this book. That’s a lot of character consistency to keep track of during my watercolor painting process. This is one reason why I’m painting each character in an assembly line fashion. Nothing is more distressing than laying all your finished pages out and then noticing that the child with green striped socks is wearing purple-heart socks in one spread. If I painted digitally, this wouldn’t be a big deal. Hooray for Command-Z. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist in the watercolor painting process. If I make such a gaff in traditional media, I have to repaint.


The finished image you see here was the trial image I supplied to the publisher when they were deciding which illustrator they would choose for this book. I’m using it to make sure the characters they liked from the sample are the same ones they receive in the final images.

At this point, it’s down to final details and coloring the portions of the images that are unique to each. This is the end of the assembly line painting process and each painting gets individual attention to completion. Once they are all finished, I lock the cat in another room and spread all the images out on the floor to make sure they flow nicely from one to the other. I make notes of changes I will make during the color correction and scanning process. After the images are scanned in, usually this takes a day or two, I open each one and make any revisions from my notes, and color correct the digital files so they will print nicely. I do my best to make sure the colors in the book are as close to the colors on the painted pieces. Then I send all the high-resolution files to the publisher.

The publisher pulls all the pieces together into book form. In some cases I get to see F&Gs or color proofs, but that didn’t happen with this book. I got a box of author copies about a month ago.




A transplanted New Yorker now living in Missouri, Wendy Martin has been working as an illustrator for 25+ years. Her love affair with art and illustration began at an early age. She never wanted to do anything else.

So, she followed my heart and earned a degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology, then continued my art education at the School of Visual Arts, earning a B.F.A. in Graphic Design. These disciplines can still be seen in her work as a children’s book illustrator and fantasy artist in the strong lines, textures and detailed patterns.

See additional art and find out more about her at You can find The Story Circle on Amazon or on the publisher’s website.


It’s the official publication date for THE TRUTH GAME, the fourth book in the Dirt Diary series!

truth game high res

You may recall that this series was supposed to be a trilogy, but when my editor asked if I had any interest in writing a fourth installment, I jumped at the chance. Rachel has been such a fun character to write about–all I do is think up new ways to embarrass her! And while I could probably keep messing up her life, I think I’m really done with her story this time. It’s been so much fun growing along with Rachel, and I hope people will enjoy reading about her as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about her.

If you’re in New England and want to help me celebrate the book’s release, I’ll be at Wellesley Books on May 15th and at An Unlikely Story on May 21st.

Upcoming Events

With the March release of FINDERS REAPERS and the upcoming May release of THE TRUTH GAME, it’s time for me to emerge from my writing cave and do some book events! Here’s where I’ll be in the coming weeks. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 20th at 2pm

I’ll be at the Ames Free Library in Easton, Mass. reading from I’m With Cupid and sharing a sneak peek of The Truth Game, the fourth book in the Dirt Diary series. Snacks and crafts included! The reading will be at Queset House, 1st Floor Presentation Commons.

Friday, April 29 and Saturday, April 30

I’ll be giving two workshops (one on “Writing Tween” and one on “Emotional Heart in Picture Books) at this year’s New England SCBWI Conference in Springfield, Mass.

Saturday, May 14th at 11am

I’ll be at the Copley Branch of the Boston Public Library doing a presentation for teens on the process of writing a book series. More details coming soon!

Sunday, May 15th at 2pm

It’s a double launch party for Finder Reapers and The Truth Game at Wellesley Books in Wellesley, Mass. Come for readings, signings, snacks, and general merriment!

Saturday, May 21st at 3:30pm

I’ll be at An Unlikely Story (Jeff Kinney’s lovely new bookstore) in Plainville, Mass. reading from The Truth Game and leading some fun book-related games.



I’m so excited to share the cover of my upcoming book with Scholastic, ONCE UPON A CRUISE!


This was such a fun project to work on, and I can’t wait for it to release in September! Here’s a description from the publisher:

Ainsley never wanted to spend her summer on a fairy tale cruise — especially since, instead of lounging by the pool, she’s running around the ship doing favor after favor for her cruise director mom.

Things aren’t all bad — it’s good to see her mom acting confident again after the divorce, and she’s learning a lot about obscure German fairy tales and how to fold towels into entertaining shapes for little kids (um, yay?). There’s also a guy who’s super cute, even in a dorky dwarf costume — if only Ainsley could get Prince Handsome to stop babbling about himself long enough for her to say more than “hi” to the cute dwarf!

But once the cruise starts, things start to go wrong: The laundry turns pink, the kitchen runs out of food, the guy playing the Pig King is always in Ainsley’s hair, and her mom expects her to be in a hundred places all at once. Is this fairy tale cruise under a wicked curse? Or can Ainsley stand up for herself and make the cruise end happily ever after?

Also, here’s a fun interview on Writers’ Rumpus about my writing process of Finder Reapers (plus a giveaway of I’m With Cupid).

I’M WITH CUPID Book Trailer

As promised, here’s a fun little book trailer I made for I’M WITH CUPID. It was my first time using Powtoon. What do you think?

If you’re having trouble seeing the embedded video above, click HERE to watch it on YouTube.

FINDERS REAPERS has arrived!

Today’s the day! The sequel to I’m With Cupid, Finders Reapers, is officially out in the world and available wherever books are sold. My daughter highly recommends it. :)


Meanwhile, I’m furiously working away on the third book in the series and getting ready for the release of The Truth Game, coming May 3rd. I’ll have a few book events in the coming months to celebrate both books, so be on the lookout!

Speaking of events, I’m excited to announce that I’ve teamed up with my publisher, Sourcebooks, to offer FREE writing workshops via Skype for the rest of the school year. I normally do free 20-minute Q&A sessions for classes and clubs who’ve read one of my books, but right now you can also sign up for a one-hour “Creating a Character” workshop for your classroom! You can get more information at the Sourcebooks Virtual Visit page.

Finally, I’m putting the finishing touches on the official I’m With Cupid book trailer! I’ll be sending it out to my newsletter subscribers first, but I’ll be posting it here soon. Stay tuned!

Originally published at

What’s In Store for 2016

I can’t believe it’s almost the end of January, which means that 2016 is already zipping by! It’s shaping up to be a busy year. Here’s what’s in store in the next few month in terms of book events and release dates (and I’m working on adding more events soon).

Friday, February 19 at 1pm

Special Storytime with Josh Funk at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Mass.

What do you get when you mix bedtime and breakfast with robots and pancakes? Find out when debut picture book authors Anna Staniszewski (Power Down, Little Robot) and Josh Funk (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast) visit to read their books and share crafts. Book signings to follow. Event is free with Museum Admission. (Can’t make it to the event? You may reserve signed books online or contact The Carle Bookshop at

Tuesday, March 1 

The official release date of FINDERS REAPERS, the sequel to I’M WITH CUPID!


Friday, April 29 and Saturday, April 30

I’ll be giving two workshops (one on “Writing Tween” and one on “Emotional Heart in Picture Books) at this year’s New England SCBWI Conference in Springfield, Mass.

Tuesday, May 3

The official release date for THE TRUTH GAME, the fourth book in the Dirt Diary series!

Truth Game Final Cover

Originally published at

2015 Wrap-Up

As we speed along toward 2016, I’ve been reflecting on 2015 and all I can say is: Wow, it’s been one eventful year! I had three books published, including my first picture book, I had a baby, I wrote/revised three new books, and I taught a semester-long writing class. Um, it probably goes without saying that I’m a little tired!

I haven’t been the best about answering emails or doing events or being social, and my reading time has been nearly at zero for the past several months. I still have final grading and a revision deadline hanging over my head, but I’m also determined to have a tiny bit of downtime after Christmas. I’ll need it since 2016 is promising to be another busy year!

See you in 2016!

Originally published at

Cover Reveal and Upcoming Events

I already shared this in my newsletter, but I wanted to put it here to make it official: Here’s the cover for The Truth Game, the fourth book in the Dirt Diary series, coming out in May. Yay!

Truth Game Final Cover

Also, I have a few events coming up in the next few weeks. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you!

Saturday, November 21

Join me and twenty other authors for The Writers’ Loft’s 2nd annual Holiday Bazaar and Book Fair, to be held at An Unlikely Story in Plainville, Mass. from 1-4pm.

Sunday, November 29

Three other authors and I will be at the Festival of Trees in Easton, Mass, a fundraising event for the Easton Garden Club, taking place at the Easton Country Club from 2-5pm.

Saturday, December 5

I’ll be one of several authors signing books at the Framingham High School Holiday Marketplace in Framingham, Mass. from 1-3pm.

Cruising Into a New Book Deal!

I don’t think of myself as a terribly patient person, so it’s been killing me to sit on this news since January, but I can finally spill the beans that I’ve sold a new book to Scholastic! Here’s the official announcement from Publishers Weekly:

Erin Black at Scholastic Press has bought the middle-grade novel Once Upon a Cruise by Anna Staniszewski, about a 12-year-old girl who lands a summer job on a cruise, only to find her magical vacation quickly turning into a titanic mess. Publication is set for fall 2016; Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency negotiated the deal for world rights.

Woohoo! This book has been such a fun project to work on. When you put a bunch of people in the middle of the ocean on a Disney Cruise knock-off, shenanigans must ensue, right?

Also, I’ll be doing some story times in the next few weeks. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you!

Monday, October 19 at 10:30am at Books on the Square in Providence, RI

I’ll be reading Power Down, Little Robot and leading some robot crafts and activities. Come have your picture taken with a real-life Little Robot! (Bonus: I’ll be bringing BabyBot with me to the event, so if you want to pinch her robo-cheeks, here’s your chance.)

Saturday, October 24  at 11am at Wellesley Books in Wellesley, MA

It’s a multi-author storytime! I’ll be joining fellow authors Josh Funk, Nancy Tupper Ling, Jane McCormick Sutcliffe, and Ammi-Joan Paquette for a morning of picture book fun.


Log in

No account? Create an account