ONCE UPON A CRUISE Discussion Guide

Posted by annastan on October 10th, 2016 | No Comments »

I’m excited to announce that I now have a discussion guide for Once Upon a Cruise. It features some discussion questions and a Q&A with yours truly!

Download the Once Upon a Cruise Discussion Guide. (I’ll also add it to my Resources page.)


I think this guide will work well for school and library book clubs as well as mother/daughter book clubs and more. If you’re a librarian, teacher, or parent, please feel free to spread the word! Note that I also offer free in-person and Skype visits for book clubs that have read my books. (And who doesn’t want to experience my wacky sense of humor in person?)

Happy reading!

And the winner is…

Posted by annastan on October 5th, 2016 | No Comments »

It was so much fun to celebrate the release of ONCE UPON A CRUISE last week, both in person and online! I really enjoyed the nautical fairy tale titles people submitted on Twitter, and it was tough to pick a winner. I finally selected Audrey Day-Williams who actually came up with several gems:

Peter and the Wharf

Puss in Boats

Snow White and the Seven Wharfs

Aren’t those great? Congrats, Audrey! You’ve won a signed copy of the book! There were lots of other entries that made me giggle. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Fog Prince – Julie Reich

The Little Mast Girl – Josh Funk

The Ginger Bread Manatee – Tom Franklin

Thanks so much to everyone for taking part in the contest! It made release day even more special. I have some other fun CRUISE-related things in the works, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, I’m so honored to announce that I’m the current author of the month at the Northborough Free Library in Northborough, Mass. I’ll be at the library on Wednesday, Oct 12 at 6pm talking about my novels, and then I’ll also be doing a robot storytime the next day, Oct 13, at 10:30am. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you!

I’m also excited to share that I’ll be on a Middle Grade Author panel with Megan Frazer Blakemore and Ali Benjamin on Saturday, Oct 22nd at Blue Bunny Books in Dedam, Mass, one of my favorite local bookstores! It should be a fun event!


Posted by annastan on September 27th, 2016 | No Comments »

I’m so excited that my newest tween novel, ONCE UPON A CRUISE, officially sets sail today!


I wrote the manuscript when I was hugely pregnant and juggling two other book deadlines, so–oddly enough–the story is about a girl who can’t say no to things. Yeah, I really had to dig deep for that one.  ;)

If you’re in a partying mood, I’ll be having a launch party at Newtonville Books in Newton, Mass. tomorrow, Sept 28, at 7pm. Here’s the Facebook invite with more info. I’m also doing a fun “nautical fairy tale” contest on Twitter:


This is my eleventh published book–which sounds crazy when I put it that way–and as exciting as the process continues to be, it also continues to be scary! What if no one comes to the launch? What if no one reads the book? What if no one LIKES the book? The anxiety, it seems, never goes away! Thankfully, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to focus on what I can control: writing. So, back to work I go! :)


Prepping for a Book Launch

Posted by annastan on September 12th, 2016 | Comments Off

I can’t believe ONCE UPON A CRUISE comes out at the end of this month. That means I have a lot of prep work on my hands! In case you’re wondering, here are some things that authors often do when they’re getting ready to welcome a new book into the world.


-Setting up events. I have a few already planned (see my events page) and am working on booking more! I’m trying to do a mix of event types (panels, signings, conferences, etc) and spreading them out geographically to give people more options.

-Online presence. In the past I’ve done blog tours for my books, and while I don’t think those are quite as popular anymore, I’m still trying to do a little push to get my book more visible online. This includes a Goodreads giveaway of the book and a Twitter party on the official release date. And if anyone wants to feature my book on a blog post, podcast, or such, please let me know! :-)

-Swag. I happen to love bookmarks since they’re versatile and useful, so I either have bookmarks printed up or, if it’s an option, I get them from my publisher.

-Updating my website. This might sound obvious, but it’s really important to have your website be up-to-date. There’s nothing worse than seeing “coming soon” for a book that’s been out for a year! I’m sorry to say that I’m a bit of a slacker in this respect, but I’m hoping to do better!

-Writing. Huh? But isn’t the book finished? Yes, it is. But there’s a school of thought that says, “Each new book helps promote your last book,” and I think that’s true. So while I’m working on spreading the word about my latest project, I’m also working on new ideas.

What other prep do you do (or have you seen people do) for their new books?

Cover Reveal and Other News

Posted by annastan on July 26th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

I’m excited to share the cover of MATCH ME IF YOU CAN, the third book of the Switched at First Kiss series, coming out in January!

match cover

I should have another cover reveal soon for DOGOSAURUS REX, which will be coming out this winter. I’ve seen the almost final art by Kevin Hawkes and it’s AMAZING. I can’t wait for that book to make its way out into the world!

I’m also in the process of planning a book launch for ONCE UPON A CRUISE, coming out in September, so stay tuned! And I’ve just updated my Events Page, if you’re wondering where I’ll be in the coming months.

In writing news, for the first time in over five years, I don’t have any looming deadlines! It’s a little bit scary to be able to work on whatever I want, but I’ve also had some ideas that have been begging for my attention, so I’m excited to finally have a chance to dig into them. It’s also nice to take a day off once in a while, which feels like a major luxury after having a non-stop hectic schedule this past year.

I hope you’re all having a lovely summer! I’m managing to catch up on some reading, so I’ll be sharing some of my favorite reads soon.

Guest Post: Illustrating The Story Circle by Wendy Martin

Posted by annastan on June 12th, 2016 | 4 Comments »

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 wendymartinillustration.com. You can find The Story Circle on Amazon or on the publisher’s website.


Posted by annastan on May 3rd, 2016 | Comments Off

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

Posted by annastan on April 16th, 2016 | Comments Off

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.


Posted by annastan on March 18th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

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

Posted by annastan on March 4th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

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.