Shelli R. Johannes' CECE LOVES SCIENCE

Shelli R. Johannes and I are friends from way back, so I've watched her struggle and succeed with her publishing career. Therefore, I'm thrilled to share her first picture book, CECE LOVES SCIENCE written with Kimberly Derting and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. I asked her some questions about it...
e: What is your creative process, can you walk us through it?
I usually get an idea quick from something someone says or something I see. I always come up with a synopsis first to see if the story is developed enough in my head. Then I move to a synopsis. If it makes it past that stage, I can see where it is going and outline the whole book. Needless to say I have a lot of synopsis that never made it past that phase. But I can always go back if the spark comes again.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
I don’t know much about Illustrations, but I know that i love to feel something when I look at the art in stories. I will say Vashti brought art and so much heart to our story. WE looked through so many illustrators and when our publisher finally presented Vashti (who was new to publishing at the time), we knew immediately that she was the one. We emailed our editor back within minutes saying “YES YES please”. We did not know then that Vashti’s star was rising so high but we are not surprised. Her art has so much heart.
      CECE is everything Kim and I imagined. Vashti brought CECE to life. So right now, to me, Heart Art = Vashti Harrison :)
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
For CECE, My daughter mentioned that she didn’t want to go to science camp because it was for boys! What?! This immediately sparked an idea: “How do we get young girls to focus on science and math instead of being pretty and fancy.” The idea off a “Fancy Nancy Loves Science” came to mind.
      I first pitched the idea spoke to my critique partner (and best friend) Kimberly Derting. As a biology major, she was excited about the idea and we decided to do it together. The book went through many iterations before submission and even after selling. We are thrilled with where CECE ended up today.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I love that I can make up my own people and places and stories. I get to be Gaia for a day create my own worlds and histories and relationships. I get to think about who I want to be, who I am, and what I want to talk about in the world.
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I think it’s important that we encourage our girls to be smart and sassy (before pretty and obedient) and our boys to be emotional and loving (before strong and sporty). I love that CECE is strong and sassy and knows that science is important and fun! I hope it encourages more kids to love science and to focus on the world around them.

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I am working on another YA thriller. I would love to break out traditionally in that market. But mostly, I hope our publisher wants more CECE books because I think this book has an important message and a lot of heart.

e: I look forward to more!

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