This Joy! by Shelley Johannes

Hi, Shelley Johannes! I’m writing this message from 30,000 feet above Nebraska! I want to stand up and shout out, “THIS JOY!!!!” Oh, your book contains so many moments of joy—big and small. I love it so much! JOY is a word I come back to all the time. It guides me. It is always on my mind. It is a compass in my life. What planted the seed for This Joy!?

Shelley Johannes: Hi, Mr. Schu!!! Thank you! And thank you so much for having me here. When I think of you, JOY is the first word that comes to mind! It makes me happy to see you getting to take flight again, experiencing new joys, and spreading it far and wide.

The beginnings of This Joy! sprouted while I was picking up art supplies to make my first picture book, More Than Sunny! I was driving down the road, listening to music, and feeling incredibility overwhelmed with gratitude to be alive and doing what I love. There’s a reoccurring image that comes to mind when I feel a burst of joy like this. I picture myself standing in a field with arms wide-open, wanting to hug the whole world . . . but my arms aren’t big enough. The first half of the book poured out as I drove home, and I knew I really wanted to make a book about feeling unable to adequately express the size of the joy in my heart.

Oh, that's magical! What materials did you use to make the joyful art?

Shelley Johannes: The artwork was created with pencil, markers, pastels and lots of tracing paper. At the end of the process, I layered everything together in Photoshop. I spent three months with messy, colorful hands—and it was joyfully chaotic!

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Joy is gratitude too big to measure. For me, it’s the undercurrent of life that bubbles up when I drink in all the little gifts that each day brings.

I think picture books are perfect joy-pointers! They remind me to pause and take notice of the beauty all around me.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what I’m working on these days!

I’m in that exciting liminal space between projects right now. I’ve been spending lots of time making art and playing with possibilities and new ideas. The 100 Day Project just kicked off, and this year I’m joining the creative party by drawing 100 Days of Joy! If any fellow joy-lovers would like to follow along, you can find me on Instagram as @shelleyjohannes!

Thank you for the joyful conversation, Shelley! Congratulations on This Joy! 

Shelley Johannes is the author-illustrator of the Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker chapter book series. A former architectural designer, she has a fondness for tracing paper, process, and accidental discoveries. She and her family live in Michigan with two feathered friends, Max and Alex, who make every day sunny and birdy. More Than Sunny was her debut picture book.

Look for This Joy! on October 4, 2022. Pre-order here


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