Monday, September 28, 2015

The Lovely Lisa (Lionheart) Cinar and a Prize!

I met Lisa Cinar at the SCBWI Canada West conference last year. She had a fantastic intensive workshop for the Illustrators. I don't think I've ever worked that hard in two hours, but I learned and did more in that time that I had that entire week! If you need to hire someone for a workshop or presentation then she is the person to hire.

Lisa is educator at Emily Carr University (Vancouver BC) for both Writing and Illustrating picture books. She both wrote and illustrated Paulina P.(for Petersen) and The Day It All Blew Away which won the BC Book Prize!

She has lots of great samples of her work on her website, plus some fun coloring pages. If you haven't seen Lisa's Shop "Draw Me a Lion" then you have to go! It's a lot of fun to explore. While you're at it-- buy me a Lion!

Check the end of this interview for a great prize from Russ Cox!


Dani: How did you get started in Picture Books?

Lisa: I was always drawn to beautifully illustrated books since as far back as I can remember. Not just books either, I was just a big fan of any images that I really liked from when I was a little kid to now being a 'grown up', whatever that means. I remember taking a class taught by the talented Celia King at Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design in Book Art Media. We made books that were one-of-a-kind art objects and learned different binding techniques, but we also briefly talked about publishing. Celia was a great teacher and I think it was in her class that I realized that I had always been drawn to picture books and that I wanted to try making one.

After I graduated school I wrote & illustrated my first picture book and then showed it to her for advise how to go about the publishing process. She suggested I look at books that I love and check out who publishes them. I did that and then I submitted my dummy book. When the publisher I had sent it to got back to me I was above the moon!

Dani: What is the most important thing you've learned in the PB industry?

Lisa: Determination! I think it's really easy for people to get discouraged because there is a lot of rejection in this field. The important thing is to realize that just because you haven't heard back from a publisher or art director doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't interested in your work. There are so many other factors to consider such as the timing of your submission in their publishing cycle, the fact that publishers only publish so many books a year and also something really obvious but easily forgotten... They are super busy people. They might just not have the time to shoot you an email back. Just dust yourself off, and try again. Get some thick skin! ;)

Dani: Has teaching changed how you approach Picture Books?

Lisa: Yes, I definitely think so! I have been teaching for five years now and having had the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for picture books with other like minded folks has nourished my love for the medium even more. I hope to inspire my students, but my students also inspire me. It's great that w

Also breaking down aspects of the creative process of creating a dummy book for my class really makes me understand my own processes even more than before. On the other hand I always stress in my class that while people's end results (ie. a physical dummy book) might look very much the same in terms of it's layout etc, everyone's creative process will vary. So far every time I have approached a story or book project the process has been slightly different. I think that realizing that this is a normal part of the process and in fact an important part of making each book unique is a great thing to have under your wing, instead of second doubting yourself for never being able to stick to a 'more regimented how-to-manual' so to speak.

Dani: What is the biggest challenge you find your students have with creating Dummies or Illustrations?

Lisa: I think the biggest challenge most students have is a mental hurdle vs a technical one. I see a lot people approach picture books assignments in a stereotypical 'kid-style'. I try to stress in my classes that instead of making illustrations that you think 'look like picture book illustrations for kids' you should just focus on making beautiful illustrations that you enjoy creating and looking at. I think that if you try to develop a 'kid-style' before you have actually developed a personal style of any sorts to start with, it can look forced. In order to achieve this I try to get them to have fun with the assignments. If you aren't having fun creating the illustrations try a different medium, scale, character or subject matter and start over. The love you have for your work shines through! Sounds cheesy but I really believe it's true!

Dani: Do you have any tips for those finishing up their Dummies?


A) Yes! Be PROUD! It's hard work to make and finish a dummy book from scratch and stay committed! Make someone buy you a drink! You deserve it! :)

B) Be smart about who you send it to! Do your research on publishers and don't just blindly send it out. Look at and closely follow their submission guidelines. Every publishers is slightly different.

C) This is probably the most obvious sounding advise, but having followed up with a lot of my students I know that it's also the BEST advise I am going to give you! It's simply this: Don't forget to actually SUBMIT your dummy book! So many times once all the work has been done and the course is over, students start to second guess themselves. "What if it's not good enough"? "What if they don't like it?" "What if I never hear back?". Sure, there is always a chance you don't hear back, but the only way you're guaranteed to never hear back is if you never send it in the first place! So your chances are really muuuuuch better if you do;)

Make yourself a submission deadline in your calendar and then make that friend who bought you a drink for making a dummy book buy you another one for mailing it;) Best of luck to all of you and have fun!


All Illustrations in this blog post were created lovingly by THE Lisa Cinar!

Follow Lisa:

Blog Lisa Created for Her Illustration Class:
Lisa's Shop: "Draw Me a Lion" 
Lisa's Books:



One lucky winner of Smart Dummies will receive two SIGNED books in Puppy Pirates Series Illustrated and donated by Russ Cox! (Written by Erin Soderberg Downing. These can only be mailed in the US. Please comment on this post so I know you want these books!


  1. Thanks for the encouragement! I'm sitting on a few WIPs - sometimes it's hard to tell when you're not submitting because it's not quite ready or if you're just not feeling brave.
    Will definitely be ordering The Day it All Blew Away at my local library!

  2. Thank you for sharing, Lisa. Your style is very unique. I love it.

  3. I really enjoyed this and it was very helpful to remember about timing, the publishers needs, and to remember to attach!! I have forgotten!

  4. Really enjoyed these tips. Thanks for all this advice.

  5. Love your style Lisa! Adding a submission calendar to the top of my list of things to do.

  6. Such fun pictures! they're crazy!