Lincoln Peirce is a cartoonist/writer and the creator of the comic strip Big Nate. It appears in more than two hundred U.S. newspapers and online daily at comics.com.

Lincoln Peirce lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Maine.

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Pen Pals

Sometimes, when people ask me about my friendship with Jeff Kinney, the author of the terrific Wimpy Kid books, I tell them about the letter-writing correspondence he and I kept going for a couple of years when Jeff was a college student and I was a newly-syndicated cartoonist.  Inevitably, during these explanations, I describe the two of us as “pen pals,” which is a phrase you don’t hear much anymore.  Nowadays, thanks to email and social networking, I guess virtual friendships are pretty much what pen pal friendships USED to be:  long-distance letter-writing relationships in which, quite often, you never even met the person you were corresponding with.

Well, I DID meet Jeff, of course, after he and I had exchanged letters for about a year.  But Jeff wasn’t my only pen pal.  I briefly had another one in fourth grade, a girl from Finland who may or may not have grown up to become the 1983 women’s javelin world champion.  But that’s a story for another day.

Currently, I have a pen pal — of the email variety — named Kozo.  Kozo is an elderly gentleman who lives in Japan, and he enjoys comics.  In fact, reading comics from America is part of Kozo’s ongoing efforts to improve his English.  But sometimes, the American sense of humor can get lost in translation.  When that happens, Kozo will write to me and include a jpeg of a cartoon or comic strip he’s having trouble understanding.  I do my best to explain, although sometimes I’m afraid my explanations might be more confusing than the original cartoon.

That’s why I’m showing you this “Blondie” strip that appeared in newspapers last Friday — because Kozo had questions about it. The subject heading of his email was “Proof of what?”  And here’s what his email said:

Hi Lincoln,
 
I enjoy Big Nate everyday and I thank you for that.
Now please explain to me Claudia's motif of taking the picture below.
The people of her office are suspicious of anything?
Today's driver guessed the motif?
 
Kozo

(Kozo later sent a second email explaining that when he used the word “motif,” he meant to use the word “motive.”)

Anyway, Kozo didn’t understand the strip.  Do you?  If Kozo were YOUR pen pal, what would you tell him?

Sun, 04/29/2012

Franklin Pierce

Recently, a sharp-eyed Big Nate reader asked me about page 4 of Big Nate Goes For Broke.  Mrs. Godfrey is, as Nate describes it, "babbling about some dead guy who wasn't a good enough president to get his picture on any money."  That president, as you might be able to see in the drawing shown here, was none other than Franklin Pierce.  The young man wanted to know:  why did I choose Franklin Pierce?  And am I related to Franklin Pierce?

Well, I'm not related to Franklin Pierce -- his name is spelled and pronounced differently than mine -- but I do feel a certain kinship with the man.  That's because Franklin Pierce was the only US president from New Hampshire.  As a boy growing up in New Hampshire, I was proud to learn that my home state had produced a president…until I started reading about Franklin Pierce, and discovered that he is generally considered one of the lamest presidents in US history!  So whenever I want to refer to a historical figure whose name is synonymous with failure, I always think of Franklin Pierce.  Big Nate obviously shares my low opinion of the 14th president.

Here's another Franklin Pierce story.  Years ago, I was living in Belmont, Massachusetts.  I landed a one-day job at a big hotel in Boston, where a huge meeting of insurance company executives was being held.  The day before the job, I was instructed to call the hotel and give the security staff my name so that they could print an ID badge for me.  I very clearly pronounced my first name, and provided the spelling of my last name.  The next morning, when I arrived at the hotel, there was no ID badge for Lincoln Peirce…but there WAS one for Franklin Pierce!  So for one day only, Franklin Pierce was my name.

Wed, 04/25/2012

Edits

I’ve just finished making some edits to chapter 6 of Big Nate Flips Out.  If you’ve ever written a paper or a book report for school, you probably know what it means to edit your first draft:  you pass in your report, and your teacher points out whatever problems there might be and suggests some possible changes you could make to improve your paper.  Then you re-write the report — or parts of it, anyway — and the result should be noticeably better than your first try.  (Unless your first draft was perfect, but that never happens!)

Whenever I’m editing, there are usually several different kinds of changes I need to make.  Sometimes, I need to “tighten” a paragraph — that means making a wordy section a little bit shorter.  Sometimes, I need to clarify something that might be difficult to understand.  Other times, I need to change some of the rough artwork — for example, in one drawing, I originally had Nate speaking, but I took away his speech bubble and gave it to Dee Dee.  And still other times, I just need to make a particular line or drawing funnier than it is.

I can’t tell you too much about chapter 6 — after all, this book is still 10 months away from arriving at your local bookstore or library! -- but I’ll let you know that these two playing cards play a role.  I realized as I was writing the chapter that people who use  cards for reasons OTHER than playing games probably know a lot more about cards than I do.  So I did a little research and, based what I found out, chose these two cards — the 7 of spades and the jack of hearts — to use in the chapter.  In case you’re curious:

The 7 of spades signifies loss of friendship or loss of a friend, an unexpected burden.  The jack of hearts signifies a good friend or a good-natured, fair-haired youth.  Now you know!

Sat, 04/21/2012

Greetings from Texas

Hi from Houston, Texas, everybody.  Just a quick blog entry to recap a couple of days spent here during the Texas Library Association annual meeting. 

I arrived on Monday evening, then spent Tuesday at the Beth Yushurun School here in Houston, home to one of the most impressive elementary school libraries I've ever seen.  Each year the Komorn family sponsors a Young Authors' Celebration in memory of their daughter, Deborah Komorn Baruch.  I spoke to 4 groups of kids, 2nd through 5th graders, and was honored to be included in this very special day.

Then today I was at TLA itself, held at the enormous Houston Convention Center.  After signing some books on the ground floor, I then moved upstairs to participate in a panel discussion called "Draw Me A Story."  There were five authors/illustrators included; besides me, there was Peter Brown, Adam Rex, Marc Burkhardt, and Paul O. Zelinsky.  Each of us spoke about our work and our methods of visual storytelling -- and by the way, this was the first time in my life I'd ever done a powerpoint presentation!  It was a real pleasure to meet my fellow panelists, all of whose work I know and admire. 

I'd like to thank all the great folks from HarperCollins and the TLA for inviting me to Houston this week.  I'll be back in Maine tomorrow, and back to work on BIG NATE FLIPS OUT!

Wed, 04/18/2012

Fish Stories

Happy Patriot's Day, everyone!  

Last summer, we had a new roof put on our house.  Why am I telling you this?  Because when roofers are climbing around on top of your house, pounding shingles, they create an enormous mess in your attic.  Dust, bits of shingle, nails, and slivers of wood are flying all over the place.  We covered everything with sheets of plastic before the roofers started, but there was still a lot of cleaning up to do.  And it wasn't until TODAY, months later, that I finally got around to that task.

We're like most people:  our attic is a.) very unorganized, and b.) filled with stuff we don't use anymore.  So in addition to sweeping up, I attempted to bring a little bit of order to the chaos.  Probably the items that needed the most attention were all the children's books that our kids have outgrown.  While I was moving them here and there, I came across a book that was one of our family's absolute favorites:  Fish Stories, by Nicholas Heller.  It was written in 1987, which was long before our kids were born, so we definitely didn’t buy the book when it was first written.  I think I might have bought it at a yard sale.

Anyway, it’s a very simple picture book for young children, and it contains three stories, each of which involves the narrator (the doggish-looking fellow in the checkered shirt), a wizard, and a fish.  In each story, the wizard tries to help the narrator catch a fish for supper.  But each time, the wizard just makes things worse.  Then he disappears, telling the narrator:  “there is no charge.”  It never failed to tickle our kids, and was a part of our going-to-bed routine for many years.  I particularly like the character of the wizard.  Like Nate’s cartoon creations, Dr. Cesspool and Moe Mentum, the wizard is sort of a klutz.  There’s always something funny about someone who THINKS he’s good at something, but really isn’t.

So if you find yourself at a yard sale and see a copy of Fish Stories, buy it!  You won’t be sorry!

Sun, 04/15/2012

"Comix By U!" Contest Winners

You may remember that back in March, I made an announcement right here on the bignatebooks blog about a fun opportunity for aspiring cartoonists -- or anyone who likes comics, for that matter:  the BIG NATE APP "COMIX BY U" CONTEST!  Night & Day Studios, the company that did such a great job creating the app, received a ton of entries and, after what must have been a very difficult judging process, has named two winners.

CONGRATULATIONS TO JACOB P AND MAGGIE H!  Wonderful job, both of you.  I don't know if either of you would describe yourself as an aspiring cartoonist; if not, I think you should start!  You each expertly combined many of the app's elements into a very imaginative finished product -- and the best part is, both of your strips are very, very funny!  

Many years ago, I remember creating a comic strip that was sort of like an app comic -- but in a totally low-tech way.  I found a couple of comic books that had slipped behind the back seat of my parents' car -- one was a "Walt Disney Comics and Stories" and the other was a "Little Lulu" -- and they were sort of crumpled and dirty.  Instead of throwing them away, though, I first went through them and cut out a lot of the images.  Then I taped a bunch of them into a comic grid and wrote some dialogue to go along with the pictures.  If memory serves, it was not an entirely successful experiment.  I think James P and Maggie H could have taught me a thing or two about making comics if they'd been around back then!

Congrats again to the winners, and thanks to everyone who entered.  That's all for now!

 

NOTE: Correction made to this post. The winner is Jacob P, not James P.  Sorry, Jacob!

Wed, 04/11/2012

Back in Maine!

Hi everyone, it's great to be back in Maine -- even if there were a few flakes of snow swirling around this morning when I walked the dog!  Not a huge surprise; April snowstorms happen up here.  Our daughter Dana was born on April 1st, 1997, during a blizzard.

By now, maybe you've read Big Nate Goes For Broke.  If you have, you’ll recognize this picture.  It’s from the part of the story where Nate visits his art teacher, Mr. Rosa, to ask for some advice.  I’d never drawn the inside of Mr. Rosa’s house (specifically, his kitchen), so I added a few visuals in the background to make it more fun.  Here’s what you see:

  • On top of the refrigerator are two figurines.  The first is a miniature lawn gnome (you remember the lawn gnomes from Big Nate On A Roll!), and the other is a seal.  A seal played a very large role in a cartoon I’ve told you about before, Spang Ho.  Plus, if you’ve played Big Nate Island on poptropica.com, you know that you can’t successfully complete your task without a little help from the seals!
  • On the front of the fridge is a WMPG magnet, with a little radio flexing its muscles underneath the letters.  WMPG is the radio station where I volunteer and host a country music show.
  • Below that is a bumper sticker from Doug’s Fish Fry in Skaneateles, New York.  
  • To the left of the bumper sticker you can see the lower half of a sign for what was one of my favorite record stores when I lived in New York City over 20 years ago:  Finyl Vinyl.  I don’t think it exists anymore.
  • Below that is a circular button that says “I’ve Got A Screw Loose,” with a picture of a screw in the middle.
  • To the right of that is a panel from a Little Nemo In Slumberland Sunday page, in which Nemo flies above the clouds in a hot-air balloon.
  • Then there are three art postcards — because Mr. Rosa’s an art teacher, after all!  They are a Picasso, a Goya, and a de Chirico.
  • And beneath that is a cartoon character I created and am still very fond of.  His name is Ali Ali.
  • Sitting at the table with Nate is Mr. Rosa’s dog, who has no name because I’d never drawn him until now.  And on the counter is a canister of instant cocoa mix.

That’s all for now.  I’m back on my regular blogging schedule!

Sun, 04/08/2012

From the Tour: The Final Day

Hi everyone, and welcome to the final day of the Big Nate Goes For Broke book tour!  I'm writing this entry on my laptop computer at LaGuardia Airport in New York, waiting to board the plane that will take me home to Maine.  It will be great to be home! 

It was quite a lengthy drive this morning from the hotel where I was staying to the school I visited.  It was called Lloyd Harbor School in Huntington, New York, and I have to confess that, until today, I didn't know where Huntington was.  The trip took awhile not because the school is so far away from Manhattan (my hotel was on 52nd Street), but because the traffic was pretty heavy.  So we rolled up to the front of the school with only a few minutes to spare! 

Traveling with me today was my beloved editor, Phoebe, and she very patiently sat through my presentation four times.  Also on hand were the school librarian, Maryellen DiCioccio, along with Nicole and Lauren from Book Revue, a wonderful and absolutely enormous bookstore in downtown Huntington.  Lloyd Harbor is a fantastic school, and it's much larger than it looks!  Without a little help, I would have been hopelessly lost looking for the library.  Anyway, I spoke to four different groups of third graders, and it was a great way to close out the book tour.  The kids were enthusiastic and happy to spend 40 minutes or so drawing cartoons.  A few of the students I met today were:  Kaya, Andrew, Julianne, Matthew, Liette, Liam, Grant, Eliza, Colin, Katherine, Isabelle, Sabrina, Edmund, and Arianna.  Thank you, Lloyd Harbor students, for such a fun day! 

Later it was on to Book Revue, where I spoke to a large and happy crowd of kids and parents.  We were a little concerned that I wouldn't be able to talk, answer questions, and sign books for everyone without being late for my flight (the last plane to Portland tonight), but we needn't have worried.  Nicole and Lauren kept the book-signing line moving with machine-like efficiency, and the traffic to the airport wasn't bad at all.  Which is why I have to sit here in the waiting area and write this blog! 

I'm now going to take a little bit of time off from the blog; I'll write my next entry on Sunday night, and it will be posted on Monday the 9th.  Thanks to everyone who followed along as I traveled from Illinois to Wisconsin to Minnesota to Maine to Florida to Virginia to Pennsylvania to New Jersey to New York.  That's all until next time!

Tue, 04/03/2012

From the Tour: Washington would have opted for low-tech, too.

In Big Nate Goes For Broke, Nate and his pals get an inside look at their rival school, Jefferson.  Well, today I was at a school named for a president -- but it wasn't Jefferson, it was George Washington Elementary School in Wyckoff, New Jersey.  Bob and Mary Brown, of Books, Bytes & Beyond in nearby Glen Rock, were instrumental in setting up this visit, and Jessica Telesmanich, the school's media specialist, kept everything running smoothly.  Thanks to all three of you!

When I arrived at the school, I was welcomed by some very nice Big Nate drawings the kids had done; my favorite was the one depicting Nate as a wizard, the school's mascot.  The only room large enough to accommodate the groups was the gym.  At first, it seemed I'd be doing the presentations with a document camera, but after some trial-and-error, we decided I'd use a good old-fashioned whiteboard.  (When given the choice, I'll always opt for the low-tech option!)  I set it up on the stage, and it was large enough so that all the kids could see it clearly.  I spoke to 6 groups of 3rd, 4th & 5th graders, all of whom had very high cartooning IQ's. There are many names to mention, so I'll list just a few of them here:  Rainey, Johnny, Greg, Paul, Taline, Mary, Sam, Will, Connor (a Big Nate expert!), Victoria, Clayton, Ashley, Urata, Riley, Mary, John, Alex, Bella, Nicholas, Mary Clare, Tim, Patrick, Nicholas, and Katherine with a K.  Great job, everyone!

After school, it was straight over to Books, Bytes & Beyond, where I signed a ton of books the kids from Washington School had pre-ordered.  Then I gave a short talk about Big Nate, telling the kids who probably hadn't heard of Big Nate until recently that he's actually been around for 21 years!  There were some great questions from the audience, like this one:  how do you write the books?  Well, the short answer is that I start by writing out some ideas on a clipboard; then, once I've got a chapter about half-written, I start typing it out on my computer, leaving room for the drawings.  And finally, I do some cutting and pasting -- with real scissors and double-stick tape -- to put each chapter together.

Tomorrow:  the final day of the tour!

Mon, 04/02/2012

From the Tour: Philadelphia Fun

Hi everyone, here's a recap of my past couple of days in the Philadelphia area:

I spent the day Friday at Edgewood Elementary in Yardley, Pennsylvania, speaking to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.  The librarian, Jenn Schlosberg, kept everything moving like clockwork, and I did six sessions -- helped, as always, by a great group of kids.  Thanks very much to all the kids who helped, answered questions, and in some cases demonstrated their cartooning skills on the whiteboard:  Caroline, Alec, Layne, Quinn, Sean, Graham, John, Julia, Heather, Sofia, Skayina, Daniel, Kendall, Jordan, Sara, Russell, Josh, Jake, Skyler, and Grace.  Thanks also to the kids who introduced me at the start of each session:  Ben, Ryan, Kylie, Jake, Tommy, and Georgia.  All the kids at Edgewood were on their best behavior...and they bought a lot of Big Nate books, too!

Later that evening, with the help of Bari Jo Davis, I spoke to a nice crowd of folks at the Barnes & Noble.  Almost 80 kids got a raffle ticket for a chance to win a signed Big Nate t-shirt.  This crowd was probably more boy-heavy than most; probably over 70 of those 80 kids were boys.  But it was a girl, Emily, who won the t-shirt.  So it was appropriate that I took the time to mention that one of my goals in BIG NATE GOES FOR BROKE was to introduce a girl character who plays a positive role in the story -- the amazing Dee Dee!  A huge thank you goes out to Bari Jo, her two daughters, and the other folks from Barnes & Noble -- Jen, Barb, and Kathleen -- for all their help.  

On Saturday, I had a good part of the day free to get caught up on some work.  But I took a few hours in the middle of the day to visit a bookstore I've been to before:  Children's Book World in Haverford.  Heather Hebert, who arranged some school visits for me during an earlier tour, welcomed me back to the store, where I spoke to a happy rainy-day crowd of kids and parents.  Owen won himself a Big Nate t-shirt, and a lot of kids had great questions.  My favorite was:  what happens if you make a mistake and it gets into one of the books?  My answer was that there are a lot of people at HarperCollins working very hard to make sure that any mistakes I might make -- whether it's a spelling mistake or an art mistake -- DON'T get into any books.  I make art mistakes more frequently than other kinds, but I'm pretty sure none of them made it into GOES FOR BROKE.

Tomorrow I'll take the train to New York.  Then it's just two more days, and I'll be back in Maine!

Sat, 03/31/2012