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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Thanks, Mom!

You’re reading this entry on Monday — or whenever you happen to get around to it — but I’m writing it on Sunday night.  I just spent a very nice Mother’s Day with my parents, who drove up from their home in New Hampshire to visit with us today.  I hope all of you had just as nice a Mother’s Day as we did.

It’s the perfect time for me to mention that my mom has always been a big supporter of my cartooning.  She’s never really been a comics reader, but she was delighted when “Big Nate” started appearing in her hometown newspaper, the Foster’s Daily Democrat in Dover, New Hampshire.  She clipped every single strip for twelve years, and she kept them all in scrapbooks.  Then, when the newspaper dropped my strip from its comics page, she canceled her subscription.  Now that’s a mom!

I think I’ve only included my mom in a comic strip once in my life.  In “Third Floor,” the comic strip I did during my college years, the main character, Jerry Price, was autobiographical.  He was an art major (like I was), and he had sort of a zany roommate (I had a couple of those), etc. etc.  Anyway, one time I wrote a joke about Parents Weekend.  (That’s a special weekend when colleges and universities invite parents to visit their kids on campus).  In the strip, Jerry forgets it’s Parents Weekend, until he rolls out of bed, looking all unwashed and unshaven, and discovers his parents in his very messy dorm room.  I’d never drawn Jerry’s parents before, so I decided I’d just draw cartoon versions of my own parents.  I’d drawn my dad before — with his brushcut and glasses, he was sort of fun to draw — but I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’d ever drawn my mom.  

BIG NATE UPDATE:  It took a little longer than I would have liked, because there were some extra drawings I had to do for some special promotions, but I’ve finally started writing Book 4, Big Nate Goes For Broke.  I’m about halfway through Chapter 1.  Keep checking in for more updates!

Mon, 05/09/2011

Big Nate the World Traveler

Big Nate is becoming a real world traveler!  A few months ago I showed you what Big Nate in Spanish looked like; recently a friend sent me photos of Big Nate in a bookstore window in Italy; another friend forwarded photos of Big Nate books being sold on the street in Shanghai.  So far, Nate’s been translated into twenty languages, which is very exciting.  Anyway, here’s the latest example of Nate going international:  Big Nate playing cards...in Chinese!

These cards are part of the Mandarin Chinese edition of Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself.  The book includes not only the entire story in Mandarin, but also the whole story in English...along with a complete set of Big Nate playing cards.  The blue-and-yellow side of the card is what the cover of the book looks like, and the other side of the card is some sort of saying or excerpt from the book.  I think the cards are great.  Anyone for a game of “Go Fish”?

A big thank you to all of you who voted for Big Nate for a Children’s Choice Book Award.  Nate didn’t win, losing out to  Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid, but that’s okay.  I don’t mind losing to a great writer like Rick — who, by the way, was also presented with the Author of the Year Award.  Congratulations, Rick, and thanks again to everyone for supporting Big Nate!
Thu, 05/05/2011

Now and Then


Recently on this blog I’ve shown you pictures of what some of the Big Nate characters USED to look like vs. what they look like now.  You’ve been able to compare early Gina to current Gina, early Coach Calhoun to current Coach Calhoun, and I’ve explained some of the steps I went through to create Chad.  The bottom line is, people’s drawing styles change over time, and I draw differently today than I did in years past.  Well, if that’s true, then the way NATE draws must have changed too, right?  

The drawing you see here is over twenty years old, and it’s one of Nate’s notebook creations.  It shows Mrs. Godfrey walking Nate to his locker; it was part of a story in which Nate’s forgotten his homework.  He tells Mrs. Godfrey he’s left it in his locker.  But instead of simply telling him to bring it in after school or the next day, Mrs. Godfrey insists on escorting Nate to his locker and watching with her own eyes as he retrieves the homework.  He can’t find it, of course, because he never did it in the first place.  After trying to bribe Mrs. Godfrey with an apple he finds in the pile of garbage exploding out of his locker, Nate ends up in detention for a week.

Do you think Nate’s style has changed?  I think it has — maybe not as much as my own, but there are some real differences.  Compare the way Nate draws himself here to a drawing from Big Nate Strikes Again.  His body has very different proportions, and his hair looks like a brush cut instead of the spiky way he draws it now.  Nate also drew hands with only three fingers back then; now he draws them with four.  Mrs. Godfrey looks different, too, mostly because of her enormous nose.  She looks mean, though, no matter WHEN Nate draws her.  That will never change!

Here’s one last reminder to cast your vote for Big Nate for a Children’s Choice Book Award!  You can vote by clicking here:  http://www.bookweekonline.com/voting

Mon, 05/02/2011

Anton

Hi, everyone.  There’s less than a week left to cast your vote for Big Nate for a Children’s Choice Book Award!  If you haven’t seen the “vote now” button on the Big Nate home page, you can cast your vote by clicking here:  http://www.bookweekonline.com/voting

Over the past few months, as I was cranking out several hundred drawings for Big Nate On A Roll, I sometimes got a little bored.  But there are always ways to keep things interesting.  For one thing, you can sneak things into the backgrounds.  Maybe “sneak” isn’t the right word.  I’m not trying to HIDE anything in my drawings.  But sometimes, if I’m working on a complicated background and I want to break up the monotony, I’ll insert something that has some sort of personal significance.  Often, it’s a character from a project I’ve done in the past — like the character shown here.  His name is Anton, and a number of years ago I wrote some short animated cartoons featuring Anton and his brother, Gregor.  Anton’s fun to draw, and I put him in at least two drawings in On A Roll.  So when you buy the book in August, see if you can find Anton in the background!

I’ve always thought I was a pretty decent speller, but tonight I found out that’s not necessarily the case.  I was part of a spelling bee team at a fundraiser for our son’s crew team, and I misspelled the word “rutabaga.”  I thought it was spelled “rutebaga.”  Or maybe “rutabega.”  Needless to say, our team didn’t make it to the final round.

That’s all until next time!
Thu, 04/28/2011

Sneak Peek

At the end of my most recent blog entry, I told you I’d finished all the drawings for the final chapter of Big Nate On A Roll, but that there was still a little bit of work left to be done.  One part of that work was a “sneak peek.”  

I don’t remember this in children’s books back when I was a kid, but nowadays it’s not at all unusual for a book — especially a book that’s part of an ongoing series, like Big Nate — to include a sneak peek at the end to give the reader an idea of what’s to come in the NEXT book.  Sometimes the entire first chapter of Book 5 will appear at the end of Book 4; or it might be just an excerpt, or a description of the plot of the book to come.  In Big Nate Boredom Buster, there is a 2-page sneak peek, written in Nate’s own words, about Big Nate On A Roll.  And this weekend, for the end of On A Roll, I had to write a 2-page sneak peek about Big Nate Goes For Broke.  There’s only one problem:  I haven’t even written Big Nate Goes For Broke yet!

But that’s okay.  Even though I’m not entirely sure how the story will go, I have enough of an idea to write a sneak peek.  I know the story will somehow follow the rivalry between Nate’s school, P.S. 38, and another middle school called Jefferson.  So when writing the sneak peek, I used Nate’s words to describe his frustration about Jefferson’s domination of P.S. 38.  I tried not to include anything too specific, because what if some of the details of the story were to change by the time I finished writing it?  I wouldn’t want kids to read the sneak peek and expect a story about hang gliding, then read the book and find instead a story about mini golf.  So I focused on Nate’s feelings instead of on specific events.

And by the way...Big Nate Goes For Broke isn’t about hang gliding OR mini golf!

Mon, 04/25/2011

Fractions and Dates

Today’s question comes from Molly from Southern Oaks Elementary School.  Here’s what Molly wrote in a recent letter:

I just had a book fair and bought your new book, “Big Nate From The Top.”  While I was reading, I saw a fraction in one comic on each page.  In the corner of one comic there was a nine over a seven.  Then I turned the page and in the next comic there was a nine over an eight, then nine over nine and nine over ten.  And it keeps going ‘til nine over thirty, then switches to ten over one.  I have no idea what you are doing, but I hope you could tell me why you are doing this.

For those of you who haven’t read Big Nate From The Top, it’s a collection of Big Nate comic strips that were previously published in newspapers.  The numbers Molly noticed may LOOK like fractions, but they’re not; they are the dates on which each strip originally appeared.  A nine over a seven, for example, indicates the ninth month (September) and the seventh day.  In the drawing shown here, you can see what Molly noticed:  in the lower right-hand corner, there’s a three over a ten.  This tells you that this comic strip originally appeared in newspapers on March 10th.  But March 10th of what year?  Well, just look to the right of the panel, and you’ll see something called a “copyright line.”  It might be too small for you to read, but it includes the number 2007.  So now we know EXACTLY when this strip was in the newspaper:  March 10th, 2007.  All comic strips have a date on them somewhere.  Sometimes, in book collections, the dates are covered up or erased.  But if you check the comics page in your local newspaper, you’ll find dates tucked away somewhere in every single strip.

Speaking of book collections...the next Big Nate collection, Big Nate Out Loud, goes on sale in less than a week.  Look for it at your local bookstore!

And finally...late on Wednesday night, I finally finished the final drawing of the last chapter of Big Nate On A Roll.  I still have to do the endpapers and one other small drawing, but chapters 1 through 11 are completely done!

Thu, 04/21/2011

Chad

Happy Patriot’s Day!  If you’ve never heard of Patriot’s Day, I’m not necessarily surprised.  It’s a holiday that’s observed only in Massachusetts and Maine (which used to be part of Massachusetts).  If you’d like to learn more about it, here’s a link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriots'_Day

And now, on to the blog entry, and today’s subject is:  Chad!  If you’re like me, there are certain names that have very specific associations.  Usually that’s because you’ve met  someone, or you know someone very well, who has that particular name.  Well, I’ve never really known anyone named Chad.  But for some reason, the name has always reminded me of a certain kind of person:  a pudgy, mild-mannered, but ultimately cheery and lovable sort of young man.  So nine or ten years ago, whenever I needed a character like that to finish a joke in the comic strip, I started drawing a kid who more or less matched the image in my mind.  I never really intended Chad to become a permanent character in the comic strip or the books, so I never drew him the same way twice.  Sometimes he had freckles, sometimes he didn’t.  Sometimes he had straight hair, sometimes curly.  Once or twice, he had glasses.  In the drawing inside the box shown here (from 2004), he’s definitely pudgy, and he’s got the same dimpled smile that the current Chad has...but otherwise, you might not recognize him as Chad.

Anyway, finally I decided that Chad deserved a bigger role as one of Nate’s classmates and friends...which meant I needed to decide, once and for all, what Chad was going to look like.  I made a couple of minor tweaks at first, but eventually I settled on his current appearance.  Chad’s fun to draw.  I enjoy his facial expressions, which usually reflect some sort of cheerfulness and/or bewilderment.  

Even though Chad had been part of the comic strip for several years, when I introduced him in Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself, I decided to treat him as if he were a brand-new character.  When Nate spots him in the lunchroom, he even gets Chad’s name wrong!  (Trivia question:  do you remember what Nate mistakenly calls Chad?)  I’m hoping to give Chad more to do in future books, so keep reading!

Mon, 04/18/2011

Thalia Kids Book Club Event at Symphony Space

Hi again, everyone.  As promised, today I’ll tell you all about my Thalia Kids Book Club presentation on Sunday afternoon at Symphony Space in New York.  I had a great time and want to thank a lot of people:  everyone at Symphony Space for making me feel so welcome; Matthew Cody, author of Powerless, for conducting the interview; and of course all the kids and their families who attended the event.  The place was packed!

To start things off, Matthew asked me a few questions about Big Nate, and then I talked about my fascination with comics when I was a kid.  I spoke about the visual language of comics and, with the help of my friend Tibeau and a small whiteboard, I gave a quick demonstration of some cartooning signs and symbols.  Then I used a document camera to show the kids some drawings I did when I was in middle school.  I think it was pretty clear to most of the audience that I wasn’t the world’s greatest artist back then (or now, for that matter!), and I told them that was one reason I loved comics:  you don’t have to be a great artist to be a cartoonist.  In any comic book, comic strip, or graphic novel, the story is the most important piece.  If you can enhance your story with great-looking artwork, that’s wonderful.  But in cartooning, you can tell compelling stories without being Picasso.

An essential part of the Thalia Kids Book Club series is a writing exercise for the kids.  The author gives the audience a “prompt,” and then all the kids (who’ve been given a pencil and paper at the start of the show) write something in response.  The picture shown here was part of my prompt.  It’s actually a drawing that will appear in Big Nate On A Roll.  Nate, looking carefree and happy, is taking Spitsy on a walk.  He asks himself:  “What could go wrong?”  I asked the kids to imagine what might happen in the moments after Nate asks himself that question, and then write about it.  After 6 or 8 minutes of work time, the kids then had the chance to share what they’d written.  They were very creative.  In one scenario, Nate slams into a telephone pole.  In another, Spitsy gets lost and Nate must face Spitsy’s angry owner, Mr. Eustis.  And in another, Nate and Spitsy are attacked by a great white shark.  There were also a lot of stories that ended with Nate landing in some dog poop.  Poor Nate.

The final part of the program was a Q&A with the audience, and the kids had some great questions. The nicest part for me was seeing how well the kids knew the first two Big Nate books and how familiar they were with all the characters.  And speaking of characters, one boy who’d read the Big Nate On A Roll sneak peek I wrote (it’s in the back of Big Nate Boredom Buster, the activity book that went on sale yesterday), wondered who the “mystery character” was who’s going to play a big part in that book.  Who do you think it might be?

After that, I signed books in the Symphony Space café and had the chance to meet all the kids face to face.  Thanks once again to everyone who came to the event, and I hope to see you again soon.  Maybe I’ll visit your school during my next book tour!

Thu, 04/14/2011

Big Nate Surpasses All Others!

Hi, everyone.  Today’s entry is a real short one — not because I don’t have a lot to tell you about, but because my family and I just got back to Maine from New York City, and after unpacking, grocery shopping, and catching up on emails, I don’t have the time tonight to give you all the details of the Thalia Kids Book Club event at Symphony Space.  So here’s what I’ll do:  in my NEXT entry, which will be posted on Thursday, I’ll tell you everything about my afternoon at Symphony Space.  For today, I’ll just pass along one piece of very exciting news.

Do you remember my telling you a while back that Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself had been nominated for a Kiddos Award?  ReadKiddoRead is an idea hatched by the author James Patterson, and its goal is to get kids of all ages — especially those who are reluctant readers — excited about books.  Ten books were nominated in each category, and kids cast their votes.  And the results are in!  I’m  very pleased and proud to say that Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself was the winner in the “pageturner” category.  If you were one of those kids who voted for Big Nate, THANK YOU!  If you’d like to watch a video about the awards, here’s a link:

http://www.readkiddoread.com/uploads/kiddos.php

That’s all for this time.  More on Thursday!

Tue, 04/12/2011

Meet Me in New York

Hi everyone.  This will be my last blog entry — and kind of a short one -- before I leave for New York City on Saturday morning.  If any of you are planning to come to my talk at Symphony Space on Sunday afternoon, I look forward to meeting you and answering whatever questions you have about Big Nate, cartooning, writing books, or anything else on your mind.

I spent some time today recording videos that will eventually be posted on poptropica.com as part of the “Creators’ Clips” section.  These clips were described to me as “video blogs”; ideally, they will provide a behind-the-scenes look at how I write the Big Nate books and comic strip, and show people what a typical work day is like, what my office looks like, and so on.  Unfortunately for me, that meant cleaning my office — a monumental job.  But on the bright side, I found a hat I’d been missing for about six months.

One of the videos I shot today was about my dog, Scout.  (See picture.  Isn’t she glamorous?)  Frankly, she wasn’t very cooperative.  I tried to get her to sit still on my lap while I talked to the flip-cam, but she wanted no part of it.  Plus, I had planned to give her a haircut before putting her on camera, but I just didn’t have time.  So she’s looking pretty shaggy.  Eventually, I ended up shooting some footage of her out in the yard, eating a stick.  Yes, she eats sticks.  She also eats acorns and pencils.  Scout’s probably more like Spitsy than I’d like to admit!

Thu, 04/07/2011