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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Day Two of the the Big Nate Book Tour

Many thanks to the amazing Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Illinois!  Anderson's sponsored the school visits I made during the past two days, and then tonight they hosted me for a "chalk talk" and book signing at the store in downtown Naperville.  More on that shortly!

My first stop of the day was at HC Storm Elementary School in Batavia.  What a nice atmosphere:  while I was preparing for my presentations in the cafeteria, the school's musical director was leading choral practice in an adjoining room.  It was a treat to hear the beautiful singing.  There's a lot of musical talent at HC Storm.  And a lot of CARTOONING talent, too.  I spoke to two groups of fifth graders, and they did some great drawings.  All the students had their own personal-sized erasable whiteboards, which worked very well.  They could draw right along with me as I worked on the large board, and they didn't have to worry about breaking their pencils.  Thanks to Jared and Liam for being my helpers, and a tip of the cap to Bianca for her impressive cartooning knowledge.  And Emma got herself a Big Nate t-shirt.

From there it was on to the Lane School in Hinsdale, where I reacquainted myself with one of the world's great inventions:  the document camera!  It works sort of like an overhead projector, but it's better.  The camera takes a picture of whatever you're writing or drawing, and projects that image onto a large screen.  I was able to lay a small whiteboard directly under the camera and do my presentation that way.  I'm not usually a person who embraces new technologies, but in this case I was more than happy to.  The document camera makes speaking to larger groups much easier for everyone.  I spoke to three groups of third graders, and they were fantastic.  I met too many kids to mention them all by name, but here's a special hello to Emmanuelle, Nina, and Emma. 

This evening I had a wonderful time speaking to a crowd of about 50 people at Anderson's.  I spoke about some of the challenges involved in transforming Nate from a comic strip character into the protagonist of a chapter book series.  I did some drawing on an easel.  And I answered a number of questions from kids and their parents.  Each kid who attended was given a Big Nate t-shirt, and Jan from Anderson's took several group pictures of the kids wearing their t-shirts and holding up copies of their Big Nate books.  We're hoping to get one or more of those pictures on the blog soon.  A special thank you to Tyler Flanders!  Tyler left football practice 10 minutes early so he could get to Anderson's in time to get a signed book.  Now that's a Big Nate fan!

Tue, 10/19/2010

Day One of the Big Nate Book Tour

Hello from Chicago!  Or, to be more exact:  Naperville, Illinois.  Of all the stops on this tour, Naperville is the only place I also visited on my FIRST tour, and it's great to be back.

My first stop was Horace Mann Elementary School in Oak Park.  There's something great about an old school building, and I learned that this particular school was built in the 1920's.  I did two presentations there this morning and got a lot of help from two very cooperative third graders, Izabel and Nia.  The kids were very excited -- some because they've been waiting to read Big Nate Strikes Again, and others because they're just now discovering Big Nate.  So those kids will be reading BOTH Big Nate books!   During my second presentation, Sam proved particularly knowledgable about comics, and Hugh got himself a Big Nate t-shirt.

On the way to my next school, I drove to the home and studio of the great architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.  Horace Mann Elementary is located in a very historic neighborhood, and many of the homes in the area are Wright designs.  Just a little info for you architecture fans out there!

In the afternoon, I first ate lunch with some fourth and fifth graders at Whiteley Elementary School in Hoffman Estates.  Then I spoke to two groups of sixth graders, who had some great questions.  One was:  who's the toughest character to draw?  The answer is:  Nate's Dad.  It can be challenging to get his bald head and beard just right.  These same sixth graders had made me feel very welcome when I first arrived:  there was an enormous Big Nate display in the school lobby, and all the kids had drawn their own versions of Big Nate.  There's a lot of cartooning talent in that school!  I want to give a special shout-out to Brian, who did a fantastic drawing of Nate to form the "o" in the "Welcome Lincoln Peirce" banner.  Thanks, Brian!

And here was a first:  I was interviewed on the school's closed-circuit TV station at the end of the day!  Thomas, a sixth grader who conducted the interview, did a wonderful job.  He was a total pro.  Thanks for the interview, Thomas.  And thanks also to all the teachers and librarians who made my visits today so much fun. 

More tomorrow!

Mon, 10/18/2010

Big News for Big Nate Books 1, 2, and 3!

Hi everyone.  Just a VERY short entry today, because I’m in the last stages of getting ready to go on my book tour for Big Nate Strikes Again.  And with my departure creeping ever closer, the amount of work remaining to be done before I leaves seems to grow more daunting.

But I’m making progress!  About half an hour ago, I finished writing book 3, Big Nate On A Roll.  Of course, I’m not really “finished.”  There will be many small changes, and maybe even a few major ones, yet to come.  Once I return from my tour, I’ll start doing the artwork.  

I also learned today that book 1, Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself, has staying power.  During the Spring and Summer, it spent a total of 19 weeks on the New York Times Children’s Chapter Book Best Seller list.  It dropped out of the top 10 a few weeks ago...and then, suddenly, today it reappeared at #8!  Thanks to the wonderful readers who buy the books, and to the wonderful bookstores where they are sold.

I’ll be writing short blog entries from the road beginning on Monday.  Stay tuned!

Thu, 10/14/2010

Exaggeration and Simplification

This morning I received an email from Krystyna, who lives in Denver, Colorado.  Krystyna writes:  my brother and I just ordered the Big Nate book “I Smell A Pop Quiz.”  Why is it called that?

Krystyna, the book you’re asking about is a collection of Big Nate comic strips.  One of the storylines in the comic strip involved a sort of “sixth sense” of Nate’s:  if a teacher is planning a pop quiz, Nate can smell it as soon as he enters the classroom.  Like many fictional characters, Nate has some traits that are highly exaggerated.  In real life, kids may be able to sense it when a teacher is planning something unexpected; but they can’t actually SMELL it like Nate can.  

“Exaggeration” is a word I often use when I visit schools and talk to kids about Big Nate.  Big Nate is a cartoon character, and exaggeration is a huge part of cartooning.  The features of cartoon characters are frequently exaggerated (big ears, big noses, etc.); and the ACTION in comic strips, comic books, and cartoons is highly exaggerated.  You only need to watch a Roadrunner & Coyote cartoon to understand that there is plenty of over-the-top action in the cartooning world that is impossible in real life.  Or think about the way the contents of Nate’s locker explode in Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself.  Even those of us who have very messy lockers (or closets, or desks) do not find ourselves literally buried under a pile of debris every time we try to gain entry.

The other word I use during school visits is “simplification.”  Almost without exception, cartoon drawings are simpler, less detailed versions of objects or people we observe in real life.  To illustrate this, I always point out Nate’s eyes, ears, and nose.  I think we all agree that trying to draw a REAL eye, or a REAL ear, is very challenging.  Eyes and ears and very complex.  Nate’s eyes, on the other hand, are just two vertical lines.  His ears are a couple of curved lines. He has no fingernails, he has no nostrils, etc. etc.  He’s simplified.  I don’t really enjoy trying to make highly realistic, detailed drawings; so I think cartooning is the perfect job for me!

One last thing:  soon I’ll be going on a long book tour to tell people about Big Nate Strikes Again.  I’ll be in (or at least close to) these cities:  Chicago, Seattle, Portland (OR), Denver, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Kingston, NY.  Maybe I’ll meet you during my travels!
Mon, 10/11/2010

Different Ears and New Names

I was organizing some old Big Nate strips recently and noticed something.  Take a look at these two panels.  They’re from separate comic strips, and I drew both strips in 2004.  See Principal Nichols’ ears?  In one of the strips, I drew his ear as a simple loop.  In the other one, his ear is a double loop.  It’s the difference between an ear that looks like a “c” and one that looks like a “3.”

Why did I change the way I drew Principal Nichols’ ears?  And when?  I have no idea.  But things like this happen all the time.  When you draw a comic strip every day, there’s a lot of information to keep track of.  And, especially with characters who appear in the strip less frequently, sometimes you lose track of that information.  I probably just forgot from one strip to the next how I’d drawn Principal Nichols’ ears the first time.  The important thing, once you discover an inconsistency, is to correct it so that it doesn’t keep happening.  In the mysterious case of Principal Nichols’ ears, I eventually realized I’d drawn his ears two different ways, and I made a note for myself that said something like this:  from now on, PN’s ears are ALWAYS a DOUBLE loop!

Here’s another example.  Soon you’ll be reading Big Nate Strikes Again, and early in the book you’ll learn the last name of Gina, Nate’s annoying classmate.  Her name is Gina Hemphill-Toms.  Why does she have a hyphenated last name?  Because of an inconsistency in the comic strip.  Years ago I drew a strip in which it was necessary for Gina to have a last name.  I’d never given her one (I almost never use last names in the strip unless they’re teachers’ names), so I made one up:  Hemphill.  Several years later, there was ANOTHER occasion in the comic strip when Gina needed a last name.  I completely forgot that I’d already named her Hemphill, and gave her a DIFFERENT last name:  Toms.  I didn’t realize what I’d done until I was writing the rough draft of Big Nate Strikes Again.  When I discovered the inconsistency, I decided to combine the names.  And I wrote myself another note:  from now on, Gina will ALWAYS be hyphenated!

Thu, 10/07/2010

Big Nate Mailbag

Today, instead of writing my blog by myself, I’m going to let some friends help me.

Late last week, I received several very nice letters from some Big Nate fans.  They took awhile to reach me, because they were initially sent to Harper Collins, my publisher in New York, before eventually being delivered to my home here in Maine.  They were so great, I thought I’d share some of them.  Here’s today’s Big Nate Mailbag:

Zachary, who lives in Richardson, Texas, thinks Big Nate should be made into a movie like Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid books.  But Zachary doesn’t stop there.  He writes:  If Big Nate is made into a movie, I would like to play the part of Francis.  The reason is that we are both geeks and, well, let’s just say that we are almost the same personality-wise.
Zachary included a picture of himself and I must say, there IS quite a resemblance to Francis there!

Philip, from Highland Park, Michigan, goes Zachary one better:  he thinks Big Nate should be both a movie AND a TV sitcom.  Here’s Philip’s plan:  You make all the books into movies and you turn it into a sitcom comedy series, and the episodes are based on the comics from the newspaper.  Philip also has a director in mind for all these ventures: himself.  I think he has exactly the right kind of can-do attitude I’d like in a director.

Joshua, who says he’s about the same height as Nate, lives in Mesquite, Texas.  He writes: I’m excited that Book 2 of Big Nate is coming soon.  Your drawing is very good and your mom should be proud of you.  Joshua also spent part of the summer in Honduras, and sent me a sticker of Muma Bernardez, a Honduran soccer player.  Thanks, Joshua!

And finally, I heard from Emily in Valhalla, New York, who read Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself as Part One of a summer reading project.  Part Two was writing to the author.  Emily says:  I loved reading this book because when I first saw the cover it looked very fascinating because of all the bright colors and the cartoon character on the front.  After I read it I was very happy I read the book because it was funny and easy to understand.  Emily asked me to write her back at her school; maybe she’ll share my letter with her teacher and classmates.

Thanks for writing, everyone!

Mon, 10/04/2010

Somebody Wanted But So

The other day I told you I’d been to a conference for independent booksellers in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  Several authors were asked to say a few words about themselves and their books.  During my remarks, I mentioned that, when I was a kid, I split my reading time evenly between books, comic books, and newspaper comic strips.  And I saw no real difference between the three.  All of them were stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  All had interesting characters.  The fact that a comic strip told a story in just a few panels, while a book might have hundreds of pages, didn’t make the comic strips any less fascinating.

I may have mentioned in an earlier entry that one particular cartoonist I really admired was named Francis W. Dahl.  By the time I “discovered” him through some compilations at my grandparents’ house, his career had long since ended.  He drew a daily cartoon for the Boston Herald during the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s.  I loved the way he told a story.  He often would start with a sentence or two he’d recently read in a newspaper or magazine.  For example:  “News Item:  Oyster season opens with announcement that oysters will be smaller this year.”  That would be his starting point, and he’d create a multi-panel cartoon based on that news item.  His sense of humor was dry, clever, and very witty.  He didn’t have very many recurring characters; instead, his cartoons would feature people who were “types”:  the fireman, the high society matron, the fisherman, the sales clerk, and so on.  Even when I didn’t understand them (which was quite frequently, since they were often referring to events that happened thirty or forty years earlier), I still enjoyed the stories he told.

When my kids were younger, their elementary school used a specific method to teach them about constructing a story.  It was called “somebody wanted but so.”  It was a way for very young writers to learn about stringing events together:  Somebody (the main character) wanted something to happen, but then something unexpected occured, so here’s what resulted.  A lot of stories could be told this way, like the plot of the first Big Nate book.  Nate (the main character) wanted to surpass all others, but all his attempts went wrong, so he ended up setting a new record by getting seven detentions in a single day.  Maybe I’ll use somebody wanted but so in Book #4!

Thu, 09/30/2010

Nate's Nemesis

As you might know if you follow my blog, I’m currently working on the third Big Nate book, Big Nate On A Roll.  I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying that the story involves a kind of unofficial contest between Nate and Artur.  And I’ve already told you that the upcoming Big Nate Strikes Again has something to do with the ongoing conflict between Nate and Gina.  Not counting Mrs. Godfrey (his all-time arch enemy), the characters Nate seems to have the most trouble with are Artur and Gina.  But for very different reasons.

Nate doesn’t dislike Artur.  How could he?  Artur is generous, kind, and thoughtful.  The problem is that Nate is envious of Artur.  Artur is just a tiny bit better than Nate at many things, like cartooning, chess, and singing.  And, of course, Artur has the one thing Nate most wants:  Jenny.  So Nate is resentful of Artur’s many triumphs, even while admitting that Artur is actually a pretty nice guy.

Gina is another story.  Nate DOES dislike Gina, and she gives him ample justification.  She constantly and obnoxiously points out Nate’s  shortcomings; she boasts incessantly about her own academic achievements; and she seems to go out of her way to land Nate in trouble.  Gina is the ultimate teacher’s pet, and the fact that she is Mrs. Godfrey’s favorite student tells you all you need to know.  The last panel of this drawing says it all:  oh, how Nate hates her.

But keep in mind what I’ve said before:  characters who are absolutes can be kind of boring.  In other words, a character who’s 100% obnoxious isn’t as interesting as a character who is, say, 80% obnoxious and 20% okay.  I think Gina has a small percentage of okay in her.  I don’t know if it’s 20%, 10%, or 1%, but it’s in there.  The question is, will Nate ever realize it?  I doubt it!

Mon, 09/27/2010

Big Nate receives a BIG Review

On two occasions recently, people had some very nice things to say about Big Nate.  

The first was a Kirkus Review of Big Nate Strikes Again.  After giving a brief summary of the plot, the reviewer writes that Big Nate is “a latter-day Peanuts and a kinder, gentler Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”  Well, by now you know how important “Peanuts” has been to me during my life, so such a comparison is a real thrill.  And to be mentioned alongside Jeff Kinney, who has been so supportive of Big Nate — and who writes such great books! — is beyond flattering.

Second:  Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself has been included in Education.com’s 2010 Holiday Gift Guide.  It was chosen from among over a thousand products; to be selected, a product had to be really fun AND contribute in a positive way to a kid’s development.  I’m honored that Big Nate is part of such a select group, and I’m hoping that plenty of kids who haven’t discovered Big Nate yet will receive a book as a gift during the holiday season.  You can learn more about the Gift Guide here:  http://www.education.com/about/press/2010-gift-guide/

As I mentioned last time, I traveled to Atlantic City, New Jersey yesterday for the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association Fall Conference.  There were 18 authors there; some of us were children’s book authors, but more were writers of books for adults.  During lunch, a microphone was passed from author to author, and we took turns introducing ourselves and talking briefly about our books.  Some people are great at that sort of thing, and others are not.  I tend to get a little nervous speaking in front of large groups.  Maybe that goes back to third grade, when I had to stand in front of my classmates and read a book report I’d written.  I felt self-conscious and I started to blush.  A girl sitting near me stood up, pointed at me, and said:  “Look how red his ears are!”  Everyone laughed, which just made me even more uncomfortable.  So I pointed back at her and said, “Well, YOUR neck is all dirty.”  The teacher made me stay after school and wash all the desks with a sponge.  But the girl who’d made fun of my ears wasn’t punished at all.  I ask you, was that fair?  That’s exactly the sort of thing that would happen with Nate, Gina, and Mrs. Godfrey.  Maybe next time, I’ll blog a little more about Nate & Gina’s mutual dislike!

Thu, 09/23/2010

Caricature Conundrum

At the end of my last blog, I referred to my friend Jeff as a gifted caricaturist.  I, on the other hand, am NOT a gifted caricaturist.  Being a cartoonist doesn’t mean — unfortunately! — that you are good at ALL kinds of cartooning.  I’m good at drawing Big Nate and all the other characters in the books and comic strip.  But there are plenty of things I struggle to draw.  Cars are not my favorite.  Bicycles can be difficult.  
I can’t draw superheroes.  And I’ve never been able to draw caricatures.  A couple of years ago I was asked to draw a caricature of myself for a magazine interview, and this drawing was the best I could do.  It looks a little bit like me, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a good caricature.  I could probably improve with practice, but since I’m not often required to draw caricatures, I probably won’t invest too much time in trying to get better.

Especially when there are so many other challenges to cope with!  Here are some more things that can be difficult to draw:
  • hands
  • hair (especially long hair)
  • water
  • people walking away from you
  • certain musical instruments
  • baggy clothes

I could go on, but that’s enough for now.

On Tuesday, I’ll be in Atlantic City, New Jersey, for the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association Fall Conference.  I’ll have the chance to meet some other authors, and I’ll talk to a lot of booksellers about Big Nate Strikes Again.  I will write more about it next time.  Meanwhile, the next time you want to buy a book, remember to support your local independent bookstore!
Mon, 09/20/2010