May 30, 2010

Books Q & A: A funny thing happened

Portland comic strip artist Lincoln Peirce lands a book deal thanks in part to a fan letter from years ago.

By Tom Atwell
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Lincoln Peirce


WHO: Lincoln Peirce, author of "Big Nate: In a Class by Himself"

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Nonesuch Books, 50 Market St., Mill Creek Shopping Center, South Portland

CONTACT: 799-2659;

A: I grew up in New Hampshire. My dad taught at UNH, and I went to Colby. I went down to Brooklyn, N.Y., to get my master's degree from Brooklyn College in drawing and painting, thinking maybe I would be a college art professor. But all the time, I was drawing comics; that was my first love. It took a few years for me to convince my wife to move to Maine, but we moved in 1992. 

Q: How long have you been doing "Big Nate"?

A: It started in January of 1991, so it's not far from being 20 years, and I will take it. The shelf life for comics is not very long. You see a lot of them fall by the wayside. I've been very lucky. 

Q: Have you ever considered a second strip, like Brian Basset?

A: This is enough to keep me busy, partly because of the publication schedule of these books. It is more difficult than ever to get a comic strip going with newspapers in the state they are. Comics is often the first place to make cuts. I am an optimist, and I think that people are going to want to read good comics. 

Q: How many papers are you in?

A: A couple hundred, slightly over 200. 

Q: You say Jeff Kinney is a friend. How did you get to know each other?

A: He wrote me fan mail -- he actually had to send it by mail, it was so long ago -- when he was a 19-year-old undergraduate at the University of Maryland. He was a cartoonist doing a comic for the school newspaper, and he wanted some advice in getting syndicated.

I wrote him back and we had a letter-writing correspondence for a couple of years, and then we sort of lost touch. I would keep my eyes open on comics pages to see if I ever saw his name, if he went into print.

Then I got a call from him, saying he was going to be in Portland for a book tour, and could we get together. I didn't know anything about the "Wimpy Kid" books. This was the first one. And we just stayed in touch from that, and he has been a huge help to me with this book. It is funny, having not heard from him in 17 or 18 years, and then he comes back and is such a big help. 

Q: And HarperCollins is a top-notch publisher.

A: It is fantastic. They have been so great to work with.

Q: Anything you'd like to say that I haven't asked?

A: I would like to put in a plug for this book. One of my goals was to write a book that I would have loved to read when I was a kid. ... Kids are so visual. That is how I looked at books as a kid when I went to the library. I'd flip through the book to check out the pictures. This is a book for kids who like comics and who like a good story. 

Staff Writer Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:


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