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Featured Author: Gary Paulsen

Born May 17, 1939, Gary Paulsen is one of America's most popular writers for young people. A master storyteller who has written more than 175 books, not  to mention hundreds of articles and short stories for children and adults, Paulsen is one of the most important writers of young adult literature today. His ability to tap into the human spirit and encourage readers to observe and care about the world around them has brought him enormous popularity with young people, as well as critical acclaim from the children's book community. A three-time Newbery Honor winner for Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room, Gary Paulsen is also winner of the 1997 Margaret A. Edwards Award, which honors an author's lifetime contribution to writing books for teens.

 

Paulsen developed a passion for reading at an early age, after a librarian gave him a book to read along with his own library card. He acquired a taste for adventure at age 14, when he ran away from home to travel with a carnival. His powerful stories rely on the ample material collected through his experiences: working on a farm, as an engineer, a construction worker, a ranch hand, a truck driver, a sailor, and surviving two rounds of the 1,180-mile Alaskan dogsled race, the Iditarod.

Paulsen's realization that he would become a writer came suddenly--one night he walked off his job as a satellite technician and began to focus on writing instead. After a year stint as a magazine proofreader in Hollywood, Paulsen moved to Minnesota to work on his first novel. Living in the remote Minnesota woods, he became interested in dogsled racing and entered the 1983 Iditarod. In 1985, after running the Iditarod for the second time, he suffered an attack of angina and was forced to give up his dogs:

Paulsen and his wife--Ruth Wright Paulsen, an artist who has illustrated several of his books--divide their time between a home in New Mexico and a boat in the Pacific.

Explore Gary Paulsen
bullet The Brian Books
bullet Nonfiction
bullet Historical Adventure
bullet The Tucket Books
bullet World of Adventure Series
bullet Humorous Tales
bullet More by Gary Paulsen

 

 

The first author that my son ever got excited about was Gary Paulsen. DJ read all thirty books in his Culdpeper Series (for 3-4th graders). The books were full of adventure and fun and I heard DJ in his reading chair laughing.  I also got to hear about the adventures of Dunc and Amos at dinner almost every night of third grade.  Paulsen came to Milwaukee last week and we were excited to see him in person as he promotes his latest release Brianís Hunt.  Paulsen approached the stage before a room packed with over 700 people. We were excited to be in a room full of children and families who all celebrated reading Paulsen's books.  A short bearded man, who looked like heíd just stepped out from the back porch where heíd been chopping wood, took the stage.  "Iíd like to tell you that I wanted to be a writer my whole life, that I studied literature, and went to the finest college. But itís not true. I grew up in Minnesota, a son of the two town drunks." Paulsen spoke without judgment or bitterness. He told about hanging around the bars and waiting until people were drunk enough so he could steal their change from the bar. He talked about spending as much time in the woods as possible. "Thatís where I was always comfortable." 

His life changed one day when he ducked into the library to escape a cold rain. The librarian asked him if he wanted a library card. "I held that card and saw my name printed there. I was somebody. I only felt a moment like that one other time in my life." Paulsen doesnít remember the name of the first book she gave him to read, but he remembers it took him many weeks to get through it. He kept reading.  

The second time he experienced a moment that changed the direction of his life was while working in the space industry in California. He had a realization in the middle of a work shift that he was going to be a writer. He turned in his ID, gave up a well-paid job and ended up divorced, bankrupt, and living in the woods. To some, this might sound like he was a failure. But he was happy and competent in the woods. He even remarried and woman who spent a Minnesota winter living in lean-to with him.

Paulsen told great fun stories about a bear chasing his anti gun wife into the cabin while

 

In the Old Days There Were Songs

Something is bothering Russel Susskit. He hates waking up to the sound of his father's coughing, the smell of diesel oil, the noise of snow machines starting up.

Only Oogruk, the shaman who owns the last team of dogs in the village, understands Russel's longing for the old ways and the songs that celebrated them. But Oogruk cannot give Russel the answers he seeks; the old man can only prepare him for what he must do alone. Driven by a strange, powerful dream of a long-ago self and by a burning desire to find his own song, Russel takes Oogruk's dogs on an epic journey of self-discovery that will change his life forever.

 

she yelled, "Shoot him."

"It took three shots."

He talked of having hallucinations of an auditor sitting on his sled when he ran the Iditarod dog-sled race in Alaska. "Everybody gets hallucinations by about the end of the second day." A native Alaska boy tried to help him with his dogs, and ended up in the middle of the tangled dogs. Paulsen picked the boy high out of the pack, held him up, and asked, "What are you doing to those dogs? Youíre going to get yourself killed." Paulsen then discovered that the village didnít have dogs anymore, they had snowmobiles. The young people wanted to learn about the dogs. Paulsensí Dogsongs was inspired by that event.

 

 

I started to focus on writing with the same energies and efforts that I was using with dogs. So we're talking 18-, 19-, 20-hour days completely committed to work. Totally, viciously, obsessively committed to work, the way I'd run dogs. I still work that way, completely, all the time. I just work. I don't drink, I don't fool around, I'm just this way. The end result is there's a lot of books out there. --Gary Paulsen

 

Paulsenís books are inspired by his life and his enthusiasm for history, nature and adventure.

 --byAmy Jenkins

Gary Paulsen is the distinguished author of many critically acclaimed books for young people, including three Newbery Honor books: The Winter Room, Hatchet, and Dogsong. His most recent titles are Caught by the Sea, How Angel Peterson Got His Name and Other Outrageous Tales about Extreme Sports, and The Glass Cafť. The author lives in New Mexico and on the Pacific Ocean

 
 
 

Other books by Paulsen:

Alidaís Song. Delacorte, 1999.
The Boy Who Owned the School. Orchard, 1990.

Brianís Hunt. Wendy Lamb Books, 2003
Brianís Return. Delacorte, 1999.
Brianís Winter. Delacorte, 1996.
Call Me Francis Tucket.: Delacorte, 1995.
Canoe Days. Illustrated by Ruth Wright Paulsen. Delacorte, 1998.
Canyons. Delacorte, 1990.

The River. Yearling Books, 1993
The Car. Harcourt Brace, 1994.
A Christmas Sonata. Delacorte, 1992.

 


Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass Harcourt Brace, 1992. (Adult)
The Cookcamp.: Orchard, 1991.
The Crossing.: Orchard, 1987.
Culpepper Adventure Series. Dell. (Thirty books in this series.)
Dancing Carl.: Bradbury, 1983.
Dogsong. Bradbury, 1985.
Dogteam. Illustrated by Ruth Wright Paulsen. Delacorte, 1993.
Dunc and Amos Go to the Dogs. Bantam, 1996.
Eastern Sun, Winter Moon. Harcourt Brace, 1993. (Adult)
Father Water, Mother Woods. Delacorte, 1994.
The Foxman.: Penguin, 1990.
Full of Hot Air. Delacorte, 1993.
Harris and Me. Delacorte, 1993.
Hatchet. Bradbury, 1987.
The Haymeadow. Delacorte, 1992.
The Island. Orchard, 1988.
The Madonna Stories. Harcourt Brace, 1993. (Adult)
The Monument. Delacorte, 1991.
Mr. Tucket. Delacorte, 1994.
My Life in Dog Years. Delacorte, 1998.
The Night the White Deer Died Delacorte, 1990.
Night john. Delacorte, 1993.
Pilgrimage on a Steel Ride. Harcourt Brace, 1997.
Popcorn Days, Buttermilk Nights. Dutton, 1983.
Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers. Harcourt Brace, 1996.
The Rifle. Harcourt Brace, 1995.
The River Delacorte, 1991.
Sarny: A Life Remembered. Delacorte, 1997.
The Schernoff Discoveries. Delacorte, 1997.
Soldierís Heart. Delacorte, 1998.
The Tent. Harcourt Brace, 1995.
Tiltawhirl John. Penguin, 1990.
The Tortilla Factory. Illustrated by Ruth Paulsen Wright. Harcourt, 1995.
Tracker. Bradbury, 1984.
The Transall Saga. Delacorte, 1998.
Tucketís Ride Delacorte, 1997.
The Voyage of the Frog. Orchard, 1989.
White Fox Chronicles. Delacorte, 1999.
The Winter Room. Orchard, 1989.
Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod. Harcourt, 1994. (Adult)
Woodsong. : Bradbury, 1990.
Worksong. Illustrated by Ruth Wright Paulsen. Harcourt, 1997.
World of Adventure Series. : Dell. (18 books)

 

Read more about Gary Paulsen as editor in his anthology Self Life.