Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Upon first glance, Gary Paulsen bears strong resemblance to his oft-compared-to literary antecedent Ernest Hemingway. Ubiquitous with a grayed beard, worn denims, and a fishing cap, Paulsen appears to be a surviving vestige of one of his own stories. Born May 17, 1939, in Minneapolis to Oscar, a military officer, and Eunice, a factory worker in a munitions plant, Paulsen led a nomadic life in his early years as a self-proclaimed army brat.
The constant uprooting caused by his father’s military career placed stress on the Paulsen household. In fact, Paulsen claims not to have even met his father until he was seven when the family was stationed in the Philippines. Even then, Paulsen recalls spending most of his time wandering the streets of Manila alone looking for adventure because of his parents’ strained relationship. This tension in his family played havoc with the young Paulsen. He remembers his mother as a promiscuous, if not adulterous, wife who constantly abandoned her commitment to both her husband, who himself was struggling with alcoholism, and her son. Paulsen found security, though, in his early teens when he left his parents to live stateside with more stable relatives—his grandmother and various aunts.
It was during this transition period that Paulsen, somewhat serendipitously, fell into his future career as a writer. Though never a dedicated academic—he barely graduated high school and only completed parcels of time at...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
A terse and versatile writer, Gary Paulsen muddies the waters of later nineteenth and early twentieth century American naturalism by writing survival narratives of young children who beat the odds against them. Consequently, though, these children only overcome by abandoning their modern world in lieu of a more primitive existence in communion with the nature that could just as easily destroy them. Never afraid to illuminate the harsh realities of the decisions his characters make, Paulsen stares headlong into the face of mortality without diminishing the consequences or complexities of the subject matter.
Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Gary Paulsen was born in May, 1939, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to an unhappy family life. His father, a soldier, served in World War II during Paulsen’s early years, and his mother worked in a factory. His parents were alcoholics who were unable to care for him adequately, so after living in the Philippines, where his father was stationed from 1946 to 1949, Paulsen lived with a variety of relatives, mainly his grandmother and a series of aunts, until he set out on his own at age fourteen. His higher education includes several years at Bemidji College (now Bemidji State University) in Minnesota, where he worked as a trapper to pay tuition, and later he was a student at the University of Colorado. His widely varied work career has included jobs as a carnival worker, a farm laborer, an engineer, a construction worker, a ranch hand, a trucker, a sailor, a satellite technician, and a magazine proofreader/editor.
Paulsen found childhood comfort in books, so his final choice of career is not surprising. While he was working on the magazine, he decided to start writing on his own. He published The Special War in 1966, and over the next eleven years he produced almost forty books in addition to a number of magazine articles and short stories. In 1977, he was involved in a lawsuit over his novel Winterkill (1976), and although he won, he stopped writing for a short period of time.
Paulsen’s personal interests include extreme sports, so his raising and training of sled dogs for the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race fits him perfectly. He participated in two Iditarods, but an angina attack forced him to slow down in 1985. A heart attack in 1990 slowed him further. He has attempted the Iditarod on more than one occasion, withdrawing at the last minute in 2005 and after only a few days in 2006. He and his wife, Ruth Wright Paulsen, an artist, have established homes in Minnesota, New Mexico, and Alaska. The couple have one grown son.
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Gary Paulsen has been one of the most prolific writers of books for young adult readers in the genre’s history. Raised by his mother for the first seven years of his life, he did not meet his father until the family was reunited in the Philippines, where his father was serving in the U.S. Army. Moving from base to base after World War II, sometimes in the care of his grandmother, Paulsen was uninterested in school and frequently in trouble. He began to read when he was offered a library card after he entered a library building to get warm while working a newspaper route. He left home at fourteen to join a carnival and later worked as a ranch hand and a construction worker. At seventeen, he enlisted in the Army, where he learned enough about missiles to became a technician for the Lockheed Martin Corporation upon his discharge. Convinced that his experiences were worth further examination, he left that job to work as a magazine proofreader and began writing at night.
He completed his first novel while living in a cabin in the Minnesota woods, where his experiences with animals and his developing skills for survival in a harsh environment gave him the central subjects of his ensuing work. A fascination with dogs had led him to make two successful runs in the Iditarod sled race; when a heart condition restricted his physical activities, he put “the same energy and effort that I was using with dogs” into writing, sometimes twenty hours a day.
Paulsen was immediately successful, with a number of books that...
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IntroductionThe highly prolific writer Gary Paulsen has one hobby that not many other authors enjoy: he loves to participate in dog sledding competitions. Perhaps it’s not so strange, then, that most of Paulsen’s stories and novels focus on themes of nature and man’s struggle to find himself through outdoor pursuits. His books are especially popular with young men who are in the process of discovering themselves. Paulsen has won many prestigious awards, including the Newbery Medal for his novel The Winter Room, and his books Woodsong and Winterdance are perhaps the most famous books ever written about the Iditarod, a 1,150-mile dog sledding race. Paulsen resides in New Mexico, but he also owns a ranch in Alaska where he breeds and trains—can you guess?—sled dogs.
- Paulsen ran away from home and joined a carnival when he was just 14. After that, he had many different jobs—engineer, truck driver, sailor, and satellite technician.
- Gary Paulsen’s earliest writing job was as a magazine proofreader in Hollywood, California. He left that job for a cabin in Minnesota where he completed his first novel within a few months.
- Paulsen is extremely critical of modern technology and tries to live a simple life.
- Paulsen’s body of work includes over 200 books, 200 articles and stories, and many plays.
- Paulsen and his wife, Ruth Wright Paulsen, currently own a boat in the Pacific, and he is in the process of writing about their many adventures. His wife is an artist and has done the illustrations for many of his novels.