Gary Paulsen Biography

Gary Paulsen Biography

Gary Paulsen, a highly prolific writer, 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.

Facts and Trivia

  • Paulsen ran away from home and joined a carnival when he was just fourteen. 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 two hundred books, two hundred 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.

Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

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 (Masterpieces of American Literature)

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.

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Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

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...

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Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical 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...

(The entire section is 625 words.)