Gary Paulsen personal inspection at zero altitude Jamie Kollar LIS 640, Author Study March 14, 2011
Life History: Born May 17, 1939. He struggled with both school and home life, and even ran away from home at one point. Eventually, he dropped out of college to join the Army. After a brief stint in the Army, he realized that what he really wanted to do was write. His first book was published in 1966, although it was years before he could make a living as a writer. In that time he worked odd jobs, and eventually settled down on a farm in Minnesota, where he began training sled dogs. In 1997, he received the Margaret A. Edwards Award. He and his wife, Ruth, continue to write and work with dogs.
Survival & Coming-of-Age He was not the same and would never be again like he had been. Paulsen’s heroes must survive both physical and emotional hardships, and along the way they begin to mature and become men. Brian in Hatchet is the classic example, going from helpless and terrified city kid to confident hunter and survival expert (in The River, the government wants to learn his survival techniques).
Research & Detail You research and you try to learn. You never say no. Paulsen often writes from his own life experiences, particularly the subjects of farming and alcoholism. Outside of that, he tries for firsthand research as often as possible, and extensive traditional research when that isn’t an option. His stories tend to be highly detailed, increasing the sense of realism.
Unflinching Realism I think we need honesty on all levels for all things. His attention to detail doesn’t fail when it comes to darker subject matter; combat, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, poverty and exploitation, and the brutality of nature are all vividly and clearly described. He presents his stories realistically, both positive and negative. Paulsen believes it is essential to be honest and realistic with young readers, and has been praised for his respect for his readers’ intelligence and maturity.
Nature & the Wilderness I began to understand that they are not wrong or right – they just are. Wolves don’t know they are wolves. Wilderness survival, farming, and dogsledding all feature prominently in his books. In all cases, the emphasis is on realism and respect; he obviously has a great deal of love for the natural world, but never sanitizes it.
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.