Gary Paulsen: Facts and Information

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Teenage life is a learning experience: Teenage is an intriguing period in one’s life. This is the age when one is neither small nor grown-up. This is the passing phase where the human mind can be moulded in any manner. Contacts with the right persons at the right time can have positive results. This is the age where one may have many questions to be answered. So a writer of young adult literature is one person who can be instrumental in influencing the minds of the teenage community. Gary Paulsen is one such writer known for his coming of age stories about the wilderness.

Early days in the life of Gary Paulsen: Gary James Paulsen was born on May 17, 1939 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father was a serving Army Officer who was away on duty most of the time as the World War II was in progress. In fact Gary did not meet him until he was seven years old. He had a troubled childhood and used to live with his grandparents and various other relatives. He had an ordinary academic life and actually ran away from his house at the age of 14 to join a caravan.

He used to do various odd jobs such as settling pins in a bowling alley, working in a sugar beet firm, delivering newspapers etc. Not satisfied with these, he got back to school and also became part of the Army where he spent three years before being honourably discharged. He did various other odd jobs and finally settled down to what he loved best i.e. writing books. He had developed this interest for books during the time he spent in the school library.

Writing novels is his passion: His experience as a magazine editor and proof reader stood him in good stead and also propelled him to pursue a career writing from his own experiences. He has penned more than 200 magazine articles and novels which have become quite a rage among the teenagers. He felt that with his troubled teenage life, he would be able to do justice to this job of guiding teenagers to follow the right path in life.

His first experience at writing was a fragmented autobiography wherein he dwelt in details about his troubled childhood and his morally incorrect and alcoholic parents. These titbits became part of his novel “Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books”.

He had tremendous love for dogs and dog sledging: He has experienced extreme poverty and even after becoming a successful writer, chose to live in relative poverty. His wife Ruth, a successful writer of children’s literature, helps him in his activity. He had a tremendous love for dog sledging and had also entered the “Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race” in 1983. Heart disease forced him to relinquish this sport which he considers as the most difficult decision he has made in his life. He has written many books about the Iditarod such as “Dogsong”, “The Winter Room” and “Winterdance” among others.

The number of awards won by him is appreciative: His books have won many awards at literary functions, some of which are listed below. This is an exhaustive list of which only three are listed as a reference.

  • The ALA Margaret Edwards Award in 1997 for his significant contribution to young and adult literature for six of his books published between 1983 and 1990.
  • Society of Midland Authors Book Award in 1985, for his work “Tracker”.
  • Parents ‘Choice Award, parents’ Choice Foundation in 19858, Newbery Honour Book citation in 1986, and Children’s Book of the Year award in 1986 for his novel “Dogsong”.

He is known in literary circles as a person who writes about Nature, Juvenile fiction as well as nonfiction and adventure as well. Some of his works have also been released as a filmstrip with cassette.

In spite of his troubled childhood he has been able to overcome all hardships and emerge as a writer of repute. His story should prove as an inspiration for many people to succeed in life.

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