Gary Paulsen was born on May 17, 1939, in Minnesota. His dad was a professional soldier who spent most of World War II away from home, and his mom worked long hours in a munitions factory. When they weren't around, which was often, Gary spent his time trying to earn money for clothes and food by setting pins in a bowling alley, and selling newspapers to drunks in the local bars. When his parents were home, they were wasted and abusive.

All Gary had was literature, and even that was an accident. One night, walking home from the bar, twenty below, he stepped into the library to warm his hands, and the librarian offered him a card.   " At that point, very few people had ever given me anything. Both my folks were drinking and it was a rough run. And then she said, "Do you want a library card?" So I said yeah. She handed me a card with my name on it - my name - which was amazing to me. And then she asked if I wanted a book... pretty soon I was reading two books a week. She'd give me westerns and science fiction and every once in a while she'd schlepp in a Melville. It saved me, it really did. I still read like that, like I tell kids, like a wolf eats."

Gary was a crappy student; he failed 9th grade and squeaked out of high school with a D- average. Not surprising - he ran away from home when he was 14, and was mostly focused on earning enough for food.

He was a farmhand, an engineer, a construction worker, a ranch hand, a truck driver, a sailor, a carnie. It took him a while to figure out that on top of everything else, he was a writer. He was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California when he realized it, and he walked off the job and never went back. He spent the next year proofreading a magazine by day (a job he landed with an impressing, entirely fake resume) and working on his own words by night. For the next year, every night he wrote something and brought it in to work the next day for criticism.

He left California, went back to Minnesota, and rented a lake cabin where he could work in quiet. By the end of that winter, his first novel was done. Which was great, but he screwed it up. He figured that since he was now an Author, he should join an artists' colony, so he moved to New Mexico. He got married and spent the next six years becoming an alcoholic, neglecting his marriage, and not writing.

In 1973, Gary pulled it together and moved back to Minnesota, to work. This time, he was not in search of greatness, just enough money to keep his family afloat. They lived in a converted chicken coop with sketchy electricity and no indoor plumbing. Most of their food came from their three gardens. They made their own cheese, butter, and ketchup. They were so far back in the woods that his son spent five hours on the school bus each day.

Gary wrote a few boring nonfiction books which sold, but he was only averaging $3,000 a year. Writing fiction paid off, and he enjoyed it more, but he was hit with a libel lawsuit for one of his early novels. Winterkill is about an alcoholic family, and his family recognized themselves, and sued. Gary won the case, but it left him bankrupt and bitter, and he swore off writing, supporting his family by trapping beavers.

Gary had always loved dogs, and now got interested in dog racing, which would later become a huge presence in many of his books. He wanted desperately to run the Iditarod, but knew the cost of entering would run into thousands of dollars - money he certainly did not have.

Then he received an unexpected phone call from Richard Jackson, an editor who'd read Gary's books but never met him. He asked what Gary was working on, and Gary said NOTHING, never intending to write again. Richard took a ridiculous chance and agreed to give Gary the money for the Iditarod, in exchange for editorial dibs on whatever Gary might (eventually) write next.

So, with Jackson's money, he ran the Iditarod in 1983, and again in 1985. He suffered an attack of angina and was forced to give up the sport, which saddened him but was ultimately good for his work. He came back to writing.   "I started to focus on writing 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."

There are about 175 of them, most geared toward young readers, though many adult readers may not realize it. His prose is like Hemingway's, elegantly simple words framing complex ideas and people. Totally accessible to kids, equally interesting to adults with taste. I have never been disappointed by one of his books.

Gary's wife is Ruth Wright Paulsen, an artist who has illustrated several of his books. They divide their time between a home in La Luz, New Mexico, and a boat in the Pacific.


Alida's Song

Amos and the Chameleon Caper / Amos and the Vampire / Amos Binder, Secret Agent / Amos Gets Famous / Amos Gets Married / Amos Goes Bananas / Amos's Killer Concert Caper / Coach Amos / Culpepper's Cannon / Dunc and Amos and the Red Tattoos / Dunc and Amos Go to the Dogs / Dunc and Amos Hit the Big Top / Dunc and Amos Meet the Slasher / Dunc and Amos on Thin Ice / Dunc and the Flaming Ghost / Dunc and the Haunted Castle / Dunc and the Scam Artists / Dunc Breaks the Record / Dunc Gets Tweaked / Dunc's Doll / Dunc's Dump / Dunc's Halloween / Dunc's Undercover Christmas / Prince Amos / Super Amos / The Wild Culpepper Cruise

The Beet Fields: Memories of a Sixteenth Summer

The Boy Who Owned the School: A Comedy of Love

Brian's Return / Brian's Winter / Hatchet / Guts: The True Stories Behind the Hatchet and Brian Books

Call Me Francis Tucket / Mr. Tucket / Tucket's Gold / Tucket's Home / Tucket's Ride

Canoe Days



The Car

The Case of the Dirty Bird

A Christmas Sonata

Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass

The Cookcamp

Cowpokes and Desperadoes

The Creature of Black Water Lake

The Crossing

Curse of the Ruins

Dancing Carl

Danger on Midnight River



Eastern Sun, Winter Moon: An Autobiographical Odyssey

Escape from Fire Mountain

Father Water, Mother Woods: Essays on Fishing and Hunting in the North Woods

Flight of the Hawk

The Foxman

The Gorgon Slayer


Harris and Me: A Summer Remembered

The Haymeadow

Hitting, Pitching, and Running - Maybe

Hook' Em, Snotty!

The Island

The Legend of the Red Horse Cavern

The Madonna Stories

The Monument

Murphy's Ambush / Murphy's Gold / Murphy's Herd / Murphy's Stand / Murphy's Trail

My Life in Dog Years

The Night the White Deer Died


Pilgrimage on a Steel Ride: A Memoir About Men and Motorcycles

Popcorn Days and Buttermilk Nights

Project: A Perfect World

Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers: Reflections on Being Raised by a Pack of Sled Dogs

The Rifle

The River

The Rock Jockeys

Rodomonte's Revenge

Sarny: A Life Remembered

The Schernoff Discoveries

The Selfish Giant


The Seventh Crystal



Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers

The Tent: A Parable in One Sitting

Thunder Valley

Tiltawhirl John

Time Benders

The Tortilla Factory


The Transall Saga

The Treasure of El Patron

The Voyage of the Frog

The White Fox Chronicles: Escape, Return, Breakout

The Winter Room

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod



Zero to Sixty: The Motorcycle Journey of a Lifetime

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