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Author Profile — p. 2
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Gary Paulsen Profile — Page two

by Jim Trelease / Updated: 6/18/13

None of his nearly 100 books is in sight, nor any of his awards

Since then there have been four sequels to Hatchet: The River, which picks up the story a year later; Brian's Winter, a "what-if" sequel (what would have happened if The River sequel had not occurred) and written in response to all the "sequel-letters" he received from fans; Brian's Return; and Brian's Hunt (2004). (In Guts [Delacorte, 2001—see note below], Paulsen describes the actual real-life events that he incorporated into Hatchet and the "Brian" books, giving young readers a keen insight to how a writer's personal experiences feed the narrative. He hoped Guts would answer some of the 250-400 letters a day he receives about the series. Click on GUTS to read an excerpt (below).

Hatchet cover

    For the 20th anniversary of Hatchet, Paulsen's publisher issued a special edition of the book containing fascinating background notes by the author on both the subject matter and how he wrote it (see image right). To my knowledge, this is a first in children's literature.

   Today, having passed age 50, health problems have driven a sober Paulsen back to the climate of New Mexico (see update below). His more than 30 dogs are gone, alive only in his books. He sees the only race left to him now as the one between himself and death. He has much to say, yet fears he has little time left in which to say it. His wife scoffs at this but he races on, trying to make up for lost time, averaging more than a book a year, and talking with teachers and classes of school children. Movie offers arrive regularly for his books and he can take his pick from a dozen publishers standing in line at his door.

   Success, however, hasn't spoiled him. None of his nearly 100 books is in sight at home, nor are any of the awards he has won. "That's dangerous," he says, "if you start looking at that stuff. You become corrupt." Instead, what he chooses to look at and write about is the precious human struggle to survive, drawing upon his life as an alcoholic, field engineer, soldier, actor, farmer, carpenter, demolition worker, rancher, truck driver, trapper, migrant farm worker, sailor, and professional writer.

Web Update

   Paulsen has written an adult autobiography, Eastern Sun, Winter Moon, that details his painful childhood years, as well as a memoir of his relationships with dogs, My Life in Dog Years. His life and various books are also the subject of an excellent study/volume by Prof. Gary M. Salvner, Presenting Gary Paulsen [Twayne Publishers/Simon & Schuster Macmillan/NY, NY]. Less scholarly and written as a children's biography is GARY PAULSEN, by Stephanie True Peters, from The Learning Works (P.O. Box 6187 Santa Barbara, CA 93160). Also, "Talking with Gary Paulsen" by Kay Weisman can be found in the September 2003 issue of Book Links.

   In a brilliant extension of the Hatchet/Brian series, Paulsen answers the most constant questions he receives from his devoted readers in GUTS: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books. Wondering if Paulsen just makes things up as he goes along or whether he's personally experienced these catastrophes, they write him thousands of letters. One moving example, out of many in this fast-paced volume, is Paulsen's description of his tenure as a rural emergency squad volunteer where he had to cover a thousand square miles in an outdated ambulance, often arriving too late to help the heart attack victims who had perished before his arrival (such as the pilot in Hatchet). Students will love his actual food recipes for surviving in the wilderness, including "Eyeballs and Guts." You can find a brief excerpt from GUTS at the bottom of this page.

So where in the world is Gary Paulsen now? Anne Goodwin Sides caught up with him in his latest abode, Willow, Alaska, where he's back to running dogs, something he'd given up a few years back. Her profile can be found online through The Times' archives: "On the Road and Between the Pages, an Author Is Restless for Adventure " The New York Times, Aug. 26, 2006.

   Although largely overshadowed by the Hatchet series, Paulsen's Francis Tucket series deserves just as much attention as it follows a 14-year-old boy during a two year quest (1847-1849) to find his family on the western frontier. The five books were issued separately and then combined in 2003 as a single 500-page paperback (Dell), Tucket's Travels. The individual titles (still available in hardcover and paper) are: Mr. Tucket; Call Me Francis Tucket; Tucket's Ride; Tucket's Gold; and Tucket's Home. One of my grandsons had the series read to him at age 7 and it was a huge hit, although the reading audience is usually about 5th grade.

    Other Paulsen titles include: Canyons; The Car; The Crossing; The Island; Nightjohn and its sequel, Sarny: A Life Remembered; Monument; The Rifle; Woods Runner; Lawn Boy; Sentries; The Tent; Tracker; The Transall Saga (a time-travel novel); How Angel Peterson Got His Name: And Other Outrageous Tales about Extreme Sports; and a survival-at-sea novel, The Voyage of the Frog. He is also the co-author with Brian Burks of Murphy's Stand and Murphy's Ambush.

   Paulsen is also the author of a popular Dell paperback adventure series aimed at primary-grade readers: Captive!; Danger on Midnight River; Escape from Fire Mountain; The Gorgon Slayer; Hook 'Em, Snotty!; The Legend of Red Horse Cavern; Project: A Perfect World; The Rock Jockeys; Rodomonte's Revenge; The Seventh Crystal; and Skydive!

DISCLAIMER NOTICE: I often receive mail intended for Gary Paulsen, sent to me in hopes that I will forward it to him. The fact is that I do not know Gary Paulsen's current home address. He moves often, perhaps to escape the huge mail deliveries. In any case, all correspondence must be directed to his respective publisher.. The official Paulsen Web site is: www.garypaulsen.com.
    Caution, teachers: Please do not encourage students to write to popular authors with the expectations of either a response or a photograph/bookmark/autograph. That is unfair to both the author and the student. One of the best books Beverly Cleary ever wrote, Dear Mr. Henshaw, was about this very subject, among other things. As noted above, Paulsen receives from 250  to 400 letters a day. The chances of a response are slim, to none. Why set the student up for disappointment? If they are goig to write to the author, encourage them not to expect anything in return. A book can be very much like a conversation with the author; the reader is free to respond in a letter or email but the author has already completed his or her side of the conversation by writing the book.

HAVE YOU READ: Those who enjoy Gary Paulsen's outdoor adventure novels will also enjoy these books by Will Hobbs: Bearstone; Beardance; Far North; The Big Wander; and Kokopelli's Flute. Also: Rascal and The Wolfling, both by Sterling North; Call of the Wild and White Fang, both by Jack London; Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey; Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat; Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls; Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo; The Iceberg Hermit by Arthur Roth (out of print but easily secured through inter-library loan at a public library or bookfinder.com); and Winter Danger by William O. Steele.

*Gary Paulsen photo on first page by Ruth Wright Paulsen

B
efore I was fortunate enough to become a successful writer, I worked at home, writing as much as I could between construction jobs. Because I had so much downtime, I added my name to a list of volunteers available to answer emergency ambulance calls. My wife and I lived then in a small prairie town in the middle of farm country, near the confluence of two major highways. The volunteer service was small, and all we had was one old ambulance donated by a city that had bought new ones. But we were the only service available for thousands of square miles.
   Guts coverWe answered calls to highway wrecks, farm accidents, poisonings, gunshot accidents and many, many heart attacks. I would go out on calls alone or with another man who also worked at home.
   I saw at least a dozen heart attack victims in the first year. Sadly, most of them were dead before I arrived. The distances we had to cover were so great that we simply could not get there in time to save them. If we did arrive before they died, we had to wait an hour or more for the "flight for life" chopper from the nearest city. Often it arrived too late.
   When I came to write Hatchet, I remembered one call to a small ranch some sixty miles northeast of Colorado Springs. It was early in the morning when the siren cut loose, and I ran half-dressed for my old truck, drove to the garaged where the ambulance was kept and answered the phone hanging on the wall.
   "Please come quick!" a woman said. "It's my Harvey. He's having chest pains."
   She gave me the location of the ranch and I took off. It should have taken me a full twenty minutes to get there because of the roughness of the gravel roads but I arrived in fourteen minutes by driving like a maniac.
   It was just getting light as I ran into the house carrying our emergency bag, and I could smell what was happening as soon as I entered the kitchen . . .

— excerpted from GUTS by Gary Paulsen, Delacorte 2001


Paulsen Profilep. 1    Pagetop

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Three author profiles appear at this site from Jim Trelease's popular read-aloud anthologies,
Hey! Listen to This & Read All About It!
including the remarkable background stories missing from the dust jackets of their books.

Beverly Cleary
author profile, by Jim Trelease

Gary Paulsen
author profile, by Jim Trelease

Wilson Rawls
author profile, by
Jim Trelease
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