Friday, July 6, 2012

Gary Paulsen--A Master Survivor of Survival Tales

Some may think he's rough around the edges, or even, dare I say, a bit crude?  Perhaps.  His genius, however, is something to behold in books such as Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room, all three of which were Newbery Honor Books.

Gary Paulsen
Illinois Reading Council Conference
March 17, 2012
His books frequently appear on the best books lists of the American Library Association. Who am I referring to? Why, Gary Paulsen, of course.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Paulsen at the Illinois Reading Council Conference in March, 2012, where we were both speakers.  A true character he is, with some good reasons.

Born in Minneapolis in 1939, Mr. Paulsen had no formal education after the age of fourteen when he ran away from home to join a circus. ( I've thought for years that incident sounded like a book in itself!) 
Dogsong Paulsen had a generally rough childhood with alcoholic parents.  He did not meet his father until the age of nine because of World War II.

 He worked on a farm as a youth, worked as an engineer, construction worker, ranch hand, truck driver, and sailor.  He also had done two rounds of the 1,180-mile Alaskan dog sled race, the Iditarod. 

The Winter RoomPaulsen's realization that he would become a writer came suddenly when he was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California.

He spent the next year in Hollywood as a magazine proofreader, working on his own writing every night. He left California and drove to northern Minnesota where he rented a cabin on a lake. By  winter's, he had completed his first novel.  The rest, as is said, is history.

In listening to his speech at the conference this past spring, I was struck by how every nugget of our lives becomes the true fodder for our books.  Mr. Paulsen's early life was one of constant striving for survival.  It only follows, then, that he is a master of the survival tale.  Kudos to him for surviving and sharing his gift with the world.

12 comments:

  1. What an interesting story! I'm with you Nancy, running off to join the circus is screaming for it's own book!

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    1. I know, Sharon. Amazing, isn't it? Thanks for the comment!

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  2. Well done, Nancy. What an interesting journey of self discovery by one who actually found himself. May we all be as fortunate.

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    1. So true, Bill. This gentleman is to be commended on many levels. Thanks for your comment!

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  3. My kids love his books. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

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    1. You're welcome, Kai. I appreciate it!

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  4. I loved this post Nancy. What an interesting life he led. His many adventures, and hardships, I think, would make for a best seller. Thanks for another interesting story.

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    1. I couldn't agree more, Susan. The research I did on him hinted that stories about him have been changed through the years. That doesn't negate what an impoverished, subsistence life he lived as a youth.

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  5. Hi Nancy, I love his books, too, and used them in teaching. Such an interesting life he's had. I'm jealous that you met him. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Penelope. It was a pleasure meeting him and a curious one as well. He speaks in a rather stream of consciousness manner, and lots of things come out!

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  6. I am a HUGE fan of Gary Paulson's writing. My son loved the adventure and fun of his books. Great for HOOKING Kids on Reading!!

    *Books for Kids – Manuscript Critiques
    http://www.margotfnke.com

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    1. Couldn't agree more. My kids ate his work up, too--even my pre-teachers in class! Thanks for the comment.

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