Author Gary Paulsen has a message for kids. “Go home and kill your T.V. set. Throw a rock through it.”
On February 2nd 2012, several authors gathered at the Colorado Council on International Reading Association’s annual conference. One of them was Gary Paulsen. Paulsen is a well-known author among young people today. He is probably best known for his Brian series of books and is a three time Newberry Honor winner for his book Hatchet.
Paulsen said that the book Hatchet is probably his favorite “because it is so popular.” Hatchet is a story about a boy named Brian who gets in a plane crash and survives in Canada alone for 54 days. Brian was only 13 years old and was exposed to a lot.
When asked if boys are living a too sheltered life today, he said “If you count what they see, I think kids are exposed to some bad stuff on T.V. and on the computer.”
Paulsen says he spends all of his time writing. “And when I’m not writing I’m reading other author’s work,” he said. “I just love to write.”
But that wasn’t always the case. Paulsen had a rough childhood. His parents were “drunks” and he practically lived alone in the woods. He could hardly read, but when he was coming back from selling newspapers at the bar one day he stopped at the library. The librarian offered him a library card. “No one had ever given me anything in my life,” Paulsen said. He checked out a book and took it home and read it in the basement of the apartment where he lived with his parents. “I could only read about three pages at a time and it took me about 6 or 7 weeks to finish the book,” he said. Every week after that he went to the library to pick up a new book. With each new book, he read quicker and quicker. Learning to love reading was a big step towards his career.
Later in life, while he was working in the army, he decided he wanted to become a writer. He was making a good living but one day he had a change of heart. “It wasn’t even an epiphany, it was more than that. A voice in my head told me I had to be a writer,” he said. Paulsen quit his job and never looked back.
He moved to Hollywood, wrote for a magazine, and hated it. He moved back to Northern Minnesota and wrote his first book “Some Birds Don’t Fly”. His name was misspelled on the cover and he only earned $400 for it. During this time he fell in love with dogs and dog sledding. He was running trap lines for food on ATV’s and snowmobiles when Minnesota passed a law that you could only trap with dogs because it was more traditional. That was how he became involved with dogs and started dog sledding. He writes a lot about dog sledding.
Paulsen has run the Iditarod dog race in Alaska twice, which may have inspired his book Woodsong.
He said, “My own life is my inspiration.” For the start of the Iditarod they cover the streets in Anchorage in snow. His lead dog went off course onto the asphalt. It took great perseverance to get his team back on track. Perseverance is what kept him going through the race and through his rough life but in the end he became a very successful author.