Gary Paulsen (born May 17, 1939) is a prolific American writer, who writes many young adult coming of age stories about the wilderness.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Paulsen is the author of more than 200 books (many of which are out of print), 200 magazine articles and short stories, and several plays; primarily for young adults. Paulsen's interests in books and reading began when he was a teenager and walked into a library to escape the cold Minnesota winter. Reading helped Paulsen cope with a difficult family situation then (his parents were both alcoholics) and remains a constant in his life today.
Since the age of 15, Paulsen has worked at many jobs in an effort to support himself: migrant worker, soldier, field engineer, driver, and an adult magazine editor. Paulsen used his work as a magazine editor to learn the craft of writing. In 1966, his first book was published, Some Birds don't Fly (possibly published under different names). Using his varied life experiences, but especially those of an outdoorsman—a hunter, trapper, and two-time competitor in the 1,049 mile Iditarod dog sled race, Paulsen writes about what he knows best.
Much of Paulsen's work features outdoor settings showing the importance of water and woods to the harmony of nature. He often uses a coming of age theme, where a character masters the art of survival in isolation as a rite of passage to manhood.
Paulsen's most famous books are probably the Hatchet series, although he has published many other popular adventure novels including Winterdance are among the most popular books about the Iditarod.
Paulsen competed in the 1983 and 1985 Iditarods. In 1990, due to heart problems, he gave up dogsledding and sold his dogs, which he has described as the most difficult thing he has ever done. After more than a decade spent sailing all over the Pacific, Paulsen got back into dogsledding in 2003. In 2005, he was scheduled to compete in the 33rd Iditarod after a 20-year absence, but withdrew shortly before the start of the race. He is scheduled to participate in the 2006 Iditarod in March.
Paulsen lives in La Luz, New Mexico with his wife, Ruth Wright Paulsen, an artist (who has illustrated several of his books