Gary Paulsen (born May 17, 1939) is an American writer, who writes many young adult coming of age stories about the wilderness. He is the author of more than 200 books (many of which are out of print), 200 magazine articles and short stories, and several plays, all primarily for young adults and teens.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Paulsen was raised by his parents and later lived with his grandmother and aunts. At the age of 14 he had run away from home to join a carnival. Paulsen used his work as a magazine proofreader to learn the craft of writing. In 1966, his first book was published under the title The Special War . Using his varied life experiences, especially those of an outdoorsman (a hunter, trapper, and two-time competitor in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race), Paulsen writes about what he knows best.
Much of Paulsen's work features the outdoors and highlights the importance of nature. He often uses "coming of age" themes in his novels, where a character masters the art of survival in isolation as a rite of passage to manhood and maturity. He is critical of technology and has been called a Luddite.
Some of Paulsen's most well-known books are the Hatchet series, although he has published many other popular novels including Dogsong, Harris and Me, and The Winter Room, which won the Newbery Honor. Woodsong and Winterdance are among the most popular books about the Iditarod.
Paulsen competed in the 1983 and 1985 Iditarods. In 1990, due to angina, he gave up dog sledding, which he has described as the most difficult decision he has ever made. After more than a decade spent sailing all over the Pacific, Paulsen got back into dog sledding in 2003. In 2005, he was scheduled to compete in the 2005 Iditarod after a 20-year absence, but withdrew shortly before the start of the race. He participated in the 2006 Iditarod, but scratched after two days.
Paulsen lives in La Luz, New Mexico with his wife, Ruth Wright Paulsen, an artist who has illustrated several of his books. He also maintains a spread north of Willow, Alaska where he breeds and trains sled dogs for the Iditarod. His son James is in his twenties and is working at a university.
According to Paulsen's keynote speech on October 13 at the 2007 Sinclair Lewis writing conference in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, he intended to compete in the Iditarod again however he is listed in the "Mushers Withdrawn" section of the 2009 race website.