Since the age of 15, Paulsen has worked at many jobs in an effort to support himself: migrant worker, soldier, field engineer, truck driver, and magazine editor (Handy, 1991). Paulsen used his work as a magazine editor to learn the craft of writing. In 1966, his first book was published, The Special War. Using his varied life experiences, but especially those of an outdoorsman--a hunter, trapper, and two-time competitor in the Iditarod, a 1,200 mile Alaskan dogsled race, Paulsen writes about what he knows best. This knowledge comes through clearly in the descriptive details he uses, making the reader feel part of the narrative.
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. Ethnic groups are presented with sensitivity and understanding, giving the reader a perspective not realized previously. . .the majestic use of language, the examination of human potential, a strong sense of humor...has won Paulsen his much deserved reputation...(Lesesne, 1996, p.341).
Paulsen lives in La Luz, New Mexico with his wife, Ruth, an artist.