I would be dead without libraries

24 Sep

Award-winning young adult author Gary Paulsen gives a candid account of his life story.

A librarian saved Gary Paulsen’s life.

More than 100 people listened with amazement Sunday as the self-proclaimed street kid who became an award-winning author shared his life story at the Carnegie-Stout Public Library.

“I would be dead without libraries,” said Paulsen, 71.

Dressed in a black turtleneck sweater and blue jeans, the author of three Newbery Honor Books — “Hatchet,” “Dogsong” and “The Winter Room” — held nothing back.

Paulsen described how he sold newspapers as a teenager at bars. One cold night, he walked into a library to keep warm until the drunks got so sloshed that he could easily swipe extra change.

Once inside, something amazing happened. A librarian asked Paulsen if he would like a library card.

“Nobody gave me anything,” Paulsen said.

He was shocked when the librarian gave him his very own card with his name correctly spelled. She encouraged Paulsen to read more and more books over the next few years.

Although he failed in almost everything at school, Paulsen continued to read.

“Everything that I am or ever will be in writing is because of (that librarian),” he said.

The famous author of more than 175 books was one of many authors who helped Carnegie-Stout celebrate the completion of its $6.5 million renovation project.

“I love the book ‘Hatchet,’ and thought it’d be a really cool experience to see him,” said Kate Hanley, 13, of Dubuque.

Although Paulsen’s core audience is young adults, he has written a few adult books.

“It’s artistically fruitless to write for adults,” Paulsen said. He added that he prefers to write for young adults who “are still open to new ideas.”

Throughout the years, Paulsen has been able to keep in touch with an ever-changing young adult population by being as honest as he possibly can in his books.

Paulsen said he still is amazed that his books are taught in classrooms throughout the country.

“There’s a great irony considering that I flunked everything,” Paulsen said. “I never thought of myself as teachable … I was just trying to get through alive.”  (via THOnline.com)

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One Response to “I would be dead without libraries”

  1. Jean Holmblad September 24, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    Great post. Paulsen is one of my favorites, and he is terrific in person.

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