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Father Water, Mother Woods

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Written by Gary PaulsenAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Gary Paulsen and Ruth Wright PaulsenAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Ruth Wright Paulsen

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On Sale: August 31, 2011
Pages: 192 | ISBN: 978-0-307-80419-8
Published by : Laurel Leaf RH Childrens Books
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Synopsis|Excerpt
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Synopsis

Survival in the wilderness--Gary Paulsen writes about it so powerfully in his novels Hatchet and The River because he's lived it.  These essays recount his adventures alone and with friends, along the rivers and in the woods of northern Minnesota. There, fishing and hunting are serious business, requiring skill, secrets, and inspiration. Luck, too--not every big one gets away.


This book takes readers through the seasons, from the incredible taste of a spring fish fresh from the smokehouse, to the first sight of the first deer, to the peace of the winter days spent dreaming by the stove in a fishhouse on the ice. In Paulsen's north country, every expedition is a major one, and often hilarious.


Once again Gary Paulsen demonstrates why he is one of America's most beloved writers, for he shows us fishing and hunting as pleasure, as art, as companionship, and as sources of life's deepest lessons.

Excerpt

Down by the Power Dam

Every year it is necessary for fishing to start.  Even though it has gone on year-round it must have a beginning each year, and fishing always started in the spring.

In the small northern town in Minnesota where we were raised it is possible that everything started in the spring, but fishing was the most important thing, and it became vital to watch for the signs that it would begin.

There were two primary indications.

One was the car on the ice.

Pollution was not then considered nor discussed, and each year the town would put an old car on the frozen ice of the river and tie wires from the car to a clock on a tree on the bank.  The idea was that when the ice started to go out the car would fall through the ice, trip the clock, and there would be an exact record of when this event occurred.

Much was made of this whole business.  It was not just a way to dispose of old cars-- although over the years the bottom of the river became littered with them, and god only knows how many fishing lures were lost by people trying to fish around the cars and catching their hooks on door handles or bumpers.  More importantly, the old car on the ice became a contest that occupied the whole town.

Everybody guessed at the exact moment when the ice would progress enough into the "rotten" stage (also known as "honeycomb ice," which I would come to know intimately and with horror later, running dog teams on small lakes and the Bering Sea) and allow the car to drop to the bottom.

It started that simply.  At the courthouse or the library there was a large bulletin board, and for a dollar you could sign the board and write down your guess to win the car-through-the-ice raffle.  Of course, you never met anyone who had won, but only those who knew somebody who had won, and therein, in the winning, the simplicity was lost.

The raffle dominated the town.  Merchants competed with each other to put up prizes for the winner so that along with a sizable cash award there were dozens, hundreds of other prizes, and all of them had to do with summer and most of them had to do with fishing.

Rods, reels, life jackets, lures, anchors, boats, picnic baskets, motors--it was said that a person could win the raffle and be set for life as far as fishing or summer was concerned, and as the time approached people would find reasons to walk or drive along the river to see the old car.

"Oh, I had to run down to the elevator and check on grain prices," they would say.  "The car has one wheel through but she's still hanging there."

"My aunt's been feeling poor," they would say, about an aunt they hadn't spoken to in twelve years, "and I thought I should stop by and check on her.  The car has both rear wheels down now.  She's just hanging there, teetering..."

"Your aunt?"

"No, the car, you ninny--the car on the ice."

And as the time grew still closer there were those who would come and sit with bottles in paper sacks and fur caps and boogers hanging out their noses and drink and spit and scratch and wait and sometimes pray; just sit there and wait for the car to fall and make their fortunes.

Naturally it never happened when anybody thought it would happen, but it always signaled the end, the final end of winter.

And the beginning of spring.  Also, when the ice became that rotten it began the signal to the fish that spawning was close.

The second indication was the light.

All winter the light had been low, flat, cold.  In midwinter it became light in the morning at nine or so and began to get dark at three-thirty or four in the afternoon on a cloudy day, and most of the time it seemed to be dark and cold.

But as spring came and the ice became rotten on the river the light moved, was a thing alive.  The sun came back north, like an old friend that seemed to have been gone forever, and it changed everything, changed the way things looked. There was still snow, still cold at light, but during the day it was brighter, clearer; everything seemed bathed in soft gold.

People changed as well.  During the winter, talk--what talk there was--was always short and to the point and almost always seemed to be on weather-related problems: how difficult it was to start a car in the cold, who was sick with a cold, who was getting sick, who had been sick and was getting well only to get sick again, how it was necessary to drain the car radiators at night (this was before antifreeze) and refill them with warm water when it was time to start them the next day and how they almost never started and wasn't it a shame that the car companies, the Car Companies with all their money, couldn't design a car to start in the winter?

The light changed all that, made the winter end, though there was still more cold weather, still more mornings when nostril hairs stuck to the insides of your nose and the combed ducktails froze on the way to school, more days when it was possible to play the joke where somebody talks somebody else--and where do they keep coming from, the ones who can be talked into these things?--into pushing their tongue out on a frozen propane tank where it would stick and leave a piece of tongue-skin.

The light changed all things.

It was the same sun, and it seemed to come up at the same time, but it rose higher and made gold, new gold that altered everything.  Jacobsen's Bakery, where we would get free fresh hot rolls sometimes in the morning to carry when we delivered papers--two rolls each, one in the mouth and one still hot in the pocket of the jacket for later--the bakery was transformed.  It had been an old brick building with a loading ramp on the back for the truck to get the fresh bread, and now, in the new gold light it became a bright castle of fresh bread smells and beauty; rising out of the alley next to the Montgomery Ward (always, always called the Monkey Wards) store.

The trees near the library, still without leaves, still with scrabbly arms that reached into the sky, did not seem ominous now but reaching.  And the library seemed to shine with warmth and beckoned in the new light, and it became impossible to believe in winter any longer, only in the newness of spring.

And fishing.
Gary Paulsen|Author Q&A

About Gary Paulsen

Gary Paulsen - Father Water, Mother Woods

Photo © Tim Keating

“We have been passive. We have been stupid. We have been lazy. We have done all the things we could do to destroy ourselves. If there is any hope at all for the human race, it has to come from young people. Not from adults.”—Gary Paulsen

A three-time Newbery Honor winner, Gary Paulsen is also winner of the 1997 Margaret A. Edwards Award, which honors an author’s lifetime contribution to writing books for teenagers.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Writing is so much a part of the way I live . . .

Writing is so much a part of the way I live that I would be lost without the discipline and routine. I write every day—every day—and it gives me balance and focus. Every day I wake up, usually at 4:30 a.m., with the sole purpose of sitting down to write with a cup of hot tea and a computer or a laptop or a pad of paper—it doesn’t matter. I’ve written whole books in my office, in a dog kennel with a headlamp, on more airplanes than I can remember, on the trampoline of my catamaran off the shores of Fiji—it never matters where I write, just where the writing takes me.

Everything else I do is just a path to get me to that moment when I start to work. Sometimes I’m lucky and the living part of life gets folded into the writing part, like with Dogsong and the Brian books and Caught by the Sea and How Angel Peterson Got His Name. Those books were based on personal inspection at zero altitude, I took experiences that I had and turned them into books. I’ve spent a great deal of time in the outdoors, but not with the specific goal of writing about it later. I’ll be honest, though, and tell you that I enjoyed writing about those times as much as, if not more than, I enjoyed living through those times in the first place. I didn’t start writing until I was 26 years old. I look back now and wonder what I thought I was supposed to be doing with my time before that.

I’ve experimented with different voices and styles . . .
Sometimes the way to tell a story is even more important than the story itself. I’ve experimented with different voices and styles and genres over the years. The Glass Café and Harris and Me were born of the voices of people I could not get out of my head. Tony was a boy I knew back when I lived in Hollywood and Harris was a cousin from my childhood. To honor their voices, I wrote the books in very different styles. Tony had a fast-paced, breathless speaking style and I had fun trying to capture that on paper. And the best way to paint a picture of Harris was to detail all those crazy stunts of his.

Nightjohn and Soldier’s Heart were the result of studying history. Sarny came from the research I did in the National Archives when I stumbled across the Slave Narratives. And I discovered Charley Goddard when reading a book about the Minnesota First Volunteers. I hadn’t expected to find characters for books of my own when I started reading, but I could not shake them until I tried to figure out on paper what their lives must have been like.

I am still amazed by the gifts that writing gives to me . . .
Even after all these years, I am still amazed by the gifts that writing gives to me. There is not only the satisfaction from the hard work—and even after all this time and all these books, it is still very hard work for me to make a book—and the way the hair rises on the back of my neck when a story works for me, but also the relationships I have made with the people who read my books.

The one true measure of success for me has always been the readers . . .
People ask me about the kind of money I make and how many awards I’ve received, but the one true measure of success for me
has always been the readers. I give the checks to my wife and my agent keeps the awards for me. The only thing I have in my office, other than junk and work and research, is a framed letter from one of my readers. That means more to me than just about anything else, the letters
I get from the people who read my books.

Thank you for reading my books and for writing to me. Read like a wolf eats. Read.

******************************

Born May 17, 1939, Gary Paulsen is one of America’s most popular writers for young people. Although he was never a dedicated student, Paulsen developed a passion for reading at an early age. After a librarian gave him a book to read—along with his own library card—he was hooked. He began spending hours alone in the basement of his apartment building, reading one book after another.

Running away from home at the age of 14 and traveling with a carnival, Paulsen acquired a taste for adventure. A youthful summer of rigorous chores on a farm; jobs as an engineer, construction worker, ranch hand, truck driver, and sailor; and two rounds of the 1,180-mile Alaskan dogsled race, the Iditarod; have provided ample material from which he creates his powerful stories.

Paulsen’s realization that he would become a writer came suddenly when he was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California. One night he walked off the job, never to return. He spent the next year in Hollywood as a magazine proofreader, working on his own writing every night. Then he left California and drove to northern Minnesota where he rented a cabin on a lake; by the end of the winter, he had completed his first novel.

Living in the remote Minnesota woods, Paulsen eventually turned to the sport of dogsled racing, and entered the 1983 Iditarod. In 1985, after running the Iditarod for the second time, he suffered an attack of angina and was forced to give up his dogs. “I started to focus on writing with the same energies and efforts that I was using with dogs. So we’re talking 18-, 19-, 20-hour days completely committed to work. Totally, viciously, obsessively committed to work, the way I’d run dogs. . . . I still work that way, completely, all the time. I just work. I don’t drink, I don’t fool around, I’m just this way. . . . The end result is there’s a lot of books out there.”

It is Paulsen’s overwhelming belief in young people that drives him to write. His intense desire to tap deeply into the human spirit and to encourage readers to observe and care about the world around them has brought him both enormous popularity with young people and critical acclaim from the children’s book community. Paulsen is a master storyteller who has written more than 175 books and some 200 articles and short stories for children and adults. He is one of the most important writers of young adult literature today, and three of his novels—Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room—are Newbery Honor Books. His books frequently appear on the best books lists of the American Library Association.

Paulsen has received many letters from readers (as many as 200 a day) telling him they felt Brian Robeson’s story in Hatchet was left unfinished by his early rescue, before the winter came and made things really tough. They wanted to know what would happen if Brian were not rescued, if he had to survive in the winter. Paulsen says, “I researched and wrote Brian’s Winter, showing what could and perhaps would have happened had Brian not been rescued.”

In Paulsen’s book, Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books, Paulsen shares his own adventures in the wild, which are often hilarious and always amazing: moose attacks, heart attacks, near-misses in planes, and looking death in the eye.

Paulsen has written a time-travel novel, The Transall Saga, which was named an ALA Quick Pick. And in the heartwrenching story Soldier’s Heart, Paulsen brings the Civil War to life battle by battle, as readers see the horror of combat and its devastating results through the eyes of 15-year-old Charley Goddard.

Paulsen and his wife Ruth Wright Paulsen, an artist who has illustrated several of his books, divide their time between a home in New Mexico and a boat in the Pacific. For more information about Gary Paulsen, visit www.garypaulsen.com


PRAISE


ALIDA’S SONG
“Readers will want to savor this stirring book.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

THE BEET FIELDS
“The ultimate coming-of-age story. . . . Exceptional and so heartbreakingly real.”—Starred, Booklist

BRIAN’S WINTER
“Paulsen crafts a companion/sequel to Hatchet containing many of its same pleasures. . . . Read together, the two books make his finest tale of survival yet.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

HOW ANGEL PETERSON GOT HIS NAME
“These episodes will not only keep young readers, of both sexes, in stitches, they’re made to order for reading aloud.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

MR. TUCKET
“Superb characterizations, splendidly evoked setting, and thrill-a-minute plot make this book a joy to gallop through.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

MY LIFE IN DOG YEARS
“A treat to make Paulsen fans sit up and beg for more. . . . His writing percolates with energetic love.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

SARNY
A Life Remembered
“A satisfying sequel. . . . It is a great read, with characters both to hate and to cherish, and a rich sense of what it really was like then.”—Starred, Booklist

SOLDIER’S HEART
“The novel’s spare, simple language and vivid visual images of brutality and death on the battlefield make it accessible and memorable to young people.”—Starred, Booklist

THE TRANSALL SAGA
“A riveting science fiction adventure. . . . Captivating.”—Starred, Booklist

Author Q&A

author fun facts

Born:
May 17 in Minneapolis, Minnesota


Previous jobs: Farm hand, ranch hand, truck driver, sailor, dogsled racer, teacher, field engineer, editor, soldier, actor, director, trapper, professional archer, migrant farm worker, singer


Hobbies: Sailing, collecting and riding Harley Davidsons; twice ran the Iditarod, the challenging 1,000 mile dogsled race across Alaska


Inspiration for writing: After a librarian gave him a book to read--along with his own library card--Gary was hooked. He began spending hours alone in the basement of his apartment building, reading one book after another.


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

"This book is obviously a feast for the outdoor lover--the hunter, fisherman, or camper--but it will also draw those who love the beauty of the carefully crafted description, so detailed and vivid....The essence of Paulsen."--Booklist

"The pieces are rooted in the details of a youth spent in search of perfection: the perfect cast, perfect catch, perfect shot...On target." --School Library Joumal

"Descriptions of light and water, of fish and wildlife, kindle in the reader a measure of the author's own complex respect for nature."
--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

  • Father Water, Mother Woods by Gary Paulsen; with illustrations by Ruth Wright Paulsen
  • March 01, 1996
  • Sports & Recreation
  • Laurel Leaf
  • $5.99
  • 9780440219842

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