Archive for July, 2005
Friday, July 29th, 2005
When I was in Chicago in June, signing copies of Marley & Me at the American Library Assocation convention, an older man in line asked me, “Could you make it out to John and Big Mac?” Sure, I told him, but added: “Don’t tell me; Big Mac has got to be a dog, right?” Indeed, he was, and John was the man’s adult son. When the man saw that my book was about a young married couple trying to rein in a very large, very excitable, very — how shall we say? — “spirited” dog, he knew it would be just right for his son.
A couple days ago, I got this e-mail from John the son, dad of Big Mac:
> Mr. Grogan
> My dad bought your book Marley & Me at the ALA conference in Chicago.
> You undoubtably don’t remember but you signed it to John and Big
> Mac. I just wanted you to know that your book was very inspirational to
> me. It is one of the best books I have ever read; it is truly outstanding.
> BigMac, our 98 lbs. Airedale terrier is exactly how you described
> Marley to be. What you said is true, they really are “great” dogs, but something only
> the owners and friends of big-dog breeds would understand. Anyhow, thank you
> very much for sharing your story, and good luck with it.
Thanks for the email, John. But, hey, I’m one of those “owners of big-dog breeds” and I still don’t fully understand it. Why do we invite these large, slobbering, powerful animals into our homes where they can gouge the floors, topple the furniture, fling saliva, and punch holes in the screens? Wouldn’t a pint-sized pooch make a lot more sense? What is it about large dogs we big-breed types love so much? Lord, I hope I’m not compensating for something!
Wednesday, July 27th, 2005
This just in from another one of those great librarians….
While at the NYC Book Expo I received an advance copy of Marley & Me. I quickly devoured it. What a great book. I have since passed it on to several friends and family members. This truly is a book that any animal lover can identify with. One moment I was laughing, the next crying, and the next thanking God that my dog is only 10 pounds. Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know how much I truly enjoyed your book. It isn’t often that I read something that I feel compelled to pass onto others.
Dauphin County Library System
Dear Heather… So, ten pounds, you say? Multiply your pooch by nine, add a dose of hyperactivity and three shakes of attention-deficit disorder, slowly pour in an endless supply of slobber, and you get … one Marley. Follow this recipe at your own risk! — john
Sunday, July 24th, 2005
Labrador retrievers are America’s most popular breed by a long shot. And I just discovered yet another reason to love them — their plumbing systems. Yes, folks, we’re talking pee and poop here.
Let me explain. I’ve always taken those essential functions for granted in my dogs….first with Marley, who managed to screw up just about everything he attempted in life but when it came to bodily functions was as predictable as a Swiss watch, and now with Gracie, our young female Lab who just turned one. Marley was, and Gracie is, a breeze on the potty front. My friends’ Labs are the same way. They lap up vast amounts of water, yet can seemingly go hours without having to urinate, or apparently even having the urge. (Could it be because so much of the water from their bowls ends up on the floor?) They gulp down vast amounts of dog chow, yet defecate once or twice a day and that’s it.
Enter Spice, the Dog with the Thimble-Sized Bladder and Bitty Bowels. She belongs to our friends Dan and Andy and is a lovely mid-sized dog with a happy personality and good manners. They claim she’s an exotic purebred native North American canine, but if you ask me she’s got the word MUTT stamped across her forehead. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. My greatest dog ever was Shaun, the indistinct mongrel of my boyhood.
Anyway, we’re dog-sitting Spice as I write this. She’s great. We all love her. And Gracie plays with her endlessly, burning up some of that endless adolescent energy. There’s just one thing….the dog has to go out to answer nature’s call, like, every 40 minutes. At first I thought it was a scam, her tactic for escaping the confines of the house and getting yard time to chase birds and bunnies. But every time we open the front door, as soon as her paws hit the grass, she lays an enormous dump. Then she takes a long, long, long pee. Where is all this stuff coming from? Meanwhile, Gracie just stares at her with the same look of disbelief on her face. (Not again!)About every fourth visit to the Great Outdoors, Gracie actually joins her in relieving herself.
Spice whines softly to go out at midnight (after what I thought had been the final walk of the night at 11) and then is softly whining again at 6 a.m. I don’t dare ignore her and jam a pillow over my ears. We tried that the first day she was with us, and she left an odorous gift on the kitchen floor. Any port in a storm.
I had always taken our Labs’ intestinal fortitude for granted. No longer. Yet another reason to love a Lab. Thank you, Spice, for helping me remember that sometimes it’s the little things that matter. And in fairness to you, if your frequent potty breaks is as bad as it gets, you’re a pretty damn good dog, girl. Poop on!
Thursday, July 21st, 2005
I spent Monday and Tuesday in New York City trying my hand at a whole new life experience….recording my written words. Yes, that would be in my voice — the same voice that everytime I hear it on our phone answering machine makes me cringe. A brave new frontier in audio recording.
I was in town from Pennysylvania to record the audio version of Marley & Me. Given that voice, which leans toward the nasal (I’m told I do a dead-on Bob Dylan imitation), I thought it must be some mistake. HarperAudio couldn’t possibly want me to read my book myself. But no, producer Rick Harris assured me, whenever possible with nonfiction works, they try to have the author read himself. And so at 10 a.m. Monday I found myself in a small, soundproof room in the HarperCollins building in Midtown with a microphone, a glass of water and my manuscript. Harris and a sound engineer were in a control booth separated from me by a large piece of plate glass. A speaker allowed us to talk back and forth. Black-and-white photos of literary giants in the recording booth from years past surrounded me on the walls…. Dylan Thomas, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty. No pressure. Oh geez, no pressure at all.
“I’ve never done this before,” I confessed.
“Not a problem,” he said. “Just be yourself.”
“You sure you really want that? ‘Myself’ is definitely an acquired taste.”
He gave me the drill. Don’t rush, don’t drag, don’t be boring. Don’t shout, don’t whisper, don’t mumble — but also don’t get all wrapped up over-EE-NUN-SEE-ATE-ING. Pretend you are reading your kids a bedtime story. I would be making mistakes, he said, and that was to be expected. Just start the sentence over, and an editor would later go through and snip out all the flubs, coughs, sniffles, garbles, and the like. Then through the glass, he said, “Tape is…rolling.”
Holy smokes! This was it. The moment of truth. I cleared my throat. “Preface: The Perfect Dog…”
I got about three words into it before mangling a phrase. From the top… Then eight words. Then twelve. So went the first hour. To the poor editor who has the misfortune of having to slice and dice out all the mistakes and make me sound polished, I truly, sincerely apologize. You’re about to earn your paycheck, pal.
But as the morning progressed, I began to get my recording mojo down. By the time we broke for lunch, I already had more than 100 pages behind me. And by 1:30 the next afternoon, I read the book’s final line into the microphone and looked up expectantly at Harris through the plate glass, half expecting him to say through the little speaker, “You know what? I really think we need to start over from the top…Has anyone ever told you, you sound an awful lot like Bob Dylan?” But he just gave me a thumb’s up and said, “That’s it. We’re done.”
And that is how I came to record Marley & Me, the audio book.
Thursday, July 21st, 2005
In a July 15 posting, LibraryJournal.com put Marley & Me on it’s nonfiction “prepub alert” ( http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA622715.html ). Here’s the blurb:
Grogan, John. Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog. Morrow. Nov. 2005. 288p. ISBN 0-06-081708-9. $21.95; lrg. prnt. ISBN 0-06-083398-X. $23.95. CD: HarperAudio. Okay, maybe he chewed things and ran into screen doors, but Marley also taught Philadelphia Inquirercolumnist Grogan the meaning of love. Morrow’s big hit at BEA.
Thursday, July 14th, 2005
Mary B. works for an academic press in Michigan, my proud home state (“Land of Many Unemployed Auto Workers”). She sent this note after reading an early copy of Marley & Me:
Dear John Grogan,
Last week I was at the annual book publishing extravaganza, Book Expo of America and a bookseller friend of mine stopped by my stand and plopped an advance reading copy of MARLEY & ME down in front of me and told me that I had to read your book but that I should keep a box of kleenex handy for the ending!
I just finished the book last night and all I can say is that you should get a separate e-mail address just for this book because if people have the reaction I had you will be flooded with heartfelt comrades from all over the country/world! What a great story.
I have a Marley and I understand the trials and tribulations and the absolute patience and good will that it can take…but it’s truly worth it, isn’t it?
The very best of luck to you with the book, it’s really terrific and I’ll tell all of my dog loving friends to pick up a copy of it when it’s out.
Thanks for the words of support, Mary. And I followed your advice and do have a separate email address just for talking about this book and website. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drop me a line!
Tuesday, July 12th, 2005
HarperCollins has a cool, reader-driven program called “First Look.” As described at http://www.harpercollins.com/firstlook/ it is “a program to preview books in literary fiction, general fiction, suspense, biography, cookbooks, and other genres, with readers who make a difference – you!” Basically, anyone who wants a free book can register at the above address. Readers are selected at random; in exchange for the early look, HarperCollins asks each of them to file a mini-review. The First Look reviews for Marley & Me came in a few days ago and I am happy (all right, I’ll admit it, bleepin’ relieved) to tell you that 100 percent of the randomly selected readers checked the little box saying they would recommend Marley & Me. And, no, you skeptics out there, they weren’t my cousins. Honest, I don’t know these people from Adam. I didn’t pay them. I didn’t offer to send their children to Harvard. I didn’t send a selection of Mom’s Killer Oatmeal Cookies. Didn’t offer to drop by Saturdays to wash windows.
When I say random, I mean random.
A selection of the First Look reviews are now posted on the www.marleyandme.com home page. But I’m getting increasingly comfortable with the author survival tactic known as shameless self-promotion (I hope if I get TOO comfortable with it, you’ll let me know)…and I can’t resist sharing some of the outtakes. So away we go….in no particular order:
* “I am ever so grateful to First Look for being given the exquisite opportunity to review this book. … I can’t say enough about this book. … How can John Grogan top this fantastic book?”
* “To say I liked this book doesn’t say enough.”
* “The writing style is superb, flows like ‘butter’.”
* “…This is definitely a book you cannot put down or ignore until it’s finished.”
* “Marley is the dog we’ve all had or known and still we love him to death.”
* “John’s voice resonated throughout the course of his story, and the book benefited from Grogan’s background in journalism.”
* “It is an honest account of living with an energetic Labrador retriever.”
* “Marley & Me is truly a wonderful read. I really enjoyed reading about ‘life and love’ with Marley, ‘the world’s worst dog’. Anyone who has ever loved an animal will surely relate to reading this gem of a book.”
* “As with any good book, you will finish THIS one with a good feeling. This book is really a wonderful tribute to human’s best friend.”
* “Mr. Grogan is a great writer.”
* “It’s a great story for anyone who’s ever owned a beloved pet, whether that pet is ‘perfect’ or otherwise. It’s also a great book for anyone who likes stories that are funny, sad, humorous, poignant, moving, and just plain enjoyable.”
* “First, let me state that you do not need to be a dog-lover to enjoy this book. … I could not put it down except during the times I was laughing too hard to read or crying too hard to see.”
* “I’ll be recommending it to others.”
I’ll stop here. Wow. I must say I am humbled and honored and totally flabbergasted (though obviously not left speechless) by this wonderful, amazing, heartfelt early feedback. As a daily newspaper columnist, I’ve always said the best part of my job is the interaction I have every morning with readers responding to my words. There is an intimacy there that is hard to describe.
This just might beat that.
Until next time…. jg
Sunday, July 10th, 2005
Beth B. is an academic researcher in North Carolina who was on a business trip recently with a colleague who was carrying an advanced copy of Marley & Me. Beth writes that she saw the cover with Marley’s puppy eyes staring out at her and couldn’t resist taking a peek. “I picked it up and started reading it,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Then I couldn’t put it down…” All right, Beth! Right response!
Seriously, she wrote a lovely note, which I wanted to share here. Beth, take it away:
Hi Mr. Grogan,
I felt that I had to tell you how much your book touched me. My husband and I have a wonderful 7-year-old chocolate lab named Moultrie, and I found myself laughing throughout your book, able to clearly picture your adventures with Marley, as many of them were adventures that I could envision experiencing with my goofball as well. I was able to identify with the intense feeling of love you can have for something that can be so destructive and inconvenient.
Of course, I was sobbing uncontrollably at the end of the book, even though Marley had obviously lived a very full and charmed life. It reminded me of Moultrie’s mortality and I spent a long time cuddling with her the night I finished the book.
Thank you for the reminder that these creatures are wonderful, unbelievably loyal and loving gifts to us, and that we need to appreciate them every single day while they are with us. If only their lives weren’t so short. Thanks for a beautiful book. Beth
And thanks for a beautiful note, Beth. Yes, if only their lives weren’t so short. For all the joy and laughter they bring humans, their roles in our families and our lives always end the same way — with us saying good bye to them. It’s never easy.
Friday, July 8th, 2005
Speaking of wonderful librarians, I recently received this note from a librarian and dog lover in New York. The words below are hers:
Dear Mr. Grogan,
I got your autographed copy of Marley & Me at Book Expo. Being the most dog obsessed librarian in two counties, I just had to. I am so glad I did.
Thank you for writing the book about my Rocky. Oh, you think you wrote about your dog but you were really writing about mine. The only thing that might have distinguished Marley from Rocky was that Rocky was black. Energy, rambunctiousness, insatiable appetite, joie d’ vivre–this was Rocky; devoted companion, guardian of little ones, chaser of squirrels, garbage emptier, sandwich stealer, counter surfer, shoe chewer–this was Rocky; ear infections, collapsing hips, bloat–this was Rocky.
Like you, my husband is an organic gardener. One day Rocky went out into the backyard and ate the rotting garbage in the compost pile. Not satisfied, he then came into the kitchen, opened a cabinet and consumed almost eight pounds of cat food. You cannot imagine the diarrhea that that culinary adventure produced. We took him to the vet where after a night of tests, iv’s, and a big bill, the vet pronounced his condition the result of “dietary indiscretion.”
I don’t know if you are one of those males who controls the tv remote and flips channels during commercials. My husband is. I knew Rocky was truly my dog when he ate the remote.
Those are only two events in Rocky’s 13 year life. Like Marley we helped him cross to Rainbow Bridge because of bloat. I miss the big oaf to this day.
I hope your book gets wide readership and big sales. You certainly can tell a tale. I laughed out loud and I cried. I know I will be recommending it to all my dog loving friends.
Franklin Square, NY
Thank you, Florence, for the great letter. I laughed out loud at Rocky’s indiscretions, especially the diagnosis of “dietary indiscretion.” If that doesn’t describe Labs, I don’t know what does.
Friday, July 8th, 2005
Librarians have to be some of the coolest people on earth. I was on a panel of new authors speaking a couple weekends ago in Chicago at the American Library Assocation convention. My talk was sponsored by Friends of Libraries U.S.A. (Click here to see the lineup of authors: http://www.folusa.org/html/June05firstauthor.html) We were in a meeting room at the Sheraton off Michigan Avenue, and I feared there might be, like six people in the room. After all, we were all first-time authors. There were 101 competing events at the same time. But every seat was soon taken, and by the time the event began at 1 p.m., people were standing along the walls, sitting on the floors, blocking the door. Like I said, librarians are great. They treat authors, even unknowns like myself, like rock stars. The program went on for two hours. Not a single person walked out. After we were done talking, we signed our books. Every last one went.
And then the publicist assigned to get me places whipped me across town to McCormick Place, where the sprawling ALA trade show was taking place. I was scheduled for a one-hour signing in the HarperCollins booth. I was kind of dreading it because my first experience doing a book signing had been just a few weeks earlier at the Book Expo of America in New York — and it was humbling. I was stationed beside a veteran author whose seventh book had just came out (sorry, I didn’t catch his name). And he had, literally, 300 people lined up for his autograph. My line: 27. I took my time, chatting with each one, stalling, doing everything in my power to not have the humiliation of sitting there alone looking forlornly at the crowd, pleading with my eyes, “Will anyone please let me sign a book for them?” More people dribbled in; a trickle. By the time my 30 minutes were up, I’d signed about 75 books. Not bad for a first-time author whose book wouldn’t be out for five months and whom no one had heard of. Not great. My editor gave me a sympathetic smile and, nodding to Mr. Bigshot next to me, said, “Next year, that will be you.” He was just trying to make me feel better, but I could have kissed him just the same.
But Chicago with the librarians was different. When I got to my signing station at 4 p.m., several dozen people — librarians all — were already lined up. They continued to come, and I continued to sign non-stop for my entire hour. One after another, no time for small talk. It was the end of the day, and the lights began to flick on and off, a signal that it was time to leave. But still the librarians swooped in for signed books. Some had heard me talk earlier that afternoon; many just were hungry to check out a new author. (Many were holding glasses of beer, handed out by the Harry Potter folks the next aisle over, and that very well may have had something to do with it. When librarians party, look out!)
They were book lovers all. And they made this new author feel welcome and wanted. Oh yeah! Thank you, librarians. Thank you, thank you, thank you.