Archive for April, 2007

A Memorable Performance

Friday, April 27th, 2007

A cool, steady drizzle was falling this morning over the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, where I live, but it wasn’t a sad or dreary rain. It felt nourishing and cleansing. The hillsides are bursting in green now, and the cherry and pear trees are in full, glorious bloom. The tulips are opening, the forsythia has painted swaths of eye-popping yellow across the landscape. In my garden, the early peas are an inch tall, the fall garlic is ankle high, and the broccoli and radishes have just broken through the soil. On a morning like this, the rain seems more friend than foe.

I had planned to start the day by transplanting a bushel of daylilies I had dug up and divided a few days ago. Not in this rain. So I poured a second cup of coffee and decided to check out a package that had arrived in the mail last week. Inside it was the new, soon-to-be-released audio version of my upcoming children’s book, “Marley: A Dog Like No Other.” The book comes out next week (May 1 release) along with my other children’s book, “Bad Dog, Marley!” Bad Dog is an illustrated book for 3 to 7 year olds. Marley: A Dog Like No Other is an adaptation for young readers, 8-12, of Marley & Me. And Harper Children’s Audio is simultaneously releasing an unabridged, four-CD audio version read by the actor, Neil Patrick Harris.

I performed the audio version of Marley & Me, and have always had a hard time listening to my own voice read my words. I guess we all sound funny to ourselves. But this morning I popped in CD #1 from Marley: A Dog Like No Other, and Harris’ soothing voice hooked me immediately. “Wow!” I thought. “So this is how it’s supposed to sound.” You probably remember Harris as the child star of the TV show Doogie Howser, M.D. He has since gone on to have a varied acting career. I was thrilled to learn he was performing the audio version of my young-reader book. And he did not disappoint. The story is aimed at third to seventh graders, and Harris set just the right tone, bringing the characters to life and bringing a lot of emotion and personality to his performance.

Jenny came in from the other room while I was listening. She heard me in there, laughing out loud at my own writing. “You are enjoying that WAY too much,” she said. Well, what can I say? It’s a whole different experience to hear my own words come to life through a talented actor. Good job, Neil Patrick Harris!

As I said, my two children’s books come out this Tuesday, May 1, and I will begin a three-week book tour that day with a scheduled appearance on NBC’s The Today Show. I say “scheduled” because there’s always the possibility I could be bumped in the event of a breaking news story. Otherwise, I’ll be there, with Gracie the Labrador retriever at my side. Gracie is pretty funny. She’s so skittish, the sound of her own nails on the tile floor can spook her, but she doesn’t think anything of going on national television in front of millions of people. Calm as a cucumber. I hope I absorb some of her mellow energy.

To find out what cities I’ll be appearing in for my children’s book tour, please visit the “upcoming events” link on the home page. Now it’s time for me to sign off. The rain has stopped and I just might be able to get those lilies into the ground. Happy spring, everyone.

If you can…

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

I just saw this bromide (below) over on the Marley message boards, and I have to say it totally resonated with me. I’m constantly amazed at how guileless dogs are. As I said in the book, a dog doesn’t care how much money you make, or what kind of car you drive, or your zip code, or class or race or creed. Except for the variety involving sticks and tennis balls, a dog does not play games.

A while back I was in midtown Manhattan for a meeting with my publisher, and I was walking down Fifth Avenue, the epicenter of America’s fabled runaway consumerism. There outside one of the designer shops was a homeless man in a wheelchair, with his mixed-breed dog at his side. I watched as the man hobbled away from his chair to rummage through a trash can. The dog, surrounded by one of the world’s most ostentatious displays of wealth, had eyes only for his master. And whenever anyone got too close to the empty chair, he would growl defensively. No powdered lady in a Rolls Royce was going to woo this mutt away to a more comfortable life. And I suppose that, in a nutshell, is why we so love our dogs.

Thanks “Typingfool” for sharing this bit of wisdom, even if the author is unknown….

If You Can..

If you can live without caffeine,
If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you time,
If you can overlook it when those you love take it out on you,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can ignore a friend’s limited education,
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
If you can honestly say that deep within your heart you have no prejudice
against creed, color, religion, gender preference, or politics,
THEN, you have ALMOST reached the same level of development as your dog.

-Author unknown

Jammin’ with the Symphony

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

Well, OK, I suppose “jamming” is a bit of an exaggeration considering I won’t be allowed anywhere near a musical instrument. But on this Saturday, April 7, I will be appearing live and on stage with the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra to narrate the orchestra’s performance of Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens.

Carnival of the Animals is a children’s program in which the musicians interpret various animals — elephants, donkeys, geese, lions — with their instruments, and I read the witty, playful poems of Ogden Nash between each movement. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and the proceeds benefit a good cause — the non-profit sinfonia. So if you are free Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. and in the area, come on out to Allentown Symphony Hall in beautiful (OK, I’m being generous here) downtown Allentown, PA. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children, and the program will last about an hour. I will be available afterward to sign books and say hello. Hope to see some of you there!

Here are the details from the orchestra’s press release:

The Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra is proud to announce a special family concert performance of “Carnival of the Animals” on Saturday April 7 at 3 pm in Allentown Symphony Hall. This concert will feature best -selling author of “Marley and Me”- John Grogan as narrator in addition to Martha Schrempel and 13 year old local prodigy Vivian Wang, as piano soloists.
The concert is being held in conjunction with the Allentown Easter Egg Hunt, presented by Life Church. It is also being promoted with assistance provided by the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley to families throughout the region.
The Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra has a long standing history of promoting classical concerts to a wide range of audiences in the Lehigh Valley. This concert exemplifies a commitment to expand the cultural offerings to local families that is also maintained throughout the concert year with special student tickets and outreach activities.
Music Director Allan Birney has also programmed “Spring” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” featuring Simon Maurer on violin with the Sinfonia. This will make a well-rounded concert that serves to introduce younger audiences to classical music while also satisfying audiences of all ages that regularly attend Sinfonia performances.
John Grogan will be available after the concert for book signing and children’s activities are being planned with area corporate sponsors.
Tickets are available through the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra for only $10- adults and $5 children (under 13). Please call the Sinfonia office at 610-437-7811 or e-mail for more information.