Archive for June, 2008

My new book: The Longest Trip Home

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I’m a little superstitious when it comes to my writing, preferring not to talk about projects until they are finished lest I somehow jinx them and they never get done at all, leaving me with egg on my face. Which is another way of saying that, even though I barely mentioned it on this blog or anywhere else, I have been very, very busy for the past 15 months.

I’ve been busy writing my next book, which is titled The Longest Trip Home. And now I am happy — overjoyed! — to talk about it because it is completed and in the able hands of my North American publisher William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, and in the equally able hands of my United Kingdom publisher, Hodder and Stoughton. The book is scheduled for release in the U.S. and Canada October 21 — less than four months away! — and shortly after in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

The Longest Trip Home is the story I knew even before Marley & Me came out was the one I wanted to tell next, the one bubbling up inside me, trying to get out. Once again, I found my inspiration in the true story of my own life. Already, it is being dubbed a “prequel” to Marley & Me, and in a sense it is because it tells the story that came first. Before there was Marley, there was a gleefully mischievous little boy — that would be me — growing up in a warm and loving but comically over-the-top Catholic family. We had crucifixes and Virgin Mary statues in every room of the house, holy water in the medicine cabinet, and rosaries on every bedstand. We even took family vacations to religious miracle sites. The more I tried to meet my devout parents’ expectations and be a good Catholic boy, the more things seemed to go awry. Sometimes in very big ways. Yes, I now know I was responsible for more than a few of their gray hairs.

But the book is not just a childhood memoir. It is a story of growing up, and then of breaking away as a young adult to stake out my own orbit in this universe. And finally, it is a story of finding the way back home again before it is too late.

The William Morrow press release announcing the October 21 publication date described “The Longest Trip Home” this way:

“Written with the same trademark blend of humor and pathos that was embraced by millions worldwide in his beloved Marley & Me, John Grogan traces the universal journey we all take as sons and daughters to find our place in the world. It is the powerful, often hilarious story of a son in the making, and of growing up in a loving, but comically old-school Catholic family. From his troublemaking childhood to his courtship of a fiery blond named Jenny, Grogan writes about how he came to terms with who he is and what he believes.”

The publisher’s announcement predicts that The Longest Trip Home “will resonate across generations, from those beginning life’s voyage, to those facing journey’s end, and especially those in between.” And I sure hope they’re right. I do know that whenever I talk about the life voyages we make as sons and daughters, parents and children, and husbands and wives, everyone has a story to share, and many of the passages are surprisingly similar, at once funny and painful and heartfelt. Once the book is out, I look forward to the dialogue with readers that is sure to follow. That’s my favorite part of writing books — the back and forth and honest conversation with readers who can relate my experience to their own.

Now that my book is done and racing toward its October 21 publication date, you will hear me talking a lot more about it. This is a story that means a great deal to me personally, and one that I am very proud of. I can’t wait to share it with each of you.

And before signing off, let me invite each of you to sign up for the HarperCollins Author Tracker service, which will keep you in the loop, by email, on the new book and my public appearances, as well as all things Marley. You can sign up by typing your email address in the little window at the bottom of my home page. That’s all there is to it.

Over and out for now.


From The Associated Press on June 24:

New book coming from `Marley & Me’ author

NEW YORK (AP) — “Marley & Me” author John Grogan is working on a prequel to the million-selling memoir about his dog.
“The Longest Trip Home” will be released in October by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, the publisher said in a statement Tuesday.
“It is the powerful, often hilarious story of a son in the making, and of growing up in a loving, but comically old-school Catholic family,” said the statement issued by Morrow. “From his troublemaking childhood to his courtship of a fiery blonde named Jenny, Grogan writes about how he came to terms with who he is and what he believes.”
“Even before `Marley & Me’ was published, I knew this was the story I wanted to tell next,” Grogan, 51, said in a statement. “`The Longest Trip Home’ is a story very close to my heart.”
A film version of “Marley & Me,” starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, is slated for release in December.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

William Morrow Announces New Grogan Memoir
By Rachel Deahl — Publishers Weekly, 6/24/2008 9:57:00 AM

Before he was the owner of a lovable Lab named Marley, John Grogan was a trouble-making teen in a traditional Catholic family. Those formative years are the subject of the newspaper columnist’s new memoir, The Longest Trip Home. Publisher William Morrow, which announced the book today, dubbed the title a “prequel” to Grogan’s smash hit about the family dog (Marley & Me); Longest Trip is scheduled for an international laydown on October 21, 2008.

Morrow acquired North American rights from Laurie Abkemeier in association with DeFiore and Company. Speaking to the book, one which Grogan said he always intended to do after Marley & Me, Morrow executive editor Mauro DiPreta said it’s a “rich, funny and moving reading experience that touches on themes that are close to all of us: love, family, faith and identity.”

According to HarperCollins there are nearly 4 million copies of Marley & Me in print. And, given the successful adaptations the book has spawned in the children’s market—a picture book and a middle grade title—the publisher plans to synchronize publicity for The Longest Trip Home with the September-slated A Very Marley Christmas. The push of both books will lead up to the Christmas Day release of the film version of Marley & Me, starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson.

Gracie Meets Woodson

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

As I described in the previous entry, we have a new pup in our home. Woodson continues to channel the spirit of Marley as he races through our house, grabbing anything and everything he can get his teeth around. We need to watch the little scamp constantly, and he has forced us to turn our countertops into barren, food-free zones, lest the little counter-surfer-in-training strike again. Just this morning, I washed fresh fruit and put it in a bowl on the table. I turned away for about 45 seconds, and when I returned there was Woodson on the rug happily gnawing away on…. a nectarine! Like Marley with his mangoes, the dog sure loves his fruit and fiber.

He was 26 pounds when we brought him home last month. This weekend at the vet (and that’s a whole other story that has to do with the mangled remains of a CD jewel case) he weighed in at 39 pounds. The Ghost of Marley is growing at an alarming rate. He just might end up looking like Clifford.

At any rate, I wanted to share the photo of Woodson’s first meeting with our normally calm and collected female Lab, Gracie. As you can see, they were both a little worked up. I love the crazed look in both of their eyes. If there is ever a remake of Kujo, they’re shoo-ins. After the initial high-voltage encounter, though, they’ve settled into a friendly relationship that involves a lot of tail biting, limb nibbling, neck-scruff tugging and other playful behavior. I need to give Gracie her chops. If it were me on the receiving end of all that puppy-dog comportment, I would have snapped by now.

When Dogs Do Good

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

I love stories of dogs who rise to the occasion, jumping into action when needed, and surprising their owners and everyone else. I especially love stories about dumb-as-dust dogs no one ever thought could find it in their tiny brains to act…heroically. If you like these kinds of stories, too, you must read this one, about a goofy Lab named Jake. Who was loyal as the day was long. And who noticed when no one else did that his boy owner fell into a fast-running river. And who didn’t hesitate even a second before plunging into the roiling water to try to rescue him.

It’s quite a story. And people who have never owned dogs wonder why we put up with all the drool, dog hair, and scratch marks?Sheesh…

A Dog Named Woodson

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

As the shooting of the Marley & Me movie was wrapping up late last month outside Philadelphia, the producers from Fox 2000 Pictures asked me if I would sign a copy of my book for everyone involved in the production. That was 300 people — and 300 books. I was happy to do it, and each member of the cast and crew received a Marley & Me tote bag with a variety of goodies inside, including my book.

My gift was altogether more wonderful. While on the set for the filming of the Marley toboggan scene, I looked up and there stood the movie’s chief animal trainer, Mark Forbes, and one of his assistants, Larry, and with them was a fluffy, nearly pure white Lab puppy named Woodson. Woodson had been in some early scenes of the movie — including the scene in which Owen Wilson as John brings Marley home for the first time — and now here he was back on the set, even though I knew his scenes were long over. My daughter Colleen was with me, and she immediately dropped to her knees and began petting the little guy and accepting his kisses.

Mark asked her if she liked Woodson, and Colleen nodded an enthusiastic yes. He then asked: “Would you like to take him home with you?” And she looked at me, slightly confused. I smiled. Mark and the movie producers earlier let me in on the surprise, that the puppy was ours if we wanted him. And, yes, yes, yes, I really wanted him. Mark continued: “Because you’re going to be taking him home with you today.” Colleen flashed what I believe is the biggest, brightest smile of her life. Woodson was ours.

He stayed with us on the set all day, managing to get in the trash, chew electrical cords, eat the artificial snow covering everything, roll in the mud, and lick Jennifer Aniston all over her face. Yes, I couldn’t help think of the real Marley. Then we brought him home, and he slept the whole way in the car. The photo above is of him and me minutes after arriving in our driveway. He was so sleepy he could barely keep his head up.

Woodson has been with us for about three weeks now, and I must say it’s like the ghost of Marley has inhabited this puppy’s body. A few examples:
* Like Marley, he picks up his water bowl — full! — and runs through the house with it.
* He was only home about an hour when he tried to mount our female Lab, Gracie. She’s 70 pounds to his 28 and about three times taller than him. Talk about confidence!
* Then he grabbed her tail in his teeth and pulled with everything he had.
* Then he jumped up on the table and lunged for the nearest dinner plate.
* Then he skidded across the floor and began gnawing the remote control.
* For months, we’ve stored Gracie’s dog chow in a galvanized tin with a tight-fitting metal lid. She’s never even tried to bust in. Woodson was home less than a day when from the laundry room I heard a loud bang and looked up to see the lid of the dog-food can turning the corner and rolling into the kitchen. When I got around the corner, I found him inside the can, hind legs and butt sticking out as he gorged himself.
* In his first week, he chewed the cord (unplugged) off an appliance, the bottom rail off a chair, and the covers off two books.

You get the idea. My neighbor Kim says we should rename him “Sequel,” because he sure seems to have all the right moves. I was thinking of “Rerun.” Woodson is a puppy and has all the mischief and energy puppies are supposed to have, but, despite his antics, I can already tell he is calmer and more focused than Marley was at this age. Or really any age. I think he’s going to be a great dog. He already has fit into our family seamlessly, and we all — Gracie, too, at least when he’s not humping her — love him to pieces.

Woodson, welcome to our home. This is where you belong. And hey! Drop that shoe!

Marley & Me Movie Trailer

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

20th Century Fox this week released the official teaser trailer for the Marley & Me movie. Check it out!

Schlubs and their dreams

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

I’m invited to give talks around the country, sometimes to aspiring writers. I suspect part of the reason I get many of these invitations is because I’m an example of someone who was just a guy who chased a dream and it ended up coming true against all odds.

For the better part of two decades I dreamed of someday writing a book. I kept looking for the right topics, and they were always outside of myself. While on newspaper reporting assignments, I often asked myself, “Is this one the book?” But it never was; never felt right. Then gradually, over months and years of Marley’s life, I came to realize that the story I was meant to tell, the one inside straining to get out, was lying right at my feet. Chewing off my shoelaces. It wasn’t just the story of our crazy, colorful dog, though he clearly was central to the telling. It really was the story of our family, a family in the making, and the journey we made to discover what really matters in life.

So I wrote the book, having no idea if anyone would want to read my personal story. If you’re on this site, you probably know the rest of the story: 76 weeks on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list in hardcover, 23 of those weeks at #1. Since coming out in paperback on March 11, Marley & Me has hovered in the top 10 on the Times’ paperback bestseller list (this week at #4).

And so I get these invitations. “Tell us about how your dream came true for you…” Especially at the appearances for students and young writers, my talk might as well be titled, “Hey, if this schlub could do it, so can you.”

This is a long way of saying that I wanted to share a recent USA Today story about another regular schlub who chased a dream and watched it come true. Another head-scratching example that fantasy in a blink can become reality. One day you’re working at Home Depot, wearing the orange apron, the next, well…. you gotta read the story.