Archive for October, 2008

A Profile in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

I’m back home from nine days on the road, on a tour leg that took me from New York to Boston to Chicago to Las Vegas to Phoenix to Denver and back to Philadelphia. Whew, I’m ready to stay home and eat leftovers for a while. During my two nights in Chicago I received a visit from John Timpane, a Philadelphia Inquirer writer whom I had never before met despite my having worked there from 2002 to 2007. The poor guy got stuck flying all the way to Chicago to spend two hours interviewing me, then turned right around and flew back. Damn, and I was looking forward to having someone to hit Rush Street with. (Actually, my childhood best friend, Rock, who is a major player in The Longest Trip Home, was on hand to fill that function.)

At any rate, Timpane, himself a published author and poet, struck me as a skilled professional on top of his craft — and believe me I have seen the total spectrum of journalists since Marley & Me came out, from the sublime to the sub-prime. His piece came out in today’s Inquirer, and I thought it was fair and well done. I appreciated how it explored the connection between column writing and the memoir, and how one led me to the other.

It begins like this:

‘Marley’ led author to his new memoir

By John Timpane
Inquirer Staff Writer

CHICAGO – His dog has been very, very good to John Grogan.
He’s living a writer’s dream: In a luxury suite on the 30th floor of Chicago’s sparkly Ritz-Carlton, plush furnishings, room service scrambling with the wine, urban spires all but leaning through the windows, the former Inquirer columnist is relaxing, beer in hand.

His 2005 memoir, Marley & Me, about life with his yellow Lab, Marley, has sold more than five million copies, and the movie opens Christmas Day, starring Owen Wilson as Grogan and Jennifer Aniston as his wife, Jenny (about which Jenny had few complaints).

There’s Marley for adults, many kinds of Marley for kids (Marley: A Dog Like No Other; Bad Dog, Marley!; A Very Marley Christmas), not to mention dozens of non-Grogan Marley knockoffs in which people’s lives are forever changed by their close relations with owls, cats, buffalo and parrots.

Now Grogan has written The Longest Trip Home (William Morrow, 352 pp., $25.95), a memoir of growing up in an Irish Catholic family, breaking away, and, through “gravitational pull,” coming back full circle. Longest Trip, in effect, is the book Marley let him write. Both stemmed from a discovery Grogan made as a columnist: Readers crave personal connection…..

To read the entire story, please follow this link.


(And yeah, that top-floor suite was certainly sweet, but the untold story is that it was a free upgrade from a standard room, more a reflection on how much business my publisher, Harper Collins, does with the hotel chain — and the state of the current economy — than on anything to do with me. I definitely enjoyed it, though, especially the view of my beloved Lake Michigan, on which I spent my 20s sailing.)

P.S. – To read the complete reviews in The New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly that Timpane references in the story, please click “Reviews” at the top of this page.

From Vegas to Phoenix to Denver

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

When an author is on book tour, it is easy for the cities to all blend together. New York on Monday, Boston on Tuesday, Chicago on Wednesday…who can keep them all straight? But when I landed in Las Vegas Saturday I knew I definitely wasn’t in Kansas (err, Pennsylvania?) anymore. Not that I’m a prude about gambling, though I do think its just about the dumbest way on earth to throw money away, but I was surprised to see banks of slot machines lining the concourses at the Vegas airport, little children scampering among them as grizzled veterans of the casino culture hoping for the big break that will never come, sat smoking and feeding the one-armed bandits. I paused to wonder how Nevada parents raise their kids to have a healthy work ethic when all around them on a daily basis they are barraged with evidence that many adults would rather feed coins into a machine and hope for an unearned mother lode.
My destination was not the Vegas strip, but rather the suburban community of Henderson where on Sunday I participated in a really wonderful One Book, One Community program that drew some 700 people — and a few dogs, too. Henderson chose Marley & Me (and the young-reader adaptation Marley: A Dog Like No Other) for a community-wide book club, and they greeted me like an old friend. A member of the city council was even on hand to present me with a key to the city, which I can only hope opens the Henderson beer-distribution warehouse. Thanks everyone for being so warm and hospitable and wonderful. After I spoke about Marley & Me, and my new book, The Longest Trip Home, I signed books under a tent outside in the warm desert air for two hours (Phew!), then left for the airport to catch a night flight to Phoenix.
In Phoenix on Monday, I appeared on the mid-morning television program Good Day, Arizona, signed the in-store stock of my books at a couple of area bookstores, then had a blessed afternoon free to lounge by the pool at the retro-cool Valley Ho hotel where I stayed and where, yes, I forgot all about sun screen and emerged a few hours later sporting a nice lobster-red glow.
But the best was yet to come. That evening I hooked up with a dear old friend who is a major character in The Longest Trip Home, my childhood partner in crime, Tommy Cullen (a pseudonym). It had been the better part of twenty years since we had seen each other face to face, or even talked on the phone for that matter, and I wasn’t quite sure how it would go. But we started jabbering away and didn’t stop. It was as if no time had passed at all, and I remembered why we had been such tried-and-true best friends from roughly age 9 to 17. The kid was like a brother to me. We talked about the respect our fathers had for each other, and about losing them within a month of each other in 2004. Tommy had some friends over, threw some chicken on the grill and asparugus in the steamer, and we made a party of it. (It was great meeting all you guys!) Then Tommy’s friend Nancy gave me a lift to my evening book signing in her two-seat BMW convertible with the roof down. Way to go, Nancy! Thanks for officially giving me sports-car envy. Sweet ride!
My appearance was at the Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe where about 125 people gathered around to hear me read from The Longest Trip Home, tell dumb-dog stories, talk about my new children’s book, A Very Marley Christmas, and give an update on the Christmas Day release of the Marley & Me movie. (To watch the latest trailer, click “Media” above.)
Now I’m writing this on a flight to Denver where I appear tonight at the legendary Tattered Cover bookstore. And after that….home, sweet, home. Well, for five days anyway until I head out again for Detroit, where much of The Longest Trip Home takes place. (To see if I’ll be speaking near you, please click “Events” above.)
OK, it is now time to “turn off and stow all electronic devices, and that means you, the guy typing away there in 16D.” So I guess I should go. Later!

My whirlwind publication day

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Tuesday was my publication day, and it was an adrenaline-filled combination of heady excitement and sheer terror. Well, maybe not terror, but it’s hard to go on a live national talk show such as Good Morning America, knowing millions of Americans are tuning in, without feeling a few very fluttery butterflies in your gut. What if I go totally blank? What if I spit out something totally nonsensical? (“The Russians are coming!”) What if I really, really need to scratch my nose? But my GMA interviewer, Chris Cuomo, a kid who grew up very, very Catholic himself, put me at ease almost instantly. He was so enthusiastic about the book, and so collegial and chatty, that by the time the cameras rolled at about 8:45 a.m. I felt like I was sitting at a bar shooting the breeze with an old friend over a beer. Thanks Chris, for helping me get through the pre-show jitters. (To view my Good Morning America appearance, click “Media” at the top of this page.)

After the Cuomo interview, it was a short walk down the hallway at the ABC studios in Times Square to Good Morning America Radio where I did another interview. Then I took a few minutes to read the two great reviews that came out that morning — one in the New York Times and one in the Washington Post. Whew! Actually, I need to confess that I didn’t wait till mid-morning to read them. More accurately, I took a few moments to RE-read them. What Mr. Neurotic here actually did was rise at 5 a.m. to nervously surf the web for any pub-date reviews, and first saw them online then. (To read them and others, please click “Reviews” in the bar above.)

From ABC, my agent Laurie Abkemeier and I headed over to HarperCollins Children division to discuss with the publishing team there my kids books, including the newly released Very Marley Christmas. Then we walked down Fifth Avenue to the Barnes & Noble store at 46th Street for a 12:30 p.m. signing. Thanks to all who turned out to say hi.

My afternoon was spent back at HarperCollins working with Michael Barrs and the online team doing a real-time phone question-and-answer session with people who were calling in from as far away as Switzerland. Then I recorded a podcast that will be posted on this website. The day ended with a great dinner out with my William Morrow publishing team: deputy publisher Lynn Grady, my editor Mauro DiPreta, my dynamic publicity duo, Seale Ballenger and Ben Bruton, and Laurie the indefatigable agent and manager of all my business affairs. I guess it’s a sign of our collective slide into middle age (with me way out in front of the others years-wise) that instead of tying on a celebratory bender (I knew I had to be up at 5 the next morning) we sipped individual glasses of wine and instead reminisced about drinking nights past. Maybe not too wild, but we all had a lot of fun. And the food at Anthos was great.

The next morning, Ben and I headed pre-dawn to a recording studio in Manhattan where over the next six hours I conducted brief interviews via satellite connection with 22 television stations across the country. And let me tell you, that’s a LOT of jawboning! After lunch, I participated in an online author chat at the And in the evening headed to Book Revue in Huntington, NY, out on Long Island where I read from my book and signed copies for a group of exceptionally nice folks. Special thanks to the DiPreta clan for showing up in force on a school night.

This morning I left New York on a 9 a.m. flight, and I’m writing this from the Boston Public Library where I found an open wireless connection. In a few minutes I’m walking down the street to a Barnes & Noble for a lunch-hour book signing. Then I have an early dinner with my sister-in-law Susan and niece Elizabeth and then an evening flight to Chicago.

My brother Michael just emailed to report that the staff at my mother’s nursing home near my childhood home outside Detroit made sure Mom was front and center to watch me on Good Morning America Tuesday. Reports are she was beaming broadly. In case you’re listening, Mom, I’m eating my vegetables on book tour and trying to get enough sleep. And, of course, I love you!

USA Today chimes in

Monday, October 20th, 2008

About three weeks ago, Carol Memmott, USA Today’s book editor, made the 3 1/2-hour drive north from her offices outside Washington, D.C., to spend a morning with me, talking about my new book, the old book, the children’s books, and of course, the upcoming movie. As it turns out, just before she arrived I caught my new Lab pup, Woodson, gleefully devouring the cover of a copy of Bad Dog, Marley! that someone had dropped by to have signed. I couldn’t resist showing Carol the shredded remains in the trash can. We both had to laugh at the unscripted Marley-worthy moment. The tradition continues.

Here is her piece that ran in USA Today this morning: (And yes, Woodson’s moment of mischief made the cut.)

By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY

EMMAUS, Pa. — A movie star is snoozing on writer John Grogan’s sofa.
The cuddly celebrity is Woodson, Grogan’s 8-month-old puppy. His claim to canine fame?
He’s one of about two dozen Labrador retrievers who stand in for Marley in Marley & Me, the film version of Grogan’s best-selling 2005 memoir about his adorable but mischievous yellow Lab.
These are high-profile times for Grogan. Marley & Me the movie opens Christmas Day and stars Owen Wilson as the writer and Jennifer Aniston as his wife, Jenny.
On Tuesday, William Morrow publishes Grogan’s second memoir, The Longest Trip Home, his story of growing up in a devoutly Catholic family in suburban Detroit.
Grogan, 51, and his wife and their three children, Patrick, 16, Conor, 14, and Colleen, 11, have lived in this rural community about an hour outside Philadelphia since 1999. Their menagerie includes three cats, two chickens and another Lab, 4-year-old Gracie.
Marley, who died in 2003, is buried in the backyard, beneath an arc of cherry trees and wild raspberry bushes. Nothing indicates it’s the resting place of a celebrity. “I intentionally wanted him to blend into the landscape,” Grogan says. ….

To read the full story — and see a photo of Mr. Woodson and me, and a shot of Owen Wilson pretending to be me and Woodson pretending to be Marley (I hope you’re keeping this straighter than I am) — please follow this link:

Now I need to get to bed. I’m writing this from the Omni Berkshire hotel on 52nd Street in New York. In six hours I will be up and on my way to the ABC studios in Times Square for a four-minute segment on Good Morning America. Nothing is set in stone, but it is supposed to run between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m. (that’s Tuesday morning). Tune in if you dare! :)

Then I read from The Longest Trip Home and sign books at the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue at 46th Street in Midtown Manhattan at 12:30 p.m.

Over and out for now…. John

Let the Countdown Begin

Friday, October 17th, 2008

I’ve been counting down the days to publication of my new memoir for about, oh, the past eight months. But now it is starting to feel real. The Longest Trip Home hits bookstores and other outlets everywhere on Tuesday, October 21. As I write this from a hotel next to the Mall of America in Minneapolis, that is just four days away. Holy cow! It’s really happening!

I am scheduled to kick off my book tour with an appearance Tuesday morning on Good Morning America, so tune in if you are near a television. Then I hit the road with bookstore appearances in Manhattan, Long Island, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Sacramento, Denver, Phoenix, Austin and other cities. (For my complete schedule, please click “Events” in the menu bar at the top of this page). Hope to see as many of you as possible on the road. A lot of authors grumble about the rigors of book tour — a different city every day — and I must admit sometimes the hassles of air travel in the age of the $7 junk-food snack and ubiquitous flight delays can be trying. But I love, love, love getting out to meet readers. If you’ve been to one of my signings, you know I have a lot of fun at these things. I’m a pretty social person and writing is a very solitary act, so I revel in the human contact, and of course in the opportunity to meet interesting people and talk books and writing.

Speaking of interesting people (transition alert!), I just recently returned from three pre-publication appearances — all to discuss The Longest Trip Home with some of my favorite people on the planet: booksellers. I spoke at the Southern Independent Booksellers annual convention in Mobile, Ala., at the Great Lakes Booksellers Association annual meeting in Detroit, and at the Books-a-Million annual sales conference in Birmingham, Ala. Each event drew several hundred booksellers, and it was a great opportunity to talk about my book with them and read a passage or two. I was thrilled at the warm and friendly reception they gave me.

The Longest Trip Home, as you have probably gathered from this website, is about my life as a somewhat reluctant Catholic (yes I lied in my first confession!) growing up with loving and very devout parents who wanted nothing more than for their children to embrace their deep faith. The more I tried to meet their expectations, the more I seemed to foul things up — often in comical ways. It took me well into adulthood until I eventually found my way to that place in the world that I could call my own. And then, finally, my way back to my childhood home to say those things that needed saying.

Some early reviews have started to roll in — most recently a four-star review in this week’s issue of People magazine. The People review reads in part: “In this prequel [to his 2005 bestseller Marley & Me] the author looks back at his [Catholic] childhood in suburban Detroit — and proves he doesn’t need a four-legged subject to write a winning book. . . . As he did in Marley, Grogan makes readers feel they have a seat at the family dinner table.  He’s now a nonpracticing Catholic, but here—to wonderful effect—he confesses all.”

And in this morning’s Rocky Mountain News, reviewer Sarah Peasley Miller, writes: “You don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy Grogan’s story of growing up outside Detroit in the 1960s. Filled with hilarious coming-of-age adventures and gratifying insights, The Longest Trip Home is sure to appeal to a wide audience. If Marley & Me was one note — albeit one pretty good note, as it turns out –The Longest Trip Home is a chorus in four-part harmony.”
To read the full review, please go to:
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