Archive for March, 2009

From the Land Down Under

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Greetings from Sydney, Australia, where I arrived from Auckland this morning and am sitting in the airport lounge killing a couple more hours before I catch a flight back to San Francisco, and then Newark. And then, at long last, home to eastern Pennsylvania.

I’ve been here for a little over two weeks — eight days in Australia and four in New Zealand — promoting The Longest Trip Home and, of course, the indefatigable Marley & Me. It’s been a great trip, very busy but also with some time for fun, sightseeing, exploring and — yes, sue me — plenty of wine tasting. I’ve always admired Australian wines and after this trip I’m also a new fan of New Zealand wines, especially the country’s pinot noir and sauvignon blanc.

My publishing teams at Hachette Australia and Hachette New Zealand have been wonderful, taking all the stress and headaches out of the trip, welcoming me like a long-lost cousin, and showing me a really great time. Just a few highlights: sailing in Sydney Harbor (thanks, Malcolm!), hiking the bluffs over the ocean (thanks, Bernadette and Peter John), sampling wines in the Hunter Valley (thanks, Fiona!), sampling wines while overlooking the Pacific on the north shore of Auckland (thanks, Kevin!), beers and dinner on my birthday (thanks, Matt and Fiona!), a personalized tour of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world on New Zealand’s south island (where Lord of the Rings was filmed) (thanks, Raewyn!), and an introduction to Sydney’s best coffee houses (thanks, Louisa!)

My tour took me from Sydney to Melbourne to Brisbane to the Hunter Valley, and in New Zealand, from Christchurch to Wellington to Auckland. It seemed like I talked to every radio and television station there was, which was the whole point. I also did a reading and signing each night, and really enjoyed meeting so many new people. Thanks everyone for the enthusiastic reception and making me feel right at home.

In between appearances, I got to hang out with two really great wine experts and authors, whose books I recommend you check out — Matt Skinner in Australia and Michael Cooper in New Zealand. If you want to know more about the wines here, these are your (very charming) guys. In an authentic Australia moment, I went for a walk early one morning in the rolling wine country a couple hours north of Sydney, and stumbled upon a gathering of seven wild kangaroos, feeding beneath a tree. Cool! That night I looked up and for the first time in my life saw the southern constellations, including the celebrated Southern Cross. More cool!

A special thanks to my two publicists who put the entire tour together and made sure everything worked like clockwork, and quite literally took care of my every need: Louisa Dear in Australia and Raewyn Davies in New Zealand. You two rock! (And yes, you’ve spoiled me.)

Here is a clip of a television interview I did while in Christchurch. I thought the reporter did a good job putting it together. She even arranged for me to get a Lab fix. It’s mostly about Marley & Me, but with a bit on the new book, as well.

Time to head to my gate. More to come. Maybe even some photos!

Letters from the heart

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Part of my morning routine — after the coffee, the New York Times, and the walk with the two dogs (as you dog owners know, not necessarily in that order) — is to log on to my email here at and see what’s new. Every day there is a fresh batch of messages from all over the world and from people of all ages and walks of life. My readers from Brazil are especially enthusiastic correspondents, so thank you Brazilians for all the warm missives.

As you might guess, I get an immense kick out of the notes and letters from children, who — yes, it’s true — can say the darnedest things, such as the little boy who wrote to breathlessly break the news to me: “Hey, did you know someone made a movie out of your book?”

Some have already mastered the art of the hard sell, such as 11-year-old Jasmine M. in Aurora, Illinois, who lobbied: “Please can you give me a book with an autograph? It will be a dream come true because I’ve always wanted a book with an autograph. It would be a dream come true. Wouldn’t you like to make my dream come true? Won’t you feel special because you will make my dream come true?” Jasmine’s letter goes on for several more paragraphs, putting the screws to me for that autograph. In case her subtlety was lost on me, she closes: “Well, that’s all I want to let you know. I really want the book with the autograph. Pretty please?” Yes, Jasmine, your autograph is on the way. Uncle!

Then there are the letters that touch my heart. Here’s an example that I just opened this morning, reminding me of the power of words on paper to affect lives and make friends of strangers:

Dear Mr. Grogan,

It is a rare book that can send me into convulsions of laughter out loud, but that is exactly what your book has done for me. I inherited my love for dogs (actually most animals except for spiders) from my father. Growing up, I had a border collie mix who was indeed one of those “mentally unstable dogs, and oh how we loved that dog named Buffy.

Last night while relaxing and drinking coffee at a Starbucks, I went into completely rapturous, roaring laughter while reading the “Alfresco Dining” chapter. Witnesses, I’m sure, took me for one of those “mentally unstable people”. Some though, when passing by me, smiled knowingly when they observed what I was reading.

Why is this so special that I should be writing my first letter to an author? Well you see in November, my very best friend for over 33 years was diagnosed with reoccurring breast cancer. This was not supposed to happen. We had always been there for each other since we were 16. No matter what, I knew that Anita was always in my corner. When we picked the wrong guys, we always vowed that we would be there for each other in our old age. Two old ladies with dozens of cats, (cat people too!) and dogs. You know the crazy ladies. Unfortunately, on December 3rd, my dearest friend died, leaving me to contemplate my future as one crazy old lady with cats and dogs.

In addition, while away one weekend to be with Anita, my elderly mother fell. After three years of me being her sole caregiver, I came to the realization that I could no longer keep her safe. And so she moved into a nursing home. This decision she has accepted and I am in anguish over. I am still reeling from both events. But your book has given me so much joy.

So thank you Mr. Grogan for your wonderful gift of storytelling, for sharing your lives and Marley’s with us and most important for making me genuinely laugh. I am eagerly looking forward to reading your new book.

Sherri S.
Newport News, VA

And from suburban Chicago, here’s another note I opened this week and which reminded me how universal our individual, everyday life voyages can be:

Dear John,
I just finished reading “The Longest Trip Home” in record time. It was like reading about my life and it touched me like no other book — and I read a lot.

I grew up in Chicago in a Catholic family. I laughed out loud when you recounted the rituals of the mass, being an altar boy (I was a lector, but at that time women were still not allowed on the altar), and I especially related to the much dreaded task of going to confession!! As I read on, I couldn’t believe the comparisons. I even worked in my church’s rectory, too!

Your teen years were a lot like mine and I found myself glued to every page. … The end of the book was no different. It touched me tremendously.

I could go on and on, but I just wanted to let you know how much your book affected me. I loaned it from the library, but plan on buying my own copy soon. It is one of those books I will treasure forever. Thank you for writing it.

P.S. Not to forget, I read Marley a few years ago. Loved it! Cried a lot! I still quote lines from that book that were so memorable to me.

Carol N.
Naperville, Ilinois

To everyone who has taken the time to write, thank you. I can’t begin to respond to them all, but please know that I do read nearly every one — and they bring me a lot of joy and satisfaction. Keep ‘em coming!