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‘Marley and Me’ author John Grogan to visit Lehigh



John Grogan

John Grogan, the author of the phenomenally successful Marley and Me will speak on “Memoir, Truth and Writing” when he comes to Lehigh on Thursday, Feb. 19. Grogan’s talk, which is being presented by the Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries, will be at 4:30 p.m. in Packard Lab Auditorium, Room 101.

The talk is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a book signing.

The international best-selling Marley and Me was the inspiration for the recent movie that starred Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson and which topped the box office charts after it debuted during the 2008 holiday season. It also spawned a series of children’s books based on the lovable. but ill-behaved dog that changed Grogan’s life.

His new book, The Longest Trip Home, is another personal memoir, but with a unique Lehigh twist: Grogan wrote most of it in Linderman Library, which he acknowledges in the book.

That distinction, notes Sue Cady, “almost puts Linderman in the same class as the New York Public Library, which has a dedicated room for writers.” Cady, director of administration and planning for Library and Technology Services, is organizing Grogan’s visit to Lehigh.

The Longest Trip Home chronicles Grogan’s search for identity, intertwined with his devoutly Catholic upbringing in suburban Detroit. It draws on the same well-honed sense of humor and storytelling ability that was so evident in Marley and Me, and has been praised by the New York Times for its “deeply felt humanity and pathos.”

Authoring quite a success story

Grogan was one of four children born to a General Motors engineer and a full-time homemaker, according to his Web site.

With family life revolving around the home and the Catholic Church a few doors away, Grogan says he gravitated toward writing “because I was so bad at everything else.” By the time he reached eighth grade, he was writing parodies of the nuns. By high school, he wrote for both the student newspaper and an underground tabloid.

While in college at Central Michigan University, Grogan continued to polish his writing skills by penning a column for the campus newspaper. His first full-time job came immediately upon graduation, when he was hired as a police reporter for a small paper in the Michigan harbor town of St. Joseph.

It was there that he met his wife, a fellow reporter named Jenny, who was portrayed by Anniston in the “Marley and Me” movie.

In 1985, he won a fellowship into the Kiplinger Mid-Career Program in Public Affairs Reporting at Ohio State University. That was followed by a second fellowship at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla., and a reporting job at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale.

Grogan says he “bumped my way up from a bureau reporter to metropolitan columnist, a job I found suited me better than I ever imagined any job could.”



Grogan's Marley and Me sold five million copies and was made into a major motion picture

Shortly afterward, he and his wife adopted a “wildly neurotic Labrador retriever that we named after a certain famous reggae star.”

At the time, he writes, “I had no idea our loopy, attention-deficit dog would someday provide me the inspiration to fulfill a lifelong dream of writing a book. Nor that that book, Marley & Me, would go on to become an international bestseller with some 5 million copies sold and be made into a motion picture.”

Before the Marley franchise was established, Grogan took a job as editor of Rodale’s Organic Gardening magazine, and three years later, “jumped back into my beloved newspaper vocation, joining the Philadelphia Inquirer as the paper's three-times-a-week Pennsylvania columnist.”

In February 2007, with Marley & Me winding down from 76 weeks on the bestseller list (23 of them at number one), Grogan took a break from the daily newspaper grind to focus full-time on writing The Longest Trip Home. He finished the manuscript in early 2008, just as filming for “Marley and Me” was beginning in Miami and Philadelphia.

As the filming wrapped up, Grogan writes that the producers presented him with Woodson, one of the puppies that played Marley in the movie, who still resides with the Grogan family.

For more information about Grogan and his books, visit his Web site. For more information about the Feb. 19 event at Lehigh, call (610) 758-3039 or visit www.lehigh.edu/lts/friends/events.html.

--Linda Harbrecht

Photo by Sigrid Estrada


Posted on Saturday, February 14, 2009

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