John Grogan - The Longest Trip Home


Speaking at Lehigh University

Saturday, February 14, 2009

When it comes to writing from home, I'm a bit quirky. If there are family members in the house, I have a hard time concentrating, even if they make a point of leaving me alone in a room with the door closed. Just knowing they're pacing around on the other side of the house throws me off my game. If everyone clears out to give me time alone, the silence kills me. All I can think is, "Everyone's out having fun except me." That's a way of saying: I don't have a lot of luck writing from home. I began my new book, The Longest Trip Home, immediately after quitting my job as a columnist at The Philadelphia Inquirer in February 2007. Soon I realized I needed to find a place I could go to write, a place that was quiet but was not stultifying. A place with its own positive energy.

That's when I found Linderman Library at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, about a 20-minute drive from my house. The library is a beautiful old stone structure that was recently renovated top to bottom. With its soaring ceilings, stone fireplaces, wrought-iron balconies and leaded-glass windows, it looked like something out of a Harry Potter movie. More importantly, it had the kind of creative energy I was looking for. It was a place meant for quiet study, and yet I could be surrounded by students and teachers deep in their own work. Their energy was contagious. That's where I ended up writing most of The Longest Trip Home, sitting with my laptop at a big oak table. It suited me well, and I would stay for hours at a time, lost in my story.

So when Lehigh University asked me to come speak on campus about my books and memoir writing, how could I refuse? I owe them one. My talk will be at 4:30 p.m. this Thursday, February 19, in the Packard Lab auditorium on campus and is open free to the public. I'll sign books afterward for anyone who wants. So if you live in the area and want to come out, I'd love to say hi. The more the merrier.

Here is part of Lehigh University's announcement on its website at (click on "News"):

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 Aniston 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.”


posted by John Grogan at 12:03 PM


Blogger Jaqueline_BR said...


HOW ARE YOU???? I will love meet you if one day I have this chance!!!!! I know the your readers in UK will go to see you!!! No doubt, nobody will lose this chance!!!!!


5:35 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

Dear John - Thank you very much for The Longest Trip Home. I, too, grew up in a Catholic home, with incredible parents and siblings. While listening to your book on CDs in the car, I have shed numerous tears, way too many to count. I have laughed out loud, too. I now have two teenagers, and lately when I get home sniffling with blood shot eyes, my kids can be heard saying, Mom must have been listening to that book again. I am about your age with four brothers and three sisters. Fond memories of my parents, and especially my brothers antics have come flooding back. I have struggled trying to figure out why your book has touched me so deeply. When my Father died, my kids were 5 and 3 years old. I kept a very brave face during this time as I was so concerned that my kids see that everything would be OK. I have decided that your book has helped to open the floodgates that have held back my sadness for over 12 years - thanx again for The Longest Trip Home
p.s. I now wonder how strict/watchful you are with your own children as you are able to recall all that you got away with!?:-)

5:48 PM  
Blogger karen said...

hi john, my son Tom(14) & i went to see Marley & me yesterday on what was a very wet day in Newcastle (australia). we loved the picture & we no how naughtey labs can be. several years ago my parents were travelling for 7weeks & we offerd babysit their labrador (tess) she had only been with us for 1 day when she killed our much loved chook. who was totally unaware of any danger that may befall her as she lived a tranquil life alongside a rottweiler. we often thought that she believed she actually was a dog. it was difficult to stay mad with Tess for very long needless to say it was a very long 7weeks. and as years have passed it is often remembered at family gatherings. tess has since passed with cancer. i cant imagine a life without MANS best friend they are such an integral part of FAMILY.... thankyou for reminding us about what is truly important. karen

6:24 PM  
Blogger Fiona said...

Hi John
Thankyou, i now know that my mad one year old labradoodle is not the worst dog in the world. I finished off the book in Glencoe in the Scottish highlands amongst spectacular scenery, very appropriate as it is a spectacular read. I laughed out loud and cryed out loud. For my new depth of understanding of him, Theo sents you a forever grateful slobbery lick!

11:01 AM  
Blogger Savona said...

Hi!Is it true thatmarley didnt really die in 2004 and was taken to a boca rocken rest home for dogs by two men in black sunglasses and told the the guy at the counter that his name was 'harley'and that there should be no visiter and stuff like that? 12 and your books are awsome:)You Rock!!!!!:)please comment back:)

4:30 PM  
Blogger cfmcguire said...

Mr. Grogan,
It is 3:30 A.M. on an extremely quiet night in Butte, MT. I just finished reading your book "The Longest Trip Home". You brought back memories of my father's passing nearly eight years ago, and were able to articulate thoughts that I would have never been able to get down on paper. If you ever get to Montana, look us up. Lots of Catholics of Irish descent here :)

Once again, thank you for a touching look into what made you into yourself.

Chuck McGuire

2:37 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Hello John,

I would've loved to attend this event at Lehigh University. My husband grew up in Wescosville right outside of Allentown and knows the University well. Unfortunately, we live in Florida! Instead of from Florida to Pennsylvania like you, we have the reverse situation here. So, needless to say I won't be able to attend. I'm sure it will be spectacular. I am a big fan of the book Marley and Me and am reading for a second time now. I read it about a year or so before the movie came out and am glad I did. After the movie I felt I just needed to read it again. Before being a full time mom, I taught writing to elementary school students for 7 years. I truly enjoy it and wish I had more time for both reading and writing. Hopefully someday another event like this will bring you back to Florida to speak. Surely, then, I'll be there!


8:42 AM  
Blogger cindy said...

Hello John, I´m cintia from brazil.
is fantastic know that you stay writting yet for us - fans!

I just wanna say to you thank you for give us a gift - marley and me, a real history writte perfect. Yeah, i love Dog.

i need confes that i saw the movie before read all book and in the other day i bought the book and finish in 2 days...oh God, i cry again.....and every time that i remember marly i cry and when i saw the pics....i cry and cry.

thanks for give me a reason for smile and thank for accept marley like him have bigger love than that.

a big kiss in you and Jenny and the kids.

thank for make part of our lifes now.

Your big fan


9:24 AM  
Blogger Vinicius said...

Hello John!

(In Portuguese)Gostaria de Parabenizá-lo, Marley e Eu é muito engraçado. A maneira como você conta a história é muito divertida! Parabéns pelo sucesso aqui no Brasil!

I'm from "São José dos Campos" (south-east of Brazil "The Airplane City")

Should like congratulate, Marley and Me is very funny. The manner how you speak the history is very amusing! Congratulations at success here in Brasil!


Vinicius -

2:20 PM  
Blogger BrittanieY said...

I just wanted to say that I'm jealous of the people that will be able to attend your talk at Lehigh University. You need to come visit Clemson University or University of South Carolina!

4:57 PM  
Blogger suzstjohn said...

Hi John,
We grew up around the corner from you but in a school as big as WB we didn't know one another.
As if that wasn't enough to not want to put "The longest road home" down. Also, Irish Catholic, rebellious, a '77 grad of WB, Our Lady of Refuge parishoner, so much of your story took me back.
We used to go to Sat. night mass, take the newsletter to prove we went and sit in the car listening to music, etc.
I am commenting mostly because I lost a night's sleep reading : ) - I cried, I laughed, I prayed for your family, I am so happy you have had success in your writing, it was destined to be.
I remember the Spectrum and Innervisions!
It was a wild and wierd time in life, the drugs, long hair. Our poor parents.
I agree with Mr. Macdonald, writing IS your ministry. I am a cafeteria catholic because I want to be able to pray in my own way with my community and I won't be judged by my neighbors, only God.
Thanks for baring your soul, it really empowers me to believe in myself.

Suzy Nagle St.John

4:40 PM  
Blogger Hellen said...

You have lot of fans here in Brazil. You should came to visit us soon.
Your fan number one!

10:47 AM  
Blogger deborah said...

Dear John-Thanks for the input on how hard it can be to write from home. I remember the college days of living on campus when writing at your desk in the dorm was the last thing you could ever do to get an assignment finished. Equipped in those days with a portable typewriter and witeout, it was the only link to the real world of accomplishing anything. Is this my first draft?-its a swift beginning nowadays to write anywhere, and it can be done by tuning out-

11:55 AM  
Blogger João Álvaro said...

I love the book and the movie, I cried in the end of the both!I would like to talk with you, in MSN maybe?yould be fun talk to a famous person!I want to read your new book, but It cant come to brazil!its is come here?I am a big of you and I want to read this book,I think I am the BIGGEST fan of you, because of marley and me, because i think:Its that what I want for me!
Bye,send a hi to your family!

10:33 AM  
Blogger millieXX said...

dear john,
i loved ur book so much that i cried near the end, although i have never had a dog myself i do look after a dog called lucy, who seems to be strangly like marley.
she is a golden labrodor and is 4 years old. i will tell you some of the things she loves to do.
when i walk in the door she takes my wellies away and buries them before i even get a chance to take them off, she greets me at the gate when i come to see her and then chases me to the front door making sure i dont forget her lead.
and that in a simple way is lucy.
thank you john for brining this boook out wich i love so much.
from millie, 14

2:51 PM  
Blogger Marie said...

Hi John I am a girl from Philly and I actually did your makeup when you were on the NBC 10! show. I told you then that I would read your articles in the Inquier every morning ( I miss it so much} anyway I just finished reading The Longest Trip Home and I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed it.From the very first page you had me. Coming from a strict Catholic family I really identified with your Mom,it was as if I was reading about my own. I laughed many laughs and also shed a few tears.While you were dealing with your fathers Leukemia i was dealing with my brothers Leukemia and it was at that time that i met you. Sorry to say i also lost my brother.I hope you continue on your successful career and keep the books coming.

Marie Kapski

7:03 AM  
Blogger natalie said...

Dear John,

My name is Natalie and i am 15 years old and a freshman in high school. One day I was assigned to read a non fiction book, perform a presentation, and write a letter to the author for English class. I couldn't decide on what book I was to do my project on and time was running out. I finally choose to read your book Marley and Me after I was persuaded by my peers who have previously read it. I finished your book in about a week and completely satisfied with it. So as I started to write my "letter to the author" I started to realize how easy it was to write about things I could relate and enjoy about your book. I than remember you had a website and many bloggers shared their comments with you. I never wrote to authors of books I liked considering I wasn't really a "reading kind of person". So I decided to share my actual letter that I handed into my teacher. I hope you enjoy it.

First of all, I’d like to take a moment to applaud you on your book Marley & Me. Your book was above and beyond amazing. When I first saw the book on the shelf at Barnes and nobles I thought “I don’t like reading especially about boring dogs…why would I want to read an entire book about them?” I have never had an interest in reading books especially ones about dogs, but this book definitely changed my perspective on all books. Everyone has probably heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, I know I have many times and yet I guess I never really cared for books in the first place, until I read your book. I found my self laughing and crying. It was a loving and heartwarming story.

I really enjoyed how your book wasn’t just about Marley but about your whole family and your adventures and experiences. A whole life time of up and down’s in your life and how one mammal can turn things around. I like how I could relate so much to “The World’s Worst Dog” to my own family dog, Max. I always believed he was a trouble maker maybe not as bad as getting expelled from obedience school but somewhere in those lines. I truly believed I was reading about Max when I read your book every night, but I guess many dog owners could say the same thing. And that is what I like about your writing. Lastly I like how you find yourself happy at one point sad at another, crying and than laughing and smiling. Before I even knew it was reading every detail on the back cover of the book and viewing everything on your website.

I would like to take a second to ask you some questions. Being a journalist, did you ever think you would ever become an author? Do you have any advice for an aspiring writer? As you explained in you book “Marley was a chewer of couches, a slasher of screens, a slinger of drool, a tipper of trash cans.” How much damage did Marley make to your homes?

Overall, I believe Marley & Me was an excellent book that could be enjoyed by all sorts of people. Its funny and meaningful, the drama is heartwarming and sincere, and the Marley was a complete mess, but yet the best dog you could ask for. In the end, Marley taught me that life should be lived to its fullest, that we should love people unconditionally, and that shredded upholstery is a small price to pay for a life-long friend.


Natalie Campos

5:31 PM  
Blogger mlowicki said...

Thankyou for the sharing the wonderful story of Marley & me with the rest of the world. I laughed so much and felt the sadness at the end, it made me think of our last dog Cassie, we had her from anew born pup. Her mum lived next door to us, and we had the pleasure of her loyalty, fun, and loony tune moments for 17 years.


Mike, Cheltenham, UK

5:26 PM  
Blogger mlowicki said...

Thankyou for the sharing the wonderful story of Marley & me with the rest of the world. I laughed so much and felt the sadness at the end, it made me think of our last dog Cassie, we had her from anew born pup. Her mum lived next door to us, and we had the pleasure of her loyalty, fun, and loony tune moments for 17 years.


Mike, Cheltenham,

5:27 PM  

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