While tears are not the best indicator of whether a film is great or not, it is an indicator that a viewer was moved. As so was the case yesterday when I saw Marley & Me. There’s been maybe a half a dozen movies in my lifetime that have brought water to my eyes—the first one being the original TV movie Brian’s Song.
Most of those films probably dealt with death or some other significant life blow. And while some films feel as manipulative as Barbara Walters asking “Tell me about your father” at just the right moment, other films touch us in a deeper place. That’s when we translate what is happening on screen with what’s happened or happening in our lives.
Marley & Me is more than the story of the world’s worst dog, it is a story about life and coping with change. The fact that I have a nine year old golden retriever and am the same age that the book’s author was when he completed the book gave me plenty to identify with.
But John Grogan didn’t start out thinking “some day I’m going to write a movie about my life that stars Jennifer Aniston as my wife.” (Of course, he may of had those dreams.) No, he lived his life and he wrote about it. And after about 25 years of doing that he became a first time book author with smashing success. Before I get to the quote of the day from him let me start in a place far from Hollywood.
Grogan was born in Detroit and raised in what he calls the “sleepy village of Orchard Lake,” he graduated with a degree in journalism from Central Michigan University (Mount Pleasant, Michigan) and a master’s degree from Ohio State University. He was a columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale when he and his wife brought home a little dog that would change their lives. (The book Marley & Me became a New York Times bestseller on its way to selling 5 million books and eventually being made into a movie (with the script written by Scott Frank & Don Roos) that was number one at the box office at Christmas time, and crossing the $100 million threshold in just 11 days.)
“I’m usually a night owl, but when I wrote “Marley & Me,” I forced myself to go to bed early and get up early. I wrote from 5 to 7 a.m. and then ate breakfast and went to work to write my newspaper column. I averaged a chapter a week this way. I began the book in early 2004 and finished the manuscript right after Labor Day. My agent, Laurie Abkemeier, sold it the next month in an auction.”
Grogan now lives in rural Pennsylvania and his newest book is The Longest Trip Home. He also has a website and blog at John Grogan Books. And if you don’t mind, let me slip in another Grogan quote from the Harper Collins interview:
“Keep a journal and write every day, even when it seems impossible. Read really good writers, and re-read the best parts aloud. Write about what you know and care about. Believe in yourself and your voice. And here’s what I consider the most important part: Take your finished piece and cut it by 20 percent. Relax, you can always restore the lost text. You’ll be surprised how seldom you will feel the need. In my own work, tighter is almost always better.”