Peace Corps Writers
Talking with Joe Monninger (page 2)
 Talking with
Joe Monninger
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How did you sell a young adult novel?

I was recommended to the publisher by a friend. It turned out to be the fastest purchase I have experienced as a writer. I sent it via email one afternoon and the editor bought it that evening. That never happens, but it did this once. It’s a novel about a girl who goes to live with a foster family in New Hampshire. And the family drives dogs. My son is an excellent musher. We run a four-dog team back behind our house several times a week. So, I knew about dogs. The novel was easy to write because of that. And, of course, I loved Jack London and Call of the Wild as a boy.

Where does your involvement with dog sledding come from?

An old railroad bed runs behind our house. It’s flat and straight and perfect for dog sledding. People ran their teams there. My son used to jump the fence and go help them. One day a wonderful couple, Bob and Julie Noyes of Vermont, asked him if he wanted to run a team. He came flying back to the house and asked if he could. My wife and I went over and met the Noyes and they were terrific — fun loving, and crazy about dogs. They taught us everything we know. In 2003, if I remember correctly, my son — who was 13 at the time — won the New England 4 dog sportsmen class. He beat a lot of adults. He has a natural feeling for being on a sled. And he loves the dogs.

Do you raise sled dogs?

Joe Monninger

No. All our dogs came to us from the Noyes. We have their second team, as it were. They have much stronger, faster dogs than we do. Our dogs have become pets at this point. We bring them in every night and let them run in the backyard. Iditarod teams require kennels of 50–100 dogs. We have no interest in an operation that large. And now, as my son is getting older, we are winding down. He has other interests and that’s as it should be.

Lets talk about your new book. How did you come to choose a fighter like Two Ton Tony Galento as a subject for a book?

Galento is bigger than life, of course, as the saying goes. He had a great appetite for life. I first saw Galento on TV in the ’70s. I was with my dad and we were watching a fight, an old black and white film, and I laughed at Galento’s chubbiness. My dad said, wait a second and watch, and Galento knocked someone down . . . probably Louis. Growing up in New Jersey, I always heard rumors about Galento . . . that he fought a bear, and a kangaroo, and so on. Turns out most of the rumors were true.
But what finally drew me to Galento’s story was the poignancy of coming so close to pulling off such an upset, but ultimately failing. We have lots of stories about underdogs’ victories. But Galento tried and lost yet redeemed something in himself. He was a joke, and a comic figure to many people — yet he almost beat the best heavyweight of his day.
And finally, it is probably true that we can say this moment defined Galento. It’s rare we can point to a single night in a man’s life and say, there, that’s the pinnacle of his aspiration. Galento probably never thought about it that way, but everything up to that moment crystallized in the ring; and everything afterward reflected back to that moment.

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