Visitors to Alfred Martino and business partner Alisa Weberman’s Union City publishing office find themselves greeted enthusiastically by rescued German shepherds Daisy and Sara, playing with company mascot and rescued pit bull Farfel on the wrestling mat in the back room (also known as the “dog toy graveyard”).
The dogs are surrounded by pit bull jewelry, antler chews, and state-of-the-art CD-burning machinery humming away as it adds to the massive store of audio books in the adjacent storage room.
Having recently published his third teen novel, “Perfected by Girls,” Martino, who lives in Jersey City, has also started a brand new publishing company called Dog Park Publishing to supplement his and Weberman’s successful 14-year-old company, Listen and Live Audio, which publishes audio books.
“I chose the first-person female perspective [for ‘Perfected by Girls’] as part of my personal journey toward becoming a better writer.” –Alfred Martino
“I’ve been writing since I was young,” Martino said. “It’s not easy to make a living solely as an author, and so I’ve got all of this.”
For the love of writing (and wrestling)
“Perfected by Girls” (Coles Street Publishing) is the intimate narrative of Melinda, a teenage girl who decides to join the ranks of her downright odoriferous male teammates as the only female on her high school’s wrestling team.
In addition to her coach’s initial indignation about the matter, Melinda is the only wrestler required to write a letter of intent, and thanks in part to her older brother’s influential and coveted spot on the “champion’s mat,” she is finally – if begrudgingly – accepted.
Melinda works double time to keep up with her male competitors. With endearing modesty, she eventually grows into her new role as pioneer and ends up beside her brother on the mat.
While Martino’s roots in wrestling account for his demonstrated knowledge of the inner-workings of the sport as the framework for the novel (he wrestled in middle and high school and coaches at his Short Hills, N.J. alma mater to this day), his Prada-loving protagonist is nuanced, feminine, and appropriately angsty; which is quite an achievement, considering Martino is decidedly not a teenage girl.
“I chose the first-person female perspective as part of my personal journey toward becoming a better writer,” Martino said. “Frankly, I don't even really know any teenage girls.”
But he had some help.
He met 23-year-old aspiring writer Kayla Percy while volunteering at Jersey City’s Liberty Humane Society, and the two decided to start a weekly writing group. Their Sunday morning meetings at a local coffee shop lent Martino the feminine insight he needed.
“Being critiqued is critically important to a writer’s development,” Martino said with intended redundancy. “For instance, Kayla helped me realize that girls notice the good smells of the boys they like, and the bad ones of those they don’t, which is something a guy on the mat would never notice.”
For the love of rescue
Percy was not the only benefit Martino got from his time working at the Liberty Humane Society. He resigned as the shelter’s president of the Board of Directors in May of last year, but he took with him the inspiration to continue animal advocacy – specifically for the “sorely misunderstood” pit bull breed – and Dog Park Publishing was born.
Piggybacking on their experience and publishing success with Listen and Live Audio, Martino and Weberman launched their retail and outreach company in honor of all things pit bull, from pit necklaces to no-chip antler chews. Most notably, they published two all-rescue, all-fixed, adult and puppy pit bull calendars, one of which recently made it to the number one slot on People Magazine’s “10 Adorable Animal Calendars” list for 2012.
A percentage of all company proceeds goes toward pit bull rescue groups, and Dog Park Publishing’s Facebook site (run by Weberman) provides over 15,000 fans with a forum to discuss their affection for the breed and their pets, replete with owner advice, positive pit bull articles, breed-specific legislation, and plenty of photos.
“We’re doing our best to create a community of pit bull enthusiasts,” Martino said. “Theirs is a powerful, energetic breed that requires responsible owners, as do all pets.”
For more information on Martino’s many ventures, visit www.alfredmartino.com, www.listenandlive.com, and www.dogparkpublishing.com.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at email@example.com