Monday, May 12, 2008

Best Long-Form Obit about a Celebrity

The Society of Professional Obituary Writers Category #1: Best long-form (over 800 words) obituary about a celebrity or famous person.

And the winner is. (Dramatic pause.) We have a tie.

The winning entries are Natalia Karp, an obit that Tim Bullamore wrote for the Daily Telegraph of London, and Mr. Toronto Dies at 92, written for the Globe and Mail of Canada by Sandra Martin. (Here's the Mr. Toronto jump page.)

Do you want to know about the winners?

Tim Bullamore is one of the leading obituary writers and researchers in Britain, but his byline doesn't appear as often as it should because some British publications don't include author bylines on obits.

His work is published regularly in the Daily Telegraph and has appeared in The (London) Times, The Guardian and The Independent.

He is in demand on both sides of the Atlantic to speak about the art of the British obituary and has been featured in publications on three continents. In 2005, he hosted the International Association of Obituarists 7th Great Obituary Writers Conference in his home town, Bath, UK.

In addition to his writing commitments, Tim is studying for a PhD, investigating the history and art of the British obituary.

Sandra Martin, a senior feature writer with The Globe and Mail, has won the Atkinson and Canadian Journalism Fellowships and gold and silver National Magazine Awards.

Her latest book is The First Man in My Life: Daughters Write About Their Fathers, which she conceived and edited for Penguin in 2007. She was the co-editor of the annual Oberon Best Short Stories and Coming Attractions anthologies from 1984 through 1986.

Sandra is the co-author of three books, including Rupert Brooke in Canada and Card Tricks: Bankers, Boomers and the Explosion of Plastic Credit, which was shortlisted for the Canadian Business Book Award in 1993.

A past president of PEN Canada, she is the mother of a grown son and daughter. She lives in Toronto with her husband, historian Roger Hall, and her cat, Alice.

Sandra provided the following background on Ed Mirvish, a.k.a. Mr. Toronto:

He was a huge celebrity in Toronto, a poor boy who was a whiz at marketing and who made a fortune in a "small box" store that offered cheap prices to immigrants and only took cash payment.

He was a larger than life character. Once he made his money, he acquired a lot of cultural capital by rescuing The Old Vic in England and building The Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.

He had been ailing for years, so I had prepared an obituary on him some time ago, but I had forgotten about it when he finally died.

There was a big push on that day because we are a national paper and there is a local paper, The Toronto Star, that has a bigger circulation in the city than we do.

There was a big scramble, and I found my stuff and then there was a huge rush to re-work and update my material because they wanted to go big and run the obituary over two pages.

(Blog-editor's note: When Catherine Dunphy of The Toronto Star saw the entries for the SPOW Awards, she said, "Cast my vote for Mr. Toronto." The two Toronto-produced papers may compete with one another, but a good obit is a good obit no matter where it's published.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am deeply touched and honoured that you have recognised me in this way. Thank you. I look forward to seeing you all soon.
Best wishes from the London death beat.
Tim Bullamore
(PS Can't remember my darn password, hence the anonymous tag!)