Tuesday, November 19, 2019

What is lost without obits? Great stories

Although there are wonderful obituaries still published in Australia, dwindling resources have significantly reduced their appearances in newspapers. So what is lost when this happens?

"I believe you lose perhaps the most important journalism instrument, in terms of history. It's the first verdict of society on a life lived. And if you want to know what life was like in times past, go to the obituaries." --Nigel Starck, author of "Life After Death: The Art of the Obituary," recently told ABC Radio Perth.

Click here to listen to the entire interview.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

New Grimmy winners announced at ObitCon 2019

Every two years, The Society of Professional Obituary Writers honors excellence in obituary writing with The Grimmys. Reporters and editors from all over the world submit entries to the contest, which is then blind-judged by a panel of society members.

Trophies were awarded at ObitCon in Washington D.C. last week, but if you were unable to attend, here's the list of winners:

Best long form obit: Aretha Franklin
Written by Hillel Italie, AP

Best short form obit (under 800 words): Sarkis Tashjian
Written by Maureen O’Donnell, Chicago Sun-Times

Best obit of an ordinary Joe/Jane: Ian Jordan
Written by Tom Hawthorn, The Globe and Mail

Obituary writer of the year: Harrison Smith, The Washington Post

Lifetime achievement: Tom Hawthorn, The Globe and Mail

Click here to read the obits that won this year's awards.

--Group photo by Jen Peters. Trophy closeup by Harrison Smith.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

An art project: "Remember me"

I’ve been a member of SPOW for a couple of years although I’m not an obit writer. I’m a Montana-based artist who uses anecdotes from family/friend-written obits in my artwork—hand-embroidered found family photographs. Wanting to create empathy in a society that was changing in uncomfortable ways, several years ago I began a new project: “Remember me: a collective narrative in found words and photographs.” To date I’ve completed nearly 750 individual pieces. Here's my artist statement about the project:

The obituary, a­  family photo— these form and record a life’s memories. Both synopsize familiar human experiences — living, loving — and were created for personal use. The sameness and difference exemplified in these personal remembrances create a sense of community and make us aware of our common humanity. 

In fall 2015, I began work on a combinatorial project, “Remember me: a collective narrative in found words and photographs.” This project intimately connects vernacular photographs with anecdotes culled from family/friend-written obituaries. Every United States state and many Canadian provinces are represented. Daily, the work brings me joy so I continue to make new pieces.

I hand-embroider anecdotes from obituaries into found snapshots and studio portraits. The obituaries published (and paid for) in local newspapers and on websites (by funeral homes and international businesses like Legacy.com) are written by those who knew and loved the deceased. Snapshots and studio portraits are taken out of love to remember people, places and times. Embroidery is a decorative technique, and, when done by hand — stitch-by-stitch — an insistent, devotional act. 

In “Remember me” the photos “read” the texts and vice versa, teasing pretension, tragi-comedy and profound truths about the human condition from sentimental artifacts. In seeking empathetic connections, I create representative keepsakes. 

The concept behind my project is to ultimately, intimately, illustrate our collective narrative. We see our personal truths reflected, through words and photographs, in the lives of others. We are reminded, in this exceptionally acrimonious age, of our commonalities — that we are more alike than we are different.

I've attached a few of my favorite pieces and shot of a current exhibition. Please feel free to send feedback and/or contact me with your thoughts/comments about this work. (janedeschner1@gmail.com)

Thanks for looking!

I post a piece most days on Instagram:

You can see many more pieces here:

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Are obituaries dying out? Not by a long shot.

In January, Beyond the Dash conducted a survey of 600 residents in the northeast of the U.S. about their funeral and end-of-life plans. The results suggested intriguing disparities between expectation vs. reality.

Click here to read the study's results. Be sure to check out section 4, which is focused on obituaries.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Grimmys Contest - Now accepting entries

The Society of Professional Obituary Writers honors excellence in obituary writing with The Grimmys. Reporters and editors from all over the world may submit entries to the contest, which will be blind-judged by a panel of society members. Trophies will be awarded to the winners at ObitCon 2019, the society's biennial conference.

Grimmys will be awarded in the following categories:

* Best short form obit (under 800 words)
* Best long form obit (over 800 words)
* Best obit of an ordinary Joe/Jane
* Obituary writer of the year
* Lifetime achievement in obituary writing

To enter your obits in the first four categories, click here. Entrance fee is $25/category. Only members of the society may nominate writers for the lifetime achievement award.

Deadline is August 31, 2019.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Announcing ObitCon 2019

ObitCon 2019, the sixth conference of The Society of Professional Obituary Writers, will be held Oct. 3-5, 2019 at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Our current schedule of events is as follows:

On Thursday, ObitCon attendees will enjoy a meet-and-greet event followed by dinner at an area restaurant.

On Friday, attendees will engage in discussions about obits and obituary writing. A continental breakfast and a full lunch will be served. Special guests will be announced soon.

On Saturday, Grimmys will be awarded in the following categories: best short form obit (under 800 words), best long form obit (over 800 words), best obit of an ordinary Joe/Jane, obituary writer of the year and lifetime achievement in obituary writing.

If you'd like to join your fellow writers on the death beat for a three-day conference of professional development and camaraderie, be sure to submit your vacation requests now. Tickets for the conference cost $25 per person. Click here to register.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

An obituary distills the essence of a life.

If you're frustrated by the news or the political commentary found on the op-ed page of a newspaper, Marion Winik, author of “The Baltimore Book of the Dead,” has a good suggestion: Turn to the obits page.

"If you are combing the newspaper for profound truths, the obituaries are the place to start. Every one of them presents an inescapable fact of our lives: They end," she wrote in the Los Angeles Times. "Simultaneously, though, obituaries also affirm life and the many varieties it takes."

FMI: Click here.