Pitch Deadline: 10 June 2009
Final Deadline: 3 July 2009
Contact: Justin Dimos and Sarah Zupko
Remember where you were when you heard Kurt Cobain had been discovered in his home dead? How about the night when pictures of Phil Hartman flashed on the news, the almost unbelievable reports of his murder hushing his raving fans? Or perhaps you recall the moment when Christopher Reeve finally succumbed to a heart attack and left our world without yet another superman?
Johnny Cash, Elliot Smith, Marlon Brando, Bea Arthur, Princess Diana, John Belushi, Paul Newman, Frank Sinatra, John F. Kennedy — all these figures and more have shocked the world with their deaths. As if fans and followers expected them to occupy the spotlight forever, crooning and clowning and conversing with the masses ad infinitum.
For that matter, try to imagine a world without the charismatic and wise Michael J. Fox, a boyhood Republican turned werewolf turned time-traveler turned author, now suffering from an incurable disease and still ever hopeful. Just picture a world that no longer contains a gun-slinging Clint Eastwood or a loveable, versatile Lily Tomlin. Can you, really? And how will you react when NPR breaks the bad news as you drive to work in the morning? What comes next after you read the headline: “John Cusack, Dead”.
Even though we may never have met these people, the truth is that we invest boatloads of emotion and importance in certain celebrities and public figures. Who knows why exactly — perhaps a certain actor inspired our youthful imaginations, or maybe a particular musician captured our most visceral sadness and regrets — yet only one thing is for certain: this won’t be the last time another icon meets their maker.
Part eulogy, part confession, part history, PopMatters is now accepting personal essays that not only capture the spirit of great pop culture icons of the past, but also how you reacted to the news — emotionally, socially, privately, publically. Did you weep? Did you remain stoic only to host a movie marathon in the person’s honor that night? Did you grab a coffee with your best friend, still stunned, whispering how you still couldn’t believe it.
Submitting to special section “Rest in Pieces”, writers also have the freedom to choose a figure that is still alive and then attempt to predict how deeply the death will affect them. Got a hidden celebrity crush? Tell us about what losing them would mean. Dream about meeting Stephen Hawking, and what if suddenly, he was gone? Tell us why you love and revere the famous people you do, express the strange grief you have over such celebrities as best you can, and submit your pitch before the deadline (no pun intended).
Choose a public figure from the past whose death has shaken you to the core. Or if you have a profound respect (or a borderline obsession) with a living celebrity, then choose him or her for your piece. Sounds a bit morbid — I know — but as the saying goes, don’t let death catch you with your pants down. So don’t hesitate, share your opinions about your figure, let your reverence and feelings loose, because in all likelihood, millions of others feel the same way as you.
Then send your brief, one-paragraph pitch that clearly names your selection and your approach to Justin Dimos (dimos AT popmatters.com) by 10 June. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative either. Some may be strict personal essays; some may actually be eulogies; still others may take the form of love letters that were never received. Whatever method you put to your madness, make sure that you’re clear, respectful, and spruce your piece up with plenty of accurate history on your choice. Oh yeah, include some biographical information about yourself and links to some of your previous articles, too.
If selected, I’ll send you the thumbs-up along with some advice about the article, at which point you can start writing the hell out of your piece. Should your pitch be accepted, we’ll need a minimum of 1,200 words (or a maximum of 3,000) that are polished and ready for publication within four weeks of the deadline. Picture suggestions are always welcome, too; just send us the link or email us the files. Most important of all is have fun writing — to whatever extend you can have fun writing about death and dying — but here’s your chance get your confession off your chest and honor your icon with some kind, truthful words.
– Always be clear in your pitch and article, or else we just won’t understand.
– Don’t be afraid to express emotions in your piece — it’s confessional after all.
– Provide details and histories of your selections to establish credibility.
– Be courteous. Your selection may still be alive after all. Honor them.
– Get creative. Personal essays in a number of different formats are welcome.
– Stay professional and academic, too. Don’t let your writing spin out of control.
– Predict your future reactions by revealing some of your previous ones.
IMPORTANT: your email subject line must read: PopMatters / Rest in Pieces. To be honest, we receive a great deal of spam messages by the hour, and we wouldn’t want to inadvertently delete your piece as we perform our daily electronic pruning.
Thanks all. Hope to read your pitches soon!
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.