Saturday, February 19, 2011

Meet Joy Neighbors, Author of "A Grave Interest"

The seventy seventh is a series
featuring a member of
The Graveyard Rabbit Association


What Graveyard Rabbit site(s) do you run?

A Grave InterestI post on Tuesdays and Fridays each week.  I sat down last weekend and made out my blog topic schedule for the next year and I’m excited about the subjects I’m going to cover.  They range from graveyard humor and epitaphs, to historical events and people, to specific cemetery customs, records and symbols.  My blog encompasses cemeteries, history and genealogy, all subjects I love!

Why did you start A Grave Interest?
I was in the broadcast media industry for 20 years where I did a lot of writing, reporting and announcing.  When my husband and I started a winery ten years ago, I did the marketing and worked with the media there. Several papers and wine publications asked me to write articles for them, and I did a lot of public speaking.  Then, last year, I had an epiphany birthday and thought, “What would I absolutely love to be doing from now on?  What would I look forward to being a part of each day?”  And that answer was to write and speak about my favorite subjects and to share and discuss them with others. Hence, A Grave Interest, a blog about cemeteries, genealogy and history.  It’s all my favorites, rolled into one arena.  (And, of course, I would love to speak on cemeteries.  According to my husband, I’ve never met a stage or a microphone that I didn’t like! ; )

What first interested you in joining the GYR Association?
I’m big on research, finding the facts.  When I decided to start a cemetery blog, I did some investigation into what groups really took the subject and blogging seriously.  The Association of Graveyard Rabbits was at the top of the list.

Did you always have a fascination with cemeteries? Or did this develop out of your genealogy work
Both.  I started my genealogy in 2004 and my first hurdle was trying to locate the cemetery where my Great-Grandmother was buried.  I was a child when she died and I remembered the long drive out in the country to the cemetery, and the name Beatle, but I didn’t remember anything else.  It took some digging but I finally found the cemetery (Beadle) in a different county.
But I have always been enamored with cemeteries.  To me, they are the outside museums of art and history.

Do your family and friends think you are a “little off center” with respect to your cemetery obsession?
Thankfully, my husband, Brian shares this obsession with me.  We’ve always been ‘that strange couple’ that will take a picnic basket to whatever cemetery we’re near, even when we’re traveling, and spend the afternoon wandering the grounds and taking pictures.  I love being outside and I’m fascinated with the sculpture, the symbols, the mausoleums, and the romantic sentiment of a cemetery. 

What advice do you have for anyone considering joining GYR and creating their own GYR-affiliated blog?
If you want it and can commit to a blog, then definitely go for it!   I love all aspects of creating this blog, going out to the cemeteries, doing the research, the writing, the photography, and meeting new people.  This is definitely my dream ‘career!’

What advice would you have for would-be cemetery rabbits?
Discover what you really love to write about and go with that.  If you’re really interested in burial customs, blog it!  If you’re more into shooting the stones, do it!  Just don’t do something because you think it’s the next big thing everyone will be interested in.  I’ve always believed that you have to love what you do, because people can tell.  If you’re going to blog, blog authentically.  Be you, share and have fun!  That’s what it’s all about.

How about photography; any advice there?
Now, with digital cameras, there’s absolutely no excuse not to take a camera to the cemetery.  You never know when the perfect – or ironic – or unbelievable picture will present itself to you.  And always take extra batteries.  I very seldom make it through a cemetery without my batteries going dead, even if I’ve started with fresh ones.  But that’s another story……

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you in a cemetery?
Like most tombstone tourists, I have several stories to tell. But the strangest one that’s happened recently involved, yes, batteries, and a tree.  Not just any tree.  One of those “tree of the dead” look-alikes.  Just think of the tree in Sleepy Hollow.  That’s the one!  Brian and I stopped to have lunch at this cemetery last December. Afterwards, we each grabbed our cameras and headed out to shoot.  I didn’t even notice the tree until suddenly it was there, in front of me.  It looked exactly like a Halloween cemetery tree should, complete with a headstone lodged in its roots.  I grabbed my camera, aimed and…it shut down. Completely!  No battery warning light, nothing.  Just dead.  I started to the car to get fresh batteries and accidentally hit the switch.  The camera came on.  No battery warning light.  It seemed fine.  I took a few shots on my way back to ‘the tree.’  When I aimed my camera – it went dead again.  I did this same routine two more times with the same results.  When Brian heard me telling this tree exactly what I thought of this performance, he came over and offered me his camera.  I was able to get three shots before it went dead too.  But at least I was able to get pictures of it.  I would love to know the story of who’s buried there and what they were like. It was definitely eerie!

Anything new planned for A Grave Interest in the coming months?
Yes!  I will be launching a podcast in the near future with interview segments and a chance to listen to the blog.  And I’m trying to get over 25 followers on A Grave Interest’s Facebook page so that I can start a webpage there.
Be sure to stay tuned, you never know where we’ll go next!
And, please keep the comments coming!  I love hearing from readers who share this wonderful pursuit of cemeteries because it has become A Grave Interest.


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