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.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Ask Maureen. She knows.

Maureen O'Donnell, obituary writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, shared the secret to creating a memorable obit to NPR this week.

"I think it's the little details that make history come alive. You know, this may be the man or woman who lives down the street, but they liberated a concentration camp, or they invented the beehive hairdo or they created the Playboy bunny logo in 30 minutes," she said.

Listen to the full interview here:

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Introducing The Afterneath

Did you know there's an entire album of music that's inspired by obituaries?

Jascha Hoffman, a Brooklyn-based journalist and singer, is the talent behind "The Atferneath: Songs from Obituaries." Inspired by the subjects of the obits he penned for The New York Times, the album is filled with tracks about a euthanasia-boosting doctor, a reluctant nuclear scientist, a genocide survivor, a public servant who turned to public suicide, a boy dreaming of flying a model airplanes across the ocean, a love-struck cowboy and someone who experienced a late-career ping-pong comeback.

"...To my surprise, the strongest character on this album has turned out to be the 20th century," Hoffman wrote on his website. "From 1940s wartime hobbies, through the gender wars of the 1970s and tabloid kidnap and murder of the 80s -- you could say the album is a sort of technicolor obituary for an American era, one that is slowly fading."

Click here to preview a few tunes or buy the album on iTunes.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The truth behind obituary writing

Founding SPOW member Kay Powell, the doyenne of the death beat and a woman who has made a "career of saying goodbye," had a lovely chat with Virginia Prescott of "Two Way Street" on Georgia Public Broadcasting last week.

Powell discussed a variety of obits and explained her purpose when writing one: "I wanted to bring the person back to life. I want to learn something about them that I didn't know, the general public probably didn't know, even members of the family didn't know. I wanted to be truthful."

Click here to hear the entire interview.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Which Obit Should Kids Read?

Of all the obituaries you've read - or written - what's one you'd pick for kids to read?

I'm a middle school teacher and an obituary enthusiast. I use obituaries in the classroom to introduce students to people who lived inspiring lives, worthy of emulation.*

We've read about the foster mother to ninety-eight children, the first woman to climb the highest mountain on each continent, and the man who invented the study of flags. (Over fifty obits so far - see them all at I'm especially interested in obits that may have received insufficient notice.

I'd be grateful if you shared your recommendation(s) in the comment section below.

Many thanks - and thank you for the work you do!

-Peter Sipe

*For more on obituaries' instructional merit, see my Boston Herald op-ed "Obituaries Teach Life's Lessons."