Monday, April 09, 2018

What makes Irish eyes smile

SPOW President Maureen O'Donnell once had a professor who told her: "There is an Irish obsession with knowing who died." And it's true! While looking into the nicknames for obits, O'Donnell discovered they were also called:

  • The Irish Scratch Sheet
  • The Irish Sports Pages
  • The Irish Racing Form
  • The Irish Comics

Inspired by these discoveries, Maureen wrote an article for the Chicago Sun-Times about the tradition. Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Quote of the week

"I love reading the obituaries. On the weekend, hot coffee, feet up, I quietly read. I always finish with a deep contented sigh. One morning I told my husband I felt I had met many new friends. Too bad, said he, that they all died." --Bonnie Brown

Monday, March 19, 2018

Covering suicide in the obits

Although this is a difficult topic to cover, obituary writers must not shy away from listing a cause of death, no matter how sensitive. However, there are ways to properly handle such stories with care and compassion.

As a service to the news media, the Canadian Association For Suicide Prevention has developed a series of guidelines to help present information about suicide in a responsible manner.

FMI: Click here.

(h/t Ron Csillag)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Got questions about obituary writing?

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Drinks that are to die for

SPOW president Maureen O'Donnell procured the recipe for the "To Die For" cocktail that Billy Sunday served to the Society Of Professional Obituary Writers during this year's ObitCon:

(Serving size is one cocktail)

2 oz. white rum
1 oz. strawberry syrup (fresh puréed strawberries- 1/1 ratio of strawberry and simple syrup)
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. Fernet-Branca

Shake and top with sparkling soda if you want it carbonated.

And if you're looking for a drink that could wake the dead, check out the Obituary Cocktail.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Featured quotation

"I read obituaries every day to learn what sorts of lives are available to us, to see an entire life compressed into a few column inches, to fit the whole story in my eye at once." --Sarah Mangus

Monday, October 16, 2017

Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 Grimmys

The Society of Professional Obituary Writers honored the best writers in the field at the Grimmys Award ceremony, which was held last weekend during ObitCon 2017. Reporters and editors from all over the world submitted entries to the Grimmys Contest. And the 2017 winners are:

Best short form obit - Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times for his obituary of Cookie the cockatoo

Best long form obit - Tom Hawthorn of The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada), for his obituary of Al Howie, an eccentric ultramarathoner who ran across Canada

Best obit of an ordinary Joe/Jane - Maureen O'Donnell of the Chicago Sun-Times, for her obituary of Phyllis Larson, the Turkey Talk-Line expert who rescued holiday meals

Obituary writer of the year - Linnea Crowther of

The Alana Baranick Award For Lifetime Achievement In Obituary Writing - Andrew Meacham, Tampa Bay Times

Each winner received a trophy shaped like a tombstone that included the society's unique Memento Mori logo, which was designed by Mairead Rosati.

ObitCon 2017 was a great success!

The fifth conference of The Society of Professional Obituary Writers was held Oct. 13-15, 2017 at the offices in Evanston, Ill. If you were unable to attend, here's what you missed:

On Friday, ObitCon participants gathered for a meet and greet at Bookends and Beginnings in Evanston, Ill. Afterwards, society members enjoyed a delicious meal at Pete Miller's Seafood & Prime Steak.

On Saturday, attendees gathered at the offices in Evanston, Ill., and engaged in "grave discussions" about obits and obituary writing. Several guest speakers gave short talks, including Stephen Segal of, Adam Bernstein of The Washington Post, Susan Soper of ObitKit and Owen Youngman of Northwestern University. SPOW members also enjoyed a screening of the documentary, "Obit," followed by a discussion of the film with director Vanessa Gould.

On Sunday, the Grimmys were 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 missed any of these events, just hop over to Twitter and read the tweets posted under the hashtag #obitcon.