Tuesday, July 19, 2016

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Meet The Great And Captivating Kay Powell

In a lovely profile published in the latest issue of Mental Floss, writer Margaret Eby declared SPOW's very own Kay Powell as "America's Greatest Obituary Writer."

It's hard to disagree with that.

Eby described the process Powell used to write more than 2,000 obits for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and to "paint a picture of a complex city and an evolving South, and go well beyond the tropes of the form."

Powell also shared this wonderful bit of advice for those working on the death beat:

"Our job was to answer questions, not raise questions. We always gave the cause of death. We wrote about suicides, even though many papers won’t. The question you’re afraid to ask is the question you must ask.”

Click here for the full story.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Jim Sheeler: Professor, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Premier Obit Writer

We cannot overstate what Jim Sheeler has contributed to the art of the obituary. His outstanding work has led him to become an author, professor, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, and so much more. Now he's being honored by Case Western Reserve University where he teaches students to write stories outside their comfort zones. All of Jim's accomplishments and contributions are rooted in his excellent obituaries written early in his career. Check out what Case Western has to say about Jim being awarded the Carl F. Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at its May 15 commencement ceremony.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

For 3 decades, Mark Zaborney has penned the last word on Toledo's dead

A column in The Blade recently highlighted the illustrious career of SPOW's very own Mark Zaborney.

Thomas Walton shared stories about Zaborney's 32-year stint as the newspaper's obituary writer, and gave particular notice to how his "comforting, soothing style puts the family at ease during a difficult time."

“For me, obituaries are the history of the community, one person at a time," Zaborney said.


Click here to read the story.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

WATCH: The new teaser trailer for 'Obit'

"Obit," the new documentary from director Vanessa Gould, gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at The New York Times‘ obituary department.

Obit editor William McDonald, along with past and present staff writers Bruce Weber, Margalit Fox, William Grimes, Douglas Martin and Paul Vitello share their thoughts about what it's like to cover the death beat for a living.

Here's the latest teaser trailer for the film:

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The latest trend: Obituaries featuring political commentary

Have you checked the obituaries lately? Several members of the recently departed have been using death notices to make one final plea to voters about who they should back in November.

SPOW President Maureen O'Donnell discussed this trend with WBBM 780/105.9FM. Click here to listen to the report.

The best books about obituaries

The Society of Professional Obituary Writers website features a list of books for obituary writers and readers. Do you have any suggestions for other tomes we should add? If so, email us your favorite titles.


Monday, March 07, 2016

Obits: The Movie

OBIT, a documentary by Vanessa Gould, opens at the TriBeCa Film Festival on April 17. Starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio et al. Thanks to The New York Times reporter Bruce Weber for giving us a heads up on this.

Click here for a trailer preview of Ms. Gould's documentary on The New York Times obituaries. I can't wait until it hits my neighborhood theaters.

Margalit Speaks

The Paris Review published an interview with the inimitable Margalit Fox, The New York Times' 20-year obituary writer, in September 2014. Here's the top of Alex Ronan's interview with Margalit that's as good a read today as it was then.


In nearly twenty years and twelve hundred obituaries, Margalit Fox, a senior writer at the New York Times, has chronicled the lives of such personages as the president of Estonia, an underwater cartographer, and the inventor of Stove Top Stuffing. An instrumental figure in pushing the obituary past Victorian-era formal constraints, Fox produces features-style write-ups of her subjects whether they’re ubiquitous public figures, comparatively unknown men and women whose inventions have changed the world, or suicidal poets.  

(Photo by Ivan Farkas)

Click here for the full interview. I not only wish I could write as well as Margalit, I wish I could give as good an interview as her.