Monday, April 18, 2011

People's Picks and the Grimmies (SPOW Awards) will be announced May 13

at an awards luncheon at Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., during the 2011 Society of Professional Obituary Writers Conference.

For conference details, visit our conference page.

People's Picks for Internationally Famous Individual

Read about these famous people by clicking their names:
Miep Gies
Jean Charpentier
Howard O. Jones
Solomon Burke
Jackie Burroughs

People's Picks for Short-form Regional Figure

Click the names, read the obits, then decide.
Carolyn Rodgers
Joe Vito
Joseph Sterling
Leigh Van Valen
Robert "Squirrel" Lester

Long-form Obits for Average Joes await the People's Picks

The Long-form Average Joe finalists are:
Fred Huffman
Neal Alan Smith
Patricia Travers
Margaret St. James
Jim and Bettie Wise
Got a favorite?

People's Picks for Long-form Regional Figure

Finalists in the Long-form Regional Figure category for the SPOW and its People's Picks honors are:
Arturo Petterino
Lorrie Otto
Marylena Graves
Jim Cole
Laura Legge

People's Picks for Short-form Average Joe obit

The finalists for SPOW Awards for Short-form obits about Average Joes are:
Patricia and Lou DeMuro
Denise Hodges
Evelyn Fefer
Kendall Tapley
Mark Butler
Michael Schwass

You'll notice we've got six finalists in this category. That's because we had three obits tied for the final two slots in the top five. This seemed like the best way to handle it.

People's Picks for obit tributes

Some famous people are featured in the top entries of the Tribute category of the 2011 Society of Professional Obituary Writers competition.

If you like the obit for Tony Curtis, prefer the one for Solomon Burke or think one for a person you've never heard of is the most awesome, that's dandy.

But please don't choose the movie star because he's your all-time favorite actor or the soul singer because you like his music.

Please choose the obit that moves you, informs you and/or entertains you.

Click the name to read the obit.
Tony Curtis

Solomon Burke

Gene Kiniski

Jim Wakefield

Ronald Chase Sr.

People's Picks: Short-form Body of Work

Click each "lettered" obit writer. Read all five obits that were written by that individual. Then choose your favorite.

Obit writer F

Obit writer G

Obit writer H

Obit writer I

Obit writer J

The People's Picks Poll: The Unofficial Popularity Contest for Obit Writing

Click here to read Obit writer A's 5 obits.

Obit writer B's work is here.

Here's Obit writer C's entry.

And Obit writer D.

And finally Obit writer E.

These are the five finalists for the Long-form Body of Work category of the 2011 Society of Professional Obituary Writer's Awards for obit writing.

And this is the first installment of the 2011 SPOW People's Picks Poll.

This just-for-fun exercise allows the public to let us know which obits and obit writers they like best. It has no bearing on the official winners. A panel of obituary professionals has already selected the winners in all eight categories as well as the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award.

(I know, I know. Obit writers getting awards for "body" of work and "lifetime" achievement does seem a bit ironic.)

All entries are presented without bylines, headlines or photos. The obits have to stand on their own.

And they do!

To the contestants: Great work!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lifetime summed up in four words or less

Lou Wigdor, senior writer and editor for the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, wrote about "reader-penned necros" from the Daily Hampshire Gazette for his Wig & Pen blog.

He hopes you'll find the piece entertaining.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Public Eavesdropping in the San Francisco Chronicle

"I haven't read the obituaries yet. I'm saving them for dessert." Elderly man reading the newpaper and talking to his mate, overheard at the French Hotel in Berkeley by Robin May.

Avoiding the 'knight in shining armor' and other obituary cliches

I recently conducted an obit workshop at the 2011 CMA-CBI Spring College Media Convention in New York City called "Death Is Your Editor." Over the course of an hour, I talked about how to:

* breathe life into obituary writing
* research a subject you can’t interview
* avoid the curse of the cliche
* write the last word on someone’s life

Then I had the audience pen the opening lines of their own obits. Here is one attendee's take on the workshop.

Monday, April 04, 2011


The Guardian discovers a convicted criminal wrote an obituary of one of his victims. Chris Elliott, whose title is reader's editor, writes about contributions published in good faith.