Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writing Obits: A mini tutorial

For the briefest tutorial ever on obit writing, check out this podcast link.
Carolyn Gilbert, founder of, interviews Kay Powell in this podcast. It takes several minutes to view.
While you're on the page, check out the other obit podcasts posted regularly by Gilbert and Dr. Cory Franklin.
Those podcasts are online obits for the dead. I am Kay Powell, and I am not dead.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another byline for the NYTimes counterpart of Dr. Death

Donn Downey of the Globe and Mail. Mel Gussow of the New York Times.

Both wrote advance obits for Elizabeth Taylor, whose famous hospital stays probably outnumbered her movie roles.

And the indomitable Ms. Taylor outlived both obit writers.

Mara Gray posted a brief article about Gussow for AOL News titled "Elizabeth Taylor's Obit Writer Died 6 Years Ago".

Another byline for the late Dr. Death

A full-page obit of Elizabeth Taylor in the March 24 edition of the Globe and Mail was written by Donn Downey, a veteran obituarist who died in April, 2001. This was his 12th credited obit since his death. His own obit in the newspaper, based in Toronto, Canada, noted that the well-liked wordsmith was known by his colleagues as Dr. Death.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


There's nothing like a death in the family to create a new FOBIT, Friend of Obits. Check out this Huffington Post piece by Pamela Tom.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Ides of March: Deadline for entering obituary writing competition

 Just a reminder: The deadline for submitting entries for the 2011 Society of Professional Obituary Writers Awards is March 15.

If you need an extension, please let us know.

Click here for contest details.

Pictured above right is Kay Powell, showing off the two SPOW Awards she won in 2008. Last year, Kay became the third recipient of the SPOW Lifetime Achievement Award.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

2011 Society of Professional Obituary Writers Conference and Registration

Society of Professional Obituary Writers Conference
May 12-14, 2011
St. Petersburg, Fla.

Thursday, May 12:

6 p.m. – SPOW Conference kickoff dinner starts at 6 p.m. at The Columbia at the Pier restaurant, 800 2nd Avenue N.E., St. Petersburg. Individuals are responsible for ordering and paying for their own meals. (fyi: We may have to change the time from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Stay tuned.)

All sessions Friday and Saturday at The Poynter Institute, 801 Third Street South, St. Petersburg. All times are approximate. Schedule is subject to change.

Friday, May 13:
9-10 a.m.- Welcome, opening remarks and “Getting to know you” icebreaker, followed by short break.

10-11:30 a.m. - Keynote speaker: Kelly McBride, a senior Poynter faculty member, will speak about reporting, writing and ethics pertaining to obituary writing.

11:30 a.m. - Short subject to be determined.

Noon - 2011 SPOW Awards luncheon
Lunch followed by presentation of SPOW Awards.
Winners will be asked to share the story behind their winning obits and to take questions.

1-4 p.m. (in not particular order) - Award winners will continue the lunchtime talk, if necessary.
Dan Reimold, a journalism professor at the University of Tampa, and Michelle Boyet, a former online producer for The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, will present a session on blogging and social media.
"I’ve got something to say" - Obit writers talk about whatever’s on their minds.

Friday sessions will end no later than 4 p.m.

Saturday, May 14:
9 a.m.  - Brief explanation of Poynter Institute’s News University online obituary writing course by its instructor, Alana Baranick, a.k.a. SPOW director.

 9:30-11 a.m. -  Police Forum: A panel of St. Petersburg Times and reporters and editors will discuss coverage of their city’s recent series of police shootings, obituaries written for the dead police, coverage of their funerals and other issues raised in the process. Local host Andrew Meacham will lead the forum.

11:30 a.m.-noon: Conference wrap-up, SPOW business, 2012 SPOW Convention.

Additional topics will be addressed before and after the aforementioned highlights. Our time at Poynter ends at noon Saturday. This will allow conferees to continue independent discussions off campus, if they like, do the tourist thing or leave town early.

Registration is being handled through Click here to read about and pay for registration fees and membership dues.

Hotel Indigo, 234 Third Ave. North, St. Petersburg, is our official conference hotel.

Make reservations by calling the hotel directly at 727.822.4814 by April 12, 2011, to get the Early Bird rate of $99 per night.