Some of the worlds leading obituary writers have just had the annual get-together in Las Vegas – and by all accounts had a jolly good time. One reason: obits are no longer a dying art. If anything, they are very much alive. Forty obit writers from all over the world attended the get-together. Among them Andrew McKie of the Daily Telegraph who appropriately turned up wearing a l5-gallon Stetson, not the conventional l0 gallon variety. Plus matching blue jeans and white T-shirt. A little out-of-character for a writer who deals in death?. Not a bit, insisted McKie. “Readers want us to be a bit rude. That’s what they expect,” he assured USA Today. This was the obit writers eighth annual conference and one of the best attended. There are it seems several reasons for obit writers to look to the future with confidence., There are now several obit websites, obit blogs, even obit writing classes. Plus there is a new magazine due out here soon, appropriately called Obit which will run nothing but obits of famous people. Pharmaceutical companies , financial services and needless to say funeral homes are already among advertisers who have booked space. Books about death are also among the most popular, notably one called Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituary Writing by a former obit writer for Life magazine Marilyn Johnson. One theory for the revived interested in obits it was suggested was the expanded space the NY Times gives these days to obituaries – in particular Portraits of Grief, hundreds of mini-obits that ran after the World Trade Centre terror attack. .As usual at the conference there was a contest for the best headline on an obit – real or imagined. This year’s winner? “It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to” which reportedly was the headline on the obituary of a nursing home patient who died at her own birthday party.