UW-Green Bay alumna pens deep thoughts on death with a book launch, Friday, May 6
The latest book from The Teaching Press at UW-Green Bay, Call Me Morgue, features uncanny and life-giving observations about death work
Combine a clever sense of humor, a steady stream of dead bodies, a printing press and a creative group of student editors and designers, and what do you get? It’s hard to imagine. But the latest book from UW-Green Bay’s The Teaching Press, entitled Call Me Morgue, written and illustrated by UW-Green Bay alumnae, describes the dark, surprising and endearingly funny environment that is funeral work.
A leap of faith into learning about death.
A 2008 UW-Green Bay graduate, Morgan (Bloohm) Moran began her career at a local advertising agency. Imaginative and full of expression, Moran shared her writing skill and creative genius with clients ranging from non-profits to large corporations, for more than 12 years.
Yet as a kid, Morgan had always been weirdly fascinated by “darker” books, death ritual and wondered what actually went on behind those funeral home doors. As the self-proclaimed “empath” friend, she was the one everyone called when they were experiencing drama or loss. Morgan thrived on being able to listen and help.
While working from home in early 2020, she realized she needed a change. “I wanted a stress that really mattered,” says Moran, “not (stress) about a social media campaign, but a weighty, meaningful stress that would teach me something.” Her husband, a videographer, introduced her to one of his clients, the owner of a local funeral home. After a meeting with said owner, it was obvious to her that funeral work was her next step. She would become an apprentice for a year before deciding if funeral work would be a permanent part of her future.
“I loved the idea of starting over,” says Moran. And while leaving her well-paying, full-time job was “terrifying” she was excited to learn something new, to NOT be the smartest person in the room and to expand her horizons. Little did she know that the experience would change her life.
Shortly after she began her apprenticeship, she started writing about the experience on her blog. Calling her observations, “death snacks,” she wrote with both humor and reverence. Expressing a short list of things that “gross her out,” or the awkwardness of transporting dead bodies, her excerpts are raw and intriguing. “Witnessing grief is like looking at love up close,” says Moran. “You get to see behind the curtain of how much someone was loved and even despised by a family.” Some days were extremely depressing; others gave new meaning to empathy and understanding. She loved it.
Moran’s former professor, Rebecca Meacham found her blog and immediately contacted her. As the director and founder of The Teaching Press and chair of the Writing and Applied Arts B.F.A. program, Meacham felt that Moran’s honest and uncensored look into the world of funeral work had the makings of a printed piece. “I found her blog posts to be a breath of fresh air,” says Meacham, especially about a topic that is not typically described with unbridled honesty and humor. Plus, Meacham knew that as an alumna of the English program at UW-Green Bay, Moran would really connect with her Teaching Press group of interns.
UW-Green Bay students bring “death snacks” to life.
Founded in 2018, the Teaching Press was designed to give students a real-life, hands-on experience including every aspect of bookmaking, from writing, editing, marketing, design and layout to the actual printing onto paper. Each semester, a group of interns is selected to participate in the organization and actual printing of a book or books. Specific job descriptions, including copywriting, marketing and design are filled by student interns, and led by a student project manager. These students take over the whole process, learning and growing as they work directly with authors from the community to design, develop and then print a book.
Press Manager intern Samantha Myers was excited to lead the project team for Call Me Morgue. Currently finishing her final semester at UW-Green Bay, Samantha highlights the teamwork and exposure to all parts of the printing press as the most beneficial parts of her press internship. “Seeing the first proof and going through the four-hour meeting with Morgan and the team was my favorite part,” says Myers. Over a Zoom call, every person involved with the Call Me Morgue project gave their opinion and edits to the piece. “Having other people with a different creative ‘eye’ is a very important part of the project,” says Myers, “and watching it shape and form and come about as a complete book was so much fun.”
Meacham echoes the commitment of time and energy that the group of press interns put into Call Me Morgue. The market research group, for example, found examples of this style of writing, and then worked with marketing to develop a plan for distribution. Illustrator, Ali Juul, now an alumna of the program, worked closely with Moran to understand and provide graphic options to best complement Moran’s writing style and story. The group fully embraced the project and as a result, have developed a visually inviting, well-crafted, hold-in-your-hand book.
The project not only highlights the exceptional writing and creativity from UW-Green Bay alumna Moran, but gives credit to the vision of the UW-Green Bay Teaching Press, providing UW-Green Bay students real-life experience, and an actual printed piece, that they can then take with them into the community. “Watching the team and Morgan work through the process,” says Meacham, “the give-and-take and the chance to develop something completely brand new, was incredible.”
The book launches via Zoom on Friday, May 6, at 3 pm CST. Moran, joining from London, will read excerpts, and Juul will describe her process as illustrator. Q&A will follow.
RSVP the virtual launch party for Call Me Morgue here: https://uwgreenbay.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9LENLoQuEvWwp4a
For purchasing information, visit the Call Me Morgue webpage: https://teachpress.courses.uwgb.org/call-me-morgue-by-morgan-moran/
Story by freelance writer Kristin Bouchard; photo submitted.