Michele Morris is the award-winning author of two cookbooks (“Tasting Colorado” and “A Taste of Washington”) and a freelance food and travel writer whose work has appeared in The Denver Post, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles, Edible Front Range, and Nourish.
Her memoir, “Poco a Poco,” was released in 2018 and has garnered several awards, including a Nautilus Book Award. Proceeds from the book support families impacted by brain aneurysms.
The following is an interview with Michele Morris.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
What inspired you to write this book?
In the fall of 2016, I was planning to begin writing a travel memoir about my annual trips to Italy and the characters who are part of those experiences. But when my husband collapsed on vacation in Madrid in October of that year, my plans changed. After he died six months later, I felt compelled to write about that journey of grief, loss and recovery instead of about travel, so I began writing “Poco a Poco” in the summer of 2017.
Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?
My favorite things to read are food and travel writing. I have especially enjoyed anything written by the late Anthony Bourdain, and love reading both food writing and travel writing collections of essays.
Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?
I wanted to show both the shocking beginning of my journey as well as the heartbreaking end after six months, so I pieced together a few sections from the book to take readers from my husband’s collapse in the Madrid airport to his death six months later in Colorado.
What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?
While certainly not fun, going back and writing about my journey of grief, loss and recovery was extremely cathartic for me. I was able to reflect on what had happened, what I learned through the experience, and how I changed as a result. Writing was probably the best therapy for me, and I’ve encouraged others suffering a loss to write about their experience for healing aspects.
I originally didn’t plan to publish the book, but rather write it only for myself and possibly my kids. But when I found a foundation who works with families impacted by brain aneurysms, I realized I had an opportunity to publish the book and direct the proceeds from book sales to that foundation in Greg’s memory.
What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?
The sections of the book about making the decision to remove life support and then following that through to his eventual death were the hardest for me to write, because they represented the most difficult aspect of this journey: despite heroic efforts and having given my all to trying to help Greg recover, in the end we still lost him. It felt like I had failed my children and writing about that was hard.
I also think our society sometimes callously uses the phrase “pull the plug” to describe removing life support and allowing a loved one to die. That phrase in no way reflects what actually happens or the incredible anguish and guilt that accompanies doing that. I wanted readers to really feel the weight of that decision.
What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?
As a food and travel writer, the genre of memoir was completely new to me. I had been journaling—both publicly and privately—during the entire time Greg was sick, and when I decided to write about the journey, I figured I would just string together those journal entries into a book. But I worked with a writing coach who helped me understand that memoir is different, that it requires reflection after some time has passed. I also learned how important scene, dialogue and character development are to writing a memoir.
What project are you working on next?
Since Poco a Poco was published, I’ve been writing a series of essays about loss, love and starting over, that support the book. Now, nearly three years after losing my husband, I’m returning to my original plan to write a travel memoir. I’ve begun working on individual essays from my world travel experiences that I hope to one day pull together into a book.