Sandra Martin, an award-winning journalist, is the author of the critically acclaimed national bestseller, A Good Death: Making the Most of Our Final Choices. Winner of the B.C. National Non-Fiction Award and a finalist for both the Dafoe Prize and the Donner Prize in Public Policy, A Good Death was named one of the best books of 2016 by The Globe and Mail, the CBC and several other media outlets. Margaret Atwood has called A Good Death “a timely and deeply felt account of assisted dying: the histories, the issues” and included it on her list of best books about death and dying.
A Good Death was recently published in a revised paperback edition with a new chapter on Bill C-14, Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying law (MAID).
Martin has won two national National Magazine Awards, several honourable mentions and the Fiona Mee Award for literary journalism. As a journalist for The Globe and Mail, she was known for her books and arts coverage and especially for her perceptive, deeply researched and vividly written obituaries. She was a finalist for a National Newspaper Award in feature writing in 2014
Her public policy initiatives about race and gender in the workplace won the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy from The Toronto Star. She has also been awarded a Canadian Journalism Fellowship to study at the University of Toronto, named the Pelham Edgar lecturer at Victoria College, and awarded The Harvey Southam Lectureship in Creative non-fiction at the University of Victoria. Those lectures formed the basis for her essays on the history, culture and future of obituaries in a 24/7 wired up world in her book, Working the Dead Beat: 50 lives that changed Canada. Long-listed for the Charles Taylor Prize and named a Globe one hundred book for 2012, it was published in paperback under the title Great Canadian Lives: A Cultural History of Modern Canada Through the Art of the Obit.
As a literary journalist, Martin edited the Oberon Best Short Stories and Coming Attractions anthologies with writer David Helwig, bringing writers such as Rohinton Mistry, Bonnie Burnard and Frances Itani to a wider audience.
As a wide-ranging non-fiction writer, she is the co-author of three books, including Rupert Brooke in Canada and Card Tricks: Bankers, Boomers and the Explosion of Plastic Credit, which was short-listed for the Canadian Business Book Award in 1993. She has written for most magazines (past and present) in this country including Toronto Life, The Walrus, Saturday Night and Queen’s Quarterly.
As a memoirist, she conceived, commissioned and edited The First Man in My Life: Daughters Write About Their Fathers, a best-selling anthology of original personal narratives about one of our most complicated and least explored relationships. She contributed the essay “Snapshots” to the second volume of Dropped Threads, “Travels in The New South Africa” to Why Are You Telling Me This: Eleven Acts of Intimate Journalism, “Visitation Rights” to The First Man in My Life: Daughters Write about Their Fathers and “Road Trips” to Great Expectations: Twenty-Four True Stories About Childbirth.
More info about me…
I was born and raised in Montreal but Toronto is where I have lived for many years, made my career and raised my family.
My first job in journalism was at Quill & Quire in the early 1970s. It was a much smaller magazine back then—I think there were three of us on the editorial side, so we all did a bit of everything. Mostly, though, I wrote news articles and profiles and assigned and edited the book review section. Looking back, it was good training for a journalist.
From Q & Q, I moved to Books in Canada as managing editor and from there to the precarious life of a freelance magazine writer. There were many more magazines back then including weekly newspaper supplements so it was possible to make a living by pounding away on a typewriter.
I wrote for Saturday Night, Toronto Life, Report on Business, Maclean’s, Chatelaine, Weekend, The Canadian, Elle Canada and lots of other places, including The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star. Over the years, I have written hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, including reviews, profiles, columns, investigative pieces, public policy proposals, obituaries and memoir essays.
With interests ranging from the arts to politics, healthcare and social issues, I have written extensively about a wide variety of topics including books, writers and cultural institutions. Among my prizes, I was lucky enough to win an Atkinson Fellowship in public policy from the Toronto Star to spend a year researching race and gender in the workplace. Some of my profiles have won National Magazine Awards; I was a finalist for a National Newspaper award and my books have appeared on bestseller lists and been shortlisted for major awards.
I’ve taught journalism and writing courses at Ryerson, the Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto and the University of Victoria where I was the Harvey Southam Fellow in Creative Non-Fiction in 2010. My books include, Working the Dead Beat, The First Man in My Life, Card Tricks, Where Were You and Rupert Brooke in Canada.
In 1998 I took a full time job at The Globe and Mail. For the next 16 years I wrote editorials, cultural analysis, literary profiles, news features and obituaries. People laughed and called me the grim reaper or the angel of death when I started writing obituaries but I loved trying to condense an entire life onto a newspaper page and learning new subject areas from politics to science. Curiosity drives all journalists and I loved discovering fascinating details about strangers, people who were a mystery to me until I began researching their lives and writing them up, usually under crushing deadlines.
Two years ago, I changed positions at the Globe and Mail from full-time journalist to features writer and columnist for the Long Goodbye so that I could research and write A Good Death: Making the Most of Our Final Choices. This book, which was published by HarperCollins Canada in April, 2016, is a social history of the right to die movement in Canada and around the world.