An Overdue Post, Sharing Some Sad News

I was overdue to post updates here and in a spring newsletter. There has been news to share. I’ve attended events, enjoyed school visits, with new ones coming soon, and I’ve moved ahead in my journey to serve as a Holocaust educator for a local organization. All the while I’ve been writing, revising, preparing blog posts, reading widely, and more. 

For now, though, that will wait. 

It saddens me beyond measure to share the news that my editor, publisher, and friend, Philip Martin, died recently following a two-year, up-and-down struggle with cancer. Cancer won that battle at the start of March, but not without a noble effort on Phil’s part. 

Here’s a very small part of his beautiful and impressive obituary:

“Phil celebrated and created beauty and love in this world. He had a reverence for the natural world and was awed by the kindness of humanity. He was gentle and warm, a deep wholistic thinker who aimed for excellence and integrity in all his relationships with people and his work.” 

Here are a few of my thoughts about Phil and the years in which I was able to learn from and laugh with him:

I first heard Phil speak at a local writing conference more than a decade ago, just about the time when he launched Great Lakes Literary, but well into his long career in publishing. What I noticed most about Phil was his steadiness, his balance of realism and optimism, his capacity to listen deeply.

A few years later I contacted him to negotiate the least expensive (cheapest) advice I could obtain about a recurring writing project that had finally become a semi-completed novella.

The story was set in Norway. Probably because of that, Phil jumped on board and was generous with his time, encouragement, and advice.

I got WA-A-AY more than my money’s worth.

Five years later, after researching, learning, writing, and revising this story, it became a full novel with new characters, plot, and audience.

I sent it to Phil. He offered a contract. Since then I had the privilege of working with his guidance to turn that manuscript into my debut novel. In the course of that work and the next two books, I’m proud to say I became his friend.

Throughout the time I’ve known Phil he was everything I noticed in our first meeting: steady, realistic, encouraging, and a deep listener. His advice was so gently presented and open to discussion that the brilliance of his insights might have been easily overlooked. I tried to never make that mistake.

Phil’s books have inspired me often, and I’ve reread each one several times. I’ve gifted them to other writers and “loaned” them only to need to buy a replacement. I did that willingly, not surprised that others were finding wisdom in his words, too.

Phil was a voracious and attentive reader, collecting quotes eagerly. Rather than hoarding those brilliant quotes, though, he found countless ways to share jewel-like literary examples. It feels right to offer one of Phil’s passages to inspire and uplift others now:

“Maturity in a writer doesn’t mean throwing around a lot of fancy words. A secret of successful writers is the ability to tell a story in a way that focuses everybody’s attention on the story, not on the brilliance of the author, pulling strings like a poorly concealed puppeteer.”

An excerpt from How To Write Your Best Story, by Philip Martin, Crickhollow Books, 2011

I ask you to reread that passage, changing “a writer” to “a human being”. It ‘s clear to me that his advice in that passage is a reflection of a guiding principle in his own life. The website forGREAT LAKES LITERARY has the subhead: Making Good Great. I believe that Phil lived his life finding the good and the stories in others, then developing a stage and focusing a light with which to uplift others.

Phil’s is a life and a legacy worth celebrating.

During the spring of 2018 and a year into his cancer struggles, Phil asked my support in planning a tenth anniversary celebration of his company, with a focus on ecology and social justice. Some progress was made, and I sensed that it was also meant to be a celebration of moving beyond cancer.

Sadly, that didn’t turn out to be the case. The anniversary event was put on hold while treatment resumed.

A hot day last summer was the final time I saw Phil. He walked two blocks to meet me for coffee and sweets and more planning. He rubbed his curly hair proudly, his usual smile stretched to a grin, and he ate with good appetite. We discussed a potential event for spring 2019, again focused on ecology and social justice. He asked about my recent projects and said he was eager to get involved in more publishing and had new writing ideas of his own in mind.

Mostly, we caught up.

That meeting offered another dose of Phil’s steadiness, his balance of realism and optimism, his capacity to listen deeply.

Some people exude untamed energy. Phil’s energy was always obvious, but it glowed like embers: warmly, rich with promise, never threatening to overwhelm others or outshine their light.  

He honored me by his interest in collaborating and seeking my advice.

Others knew him better, longer, and in more personal relationships than mine.

Still, I was Phil’s friend and he was mine.

His voice and wisdom will remain with me.

I’ll miss him.




6 Comments on “An Overdue Post, Sharing Some Sad News

  1. Oh Sandy, I’m so sorry to hear that Phil lost his battle with cancer and is no longer walking this earth, looking for ways to help it endure,while working to create books to entertain and inform readers. I only met him a few times but i was impressed by his kindness and warmth. I am sad that I won’t have the opportunity to know him better. My deep condolences.

    • Thank you, Gayle. It is heartwarming to know that you had a chance to meet him and, in limited ways, work with him. He touched so many lives and his memory will continue to do so. Thanks for reading and sharing your warm thoughts.

    • Thank you for reading and for your outreach, Dai. Phil’s light shines on through his books, but there’s a gap in my life and many others now. I’ll do my best to “pay forward” the many kindnesses and gestures of support he has extended to me and to so many others.

  2. Oh Sandy, what a beautiful essay. This life is too short, but what a privilege to share it with stories, creativity, and friends. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you, Christa. In the course of his life he has recognized and appreciated the light in so many others, so I can’t help but believe that his light will continue to reach those how need it most in years to come.

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