Farewell, Phil

My writing life was blessed and changed by editor and publisher, Philip Martin. His death-by-cancer in early 2019 precipitated many changes. Among them, is the renovation of my website. This was my final post on the previous website, and I want to begin anew by including my reflection here:

Farewell, Phil.

It is with deep sadness that I share some news.

My writing journey began decades ago, but it found a path toward publication when editor/publisher Philip Martin read a very early story about Norway during WWII and encouraged me to find my way forward. After more years of learning and writing and additional research and reading and … all that goes into become a better writer… I sent a manuscript for Odin’s Promise to Phil. He guided me and that story into my debut book, and then encouraged me to work on the sequel that readers assumed would be coming, even though I did not imagine such a thing. In the four years we worked closely on the trilogy I found a friend and inspiration.

A hot day last summer was the final time I saw Phil. We met 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 also 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.

Here is his obituary, and I ask that you read it through, as a favor to me and to the kind and wise man he was.


Phil passed away on March 3, 2019 at age 65. Phil traveled his cancer journey for almost two years and died after a very brief stay in hospice. He was born November 22, 1953 to Carl and Nancy (Clements) Martin.

Prior to his calling to book publishing, Phil worked in folk arts programming, education, research, and publishing. He was an important part of the Folklore Village (Ridgeway, Wis.) community for decades, serving as staff some of that time. He documented and published recordings of the music of many ethnic groups in Wisconsin and he was co-founder of the Wisconsin Folk Museum (Mount Horeb, Wis.).

Later in his career he focused on his passion for indie book publishing, editing, and writing. He founded the nonprofit book publishing house Midwest Traditions and later his own company Great Lakes Literary where he skillfully and gently edited and guided emerging book writers.

He authored several books: Farmhouse Fiddlers, Rosemaling in the Upper Midwest, A Guide to Fantasy Literature, How to Write Your Best Story. And he edited the anthologies The Writer’s Guide to Fantasy Literature, The New Writer’s Handbook, My Midwest. He had begun writing a book on neighboring. He served as manager at the nonprofit organizations Rethinking Schools, Alzheimer’s Association, and Sienna Retreat Center as well as Kalmbach Publishing and Odyssey Marine Exploration.Phil volunteered at his church First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, focusing on communications and marketing. He also volunteered in a wide range of ways at Folklore Village years ago, from serving on the board to being a lead member of the landscaping committee.

Phil was passionate about playing soccer and loved cross-country skiing deep in the woods. He was a great and adventurous cook and generous host. He enjoyed hiking and camping, especially along Lake Superior and in the Rockies. He was a wonderfully intuitive traditional Scandinavian fiddler and was Jean’s favorite dance partner for any Scan dance or Wisconsin polka.

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 holistic thinker who aimed for excellence and integrity in all his relationships with people and his work.

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