Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Word on the Street Interview Series: Sandra Martin

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Sandra Martin

The Word on the Street interview series continues today with Sandra Martin, award-winning journalist at the Globe and Mail and author of Working the Dead Beat: 50 Lives That Changed Canada.

Working the Dead Beat showcases the obituaries of 50 Canadians — from the famous to our unsung heroes, and even the infamous — to honour the ways in which they shaped our country. Part collection of biographies, part autobiography of an obituary writer, Sandra promises that it will both fascinate and surprise.

Sandra will be reading in the Vibrant Voices of Ontario tent on September 23 at 4 pm. Today, she talks with us about reading banned books in public, writers she admires and her next book idea.

Open Book:

Tell us about what you’ll be reading in the Vibrant Voices tent.

Sandra Martin:

I will be reading from my book, Working the Dead Beat: 50 Lives That Changed Canada. The book tells the story of our country through my obituaries of individual Canadians. Some are famous, like Maurice “the Rocket” Richard, June Callwood and Pierre Trudeau, and some will be a surprise, but all are fascinating, I hope. As well, I will reveal the secrets, culture and myths about obituary writing from my own experience on the “dead beat.”


Have you attended The Word on the Street in the past? If so, tell us about a favourite memory. If not, what are you most looking forward to?


I go to WOTS every year, but my favourite memories are talking to people about freedom of expression in the PEN Canada booth and reading excerpts aloud from banned novels by distinguished writers.


The Vibrant Voices tent celebrates Ontario authored and published books. Tell us about a favourite Ontario author or book.


It is hard to single anyone out because I admire the work of so many poets, novelists and non-fiction writers—everybody from Al Purdy to Alice Munro to Charles Foran.


What’s the best advice about public readings you have ever received?


Speak slowly, clearly and keep it under ten minutes.


Word on the Street is happening simultaneously in Toronto, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kitchener and Halifax this year as well as in Vancouver from September 28-30. If you could be in two places at once, which WOTS festival (in addition to Toronto) would you attend?


That’s a hard question. One of my subjects is architect Arthur Erickson, who designed the landscape-hugging University of Lethbridge, so I would like to pay homage to him by reading there. But I would also like to be in Halifax, the home town of Denny Doherty of The Mamas and The Papas, another one of the people in my book.


What can you tell us about your next project?


Too soon to say in detail, but I am thinking of a “then and now” book about a famous writer who came here 100 years ago.

Sandra Martin, a journalist at The Globe and Mail, has won writing prizes from the Society of Professional Obituary Writers, gold and silver National Magazine Awards, the Atkinson and William Southam Journalism Fellowships, and the Harvey Southam Lectureship at the University of Victoria. The co-author of three books, including Rupert Brooke in Canada, Card Tricks: Bankers, Boomers and the Explosion of Plastic Credit, she is the editor of the bestselling anthology, The First Man in My Life: Daughters Write About Their Fathers. She lives in Toronto with her husband, historian Roger Hall.

For more information about Working the Dead Beat please visit the House of Anansi website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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