Martha Baillie was born in Toronto and educated in a French-English bilingual school. At seventeen she left for Scotland where she studied history and modern languages (French and Russian) at the University of Edinburgh.
She continued to act after graduation, taking scene study workshops and classes in voice and movement, while supporting herself by waitressing and teaching private French classes.
In 1981, she took an extended trip through parts of Asia including Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Burma, Nepal and India. This experience inspired her to switch her focus from acting to writing. Upon her return to Canada, she acquired an Ontario teaching certificate and briefly taught ESL to adults and French immersion to grade five students.
Today, she works part-time for the Toronto Public Library. She has done so for nearly twenty years, performing as a storyteller in schools, and day cares, organizing poetry readings, and community film screenings.
Baillie’s first novel, My Sister Esther, was published in 1995, followed by Madame Balashovskaya’s Apartmentin 1999. The later was also published in both Hungary and Germany. In 2006 her third novel, The Shape I Gave Youcame out with Knopf Canada, and was a national bestseller.
Her novel, The Incident Report with Pedlar Press, arrived in Spring 2009 and was recently nominated as one of 12 finalists for the Giller Prize. Martha has had poems published in journals including Descant, Prairie Fire and The Antigonish Review, and her non-fiction piece, The Legacy of Joseph Wagenbach was published by Brick magazine (Summer 2007).
Baillie has been awarded grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. She lives in Toronto with her daughter and husband.