Martha Kaplan grew up near the mountains of the Cascades and the Olympic Peninsula, the salt water of Puget Sound, and the raindrops on the Douglas fir in her native Seattle. She moved to Houston, Texas after high school and spent ten years there where she came to appreciate red soil and piney woods, hanging moss and hard rain, among the other elements of place and person. She lived in Chicago before settling in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband, now an emeritus professor of law at the University of Wisconsin. She has two adult children---a daughter who studies Aikido and a son who is a mathematician living in New York City.

She studied art history, sociology, and English as an undergraduate, later adding a M.Ed. as well as more work in English. She has worked both as a teacher and as a therapist with children. In addition to literature, her interests include both history and politics. 

An early interest in poetry was stimulated by her grandmother who was an Oregon poet, as well as by both parents who were consummate storytellers. Her grandfather was the owner and publisher of a newspaper in eastern Oregon, and later Budget Director of that state during World War II. Her father’s stories were often beast tales crafted from memories of stories told to him during his childhood in Washington D.C.