Martha Woodroof


Martha is both a college dropout (Mount Holyoke) and a graduate school dropout (the University of Virginia).

Her first real job was as a teacher’s aide in a pilot Head Start program in Greensboro, North Carolina. She's been with WMRA since the (latest) turn of the century, and has actively freelanced for the NPR Culture Desk and for

Before that – among a lot of other things - she co-owned restaurants, did a bit of acting, was fired as a magazine editor, hosted local TV talk shows and anchored the news, wrote a book called How to Stop Screwing Up: 12 Steps to a Real Life and a Pretty Good Time, cooked for an artist’s colony, was a country music disc jockey and a psychiatric occupational therapy aide, taught preschool, published a bunch of essays, was a morning drive-time personality on a tiny AM radio station, ran a college bookstore coffee shop, directed a college’s co-curricular programming, and failed to sell cars.

Her daughter is spinner, weaver, author, and content provider, Liz Gipson. Many of the photographs accompanying her work were taken by her husband, Charlie.

She loves words and their power to tell other people’s stories.

Her first novel, Small Blessings, was published by St. Martin’s Press in the summer of 2014.

Ways to Connect

On this episode of The Spark: Anastasia Suslaev came to America at the age of 10, knowing two words of English. Since then she'd gotten her undergraduate degree from Eastern Mennonite, her Masters from JMU, and she's just about to become a certified nurse midwife.

A Poet Emerges

May 13, 2016

On this episode of The Spark: Part two of our conversation with Scott Price. Scott had never wanted anything but a career in the Army. Then a back injury took his career, his marriage failed, and he lost his identity… but thanks to poetry, he’s now starting to rebuild his life.  

On this episode of The Spark: Scott Price discusses his time in the Army. Scott, as a VMI graduate and Army Captain, wanted nothing more than to be a good soldier.

On this episode of The Spark: Martha speaks with climate journalist and research scholar Stephen Nash. He discusses his passion for telling the stories that illustrate climate change in our state and the challenges of covering those stories. 

Finding Your Voice

Apr 8, 2016

On this episode of The Spark: Dick Orange has always loved to sing. So when he moved to the Charlottesville area after a long career as a teacher and school administrator, Dick decided to make singing his second, full-time career.

On this episode of The Spark: Author Preston Lauterbach says he likes history that has a soundtrack – hence his first two books: The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock ’n’ Roll, and Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song and the Struggle for the soul of Memphis. 

Kai Degner, "Hello Harrisonbug"

On this episode of The Spark: Meet industrial hemp farmer Rick Trojan, who has been traveling across the country in the, “Hemp Bus,” advocating for the production of Hemp.

On this episode of The Spark: Harrisonburg's Claudia McClain picked up her knitting years ago when she put down alcohol. And not being able to find the right yarns, she decided to design and manufacture her own. Voila! Claudia's Hand painted Yarn. When she's knitting, Claudia says that four words repeat like a mantra in her mind as she knits:  peace, love, comfort, joy.

Born to Read

Mar 11, 2016

On this episode of The Spark: Last fall, high school junior Eleanor Alger took time out from her honors classes, busy extra-curricular life, and college tours to read some 500 children's books. Eleanor is an unofficial part of the selection process for this year's Newberry medal and honors.

Goodnight Songs

Mar 4, 2016

On this episode of The Spark: Batesville's Emily Gary and her musical partner, Tom Proutt,  recently collaborated to set a hidden trove of the late Margaret Wise Brown's previously unpublished poems to music. Margaret Wise Brown is the author of the fabled children's classic, Goodnight Moon.

On this episode of The Spark: Rusty Noesner retired two years ago after six years in the Navy. He spent five of those years as a Navy Seal, including a year of combat duty in Afghanistan. These days he lives in Harrisonburg, where he is working on slowing his head down and figuring out what he wants to do next with his life.

On this episode of The Spark: As we heard in part one of Martha's conversation with now-retired Sara Robinson, she was an early woman cracker of the glass ceiling.

This week we hear that Sara, who was raised in the small Virginia town of Elkton, still carries her small town childhood around in her heart. Her latest book of poems, Sometimes the Little Town, juxtaposes photographs of small town life taken by her father, Hobby Robinson, with the poems those photographs inspired her to write.

On this episode of The Spark: Back in the 1980's, Elkton's Sara Robinson boldly went where few women had gone before... to management level in the chemical manufacturing and minerals mining industries.

Guitar Craft

Feb 5, 2016

On this episode of The Spark: Linville’s Steve Showalter made cabinets and furniture… but then he fell in love with making guitars.

A Man of Many Hats

Jan 29, 2016

On this episode of The Spark: Author, lawyer, and new Charlottesville mayor, Michael Signer... does a lot. This week on the Spark he talks with Martha about what drives him.

On this episode of The Spark: Even the Friendly City of Harrisonburg has an underbelly of street rage... so how do you pursue conflict mediation when words fail... enter Chris Wilmore and Streetbeefs. 

A Labrador Romance

Jan 15, 2016

On this episode of The Spark: For almost forty years, British-born Clare Senfield has been the doyen of Allegheny Kennels where she breeds and trains and adores Labradors. 

On this edition of The Spark: Washington Post Reporter Will Hobson just published a five-part series addressing this question: Why do so many of the  Power Five college's athletic programs, including UVA's, lose millions every year? Martha talks with Will  Hobson about how he went about transforming a mountain of data  into compelling journalism.

DIY Vaudeville

Dec 18, 2015

On this episode of The Spark: Seven years ago Vaudevillian Carmel Clavin decided she wanted to make Staunton, Virginia, her home. And since it wouldn't feel like her home if she couldn't perform, Carmel got busy energizing vaudeville, busking and cabaret in the Queen City of the Shenandoah Valley.

Farmer's Son

Dec 11, 2015

On this episode of The SparkLawyer Nancy Lasater wrote a novel about a farm boy with dyslexia.  When agents told her nobody would buy a book about dyslexia, she decided to publish it herself, after getting a lot of support for her story from the dyslexic community.