Martha Woodroof

Host

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 npr.org.

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: 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.

Healing Horses

Dec 4, 2015

On this episode of The Spark: New Market’s Pat Murphy survived a truly horrible childhood that left her emotionally scarred in a number of ways. Including toting around a great fear of horses. She talks with Martha about finding greater confidence and peace through equine therapy.

Barclay Rives describes his family as being on a riches to rags trajectory —he’s directly descended from politicians and landowners who were part and parcel of the Commonwealth’s Colonial History.

Banjo on the Brain

Nov 20, 2015

On this episode of The Spark: Two-time state banjo champion Seth Swingle. He was ten when he fell in love with the sound of the banjo at MerleFest. Now at twenty-five,  he not only plays his instrument of choice, he also knows a lot about its history.  

Kenan Rubenstein

Martha speaks with Sophia Weideman, who has been drawing cartoons her whole life, but it took a while for her to find her own superheroes.

Mule Smarts

Nov 6, 2015

On this episode of The Spark: A listener appended a note to her contribution requesting more stories about mules... so this week, Diane Sypes, who lives way off the grid in Hardy County, West Virginia, tells about her four mules.

On this episode of The SparkRob Arthur is a Ph.D. cancer researcher at the University of Chicago. He also writes about baseball from a Sabermetric point of view for ESPN’s online arm, FiveThirtyEight.

Falling for Nepal

Oct 23, 2015

On this episode of The Spark: Marli Gordon is a twenty-three years old who calls Charlottesville home and has an ongoing love affair with the Nepali people. She was in Nepal during last April’s earthquake, and her response was to hunker down and help. 

On this episode of The Spark: Maya Hawthorn knew she wanted to be a midwife as soon as she learned that midwives exist. Martha and she talk some about the practice of midwifery and some about the advantages of being a shy person in that profession.

Brook Haven Birth

Virginia Midwives Alliance

Midwives Alliance of North America

The Iron Composer

Oct 9, 2015

On this episode of The SparkWinchester Composer, and EMU faculty member, Ryan Keebaugh was one of five finalists in this year’s Iron Composer Challenge. To compete, Ryan had five hours to compose a piece for three pretty weird instruments that was somehow suggestive of a board game he'd never heard of.

On this episode of The Spark: Charlottesville literary journal Streetlight Magazine, began life in print, then morphed into an on-line presence. Martha talks with editor Trudy Hale about the challenges presented by this change in format.

On this episode of The Spark: Martha learns how Trudy Hale transformed an isolated antebellum wreck in Nelson County into "The Porches", a writing retreat on the James River.

Bob Adamek

Sep 18, 2015

On this episode of The Spark: Mostly employing the Just Do It method, Bob Adamek went from being a working musician, to being a working high-end cabinet maker, to being a working photographer.

On this episode of The Spark: The late Mack Swift, State two-time tall-tale-telling champ. 

On this episode of The Spark: Recent college graduate Danny DeMarais talks about his very business-like plans to make his band Too Indecent into his career.

On this episode of The Spark: Renard Turner came to Louisa County in 1996 for two reasons: to work at the University of Virginia hospital and to work towards establishing a sustainable lifestyle on his 94-acre Vanguard Ranch. So, how’s he doing?

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