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

Writer Mary Burruss

Mar 30, 2012

They say "write what you know" so in pursuit of a story, Charlottesville freelance writer Mary Burruss did a little work as a pole dancer. 

Charlotte Zinsser Booth was inspired by her mom's memories of learning in school about mythic gods of antiquity --and by education reformers who sought less-bureaucratic "whole child" teaching.  She worked in public schools and then turned her lifetime passion about education toward founding the North Branch School in Afton. 

He's into "soft rock" --but not the musical kind.  Pete Farley has been fascinated with the Alberene Soapstone Quarry his entire life and is now searching for its history.  He also recalls some of Nelson County's castle-like abandoned quarry buildings and mills

During divorce proceedings, Victoria Godfrey and two close friends found support in each other’s company.

The unstoppable coach Tom Moran turns his own struggle with cerebral palsy into opportunities for disabled children to excel through sports.  Filmmaker Mike Grundmann tells the story in his documentary "Why Me? Tom Moran’s Long Walk" screening Fri 23 March at 7pm at downtown Harrisonburg's Court Square Theater (tix for free-will offerings to Overcoming Barriers).

Getting up close and reeeeeeally personal with other people's skin.  Electric needles.  Nitrile gloves.  All in a day's work for Chris Porter of Alley Cat Tattoos.  Among the things we find out: what will he do when every last inch of his own body is inked?

One of his book's poems is called "Sewage Disposal."  Need we say more?

We'll hear music and get the inside skinny on how The Steel Wheels' new CD “Lay Down Lay Low” came into being.

Charlottesville’s Hilary Holladay undertakes one bodacious literary enterprise by starting her own publishing house.

Doug Harwood edits the feisty one-person news magazine The Rockbridge Advocate. He came to Lexington 40 years ago to attend Washington & Lee and could never quite tear himself away again from Rockbridge County.

"Woody" the Musical

Feb 24, 2012

Staunton’s Richard Adams talks about writing musicals in general and "Woody," his musical rendition of the life of Woodrow Wilson, in particular.

Making Shoes

Feb 24, 2012

Gabe and Peggy Leasure of Rockbridge County talk about shoemaking and their late shoemaking father/husband Glen Leasure.

In the End

Feb 24, 2012

An essay by Eric LaFreniere.

In honor of Black History Month, a MLK-memorial sound piece by Elliot Majerczyk.

The Cairo Rooster

Feb 17, 2012

Bob Bersson debuts a new occasional feature on The Spark, short, creative non-fiction, with his story “The Cairo Rooster.”

Jeff McCormack

Feb 17, 2012

Jeff McCormack’s long relationship with plants includes starting Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Garden Medicinals and Culinaries, co-founding Virginia Plant Savers, and being lead author of Bush Medicine of the Bahamas,  an ethno-botanical study of the native uses of medicinal plants on San Salvador Island.

JMU student Shanell Dowling reads “Won’t You Celebrate With Me” a poem by Lucille Clifton,  in honor of Black History Month.

Urban Renewal XVIII

Feb 10, 2012

To honor Black History Month, JMU student Kirsten Warne reads Major Jackson’s poem Urban Renewal XVIII.

Stan Driver

Feb 10, 2012

Hop grower Stan Driver talks about his fantastical vines, and the burgeoning Virginia hop-growing business.

Blue Mountain Brewery Hops

Ellen Butchart

Feb 10, 2012

When Staunton’s Ellen Butchart unexpectedly lost her job working on the creative side of Rosetta Stone, she responded by going back to school for an MBA in sustainable business.