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

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?

Shawnna Miller

On this edition of The Spark: JMU Graphic design Professor Trudy Cole’s special relationship with special needs horses.

Life Recycled

Aug 14, 2015

On this edition of The Spark: A conversation with Eric Walter, who’s mid-life reinvention took him from running his own IT business in Chicago, to running his own recycling business in Crimora.

On this episode of The Spark: Ann-Janine Morey is an English and Religious Studies professor at James Madison University, as well as Associate Vice Provost for Cross Disciplinary Studies. A.J. began collecting old pictures of people and their dogs while undergoing chemotherapy. And low and behold, the collection grew into her latest book, Picturing Dogs, Seeing Ourselves: Vintage American Photographs.

On The SparkDennis Lynch first came to the Valley fresh out of college to work at the Wayside Theater. But he stayed to run the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival.

On This Episode of The Spark: These days 83-year-old Bob Brennan busies himself with Percheron Horses and a recalcitrant donkey on his Orange County farm. But he started his farming career raising chickens... at about the same time he started going to school.

Kara Lofton

On this episode of The Spark: Former Bridgewater college... and soon-to-be Sweet Briar college president,  Phillip Stone.