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

Battling Blooms

Jun 14, 2013

Glenna Graves talks about growing flowers –gulp– competitively. 

Music Feeds Us

Jun 13, 2013

Violist Fitz Gary is in Charlottesville to co-host the Second Annual Music Feeds Us concerts to benefit the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. 

Mesmerizing hip gyration and fluid arm movement are second nature to Julia Skinner, who,  while living in Hawaii, spent many childhood hours in the obligatory hula-instruction.  Julia still hulas and shares some stories. 

Film director Robert Altman's odd connection to Martha Woodroof --who managed to not-become a Hollywood celebrity.

Area Bach Boosters

Jun 6, 2013

Long time Shenandoah Bach Festival organizers and performers join us --including Ken Nafziger, Les Helmuth, and Jeremy Nafziger. 

Odd Old Va. Maps

May 31, 2013

Bear right at the mountain-sized turkey (according to an antique map).  Off our coast on a French-made nautical chart, exaggeratedly large French warships dwarf and scare wimpy British ships.  In his new book, Mapping Virginia: From the Age of Exploration to the Civil War, map expert Bill Wooldridge notices how we once pictured our own land and how the world-beyond once pictured Virginia. 

Eliza Doolittle is among the best-loved fictional flower-sellers.  Mary Jo Swartzendruber is a real flower seller --and she grows her own too.

Tomato Guru

May 17, 2013

How does one pick a bushel of tomatoes without kneeling? It depends on how they're strung up. Though he'd humbly disagree, many Harrisonburg folks think that Singers Glen farmer, Marlin Burkholder, knows all there is to know about growing tomatoes. 

Champion Liar

May 10, 2013

State two-time tall-tale-telling champ Mack Swift on storytelling. 

The Handley Library looks more like something out of Vienna or Dresden than Winchester, Virginia. Architectural historian Richard Guy Wilson 

Staunton photographer Pat Jarrett has moved on from spot news coverage for the Staunton News Leader to his own brand of “nonfiction visuals.” 

Storyteller Mack Swift appeared on The Spark.  Here is his rendition of "Jack and the Old Conjure Man":


Giancarlo is a true "European" pastry chef (born in Lombardy) whose career included  upscale venues like The Homestead and Keswick Hall.  He and wife, Jane, ran Cafe Giancarlo on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall --and now they run  Giancarlo Fine European Pastries in Staunton. He shares some thoughts about life and about luscious treats. 

Of course, what you hear on the air during is edited-down because of time constraints. 

Stuart Jamieson

And a 1903 Mennonite's "Tiger Scar" birthmark --are among the elements in Jessica Penner's novel, Shaken In The Water.  

In honor of National Poetry Month, JMU sophomore Samantha Tkac reads her favorite poem, Daddy, by Sylvia Plath.

In honor of National Poetry month, JMU sophomore Taylor Kepley reads the Langston Hughes poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers."

Psychologist Paul Ackerman, who is seventy-seven and a long-time musician, shares what it's like to embark on a new career involving new computer skills, music, and teaching.

Twenty-five-year old Corey Garig works at a deli (where Martha met him) to support himself and his family while he teaches himself computer animation.

Occasional Spark essayist Carey Keefe tries to text her mom (LOL). Meanwhile, certain oldpersons who don't want to bother with gadgets (like the hearing-aid battery) can't hear the smoke detector's low-power warning beeps.