A Conversation with Martha Woodroof
Tue September 2, 2014
Plenty of people toy with the idea of writing a book, but few will actually get published, and by the time we reach our mid-60s, those dreams have faded.
Not so for Martha Woodroof, a local public radio personality who has published her first novel at the age of 67. It’s called Small Blessings, and it’s getting rave reviews.
For the last fifteen years, public radio listeners have been treated to occasional book reviews from Martha Woodroof – a resident of Harrisonburg and a regular on the local station, WMRA. Now, Woodroof has launched another career, writing novels. Her literary tendencies were apparent early in life.
“When I was about ten years old, I got a personal rejection letter from the poetry editor of the Atlantic Monthly for a poem I sent in about morning.”
“Where on Earth did you get the idea you could publish a poem in the Atlantic?” asked reporter Sandy Hausman. “At ten years old, nobody even knows about the Atlantic.”
“I grew up in a very academic, intellectual family,” Woodroof explains with a laugh.
She gave up poetry when she concluded her navel wasn’t that interesting, and she couldn’t write poems about anything else, but Woodroof had many more careers ahead.
“ I was an old hippie. I am an old hippie, and I sort of blew all over the professional landscape, wherever the wind took me. It included restaurants, it included theater, it included television, It included working as an extremely low level administrator at a college. It’s included lots of public radio – hooray. And now, it seems, at the age of 67, I am a novelist.”
She actually began writing fiction in her mid 40’s, reserving the morning for her books.
“You know once you get out of bed, it’s sort of like living on the inside of a pinball machine. You’re just going – trying to dodge the next calamity. So I got in the habit of taking two or three hours in the morning and just inhabiting these wonderful imaginary worlds, hanging out with these imaginary worlds, hanging out with these imaginary people to see what happened to them.”
Unfortunately, the agent she hired didn’t think much of her work.
“You know fiction is so subjective. People have decided tastes. They like this or they don’t, and for an agent to represent a novel, he or she has to be in love with it.”
Woodroof liked her agent, but eventually she decided to make a change, and she sent Small Blessings to her new literary rep.
“Small Blessings was actually completed maybe three years ago, and it went into a cardboard box in my home office, and a really substantial revision later, a new agent, and it was being auctioned.”
She got the news over brunch with a couple of friends.
“We’re sitting there eating our eggs, and my agent calls and said, ‘Small Blessings just sold,’ for what for me was a whacking pile of money, and I hung up the phone, and I just thought, “This is a complete gas!”
“Did you tell them, and did you order another bottle of champagne?” Hausman asked.
“ Not for me. I’m in recovery, but we raised our iced tea and said, ‘Yihaaa,’” Woodruff replied.
She’s now touring to promote the book, and counting on many more great adventures. Her advice to would-be published authors. Be prepared to work, and remember – age is just a number.
“You know I like what age has done to me. It’s calmed me down. It’s focused me. It’s given me perspective, and it has made me accept that I like everybody else have strengths and weaknesses.”
If the critics are any indication, writing is one of those strengths, and she’ll soon submit a new novel to St. Martin’s Press.
For more information about Martha Woodroof, visit her website.