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Life Arts    H4'ed 5/8/15

Martha Woodroof Knocks "Small Blessings" Out of the Ballpark

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At the same time I was doing a lot of theater, including shows with the UVA theater department. When I got the idea of going to theater grad school, the faculty was all for it, but there were still two non-negotiable hoops to jump through: 1)I had to pass the GREs; and 2) I had to get the dean's approval.

The GREs were not a problem. So that done, I went to see the dean. He and I sat in his office talking about this and that. Every so often he'd asked me what I'd published, as there'd been seven other folks admitted to UVA grad schools before who were all published authors. Every time he asked, I'd say the same thing: nothing. Then, as I remember it, he kind of started, sat up and said, "You're the woman who did that TV special on the basketball team, aren't you?"

I said, "Yes sir, I sure am."

We chatted a bit longer, I left, and my acceptance letter to grad school arrive about ten days later.

As to college campuses, I've been around them my whole life. My mother taught at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, my first husband was at Rice, my first Charlottesville restaurant was across the street from Mr. Jefferson's Rotunda, and I worked at Sweet Briar.

JB: Are there college brats like there are army brats, Martha? If so, you definitely qualify! The hardcover edition of Small Blessings came out a few months ago. What kind of response have you been getting? Were you in a tizzy about that, being a first-time novelist and all?

MW: I think, Joan, that I'm too mellow (old?) these days to be tizzyfied, which in no way should be taken to suggest I'm not terribly excited to have Small Blessings published.

The reaction I've gotten to Small Blessings has been overwhelmingly satisfying. People have written me interesting, appreciative letters -- everybody, it seems, loves Agnes. I've had a soupcon of goodreads savaging, but also some really interesting, thoughtful critiques that will help me to get better at this novel writing business. And that really is what it's all about for me. If I'm going to do something, I want to do it as well as I possibly can.

JB: I like your attitude - so grown up! [For the record, I admired Agnes but I really connected with Rose.] I understand that the paperback edition of Small Blessings is coming out very soon. What are we hoping for here? Will it get you more exposure, interviews, more space on bookstore shelves?

MW: Good golly, Joan, I hope so. Picador and St. Martin's have really gotten behind Small Blessings, so I'd love to see their efforts rewarded. Plus, think of all the people I haven't met yet who might invite me to speak to their book clubs.

cover art for new paperback edition
cover art for new paperback edition
(Image by St. Martin's Press)
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JB: True. What haven't we talked about yet?

MW: I can't think of a thing. I'm so much more comfortable being the listener than the talker.

JB: I get that. I was interviewed in 2013 when I hit 1,000,000 page views and it felt peculiar to find myself on the hot seat. I'm dying to ask: What happened to the two novels that didn't get published? Do any remnants of them appear in Small Blessings? Was it wrenching to let them go after all that hard work?

MW: They are cozily interred in my home office file cabinet. Nothing from either one of them is in Small Blessings. They are clearly novice novels, but I really like one of them.

Wrenching to let them go? Go where? Who says I've given up on them? I'm with Yogi Berra in thinking that the game ain't over till its over...

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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