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Martha Woodward Joins

East TN News

By Sarah Byrkk 2/11/2019

Retired school teacher, Martha Rose Woodward, has turned her lifetime hobby into a career. Although wrestling with health issues, she took a part-time job at the Knox County Focus Newspaper and soon developed a reputation as a skilled writer known for her depth of knowledge in historic research.

For one assignment, she became a sort of detective when asked to find out why a local landmark, the Sunsphere, a tower built as the theme structure for Knoxville's 1982 World's Fair, had been closed for nearly 8 years. The search led her to develop a timeline about the landmark which she turned into a book, Knoxville's Sunsphere: Biography of a Landmark. Selling in local book stores, to friends and neighbors, at club meetings, and on Amazon.com., her book was spotted by a photographer from California who had an interest in the Sunsphere. He shared her book with a friend in New York City who knew of a publisher searching for someone to write a book about the 1982 Fair. The friend put Martha in contact with Arcadia Publisher's in South Carolina who asked her to submit a book proposal which was immediately accepted. Martha's second book, Knoxville's 1982 World's Fair was published in February of 2009.

"We sold 200 copies in one day and 500 the first week," she said.

Martha's career next led her to work as part-time feature writer for The Knoxville Journal Newspaper, where she published 1,150 articles in a span of 7 years ending when the paper folded. Martha's work has placed her in the midst of some of the most high profile murder cases in America.


At one point, she worked off and on a romantic novel developed in her head while in bed recuperating. Once she regained strength, she typed parts of the novel, saving bits and pieces on her computer, but years passed by without her getting it completed. Encouragement from family and friends gave her the inspiration to finally take the book out of the bottom drawer and finish it. Even Wounded Birds Fly in 2009 is a shocking book. "I did something unheard of in Southern literature," she explains, "I made the preacher the bad guy and killed him off. This has cause quite an uproar with the Religious Right."

Her first adventure into the true crime genre was published in July 2009, "Seven Minutes in Hell: the Erin McLean Murder Case" follows a case she reported on for the newspaper. The murderer was nearly set free by the jury. He was sentences to 70 days in jail after clearly confessing to having killed his wife’s lover.


Her next book was Escape to Riches 2011, the story of a Chinese-Malaysian whose family immigrated from China in 1899. Phillip Lim, the great-grandson of the original immigrant, hired Woodward to assist him with writing his autobiography. The story spans the trip Lim Keng took in a small sampan from China to Malaysia and follows Phillip's life up through 2013.


After seeing her success with book sales, her former school teaching pals suggested she turn her attention to recording some of the lesson plans she wrote during her teaching career. Their suggestions led her to pen three children’s books: Watermelon for Everyone-2012, closely followed by No Spitting Watermelon Seeds-2013, with Something Spooky at the Sunsphere-2014 to follow.


When her position as a reporter abruptly ended with the demise of the newspaper, Woodward found herself dealing with a myriad of emotional upsets as memories of the cases she reported on flooded her mind. True to form as a writer, she found herself putting her feelings into words as emotional therapy. What resulted was a 430 page novel featuring the life of a retiring reporter who may also be a serial killer. The Diary of Rosalee Gibbs features chapters about cases involving drug dealers, snake handlers, a preacher who impersonated Elvis, crooked lawyers, and more.


Assuming she would spend her future years fully retired, she was pleased when local, fledgling writers began hiring her to provide input and to edit their manuscripts.


Woodward sells books by making personal appearances as guest speaker for clubs and schools. She has been honored as “Author for the Day” at various schools and book fairs in the area.  
Woodward’s books are sold on Amazon.com. You can contact her through the Knoxville Daily Sun’s web site or by visiting her YouTube channel, Tennessee Thrifter, or her blog at Martha Sunsphere.


John Disque says, “The publication is going through some changes and we’re both lucky and proud to have her with us. There’s a lot of organizing, restoring and republishing going on while Martha focuses on what she does best.”


"She and I worked together back in 2010. We're certainly not strangers, but the timing wasn’t right and we lost touch. Recently (2018) we crossed paths on YouTube, of all places, and just started checking out each other’s work and talking about journalism, video production and the literary world."


"In a few weeks we should be settled down and running smoothly."


"There’s a lot of exciting projects coming up, both on a national level and local East TN level: social issues and politics. They fit right in to what we’re doing, so it’s back to the natural grind."


"She’s a great, accomplished writer: creative and easy to talk to. We make a good team and it should be interesting for both us and our 'family of readers."



Written by Sarah Byrkk

Published 2/11/2019

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