Saturday, August 11, 2007

Knoxville's Sunsphere - Biography of a Landmark

Around Labor Day 2007, a new book will hit the streets. I can't wait to get my copy and read about the Sunsphere. In 1982, when the World's Fair opened I was a Sophomore at Carter High School in Knox County. A recent review of my high school yearbook reveals many photographs from the World's Fair. It was the time when the World recognized the "scruffy little city."

A friend of mine Martha Woodward is the author for this book. Here is the cover concept for the book, a brief bio on Martha and the story about the book. Martha is from right here in Knoxville.

Knoxville’s Sunsphere; Biography of a Landmark takes an historical look at the unique tower which was built in 1981 as the theme structure for the 1982 World’s Fair.

How this book came to be written is also an incredible story of an amazing woman who would not accept failure as an option.

In 1998, Martha Rose Woodward was a single parent with 3 children. Her income, as a school teacher, was in the $49,000 range. She owned her dream condo, on the trendy side of town, in a good school district She spent her free time playing tennis, or taking her children on vacations. She had a Chevy Blazer, a circle of good friends, and life was good; not perfect, but good.

Suddenly, in May of that year, at age 49, she took ill, and, after several months of tests, and doctor’s visits, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The cancer was massive and she was told to write a will; prepare her estate, spend as much time as could with the kids, because she would probably be dead in 3 months.

At one point, the doctors were at their wit’s ends, and decided to use a harsh treatment of chemotherapy, which, she was told, "would heal her or kill her". Obviously, the drugs healed her, however, the treatments were so harsh, that the chemicals burned the small air passages in her lungs, leaving her with only 50% usage, and putting her 100% on oxygen for life. She had to retire, and spent 2 years in bed, needing care round the clock.

Within the space of 9 months, she has lost her job, her condo, her car, which her daughter wrecked, the custody of one of her children, and her hair. She went down about as low as an individual could go.

HERE IS HER MESSAGE. IF a person who went as low as she went can recover, anyone can. Here is the good side of the story.

As time went on, she began to get some strength, and wanted to do some small jobs. She slowly gained enough energy to substitute as a teacher for one half day. She worked a day a month, and maybe the next month, 2 days. She would earn $60 to $100, and it felt good to be productive.

As time passed on, she, literally, took in sewing for people. As a lifelong quilt maker with a sewing machine, she made and sold quilts, and repaired clothing for people. She made a few extra dollars, and it was good to be active.

Time moved on, and she got better, and increased the days as a substitute teacher, and did odd jobs; things she could do for a few hours. She was hired by political candidate to make phone calls, and did a variety of things; making a few extra dollars.

As time went on, she was earning $2,000 to $3,000 extra per year, which gave her some "flexible spending money".

NOW to the book.

As a teacher, she had spent a lot of time writing: newsletters, units of study, letters, grants, and more. People had been telling her for years that she should write a book.

Since she retired, she had time to DREAM. She became interested in learning how to make videos, wanting to make a historic record of her quilts. This lead her to taking a editing class, which is offered for $24 from a local cable access station. THIS lead her into the idea of making her own weekly, 15 minute television show. For the last year, she has been hosting and producing, "Homespun Hobbies" a show about "a woman and her hobbies". She became a local "star"who gets fan mail and is recognized on the streets.

She has produced over 50 shows, and some of the topics are: How to Make a Tomato Sandwich; Martha’s Quilts; How to Crochet; Traveling; Gardening; and more. She also make video biographies of local politicians.

Everything is POSITIVE, and it is a sweet show. While thinking of topics for her show, she was out making videos, and decided to film the Sunsphere, which is a tower in Knoxville, Tennessee, which was built as a "monument to the sun". After that show aired, people were coming out of the woodwork to tell her how they loved it, so, she did 3 more shows, and along the way, became obsessed with the Sunsphere. She began doing research, making google, and yahoo searches, and read, read, and read.

After about a year, she saw that she had so much material that she could write a book, and became determined to write it.

To write the book, she treated the Sunsphere as if it were a person, and wrote about its conception, its birth, and followed it throughout its 26 years of life. She made special effort to keep the book wholesome and clean, since she wanted it to be read and studied by students, however, she almost wrote one chapter, "Sex and the Sunsphere", but decided to keep that information private.

Senator Lamar Alexander, and the Ambassador to Poland, Victor Ashe, both sent her comments to use, and there have been a couple of people who have promised to "hand deliver" a copy of her book to Laura Bush, since the First Lady loves teachers and books.

Martha Rose Woodward has an amazing story to tell. She can be reached by email or on her web site at here.

If schools are interested in buying the book in quantities of 4 or more there will be a discount. Martha will be available for book signings and she will donate a percentage of sales to schools. In addition to the two contacts above, email can also be sent here.

Brian's Blog will continue to keep you informed.


Anonymous said...

A very interesting, well-written article. I enjoy reading positive, inspiration things.

I was going to use my name, but I don't have a web-page so I will just have to be anon.

Brian Hornback said...

We are welcome to comment anytime as Anon.