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Paula Martin is a writer and educator best known for her work as the host and producer of the radio show Tales from the South.
Paula Marie Martin was born on October 9, 1967, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Her family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) when she was twelve, and she has lived there periodically throughout her life. She graduated from Little Rock’s Parkview High School. In the late 1980s, Martin and schoolmate Jason Morell, who had begun dating after graduation, sold all their belongings and moved to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, where they began working in a restaurant. The couple married and had three children.
As they pursued their dream of opening a restaurant, they traveled and worked in restaurants from Colorado to Florida. Jason developed his skills as a chef, and Paula, who had always loved to write, pursued a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing from Florida International University in Miami. Dan Wakefield was a particularly important instructor for her, as his support helped launch her writing career.
She received an MFA in creative writing from the University of New Orleans and published work in magazines and literary journals including Southern Hum, Outsider, Ink, Short Story Journal, and The Double Dealer Redux. Her book Broken Water was published by Temonos Publishing in 2006. She also served as a fiction editor and webmaster for the online Journal of Caribbean Literatures.
In 1998, she began teaching creative writing courses online and at what is now University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College. For many years, she has taught writing at Operation Military Kids, an arts camp for children of military families. She has long been a member of the Arkansas Arts Council, teaching writing workshops for teens and underserved children.
Morrell was working as an online English professor for St. Leo University in Florida when she responded to a plea for help from a colleague in San Francisco, California, who was looking for submissions for a show similar to what Tales from the South became. When the San Francisco venture failed to materialize, Morell, with stories in hand, contacted Little Rock’s local public radio station, KUAR (an affiliate of National Public Radio), about using some of what she had. Tales from the South debuted to the public in 2005. Shows were first recorded at KUAR, and Tales from the South ultimately became a syndicated show heard across the country via the Public Radio Exchange and around the world through the World Radio Network.
After Paula and Jason Morell opened the Starving Artist Café in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), they switched the recording locale to the café. After the restaurant closed in June 2014, the show moved across the street to Laman Library’s Argenta Branch. The shows were recorded in front of a live audience on Tuesday nights and edited into thirty-minute segments that then aired on Thursday nights. The Morells divorced in 2014, and Paula resumed the use of her maiden name.
Despite its popularity, the show stopped production in 2016, and Martin sold the rights to Southern lifestyle brand Bourbon & Boots. In 2017, Martin joined longtime Argenta arts patron John Gaudin, who was beginning production of Potluck & Poison Ivy, an original show that he hoped would fill the void left by the end of Tales from the South. Martin serves as producer and creative director for Potluck & Poison Ivy.
Martin’s work with Tales from the South has earned her several awards, including the Governors’ Arts Award and an Innovative Community Project Award from the Arkansas Community Development Society in 2013. In 2017, Martin was inducted into the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. She lives in North Little Rock.
For additional information:
Clancy, Sean. “Tell Me a Story: Potluck Series Fills Void Left by Tales.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 13, 2017, pp. 1E, 3E.
Gamez, Elizabeth. “Truth Be Told.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 15, 2011, pp. 1E, 6E.
Matthews, Jaman. “Tales from the South: True Grits.” Arkansas Times, April 6, 2011, pp. 14, 17. Online at http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/tales-from-the-south-true-grits/Content?oid=1626271 (accessed September 15, 2017).
Owen, Rhonda. “Paula Marie Martin Morell.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 10, 2012, pp. 1D, 8D.
“Paula Martin.” Arkansas Arts Council. http://www.arkansasarts.org/aie-artists/paula-martin-morell (accessed September 15, 2017).
William H. Pruden III
Last Updated 9/15/2017
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