“This may sound like hyperbole, but it is not: Maggie Smith is the best editor who has ever worked on one of my manuscripts. She understood exactly what I was trying to accomplish in my project and she knew—it seemed instinctively—how to sharpen and rearrange my poems so that they could achieve their best purpose. Her line edits were extraordinary: she knew exactly where my language became strained from excessiveness, and she knew how to trim the poems back so that they could ‘breathe’ more. Her reordering of the poems gave the manuscript much better flow. I imagine that without Maggie’s help, I’d still be struggling with this manuscript now, not knowing quite what to do. I trust her good guidance, her keen ear and eye. And it meant a lot to me that in her comments, she was always gentle, even when offering criticism. I cannot praise Maggie Smith enough!” This book, The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter, won the 2018 Colorado Prize for Poetry, selected by John Yau, and was published in November 2018 by The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University. —Gillian Cummings
“I was at a crossroads with my manuscript, having sent it out for two years under various versions, and was trying to figure out if the version I just completed was “the one.” I discovered that Maggie Smith offered editorial services and immediately knew I wanted to work with her. Maggie was always in touch and thoroughly communicative about her editorial process. During our time together, I found out that my chapbook was a finalist for an award, and Maggie contacted me immediately to follow-up about whether there was any crossover between my chapbook and the full-length manuscript. That’s how caring she is: She checks in and is aware of the potential of your work. When I got my manuscript back, Maggie’s notes and insight led to the version of the manuscript I always dreamed of in my head but didn’t even realize was possible until she organized it. I sent that version out, and it won a manuscript contest within 8 months of our time together. I’ve told everyone I’ve crossed paths with how instrumental working with Maggie has been–she truly knows how to make your work sing its brightest song.” This book, Ceremonial, won the Orison Poetry Prize, selected by Carl Phillips, and is now available from Orison Books. —Carly Joy Miller
“Maggie Smith is a wonder. In her skillful hands, my first book was re-ordered into a collection that transcended what I thought was possible for it. The poems came alive beside each other in wholly unexpected ways, as if I no longer had just the melody, but also harmony parts that resonated throughout the collection. The result took my breath away, and I knew, at last, that it was complete. Refugia won the first contest I submitted it to after working with Maggie, and when I withdrew it from others, an editor wrote to tell me how sorry they were to miss an opportunity to publish it.” This book, Refugia, Kyce Bello’s first poetry collection, was selected as the inaugural volume in the Test Site Poetry Series and will be published by the University of Nevada Press in 2019.
“Maggie Smith’s discernment is razor-sharp, her acumen and poetic craft are at the very highest levels, and her ability to both listen deeply and help the poet shape poems of uncommon force and dignity are a gift to the art form. If you want your poems and your collection to be more fully realized, fiercely written, and lasting, Maggie is the editor for you. With my poems she was both challenging and kind. Working with her was a godsend.” This book is forthcoming from Lost Horse Press. —Shann Ray
“Maggie Smith is a brilliant and generous editor, and I am so lucky to have worked with her on my manuscript Boom Box. Maggie clearly saw what I was hoping to accomplish (even though I wasn’t entirely sure myself) and helped me find an arrangement that pushed the collection toward its potential. She helped me excise the weak spots—sometimes by suggesting I remove entire poems that weren’t right for the book, sometimes by offering keen-eyed line edits to sharpen particular pieces—and highlight the manuscript’s themes and stronger moments. 15/10 and would totally ask her to work on my next manuscript. (In fact, I already have.)” This book, Boom Box, is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in 2019. —Amorak Huey
“Maggie is such an incredible editor; she really brought out the best in my writing project. She provided timely edits on individual pieces and helped me focus the manuscript into a working order that I’d been unable to see. Maggie is kind, professional, and effective—my chapbook was selected for publication only a few months after working with her!” This book, On Not Screaming, is now available from Horse Less Press. —Eloisa Amezcua
“My experience with having work edited is that often you are told what you already know but have been reluctant to act on. I wish I could say that was true of Maggie’s editing, but her suggestions went beyond what I could have come to on my own, even as they gave me confidence going forward. Her editing reminds me of physicist Sabine Hossenfelder’s definition of “elegance” in a theory: “[A] combination of simplicity with surprise…[it’s] the unanticipated connection between the formerly unrelated. But it’s also the simple giving rise to the complex, opening a new vista on untouched ground, a richness in structure that—surprisingly—grows out of economy.” She finds the angel in the marble, the title in a phrase of a poem. Her suggestions regarding the selection of poems, their ordering, and edits to individual poems—finding the natural endings of poems, letting them ring—spoke for themselves. I didn’t miss anything she had removed; what remained was that much richer.” This book is forthcoming from Able Muse Press. —Rebecca Starks
“When I was younger, I never enjoyed the workshopping process, and as I’ve gotten older the circle of those I trust to edit my poetry has shrunk to almost zero. However, I sent Maggie Smith a manuscript of my poems that was so close to me I was having trouble producing a final draft. Maggie was warm yet surgical in her selection and editing of that book. She took what was a selected works collection, a best of ten years of work, and gave it a strength and a shape I never could have. She took a book I was already proud of, and she made it something undeniably better.” This book, Emily As Sometimes the Forest Wants the Fire, is forthcoming from Harpoon Books in 2019.
—Darren C. Demaree
“I did a manuscript critique with Maggie early in the life cycle of my manuscript, right after I had finally assembled several years-worth of poems into what seemed like a cohesive book. Rather than line edits on individual poems, I was more interested in structure, how the collection’s sections were working together to form a narrative or thematic arc. Maggie’s feedback on the manuscript was revelatory and allowed me to see different ways of organizing the manuscript, which in turn opened up possibilities for new poems. Maggie also has a keen editorial and proofreading eye and was able to catch small errors that I wouldn’t have caught on my own. Finally, Maggie gave me many helpful tips on how to format a manuscript for submission, and I was grateful for this technical advice. In short, Maggie is an insightful reader, a sharp editor, and a helpful commentator. After I incorporated her suggestions, my manuscript eventually went on to win a book prize. This book, Requiem with an Amulet in Its Beak, won the 2019 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize and is being published by the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. —Elizabeth Knapp
“I chose to compose a manuscript about the more nefarious aspects of American society but found that I was stymied by my own, and by other readers’ reticence towards the material. So, when I brought the manuscript to Maggie, I was surprised but encouraged when she told me to “lean into” readers’ discomfort, and to “lean into” every difficult topic. This was liberating! As well, she showed me which lines and which poems could be tweaked or re-positioned in the manuscript in order to bring these difficult topics forward. I’m so grateful for her astute advice! She’s a fantastic book-doula! She’s a fearless, exacting, and wise editor—work with her if you can. I’m so happy that I did!”
“Maggie has an astute and intelligent eye—she knew where to hone in on my collection and honored my intentions with the project while adding a poet’s sensibility and resonance. She was kind and easy to work with—the best kind of editor in my opinion—and brought her own experience and wisdom to the work while reaffirming some decisions I had been grappling with. I cannot recommend her highly enough for the seasoned writer or beginning poet—wherever you are in your career, Maggie is wonderful in helping navigate your manuscript to the next level.” —Darien Gee
“There’s one writer who’s been my collaborator on poetry reviews and reader of my work for years, and he knows my work better than anyone else. After I sent him my first chapbook, which Maggie Smith had helped me to order and edit, his reaction was this: ‘My initial thoughts when reading your chapbook is like only knowing Raphael’s sketchbooks and then seeing the School of Athens on the wall of the Vatican.’ I am going to take that as high praise. I had never worked with someone to help me edit and order my work, and to be honest, I thought that might be ‘cheating.’ But Maggie is as insightful as she is respectful; she saw patterns in the work that I had nearly seen—what was under my skin, too close to the bone, on the tip of my tongue—she found it. She midwifed my voice into the world.” —Donna Spruijt-Metz
“I contacted Maggie at a point when I needed some clarity on a manuscript I was putting together, but ended up receiving more: insight that applied to my work in general. Maggie’s efforts helped me identify both problems and solutions, and also helped me see greater potential in the poems as a unified whole. She was honest, kind, and edited with precise yet artful economy. What poet doesn’t need a boost in confidence once in a while? Working with Maggie gave me that. I would hire her again without hesitation.” —Cameron Alexander Lawrence
“This year, I sent a collection of poems to Maggie Smith for editing. She soon returned them to me reconfigured in ways that carefully sculpted out excess and powerfully revealed the bones. Her reading of the poems was meticulous and sensitive. The subtle changes brought out nuances and complexities that enriched them. Maggie invited me to send questions about her suggested edits, and her responses were clear and specific; they gave me many ideas to ponder and apply to other poems as well. These exchanges with Maggie were a tutorial for me in thinking more carefully about how a poem’s organization on the page—stanzas, line breaks, enjambments—can layer and even complicate meaning as well as allow the language to emerge more boldly as a thing for itself. I also learned that in addition to being such an accomplished poet, Maggie is an amazing editor, teacher, and coach. My experience working with her was rich and affirming, invigorating and provocative, in the best way.”