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From Bedtime Conversations to Picture Book

February 8, 2024

by Maggie Smith, poetry faculty

In a recent post for my Substack newsletter, For Dear Life. I wrote about the inspiration behind my debut picture book, My Thoughts Have Wings, illustrated by the incredible Leanne Hatch. The story began as bedtime conversations with my own children.


It struck me recently that my last four books were in four different genres: self-help (Keep Moving, 2020), poetry (Goldenrod, 2021), memoir (You Could Make This Place Beautiful, 2023), and now a picture book. My first three books were poetry collections, and twenty years ago, I’d expected to write and publish only poetry. It’s been a surprise and a joy to try new things.


One of the strengths of the Naslund-Mann MFA at Spalding University is that students can work across genres with faculty mentors who themselves write and publish in multiple genres. As I tell my students, each idea, each project, demands to be considered individually. What form is best for it? My Thoughts Have Wings was always going to be a picture book; this is the form it wanted to take. You Could Make This Place Beautiful was never going to be a collection of poems; it demanded a different kind of container.


I’m a poet first and foremost—that’s my “home genre”—but what this means is that I carry my poetry into whatever project I’m working on. I wrote this children’s book as a poet and a mom.


I hope you enjoy the peek behind the curtain, and I hope you’ll feel emboldened to try something new.


Happy reading and writing—



Maggie Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books of poetry and prose, including You Could Make This Place BeautifulGood BonesKeep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and ChangeGoldenrodand a brand-new picture book, My Thoughts Have Wings.


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