Episode 27

Networking is an Author's Super Power says Maggie Smith

Today's guest, Maggie Smith, makes her home in Wisconsin, land of the three seasons—summer, fall, winter. (For some reason, spring usually passes us by). When her husband starts to lobby for them to move to a warmer climate, she points to fires, tornadoes, and rising sea levels as the reason to stay put in the middle of the heartland. She doesn't mention how she likes the crunch of freshly fallen snow beneath her boots as she trudges to the mailbox. But the main reason she stays put are the great women friends she's made here. With age comes wisdom about what’s truly important, and they are.

She writes full-time after a short career as a psychologist and a much longer one as the founder and CEO of a national art consulting company. If she's being honest, she's a writing conference junkie, having penned her first published short story as a result of a stint at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and she regularly attend several events each year when a pandemic doesn’t get in the way. She's had many mentors along the way, and her way of paying that forward is by supporting fellow authors, particularly those just starting out, through podcast interviews, teaching, speaking gigs, and through shout-outs and posts on social media.

She came to writing through her first love–reading. Yes, she was one of those kids who grabbed a book as a toddler and read it until the cover fell off. Now that she's got the luxury of a home office, she's lined it with bookshelves—three shelves with short story collections, twelve for novels, five for books on writing. When her husband was wooing her, he presented her with a box filled with every Agatha Christie mystery ever published, which he’d scoured used bookstores for months to find. That collection sits alongside the Sherlock Holmes canon and Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels. And yes, she decided to marry him shortly after. Not just because of the books, but she admits, it helped.

Another passion of hers is movies, from the classic noirs of the forties through modern-day classics. She's decorated one hallway with lobby cards from her favorites, including Vertigo, Silence of the Lambs, and Chinatown. And has been known to throw elaborate Oscar parties with champagne and door prizes.

On a personal note: her debut novel TRUTH & OTHER LIES, is at its heart about how, at a formative age, young women often pattern themselves after someone older and seemingly wiser and how that choice can affect the trajectory of their lives. That theme resonated with her because of her own experiences growing up in Oklahoma until she left for college in Chicago. She describes having a prickly relationship with her mother, that they were strangers to each other, shouting across the great expanse of changing women’s roles. Her mother was a product of the Depression and a world war and thought her daughter's dreams of a career in journalism were cock-eyed and unattainable.

In many ways, the scenes between Megan and her mother in her debut were easy to write because she'd lived them. She never had a role model like her famous journalist, Jocelyn Jones. And she never mended her relationship with her own mother, who died a decade ago. So in some ways writing this first novel was her attempt to come to terms with both those facts. To write a story where her 25-year-old protagonist was able to achieve what she could not. To give her own life story a better ending.

You can learn more about Maggie at her website https://www.maggiesmithwriter.com and connect with her on Instragram at https://www.instagram.com/maggiesmithwrites/

To purchase her debut, Truth and Other Lies, follow this link:



Support your local bookstore & this podcast by getting your copy of Truth and Other Lies at https://bookshop.org/a/


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Shawna Rodrigues 0:01

Welcome to Author Express. Thanks for joining us today. I'm Shawna Rodrigues, one of your hosts, and the founder of Authentic Connections Podcast Network, which makes this podcast possible. This podcast is where you discover the voice behind the pages of your next favorite book. And I'm excited about the author we have for you today.

Shawna Rodrigues 0:21

writing awards in:

Maggie Smith 1:44

Well, thank you for having me. It's a pleasure.

Shawna Rodrigues 1:46

Great. So our first question is to ask like, what is the most interesting thing about where you are from?

Maggie Smith 1:52

ssacre that occurred in early:

Shawna Rodrigues 2:38

Yeah, I know, that's understandable. I know that I didn't learn about the Tulsa massacre until I was much older and I'd taken courses on some of those things and kind of surprising that wasn't one that was showcased, that I learned more about. So, a lot of those things, I think everyone wanted to pretend didn't exist and it didn't happen.

Maggie Smith 2:54


Shawna Rodrigues 2:54

So, it's surprising when those things are kind of dug in there. So, tell us a little bit more. So, networking is your superpower it sounds like. So, tell us a little bit more about that superpower and how it's helped you with your writing?

Maggie Smith 3:07

Well, I think when I started, I started writing five years ago, I wasn't one of these kids that said, Oh, I wrote little stories when I was eight years old. I, I never did that. I was in journalism. So, I did some writing as an English major in a journalism major. But that's a different kind of writing than creative writing. So, when I began doing creative writing, writing, wanting to write a novel five years ago, I really knew it was going to take a long time to learn the craft, because I didn't know how to do it. And just to produce a novel takes a fair amount of time. So, I wanted to get into the writing community. And I did that through networking. And I joined associations and volunteered, I volunteered early on and came up with the idea for the podcast for Women's Fiction Writers and said, I'd like to do that. And they said, Oh, well, it's all volunteer, and you seem to have your hand raised. So, you can do it. And so I started doing that, and going to conferences and going to workshops and meeting other writers. And since I didn't have anything out, I've thought well, one of the ways to help them would be to publicize their books. So, I got familiar with social media and started posting about other people's books and doing reviews and things like that. So it's just kind of part of what I feel like, is part of being a writer is being in the writing community and being a literary citizen that tries to promote reading and books and libraries and bookstores. And that whole,

Shawna Rodrigues 4:35

yeah, so excited. I think the writing community is something that is a benefit of being in this world because writers are so open and inviting, and supportive of each other. I've been really pleased and supported by that. So it's great to be part of that.

Maggie Smith 4:47

Well, and it's payoffs for me when I did bring out my debut. I had a lot of friends that would help me because I had helped them. I also had interviewed 185 people on the podcast, and they were all debut authors and told me what worked well for them and what didn't. So, I felt like every week, I was getting a little bit drips of education about how I was going to go about it. So, it was an education that was ongoing over those years.

Shawna Rodrigues 5:15

That's so exciting. Yeah, definitely got benefits from it. So, with your book, which chapter or part of it sticks with you the strongest? And we'll start with, Truth and Other Lies, since that is the one that's out. What sticks to you the strongest about it, which part of it?

Maggie Smith 5:30

Oh, there's so many. The parts, I think are in different chapters. But, I really struggled with and wound up being most pleased with the chapters that have to do with the mother and daughter. The daughter is 25 so, she's a young woman, and the mother is close to 50, and she's running for Congress. So, they have differing social attitudes. The mother is a conservative Republican, and the daughter is a liberal Democrat, or, you know, at least that's seeming parties that they're falling into. So, it was difficult for me initially to get into the head of the mother because I have not been a mother. I have stepchildren, but I met them when they were older so, I wasn't raising them. I laughingly tell people that when I first began writing, the thing I couldn't write anything about was mothers and daughters, or that's what I thought. And now I can't stop writing about it because my second book has a mother and daughter, and my anticipated third book has a mother and step daughter. So, it feels as though, this is what I'm supposed to be writing about. Which is kind of interesting. I don't know whether you, whether a theme emerges as you begin writing or something rings to you about, you need to be thinking about this area of your life. But it certainly has been for me.

Shawna Rodrigues 6:50

Yeah, it was like, sometimes when you resist something the most, it's also what you're drawn to the most.

Maggie Smith 6:56

Yeah, exactly,

Shawna Rodrigues 6:57

yeah. And those themes do seem to come out, I think they kind of find their way with it. So, you kind of mentioned this a little bit that you kind of started with journalism, and then found your way into writing. So, what kind of flipped the switch for you and brought you over into the world of novel writing?

Maggie Smith 7:14

Well, I actually had careers between journalism and novel writing. I went to a couple of years of journalism school at Northwestern in Chicago, which is kind of where I set the Truth and Other Lies, because I knew that area. But then I went on to get a PhD in psychology and was a psychologist for a while. And then I moved from Oklahoma up to Wisconsin. And with my first husband, I started a business. We sold artwork in malls, we had about three stores in malls here in the Greater Milwaukee area. And I did that for a good long time as a career. So, that was the one that I quit. Someone offered to buy that company and I quit and then became a writer. So, I had those two careers that really are not related to writing at all. I guess I'm just easily bored or something. I don't know.

Shawna Rodrigues 8:02

I think it's exciting the way that they can inform your writing now. I think that's the exciting thing.

Maggie Smith 8:06

I guess, maybe, maybe the psychology background helps me with figuring out what characters might have his motivations and, and the business selling the artwork, which is, I'm not an artist. So, I was just selling creative work of other people. So, that gave me a business background when I went to enter the world of writing, which is kind of a business in and of itself.

Shawna Rodrigues 8:09

Oh, it really is I feel like,

Maggie Smith 8:31

we don't make any money at it.

Shawna Rodrigues 8:33

But that would be the goal. So that

Maggie Smith 8:35

that would be the goal. Yes,

Shawna Rodrigues 8:37

yes. That's one skill I feel a lot of writers wish they had more of is the business side of writing. So, it's a great skill you can write.

Maggie Smith 8:44

I think, I also had promotional skills from that marketing skills that came in handy when my book was out, because I was familiar with a lot of those kind of ways of getting a product out.

Shawna Rodrigues 8:56

Yes, that makes very good sense. So, what do you feel, and part of this from all of your conversations with so many writers from having the Hear Us Roar podcast? What do you feel like some of the best advice you have for someone who's dreaming of writing a book or is always dreamed of writing a book?

Maggie Smith 9:11

I think to keep at it, I don't write every day, I will give them permission to not do that. If they, I think everybody has a different way of approaching what works for them in terms of writing. I am more of a, do it, a lot. And then kind of go away for a while and then come back to it writer, as opposed to one that writes every day. But finish it. That's oftentimes the hardest part. You just, you keep fiddling with it and you keep hearing other people's opinions and changing it. And I think finally you have to be done with it. And not that you don't want to revise it and make it as best as it can. But at some point you have to move on and get it out in the world. And I think both those, keep at it. All the beauty of your work occurs in revision. So, give yourself permission to write the shitty first draft. And a lot of what you will hone in the revision is really what makes it good. And then finish it and get it out in the world one way or the other. We're lucky it's not 15 years ago, when all we had was one choice, you had to go with the big publishers, there are other choices to get your book out. And so if those avenues don't work for you, there are other avenues. I, myself, went with the small press. So, I don't have an agent at the moment. And I work directly with the small press to bring it out. But many of the people on the podcast of indie published, they've done it all themselves. Some have been with agents and big publishers. So, each one has its pluses and minuses, and you just do what works for you, find a way to get it out in the world.

Shawna Rodrigues:

Yes, just get it out there. That's wonderful. What is the best way for people to find you?

Maggie Smith:

I have a website, pretty big website, Maggie Smith writer, W-R-I-T-E-R.com. And I would say on social media, I hang out the most on Instagram. So, I am there, Maggie Smith writes, W-R-I-T-E-S. There is another very well known Maggie Smith, that's a poet, and has written a couple of memoirs. So, don't get me confused with her. She's Maggie Smith poet, and I am Maggie Smith writer. We coexist. And there's also that one in England that's fiddling around on screen and films and on plays. So, I'm the Maggie Smith writer that's on Instagram, and love to have you follow me there.

Shawna Rodrigues:

Wonderful. We'll have all that in the show notes for you guys to do that. So, what book or story inspires you the most?

Maggie Smith:

Well, I brought the cover, so I can hold it up. Damn Fine Story, Chuck Wendig. If you know his work, he is really a very irreverent writer. He kind of tells it like it is. This is a great book. It's very down to earth. Lots of practical advice, in fact, at the NDS 50 things to do if you're wanting to write a story, and the last one is finishing it, just like I said, so he's right on my wavelength. So, it's a really fun book. It's easy to read, but it has some pretty good solid advice, I think for writers as well.

Shawna Rodrigues:

Perfect. Thank you so much, Maggie. This has been a delight. I'm glad you were able to come on and share with us.

Maggie Smith:

Well, thank you for having me.

Shawna Rodrigues:

Thanks for joining us. I hope you take a second to give us a review or a couple of stars on your favorite podcasting platform. And we'll be here again next Wednesday. Follow us on Instagram, @Author Express podcast to see who's coming up next. Don't forget keep it express but it keep it interesting.

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Shawna Rodrigues

Shawna Rodrigues, Founder and Director of Impact at Authentic Connections Podcast Network, Host of The Grit Show (https://podcast.thegritshow.com) and Author Express (https://bit.ly/AuthorExpressPod) and coming in 2024- Authenticity Amplified. Shawna is a Podcast Mentor, Internationally Best-Selling Author (www.shawnarodrigues.com) and consultant.
Find her on Instagram @ShawnaPodcasts.