Women & Children First is excited to welcome New York Times bestselling author, Maggie Smith for a reading, conversation, and book-signing in honor of her forthcoming memoir, You Could Make This Place Beautiful. For this event, Smith will be in conversation with Megan Stielstra.


This ticketed event will be held off-site at Wilson Abbey (935 W. Wilson). Please note: the entrance to the Abbey is through Everybody's Coffee. Attendees who choose to purchase a book with their ticket will pick up their copy of You Could Make This Place Beautiful at the entrance of the event. By purchasing a ticket to this event, you agree to wear a mask during the event. 

“Life, like a poem, is a series of choices.”

In her memoir You Could Make This Place Beautiful, poet Maggie Smith explores the disintegration of her marriage and her renewed commitment to herself in lyrical vignettes that shine, hard and clear as jewels. The book begins with one woman’s personal, particular heartbreak, but its circles widen into a reckoning with contemporary womanhood, traditional gender roles, and the power dynamics that persist even in many progressive homes. With the spirit of self-inquiry and empathy she’s known for, Smith interweaves snapshots of a life with meditations on secrets, anger, forgiveness, and narrative itself. The power of these pieces is cumulative: page after page, they build into a larger interrogation of family, work, and patriarchy.

You Could Make This Place Beautiful, like the work of Deborah Levy, Rachel Cusk, and Gina Frangello, is an unflinching look at what it means to live and write our own lives. It is a story about a mother’s fierce and constant love for her children, and a woman’s love and regard for herself. Above all, this memoir is an argument for possibility. With a poet’s attention to language and an innovative approach to the genre, Smith reveals how, in the aftermath of loss, we can discover our power and make something new. Something beautiful.


Maggie Smith is the award-winning author of You Could Make This Place Beautiful, Good Bones, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, Lamp of the Body, and the national bestsellers Goldenrod and Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change. A 2011 recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Smith has also received several Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council, two Academy of American Poets Prizes, a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has been widely published, appearing in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Nation, The Best American Poetry, and more. You can follow her on social media @MaggieSmithPoet.

Megan Stielstra is the author of three collections: Everyone Remain Calm, Once I Was Cool, and The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, the 2017 Nonfiction Book of the Year from the Chicago Review of Books. Her work appears in the Best American Essays, New York Times, The Believer, Poets & Writers, Tin House, Longreads, Guernica, LitHub, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A longtime company member with 2nd Story, she has told stories for National Public Radio, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Steppenwolf Theatre, and regularly with the Paper Machete live news magazine at the Green Mill. She teaches creative nonfiction at Northwestern University and is an editor-at-large with Northwestern University Press.

Parking & Getting to the venue:

Wilson Abbey / Everybody's Coffee has limited street parking, as well as a large parking lot located at Weiss Hospital 2 blocks away from the venue.
We strongly encourage using public transit or a rideshare service. Wilson Abbey is accessible via the Red Line Wilson Stop, as well as many CTA bus routes including the 151, 145, 146, and others.


Event date: 
Saturday, April 22, 2023 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Wilson Abbey
935 W. Wilson Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir By Maggie Smith Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982185855
Availability: On our shelves recently
Published: Atria/One Signal Publishers - April 11th, 2023