Based on an interview with Jo Ellis, Casco Bay High School, class of 2025
Maggie Knowles graduated from Portland High School in 1994 and has since chased her dreams quite literally across the country. Eventually, her writing skills, ability to trust the creative process, and big heart led her back to Portland to achieve some of those dreams.
She has written for local, regional, and national publications, started Maine’s first full-length cooking show, and earlier this year was hired as the Editor-in-Chief of Edible Maine, a multimedia platform focused on Maine’s food culture.
When at PHS, Knowles was a passionate member of the theater program. She loved the chaotic creativity of first rehearsals and the thrill of opening night. In her senior year, she landed the female lead in Guys and Dolls. “Getting the role of Adelaide, even though I don’t sing that well, meant that I ended my theater career with a vote of confidence that I could lead a play. I got to do the choreography for all the showgirls scenes too, which really makes me smile,” she said.
Although she thinks of theater as “the heart and soul” of her high school experience, she also loved the four years she was on the tennis team. She credits sophomore and junior English teachers Sandra Guerra and Marianne Pendleton, and French teacher Madame Auger for supporting her interest in writing. “In class, they gave us a lot of creative freedom. Instead of doing a basic book report on The Pearl by John Steinbeck, for example, I did an old-fashioned radio show with little funny ads in between,” she recalled. They helped her find opportunities to write and outside workshops to learn from professional writers. “I knew they were looking out for me. I felt extra support from the three of them. It gave me confidence to grow in the things that still matter in my career today.”
Knowles applied to McGill University in Quebec, Canada without a backup plan. When she wasn’t admitted, she figured she wasn’t really ready for college. She hopped in her car and drove to Boulder, Colorado to figure out what it meant to be an adult on her own. After a couple of years, she was ready for college and to return to the East Coast. She studied writing at Simmons University, taking advantage of her professors’ connections in the professional world. She worked as a food reviewer and for a cookbook publisher in Boston.
After graduation, inspired by Chef Dana Cowin, the editor-in-chief at Food and Wine magazine, Knowles headed to New York City to become a food writer. It was much harder than she expected, so after six months of steady rejection, she returned to Portland. She began writing features for the Portland Phoenix and the Casco Bay News, sending out queries and proposals to national magazines until she built a flow of steady work.
She wrote a syndicated parenting column for Maine Women and was a contributing editor for Port City Life for six years but longed to get back to food writing. During Covid, she and her husband, Chef Josh Berry, launched "Plate the State," Maine’s first full-length cooking show to share stories of Maine’s farmers and makers, as well as recipes and techniques.
Then, this past February, the owner of Edible Maine called to tell her that the magazine’s editor was retiring and asked if she’d like the position. “Finally, at 47, I was offered my dream job. You never know when the universe is going to hand you things,” she said with delight.
Knowles lives in Yarmouth with her husband, daughter, and son and recently met her food writing idol Dana Cohennot as an aspiring new writer, but this time as a well-seasoned editor.