Stephanie Land writes about family, writing, and being a single mother at Stepville.com. She recently announced her forthcoming memoir, MAID, about working as a full-time maid, surviving domestic violence, and the life lessons she’s learned from cleaning other people’s houses. The book is based on an essay that went viral.
Read about Stephanie’s journey in an excerpt from her blog.
Three years ago, I shared an essay with one of my writing instructors, Debra Earling, who now heads the creative writing program at the University of Montana. It was a piece called “Confessions of the Housekeeper,” which I’d written in a workshop the semester before. Debra and I met one afternoon at a coffee shop to discuss writing and my application for the MFA program. I timidly handed her the pages from across the table and got up to order coffee. When I returned, she was sitting in the exact same position, but with her hand clasped over her mouth.
“This,” she said, looking up at me. “Stephanie, this is going to be a book.” She went on to describe, in detail, my book tour, and my success, and even my finding love. It rolled out of her, like a fortune. On my walk home, I remember skipping a little. Someone believed in me and in my story.
I would work on that essay for the next two years, chiseling away at it little by little. When Vox bought it for $500, I about fell over. It seemed a massive amount of money, especially since I had spent the last eight years on assistance programs, and my current hourly wages from various freelancing jobs were about $10. I thought it would surely be the most I’d ever receive for my writing. When the essay went viral, with almost 500,000 hits in the span of three days, my career took off. Within two months, I accepted a position as a writing fellow with the Center for Community Change, and had several more pieces published, including one through Barbara Ehrenreich’s Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
In May, just before sending out the finished book proposal, I was finalizing a new essay with an editor at the EHRP, which would go on to be published in the print edition of the New York Times. I also sent her my book proposal — all 70-some pages of it — and asked if she might be able to show it to Barbara. Maybe Barbara could possibly read it, or even write a few sentences about it?
Two days later, she emailed back with sentences in quotes from Barbara, my journalist hero, a woman I have long admired:
“We need more books like MAID, with the view from the fridge and under the couch. Stephanie Land has something to teach us about both sides of the inequality divide. Neither is what you are expecting.”
Stephanie has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Vox, Salon, and other outlets. She focuses on social and economic justice as a writing fellow through the Center for Community Change, and through the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.