Announcing, my forthcoming memoir: MAID: A Single Mother’s Journey from Cleaning House to Finding Home
On June 16th, I celebrated my youngest daughter Coraline’s second birthday. While she opened presents, I relished the memory of her entering my life. She was born a month after I’d graduated college, during a time when I was totally unsure of how I’d find enough work or how to make it as a freelancer. This year, as I watched her eat cupcakes, I felt our journey intensely—how far we’d come since the beginning— in part because that afternoon, I’d accepted an offer with a publishing company, Hachette Books, for my book.
Exactly 11 months after my essay about cleaning houses was published on Vox and went viral, I accepted the offer for my memoir—an expansion of that essay. For months, I’d spent what I felt were luxurious hours not writing for pay, but working, quietly at night, with a sleeping baby in my lap, crafting the perfect book proposal with my agent, Jeff Kleinman at Folio. It felt incredibly strange to be going after something I’d wanted since I was ten years old, and at first, I didn’t have much faith in it. For over twenty years, I had been writing, reading, and studying the art of writing. It was shocking to even have an agent.
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 $10.00. 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, 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.”
With that, MAID became real. My book, my memoir, was finally happening. Not even a week later, I accepted an offer from Hachette Books to bring my story out into the world.
I spent four days talking to editors, publicists, presidents, vice presidents, marketing teams, and senior editors from publishing houses all over the country about myself and my book. I felt so small, just some girl in Missoula, Montana. I paced around my living room, headphones in, gesturing wildly. It seemed unbelievable that I was talking to the very publishers who had been responsible for bringing my favorite writers’ words into the world.
The sleepy Thursday afternoon of Coraline’s birthday was the first day since the publishing conferences had begun that I didn’t have any scheduled calls. The only call came from my agent, asking me what I thought about an offer by Hachette Books. Because four or five publishing houses were about to make a bid, they had made a preemptive offer to take my book off the table, in order to keep it from going to auction.
Hachette had been my last call the day before, and it wasn’t like the others. I talked to a group of four people, and all said they’d reacted to my story differently. Krishan Trotman, who would become my editor, is also a single mother, and we gave each other a verbal fist-bump. I could tell by her voice that she felt a passion for the message I wanted to share.
During the meeting, I felt comfortable enough to be vulnerable. When they asked me what scared me most about writing this book, I answered honestly and easily. I closed my eyes, breathed in, and told them my fears of not writing the story as it played out in my head. Of not getting it perfect enough. Of jumping into something so huge when I was so small.
When Jeff called the next day to ask if I wanted to accept their (amazing, incredible, beyond my wildest dreams, life-changing) offer, I held my breath.. Alone in my tiny apartment, I said yes. And then went out to buy cupcakes for Coraline’s birthday.
A couple of weeks after I accepted the offer, Krishan and I spoke again on the phone. “I just have to tell you,” she said. “Our office, our floor, is all open. When we received the news that you’d accepted our offer, everyone jumped up from their desks to cheer, and started hugging each other. Even the CEO of the company came out to give me a hug. I’ve never seen anything like that in publishing before. It was amazing.”
When I told this story to my best friend over a celebration dinner a few days later, she got tears in her eyes. While I’ve told this story several times to friends throughout the last couple of months, I haven’t been able to formally announce it through my platforms. There was a part of it that didn’t feel real unless I talked about it. This summer has been a hibernation of sorts, an internal resting and journeying, knowing that I was going to begin full-time work on the book in the fall. I slowed down with work, and stopped hustling to pitch and publish articles. I gave myself time to mentally freak out. I made some feeble attempts at planning the next two or three years, all the while knowing that I had no way to even imagine it.
While in this limbo period of time, waiting for the publishing agreement to be negotiated, I have worked less, which has meant less income. For most of the summer, the cupboards have been almost bare. Now, I’ll still have to budget, plan, and live the same life we are, but I can buy the groceries I want without feeling anxiety building in my chest as I watch the total increase at the register. I can get the axles fixed on my truck. Hell, I can get a real stereo for my truck. I won’t have to stare at this little piece of paper next to my desk, detailing which bills are due on what date, and for how much, figuring out who I can pay and when, and who I can skip.
I’ve been sitting on this news for so many long days. Publishing this post and sharing it with all of you is what finally makes it real. So I celebrate today with all of you, my friends, and followers, who have stuck with me through all of these years. Thank you for your support. Thank you for reading. I can’t wait to share my book with you. I can’t wait to change the stigma and narrative of single mothers in poverty. I can’t wait to raise my voice for the domestic workers who aren’t paid enough to make ends meet. I can’t wait to bring attention to how the system of government assistance fails millions. And I can’t wait to share my own journey, the moments of heartache and beauty, the bone-numbing exhaustion, the deep love I carry for my daughters, and the pride I feel for having gotten where we are today. With all my heart, thank you for being someone I can share my story with. Thank you for being someone I can depend on to read it. That support will carry me through the next year of this new journey, and writing this book, tentatively titled:
MAID: A single mother’s journey from cleaning house to finding home.
This is like the happiest, best, most important post I’ve read in a long time. Yay you. Yay women. Congratulations and thank you for being you and sticking with it.
Wow…this is an awesome news, I just started following you and I’m excited for you and optimistic about forthcoming news from you. Please keep us posted on your book!
So very over the moon happy for you!!! I’ll pre-order whenever I can!! I’ve shared your blog with so many people since I began reading you – we talk over meals about you, your family, your writing – we identify, empathize and hear your voice in our heads when we are faced with a circumstance you’ve described – so thank you for all of that and all the best wishes to you for this new journey – KUDOS to a very bright, insightful, well spoken and humble woman – you’re bravery and honesty are qualities I so admire that inspire me regularly!!
Oh, I am so absolutely thrilled for you!! Congrats, what a journey. I cannot wait to read your book.
Well done and most deserved! I’ve been following you quietly for a while now. Applauding from the other side of the world. Liz 🙂
wooohooo! What a GREAT story! I’ll watch for it and do my best to hand-sell it for you at my store in CT. Fantastic.
Yesterday I realized I had not heard from you and wondered if I had somehow been dropped. So it was with relief that I got your blog today. Congratulations!! I am proud of you.
Well done Stephanie, so proud of you. You have been a beacon of light in the dark days since my marriage breakdown and life as a single parent. You deserve every success, you’ve worked damn hard for it!
Congratulations! More power to you!
Congratulations!! I saw this news tweet on WP. I will watch for your book to come 🙂 Yay fellow WP blogger! 🙂
Congratulations! This is one of the best pieces of news I’ve read all week. I wish you all the success in the world! We need more writers like you out there 🙂
This is the start of something amazing in your life!
I am so happy for you, as an aspiring writer myself, I am so so happy for this breakthrough. It will make all of your struggles worth it. I follow your blog and I see your struggle as a single mom to 2 girls and how you try to keep your dream alive while parenting alone. It’s amazing.
Congrads! it is wonderful, and empowers others to keep pushing on..
This is so beautiful, I’m glad to hear your story and it’s so wonderful to see your determination to speak out for those who are victims of an unwavering injustice which has been inflicted upon them. This is the first time visiting your blog, and I instantly fell in love.
Amazing revelation! Now, I feel so inspired to write– knowing that there are more sublime reasons to write and touch lives. I am looking forward reading your book.
This was really interesting, thanks for sharing Stephanie.
Just amazing. Stories like yours are what keeps us all pecking away! Rock on girl!
You are an inspiring and you will continue to inspire all the woman out there. I’m proud of you. Girl Power!
I am so glad that it is easier financially for you now ? good luck with the rest of your journey!
Congratulations!!! I don’t know you, I just found your post. But, I am from Kalispell, Montana. And to see your success—you’re an inspiration and a role model!
So excited for you!
Wow! beautiful and inspiring. I have had a similar journey for the last 15 yrs being single. Hope life continues to bless you!
Looking forward to reading it!
I’ve never heard of you before and wandered over from WordPress where I saw a brief from GoodReads. I like Ehrenreich myself, so i had to come check you out. Congratulations to you, and I am following you now. I look forward to reading more, and will waiting to read the book as well.
Thank you so much! I appreciate you taking the time to write and check me out! I look forward to sharing my book with you!
I can totally relate, Stephanie! I, to, worked my way through college and grad school, with my two kids. The bills, the stress, it took a toll on me and the kids, it was so difficult for all of us. Even after, working multiple jobs to put them through college so they wouldn’t have the burden of student loans. They now understand how difficult it was, why I did it. It wasn’t that way when they were still young. They thought me going to school and having multiple jobs was just me chasing money. Now they understand the need to pay bills. I now own a 20 acre farm in Southern California, have horses and dogs, see my kids and grandkids as often as I can, and know that I’ve worked and fought for every single bit of it. I’ve made my own bright future, as you have. I wish you the best of luck!!!
I’m looking forward to your book!
Thank you so much! That’s very kind of you to say.