What was the inspiration for MAID?
MAID began as an essay I wrote in college. Disregard whatever image that conjures in your mind. I was in my third year, in my first writing workshop, taught by David Gates, a real writer, and I had to come up with ten pages to submit to the rest of the class, most of whom were ten years younger than me and whose essays could be summed up with one of two titles: “My last year of high school and my first year of college” and “The year I went abroad.” My classmates didn’t know what to say about an essay written by a 33-year-old single mom who had to scramble from scrubbing toilets to picking up a kid at preschool, her car breaking down along the way. To quell the silence, David Gates read the paragraph about the Sad House out loud to the class. He’d never done that before. When he finished, he leaned back, shook his head, chuckled, and said “Solid gold, man. Solid gold.” I worked on the essay some more and showed it to another writing instructor, Debra Magpie Earling. We met at a coffee shop. I handed it to her to read, got up to get a cup of coffee, and when I came back she was sitting there, her hand on her mouth, completely enthralled. When she finished reading, she looked up and said, “Stephanie. This is going to be a book.” I worked on it some more, and used it to apply for the college’s MFA program and got rejected, and mostly forgot about it until I needed to submit something for an ad asking for essay submissions by Vox Media. “Dear Editor,” I wrote in my email. “Here’s an essay I wrote when I used to clean houses,” and I copy/pasted in the paragraph David Gates smiled about in class. They paid me $500 for it, which at the time was the most money I thought I’d ever get paid for an article. The morning it went live, my website was getting traffic that included about 4,000 hits an hour, and people kept contacting me through it. Some thanked me for writing it, since they, too, grew up with or were single moms who cleaned houses or hotel rooms or worked a disgusting job for barely any pay. Some called me vermin or a cockroach for publishing an essay about what I saw. In the midst of it all, an agent contacted me, asking if I had a book in the works. Exactly eleven months later, that book had a contract to be written.