On July 16, 2015, the widely read news and opinion website Vox published an article by Missoula freelance writer Stephanie Land entitled "I spent 2 years cleaning houses. What I saw makes me never want to be rich."
The first paragraph is emblematic of Land's gift for intriguing storytelling: "Let me tell you something you already know: Your housekeeper spies on you. We work alone. We get bored. What do you expect?"
Land's article for Vox went viral and was viewed by 300,000 people in the first week. It's been seen by at least a million people since, and it earned Land a book deal. She's currently working on a memoir based off the piece, to be called "Maid: A Single Mother's Journey from Cleaning House to Finding Home," scheduled for release in fall 2018.
Land's work is focused on social and economic justice, and she doesn't shy away from the term "social justice warrior" that has been bestowed on her by others. One of her idols is Barbara Ehrenreich, who wrote the famous book "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," an investigation of how government policies affect the poor.
Land has written several other opinion pieces for major media outlets, including "The Class Politics of Decluttering" for the New York Times. She's earned a reputation as someone who offers an insightful perspective on the struggles faced by those in poverty. That's because she's been there.
Land was a single mother when she went to the University of Montana to get an English degree — and took on at least $55,000 in debt to do it.
"It was a huge leap of faith on my part," she said. "But I've wanted to be a writer since I was 10."
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Land knows first-hand what it's like not to have enough money to save.
"Every time my car broke down, I broke down too," she recalled. "I thought, 'What am I doing? I'm a single mother getting an art degree, this is ridiculous.' But a lot of it is stubbornness. I was focused on what I wanted to do and did anything that got me closer to that."
Writing is not always a pleasant experience, Land explained.
"I am writing about the hardest time in my life, and to live in that space doesn't always make for happy thoughts," she said.
In the end, though, Land, who now has two kids and a husband to go along with a new home, is glad she picked Missoula as her permanent spot to settle down after leaving her native Alaska.
"Missoula is an amazing community," she said. "When I first came here, it had a different vibe for a tattooed single mom with a kid that likes to wear tutus and not much else. It's been awesome."