About Alumni: Class Notes

Stephanie Land ’14 Climbs New York Times Best-Seller List

When Stephanie Land graduated from the University of Montana’s Creative Writing Program at age 35, she had no job, no money and was due to have a baby in four weeks. But her career as a published writer would soon begin.

She wrote her first piece in 5 minutes at 2 a.m. for a local magazine. Then, she became the woman behind a popular housekeeping article for Vox.com.

From there her writing began to snowball.

Land now has made The New York Times best-seller list for her memoir, “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive,” detailing her struggles as a single mother living in poverty.

Although Land had long dreamed of becoming a writer at UM, it took years to make her way from Washington state to Missoula.

“It was a bothersome hunch I had that ‘I think we need to go there, and I think we need to live there,’” she says. “The dream was keeping itself alive.”

Her journey was far from easy.

Land’s memoir documents homelessness with a small toddler and lessons learned about other’s lives as she worked as a maid on welfare. When she cleaned the homes of people her age who lived on golf courses, she often wondered where she went wrong.

Once in UM’s Creative Writing Program, she questioned why she was trading stable work for the life of a writer, but Program Director Judy Blunt helped her see it differently. To her, writing was a job – the same as refinishing a floor.

“And that was something I could get behind,” Land says. As Land shared her personal experiences living in poverty, she found the more vulnerable she was, the more people connected.

“Those are the things I always looked for when I went on the internet when I was really sad and lonely at night,” she says. “I wanted to see stories like mine. And I never found them. So I figured it needed to be out there in some way.”

Today, Land says she hears daily about how her story has impacted others. Friends tell her, “I gave my housekeeper a raise,” “I tipped at a hotel,” or “I learned the name of the woman who cleans my office at work.” One single parent struggling with poverty said her own mother has shown her unexpected empathy after reading “Maid.”

Land’s own life changed as well.

She bought a new vehicle and drove from Missoula to southern Oregon without fearing her car would fall apart. She flies all over the country for speaking engagements. Her daughter Mia can take horseback riding lessons, and Land hopes both her daughters, now ages 12 and 5, can go to college.

And her confidence came back.

“It is so incredible that I am supporting my family by writing words,” she says. “It is so fulfilling and gave me a completely different view of myself.”

Land hopes ultimately her story will inspire empathy for the invisible workers who make other’s lives easier.

“Take the time to really look at people,” she says.

Excerpt from “Maid”

“It was during that first summer in my late twenties with Jamie that the University of Montana in Missoula began wooing me with postcards for their creative writing program. I imagined myself inside the photos, walking through the pastoral landscapes of Montana, somewhere beneath the quotes from Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley” scrawled above in scripted fonts: “...but with Montana it is love,” he’d written simply. They were words that brought me to the “Big Sky Country” of Montana, in my search for a home in the next phase of my life.” 

Harrison Ski Group

In February, the Harrison Ski Group spent a week in Chamonix, France. UM alumni and supporters included, left to right: JOHN L. ALKE ‘73, J.D. ‘76, Helena; AIDAN S. MYHRE, M.B.A, ‘89, Helena; FRANK R. “RANDY” HARRISON ‘75, J.D. ‘83, Missoula; Jan Dietrich, Billings; DAVID J. DIETRICH, J.D. ‘84, Billings; WILLIAM STEINBRENNER ‘59, Missoula; JOHN A. RIMEL ‘79, Missoula; MARK H. TEYNOR ‘14, Stevensville; DAVID J. HANSON ‘74, Kalispell; Edward A. Anderson, Missoula; BARRY A. OLSON ‘79, Missoula; William R. Caras, Missoula; KELLY FLAHERTY SETTLE ‘80, Helena; JILL STEINBRENNER OLSON ‘85, Missoula; RICHARD D. HAMMA ‘75, Missoula; MOLLY HARRISON HOWARD ‘72, Missoula; SHARON A. PALMER ‘72, Missoula; Gregory S. McCue, Missoula; Faye Lanell Olsen, Missoula; GEORGE M. OLSEN ‘64, Missoula; JEFFREY W. GORDON ‘81, Missoula; Karen L. Rimel, Missoula; MARGARET TABISH ANDERSON ‘92, Missoula; JEFFREY L. GRAY ‘79, Great Falls; DEBRA D. PARKER, J.D. ‘82, Missoula; GEORGANNA SCHARA CLIFFORD ‘72, M.A. ‘73, Spokane; CRAIG HOLTET ‘85, Missoula; Mary A. Kincaid, Missoula; Twila F. Wolfe, Missoula; MARCIA DAVENPORT MAYNARD, J.D. ‘89, Helena.

Harrison Ski Group


Last issue, we showed Karen ’78 and Paul Dykstra, Minneapolis, summiting Mount Kilimanjaro. Another couple also conquered the climb – Laura Davidson ’85 and Tim Descamps, Missoula.
alumni atop Mount Kilimanjaro