For Hattie Kauffman, finding God was easier than publicizing the book she wrote about the experience.
A former CBS and ABC correspondent, Kauffman has hopped onto the promotional treadmill for ‘Falling into Place: A Memoir of Overcoming,’ her deeply-personal first book. The PR parade is not her definition of a religious experience.
“It’s uncomfortable to think you have to quote, unquote, sell your writing, but it’s a necessary part of it,” Kauffman, 58, says. “Writing a book is so much easier than launching one. I can see why somebody would want to fly to New Zealand for six months.”
Kauffman put in 20 years at CBS, beginning in 1990 as a correspondent and substitute anchor for “CBS This Morning.” She reported for a variety of broadcasts, including “48 Hours,” “Sunday Morning” and “Evening News.” A member of the Nez Perce tribe of Idaho, she was the first Native American to report on a network evening newscast.
In ‘Falling into Place,’ Kauffman turns an unblinking reporter’s eye to her own life, including growing up in searing poverty with abusive, alcoholic parents. It was during a year-long, nightmare divorce from her second husband that she found God.
“My relationship with Christ is a very personal thing,” says Kauffman, now remarried — to a Christian man she met in church — and living in Seattle. “The word ‘religion’ can be so heavy. It can connote so many different things. It’s very important in my life.”
The themes for ‘Falling into Place’ are more universal than just Christianity, she says, acknowledging that such an emphasis “might be off-putting to segments of the population.”
Still, finding God is arguably the book’s moral center. The experience gives Kauffman the tools to change her perspective, as well as her life.
“It was my final surrender,” she says. “It wasn’t just forgiving my parents. It made me aware of how much resentment I had been carrying around. I finally realized I had to forgive me.
“I had to exhale, unclench my fists, relax my shoulders. I forgave myself for seeking God in all these false roads – ignoring, denouncing, denying.”
The message of the book? “It sounds so clichéd, but we do have somebody loving us,” Kauffman says. “I don’t think you have to be a believer to understand.”
When she began to write, Kauffman says she wasn’t certain where the journey would take her. As the “invisible middle child” among seven kids, she had thought for decades that she would someday chronicle “the amazing stories of the Kauffman kids.
“Those experiences were so vivid, unforgettable. It wasn’t until after my divorce experience that I began to think it could all come together and have a message in it. I know lots of women who have gone through mid-life divorce and years later are still in a puddle on the floor. I had a big smile on my face.”
As a result, chapters alternate in time between the year of her divorce and episodes from her childhood. It makes for a compelling read. It also makes for a compelling lesson for Kauffman as a writer.
“I have great empathy for everyone I’ve ever interviewed,” she says. “When you’re a reporter, it’s somebody else’s drama. Now it’s my drama. It’s a new place for me to be.”