When I first joined the Five Minute Friday (FMF) community, I had no idea about the depth of relationships that would be forged each week through Twitter chats and visiting blogs. I had the privilege of meeting Kate Motaung, FMF’s hostess, in person last summer at a Five Minute Friday weekend retreat. I so enjoyed seeing glimpses of her heart for the Lord, for her family, and for the FMF community.
Kate’s book, A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging, is one of the best memoirs I have ever read. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve met her. I genuinely appreciated her perspective, the way she shared her story, and the beauty of her writing. I am thrilled today to share an interview with you.
Without further ado, here’s Kate:
Q: How did writing your memoir change or challenge you spiritually?
Writing memoir is an incredibly sanctifying process. There are so many steps involved in writing a book of any kind—planning, writing, editing, revising, waiting, trusting, sending, giving, laboring some more, promoting . . . the list goes on. I expected that writing and publishing a book would be a monumental task, but going into it I had no idea how much it would stretch and grow me spiritually.
With memoir in particular, because the story itself is your own, many emotions get tangled up in the process. I struggled to know which stories to include and which to leave out—what would strengthen the main theme? What would resonate with readers? Which stories will fall flat? Which sections do I want to share out of my own pride, and not because they will benefit my reader or contribute to the goals for the book? I had a hard time trying to discern how much of my story to tell without telling too much or too little. Doubt came into play, and I questioned whether anyone at all would benefit from the finished product.
Then during the editing process, it’s very easy to take the editor’s suggestions personally. Thankfully, I was blessed to work with some incredibly gracious editors. I never felt as if they were being condescending, disrespectful, patronizing, or flippant. They carried my story with grace and support, while still offering helpful suggestions to make the book stronger overall. I never felt as if my voice was removed, altered, or stepped on during the editing process. But I can imagine that for other authors, it might be really hard to hear a professional in the field tell you that certain aspects of your story aren’t worth being published. During this stage it’s important to swallow your pride and humbly accept advice from others.
When it came to making revisions, there were days when I felt that I had nothing more to give. If I had already put my best foot forward in the first few drafts, what else did I have to offer? I would stare at my screen and not know what to do. This phase really forced me to increase my dependence on the Lord. I had to trust that whatever words He wanted in the book, He would keep there, and whichever words He didn’t want would be cut out.
As I neared publication and my first readers got access to the book, the dark clouds of fear threatened on the horizon. What would people think? Would they think the book was a waste of their time? Would they think the quality was poor? Would they think my story was boring or too sad or self-consumed? At this point, the Lord continually reminded me that it doesn’t matter what others think. Though this is a lesson I need to learn on a daily basis, I keep going back to the truth that only God’s opinion matters. If I’ve offered my best to Him and for His glory and not my own, nothing else matters.
Q: What was the most difficult part about writing your memoir?
Writing about my mom’s death. My eyes tear up just thinking about it. I must have cried about 72 times through all the revisions and edits and more revisions. But they were therapeutic tears, and I’m so glad I’ve documented the experience, since the memory does fade. You don’t think you’ll ever forget something like that, but the details do fade.
Q: What can readers expect from your book?
A Place to Land is a memoir, so readers can expect real-life storytelling. They can expect to travel with me from my childhood in Michigan to my young adulthood in Cape Town, South Africa. I should also warn potential readers that the book does walk through some difficult topics like divorce, my mom’s cancer diagnoses, and her eventual death.
It is a heavy book, but my prayer is that readers will find it therapeutic to reflect on their own difficult situations (even if it involves tears in the process), and that eventually they will land in a place of hope.
Q: Which verses from the Bible do you think would be helpful or encouraging to those dealing with difficult circumstances?
One passage that has comforted me over and over again comes from 2 Corinthians:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
What about you? What verses from the Bible have been the most comforting during troubled times? How do you share the hard parts of your story with others?
Kate Motaung is the author of A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging (2018), A Start-Up Guide for Online Christian Writers, and Letters to Grief. She is the host of Five Minute Friday, an online community that encourages and equips Christian writers, and owner of Refine Services, a company that offers writing, editing, and digital marketing services. Kate blogs at Heading Home, and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.