Kel Richards, author, radio personality and more recently a Spectator columnist, has a secret identity as a tract – small gospel message leaflet –writer. The Other Cheek thinks he deserves credit, but also publicity for his excellent tracts.
The Other Cheek prised this interview out of him.
Kel, You’re a much-published author, a Spectator columnist who writes about words, and you have turned your hand to tracts, small messages about Jesus. Are they hard to write?
Short is always hard. At the end of one of his famous long, rambling letters George Bernard Shaw wrote: ‘I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn’t have the time.’ Making a message short, clear and accurate is a challenge. Shorten and clarify too much and you distort – thus destroying the whole point. So it’s never easy. And in a short message the writer needs to be very clear about what the reader will understand readily—and what assumptions not to make about the reader’s level of knowledge. So, never easy.
Tell me about Two Roads, it strikes me as easy to read.
It started when Matthias asked me to write an easy-English version of Two Ways to Live. It struck me that people think in concrete terms not abstract terms – in pictures, not ideas. So I picked a clear image that could be unfolded step by step. There’s a reason that figures of speech are so common in the English language (and, for that matter, in the language of Jesus) – because using clear images turns ears into eyes and enables people to ‘see’ the point!
You must be pleased that Matthias has put a lot of effort to making this new edition look so good.
The design, publishing and editing teams at Matthias are first class. They are a delight for an author to work with, and they produce first class results.
What’s been the track record of two roads?
How many copies have been distributed I don’t know – you’d have to ask Matthias. But it is a small, clear, useful item that can empower personal evangelism/witnessing. If you give a copy to someone you’ve had a few conversations with about spiritual things it can provide a framework to keep on talking (and lots to talk about!) The Other Cheek asked Matthias who did the maths, “Almost 285 000 copies of Two Roads have been sold since it was first published in 2008.”
And I have a heads up of another tract. Tell me about “Easter Fact and Fiction”
I was asked t write this because of the success of my earlier Christmas tract. And the key (it seemed to me) is that everyone in Australian celebrates Easter every year (well, they celebrate the long weekend at any rate) – and most have no idea why. I suppose the idea was to make the tract a little ‘road bump’ on the journey through Easter each year. Something to make the reader think ‘hey? What was that? What’s going on that I hadn’t noticed before?’)
I love this sentence: “Those who say it’s just a pagan festival changed by Christians should remember that, if it is, it was ex-pagans who made the change because they had changed. And what had changed them was the story of the first Easter.” That’s clever, did you set out to be intriguing?
That’s just the craft of writing – which I learned as journalist. The world of journalism is a ‘broad church’ (to use John Howard’s expression about the Liberal Party). There are reporting journalists, editing journalists, and writing journalists – but rarely is anyone all three. I have always been a writing journalist. And the journalists I admire are also fine writers: William Safire, Malcolm Muggeridge, G. K. Chesterton, Greg Sheridan… and so on.
Buy Two Roads direct from the publisher – with big bulk discounts.