Interview with Allen Webster of House to House
I appreciate Allen cooperating with this interview. He is a busy man.He is the preacher for the Jacksonville Church of Christ. in Jacksonville, Alabama. They produce the phenomenal House to House Heart to Heart publication that is read by millions of people.
Their website says:
“House to House Heart to Heart has now passed 100 million copies distributed over the course of the fifteen years we have been sending out the publication. July/August 2009 will mark our 100th issue, but we are still sending out the 1 Gospel.”
Allen is one of the hardest working men in the Church of Christ and the most read. Therefore, let us consider what he has to say about writing.
1. What kind of writing do you do?
Editor of papers:
• House to House/Heart to Heart (published six times a year; 1.75 M circulation; used by 1100 churches of Christ in local outreach; 50 states, 10 nations; 2 languages).
• Glad Tidings of Good Things (published 30 times a year; 21,000 circulation).
• Author of a series of booklets and pamphlets (c. 175 titles; total circulation, 4,000,000).
• Author of VBS teen literature (Lambert Book House, since 1994-2000).
• Editor of Faulkner University Lecture Books. Edification/edification
• Author of weekly adult Bible class literature (Unpublished, except to our members). Purpose: Teaching
• Author three books: Seven Things a Loving God Hates; Why Not Be a Prodigal?; All the Devil’s Apples Have Worms (due out September 2010)
• I write sermons weekly.
• I also try to write three cards a day (on average) to our members.
2. How much time do you spend weekly writing the above material?
• Weekly writing/editing HTH? (3 days every 2 months)
• Glad Tidings 10 hours (a week)
• Tracts? 5 days per year
• Encouraging notes/emails to members? etc. 1 hour a week
• Sermons (15 hours week)
• Classes (7 hours week)
• Lecture chapters/articles for periodicals: 10 days per year
3. What is your attitude toward the writing you do? Which publication/kind of writing do you enjoy most? Why? What aspects of writing do you enjoy? What do you dislike? What thrills you the most about writing? What frustrates you?
I love to write but I find it hard to get started at times, then hard to stop when I get on a roll. I enjoy all the writing I do, especially when an article (which will later be a manuscript or a tract) starts flowing. However, finding time to write is frustrating. Yet, I am thrilled when I hear back that someone has been converted through something we have published (at least that brought about the contact). I also enjoy seeing my materials purchased and used by brethren.
4. What is your goal when you begin a specific piece of writing? What concerns you the most about the finished product? How does your thinking develop as you are writing? Does it evolve?
My goal is to communicate and find the truth in a way that makes the reader want to read it. I try to state it in a little different way than we have always said it. If it is an evangelistic piece, then I try to communicate in an easy manner the fundamental truth to make the reader stop and reconsider what he has been taught. Finally, I try to be brief because people often will not read a long article.
When I produce tracts, I want it to be an attractive, fresh package to make someone want to pick it up.
An article does evolve as I write. I usually read and collect quotes on the scripture/topic, then I begin to tie them together, add my thoughts and rearrange words. I play with the main points to tie everything together and usually the title comes out of the writing. Sometimes, the piece goes in an entirely different direction than what I thought when I began.
5. When you reread your document and go through the editing process, what is involved? What do you look for?
I look for wordiness, lack of clarity and tighter structuring. I try to cut at least a paragraph out of a one-page article.
We use two professional proofers for grammar, style, and scriptural content (one is a gospel preacher, both are Christians). On important pieces, I send them to peers for their ideas on content, clarity of thought, something that could be misconstrued or any inaccuracies. I rarely run a piece by my elders, but I will do so if I think it might be controversial and “come back on them.” I would be happy to if they wanted to read them, but they trust my judgment in writing and read it after it is printed.
6. Do you follow any structured plan in writing? On the other hand, do you just sit down and start writing?
It depends on the piece. I do brainstorm a lot on sermons, and occasionally on article/manuscripts. I rarely get “writer’s block,” but sometimes it flows better than at other times.However, I usually just sit down and start