Janice Keats is a Canadian author and poet. She’s also a photographer, blogger and a full-time worker with the Salvation Army.
Janet: Welcome, Janice, and thanks for stopping by. You self-published Poems of Inspiration and Occasion as well as your Bible study, Covering The Bases, then chose to go the traditional publishing route with your third, A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism. What prompted the change?
Janice: With my first two books I was eager to see them printed and I knew that the traditional publishing route takes time. I really wanted to seek a publisher for this book, firstly because of the satisfaction and accomplishment that is associated with it.
It’s a good feeling knowing that I have accomplished what I have set out to do. (Although it had taken 3 major attempts of searching the right publisher and then sending out queries and waiting for their responses.) So in this case it was a period of 4 years.
Secondly, I was ready and prepared for the task, I guess I could say that I have matured and have grown as a writer in recent years.
Thirdly, a writer has a far greater advantage of promotion with traditional route than the self-publishing method. Meaning it would be found on numerous websites etc.
I’ve learned a lot about promotion however, with my self-published books. In fact, I have applied those skills with my latest book.
Janet: Tell us a bit about A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism. Why did you write this book?
Janice: It really is because of my personal faith experience. I struggled so much with the need to make a decision for Christ that my heart literally ached. I didn’t have a church background.
When I became a Christian, I experienced a complete transformation. I was so overjoyed of the genuine peace and I knew that Jesus was real so I had to share it with people. It wasn’t the direct approach as some may think, it was a simple explanation of how Jesus changed my life. (My personal faith story is detailed on my blog).
I became involved in Bible studies and later facilitated many groups. As a result, I developed my own material. In the book, I have detailed how to create a personal faith story by following a few easy steps and writing it out. Also, I have included charts for the reader to keep progress of his/her faith as well as outreach suggestions.
Janet: The word ‘evangelism’ has picked up a taint from some of the methods people have used, but the need to tell others what Jesus has done for us—and how much He loves them—is key to the Christian life. How would you define it in terms people would understand today?
Janice: Sometimes I wonder if I should have used the word ‘evangelism’ because I had already encountered an obstacle. I contacted one particular magazine in hopes of submitting a piece from my book and was told that evangelism doesn’t sell. Wow, I was floored. How can someone make a judgement like that without knowing what the book is about?
It’s true, the word evangelism may be tainted but since God’s Word doesn’t change that doesn’t mean we can’t try different methods. We have to keep trying new methods of exposing the Gospel message.
Perhaps back in the day, there may have been more of a force of persuasion among the body of Christ but just as technology changes, so too, the church makes adjustments.
What the world needs to know is how much God loves them. Who will share the message? Who will go? And…who will teach? I will go Lord. I gave Him my life and I will listen to God’s direction as far as I am able.
This subject is my passion. I don’t necessarily need to use the word, ‘evangelism’ as long as I am willing to share my faith. The journey is with Jesus to His heart – the heart of evangelism.
Janet: I’m sure you have many chances to share your faith in your work with the Salvation Army. You have a helpful page on your blog for people who want to learn how to tell their own faith story. What would you say to someone who freezes at the thought of sharing their faith?
Janice: I would tell them that they have a faith story to share. They don’t have to prepare a mental script at all. I could freeze at the thought of that.
In my experience, I’ve been challenged with, “How did Jesus change your life? or What difference does Jesus make?”
I always begin with the old me, what my life was like before, and then share the new me, my new-found joy! There has to be a difference. It is possible that a person may not know exactly where they are in their faith. Sometimes Christians grow cold and weak in their walk with God. In my book, there is a chart which helps the reader understand where he/she stands in his/her faith.
Janet: What has reader response been like for A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism?
Janice: It’s been great so far. I have heard from a Bible study group who has purchased my latest book and I received a testimonial from the leader saying that they are growing spiritually. They originally had a timeline of studying one chapter each week but they decided not to rush it because the group was opening up and sharing with one another. One lady said that she could now share her faith without being fearful. Another reader said that she now has a heart for the lost and this book was stirring something within her. That’s great news! I was so excited to hear those comments.
I was most excited when I saw my book in a retail store recently. I was browsing around a Christian store while on vacation this summer and looked up to see my book on the top shelf. It’s the only one my eyes were fixed on: my book. It was as if all the other books became shadows. A friend took some photos of me with the book. It was meant for me to see it, I’m sure. Out of courtesy, I wrote a thank you note to the manager for stocking my book.
Janet: Even one encouraging response can mean so much. And how cool to be surprised by your book on a store shelf! What got you started writing?
Janice: The first piece I wrote was a poem entitled, Where is He? It was my personal thoughts on God as I was searching for Him. Believe it or not I hadn’t written or had any interest in writing before that time. I was at the age of 30.
My poetry writing took off and as a result I published my poetry book. From there it was my Bible study material. As my writing career began to take shape I decided to study Creative Writing, which was a two-year program.
It’s hard to believe that all this was taking place after my decision to follow God. It goes to prove that His plan for my life was playing out.
Janet: It’s amazing to see His plans unfold as we grow in Him! Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?
Janice: My favourite Scripture verse is Psalm 20:4, which says, “May He give you the desires of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” That Scripture verse stood out to me in church one morning and I thought about all my desires that I wanted to achieve.
I love the songs, “Worthy is the Lamb” and “Rescue the Perishing”. I have a different version of “Rescue the Perishing” than the traditional one you see in hymnbooks. It’s on a praise and worship CD that has a contemporary slant.
Janet: I’m sure you have a few more book projects in the works. Any you’d like to tell us about?
Janice: I’m working on a devotional book as well as another Bible study book on the subject of church wounds, which is sensitive, but I’m going to do it. Also, I am half way through recording an audio book of my poetry and half way through another book I am co-writing.
Janet: Church wounds… that’s a touchy one indeed, but where there are wounds, there’s the need of healing. Too many times we ignore church wounds and hope they’ll go away. With all this on your plate, what’s your favourite creative outlet for renewing your mental energy? And what do you like to do to get away from it all?
Janice: I love to create things. When I know I need a break, I will deliberately take time out to make various crafts. I enjoy creating photo stationery and sewing and country crafts. I also make bookmarks using my poetry. I had better get those craft containers out.
As a getaway, I love to walk along a shoreline or just sit beside the water’s edge and listen to the sound of waves rolling in and splashing. There’s nothing like nature. My husband and I have done a lot of traveling on motorcycle around Nova Scotia and we have seen many beautiful shorelines. I also listen to my nature CD’s and the nature radio station.
Janet: What do you like best about the writing life?
Janice: When a piece comes together easily it excites me. When I prepare a devotional, God always provides me with the needed Scripture, and I sometimes say aloud, “that’s amazing, God!”
I enjoy getting ideas from everyday life. Many people give me devotional and story ideas. Oh no, I just had another idea!
Janet: What do you like least?
Janice: Editing and polishing, and trying very diligently to reduce a piece of writing to fit a publisher’s guideline of word counts. I dislike cutting out good sentences. I’m so glad there are editors out there who know their craft.
Janet: What do your family think of your writing?
Janice: My husband and children are very supportive and encouraging. I send many of my articles to my daughters for critiquing. My husband created the layout for my poetry book. Oddly enough, he doesn’t read much of my work, perhaps because we have separate computers. I have a cousin who is a professional scriptwriter; her name is Gail Collins, just for the record. When we get together the majority of the conversation is about writing.
The writing life can be somewhat lonely, as you know. Very few of my family members knew of my writing stint when I was employed with a newspaper. I’m so glad I am a member of a writer’s group and an online group.
Janet: Connecting with other writers can make all the difference. Another thing we’re told to do is to read widely and voraciously. I think that’s one of the perks of the deal. What are you reading these days?
Janice: I am finally getting to read The Shack. I am about one quarter way through so far. Don’t tell me about it! I may be the only person who hasn’t read it yet. The writing is superb.
I have several books on the subject of Revival. I want to know about how God works in that way. I have a favourite new author, Mark Hitchcock. I have read What on Earth is Going On? and Seven Signs of the End Times. There are a few more of his books I would like to purchase.
Janet: I know there’s controversy over The Shack, but all I can say is it blessed me more than most books do.What are you listening to?
Janice: During my 45-minute commute to work I listen to praise and worship music and the Christian radio station. Of course I enjoy all types of music but I don’t really have a favourite Christian artist, I usually purchase any praise and worship compilation CD. I also enjoy iWorship DVDs.
When I attend a live performance I love to hear vocal groups, or at least a singer who has back up vocalists. I just love harmonies. Of course, I enjoy listening to my daughters’ singing and my son’s band. On my 45-minute journey home from my work place I listen to the 70’s music. What a contrast, but you know, I am an avid music lover and listener. I usually win at guessing the songs that are played on the radio.
Janet:Your daughters’ singing and your son’s band… tell us more!
Janice: My son, Troy, is the drummer for Grounded. They are a Christian rock band and quite powerful for only a 3-piece band. They have been performing for a few years and is gradually getting a number of bookings. My son-in-law, Kurtis, is the lead singer and Matt is the bass player.
As a matter of fact the band is the backup band for my daughters. The Keats (my daughters, Sharlene and Jolene) have been performing for several years and have been working really hard professionally as country performers. They are on the way, I believe. They have recently been selected to perform at the Rising Star Showcase during Canadian Country Music Week in Edmonton on September 9th. My husband and I will be attending the events.
Janet: There’s a lot of talent in your family! I hope The Keats get a great reception in Edmonton. One last question, just for fun: what’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever done?
Janice: I attended a morning church service with my daughters in Moncton a few years ago. We went early because they had to practise their duet. The choir director came out from her office carrying choir gowns. She gave each of us one. She asked what part I sang, I didn’t know so I secretly asked my daughter and she replied, “alto”.
The director slid me in the line with the rest of the altos and before I knew it I marched out with the choir and took my place. It all happened so fast I didn’t have time to protest. I enjoy singing but I’m not exactly in the public eye. With no practise or preparation I sang along, sometimes mouthing the words. I have never been invited back to sing. Is that a surprise?
Janet: At least they didn’t put you on the spot for a solo! Thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit, Janice. May the LORD continue to bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.
To learn more or for information on ordering her books, visit Janice Keats’ website. A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism is also available through your local bookstore as well as the usual online ones. Janice’s blog is The Master’s Path, and she also posts monthly at InScribe Writers Online. You can read my review of A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism here.