By Jane Carswell

First published October 2016

Makaro Press, Wellington

Book Coveer

Jane Carswell began her working life at Pegasus Press shortly after its audacious publication of Janet Frame’s novel Owls Do Cry, and years later she went on to publish a book herself, an award-winning memoir about teaching in China called Under the Huang Jiao Tree. The road between one book and the other was a rocky one paved with self-doubt and publishers’ rejections, the experience provoking Jane to write again, this time about the troubled transformation between the private interior world of reading and the noisy exterior world of publication, between the books we read and treasure and the ones we write, which can so often feel like tarnished goods.

She tried to manage this struggle by dividing her time between a busy life as a music teacher in Christchurch while looking after a succession of young Chinese guests, and a quiet withdrawal to a world of meditation and monasteries. But publication continued to elude her, so Jane journeyed to the place where Janet Frame grew up to find the courage she needed to revise her manuscript one last time. Lyrical and literary, Talk of Treasure is a compelling memoir about how to be a writer, and more simply, just how to be.

Makaro Press, Wellington



By Jane Carswell

Transit Lounge Publishing, Melbourne 2009

Winner Whitcoulls/Travcom Travel Book of the Year 2010
Short-listed Ashton Wylie Book Award 2010
Book Coveer

'In mid-life Jane Carswell leaves her seemingly tranquil New Zealand home, her family and friends, to teach English in Chongqing, China. Her journey into the unknown epitomises the ache so many of us feel in our own lives for new challenges and personal understandings. Under the Huang Jiao Tree is a reflective, amusing and absorbing book about living and working in China, and the profound impact the experience has on the author’s search for connection and community. Carswell writes beautifully and entertainingly of China, of its people and her surprises and setbacks, but where her memoir stands alone is in its description of her own search for a spiritual life and practice. On return to her New Zealand life she becomes drawn to the teachings of St Benedict, and all at once the reader realises where the purity of her writing springs from: a deep well of calm, silence and belief.'

Transit Lounge Publishing, Melbourne


Book Reviews

Talk of Treasure is a deeply personal insight into the life – and soul - of an author faced with the momentous task of turning a travel journal into a product that will sell...' Read further...

Vincent Maire
National Coordinator,
New Zealand Community for Christian Meditation,
in NZCCM’s National Newsletter Stillpoint December 2016

In Talk of Treasure, Jane tells us the long saga of finding a publisher for her former book, Under The Huang Jiao Tree. That book was about her year as a teacher in China. She also relates in Talk of Treasure something of her journey to commitment as a Benedictine Oblate. And as a background, life at home for her includes hospitality to Chinese students as boarders...' Read further...

Ross Miller
National Coordinator,
New Zealand Community for Christian Meditation,
editor of NZ Oblate
writing in the Advent issue, December 2016

Before you open Jane’s latest book catch the spirit of the cover. It’s a glimpse of the interior treasure—words selected carefully from the top shelf, crafted into sentences and melded into a journey that involves both stumbling blocks and stepping stones...' Read further...

Lester Reid
editor of Shalom
November 2016

Talk of Treasure is the second book written by Jane Carswell, her first being an award winning account of her time spent teaching English to Chinese students in Chongqing, China. That was an engaging, insightful, quietly thoughtful western perspective on Jane’s encounter with all things Chinese and its impact on her. In this second memoir the reader accompanies the author on her experience of writing Under The Huang Jiao Tree. But this is no dry account, nor is it a self indulgent narrative...' Read further...

Ruth Fowle
co-founder of the Australian Christian Meditation Community

The leading theme is the tough process of writing her previous award-winning book ‘Under the Huang Jiao Tree’, a memoir about a year spent as an English teacher in China. It is a book about learning to be a writer, staying doggedly faithful to a deep-felt passion to write through many publishers’ rejections, struggling to understand the advice she is given. It is about learning to make the events and people that have enlivened her life communicate themselves to the reader, discovering that crafting a diary is surprisingly different from fashioning a memoir...' Read further...

Liz Watson
a leader in the United Kingdom Christian Meditation Community

Talk of Treasure is about growing up in Dunedin and Christchurch, living in China, writing a book and attempting to have it published, living with family, having Chinese students in Christchurch, and above all, about becoming a contemplative -“Meditation makes a difference to what I can see.” ...' Read further...

Kathleen Gallagher
poet, film maker, playwright, author of the acclaimed novel Earthquakes and Butterflies
reviewing for Tui Motu

In her second book, an autobiographical memoir, Jane has explored her life for the reader through the vicissitudes of writing a book. “Treasure” is not inherited jewellery or investments in the bank but diaries kept through the years and reclaimed in essence to reward the reader with expanded anecdotes from the past...' Read further...

Helen Bain
a foundation member of the NZ China Friendship Society
in the Christchurch Branch Newsletter Jan. 2017

Jane Carswell’s Talk of Treasure describes an internal voyage with detours into the worlds of meditation, the monastic life and hosting Chinese visitors but with a road map firmly marked with the route to becoming a writer...' Read further...

Jim Sullivan
in the Otago Daily Times
21 January 2017

Jane Carswell’s Talk of Treasure is a quiet and pondering reflection on what it is to be a ‘writer’, how one is to insert their own voice into a story, and what, in fact, constitutes an acceptable finished product. Is it enough, she wonders, to complete a manuscript for oneself, or should a novel or other work in its entirety be considered successful only if published and read by others? ...' Read further...

Jessie Neilson
in Takahe Magazine
March 2017

Writing about Writing
How do you depict the process of writing? Very few of the many films about writers try to show their protagonist actually doing it. Doctor Zhivago demonstrates why. Omas Sharif sits at his desk, stares into space, writes for a bit, stares again—then we see a waste-paper basket full of scrunched-up sheets of paper....' Read further...

Anne Else
Wellington writer, blogger and editor
in NZ Books
a quarterly publication devoted to reviewing New Zealand book

'Jane Carswell’s account of a year teaching in a Chongqing middle school combines an acute eye for detail ...' Read further...

Professor Bill Willmott CNZM
Former Past President
New Zealand China Friendship Society

'This is a wonderful story of mid-life opportunity. Jane Carswell is a courageous woman and a spirited writer. Her book is ...' Read further...

Michael McGirr
Author of 'The Lost Art of Sleep',
'Bypass' and 'Things You Get For Free'

Bookseller+Publisher, October to November reviews

‘A light fresh memoir of a Westerner teaching in China, with insightful observations that lead to a journey of self-discovery. After throwing herself into the chaotic... ’ Read further...

Andrew Wrathall

The Sunday Age (Melbourne), 9 October 2009

‘The two journeys of the title are spatial and spiritual. Carswell was a music teacher in New Zealand, settled into middle age, but restless. She was selected ... ’ Read further...

Lucy Sussex

Launceston Examiner (Tasmania) 9 October 2009

'It’s a long way from New Zealand to China in more ways than one. The author makes this journey to teach English in a middle school in Sichuan Province ... ' Read further...

The Dominion Post (Wellington) 12 November 2009

‘A memoir by a 56-year-old Kiwi music teaching about 10 months of teaching English in China would not voluntarily make it into the teetering tower... ’ Read further...

Joanna Rix

bookshop page of New Zealand Community for ChristianMeditation website

Ross Miller

The Age (Melbourne) 26 December 2009

'The Westerner's spiritual journey to the East has become such a cliche that any author writing on the subject must tread carefully. Jane Carswell treads not only carefully, but thoughtfully and originally...’Read further...

Lorien Kaye

The Otago Daily Times (Dunedin) 12 December 2009

'Over the past few weeks, China seems to have been to the fore whenever I pick up a paper, magazine or pick up on a conversation. The accounts of life there differed wildly. Among them were the New Zealand tourist...'Read further...

Pat Thwaites

Australian Community for Christian Meditation Newsletter, March 2010

‘I am always delighted when I receive invitations to attend exhibitions or such like, to view the creative works ...’Read further...

Ruth Fowler

Born in England, Jane Carswell received all her schooling at St Margaret’s College in Christchurch, New Zealand where she now lives. Other homes were in Dunedin, Perugia (where she studied Italian) Waikari, Leeston and Chongqing (where she taught English). After piano lessons with Jessie Cook until she was 25, Jane began a lifelong career in teaching music. She has also worked with publishers, booksellers, lawyers, accountants, historians, real estate agents and artists, and enjoys close involvement with the New Zealand China Friendship Society, New Zealand Community for Christian Meditation, 12-step programmes and the NZ Society of Authors. She is a Benedictine oblate, is married, and has a son and daughter, a 1912 straight-strung Bechstein piano, a split-cane fly rod, and small grandchildren who are teaching her ballet. She is a regular visitor to Australia.