Jane Hole, award-winning author and St Margaret’s Old Girl was in Matipo House from 1946 – 1958 Her favorite subject was English and she has had a life-long career teaching piano. Jane is also a mother and grandmother with two of her grandchildren, Isabella and Alexandra Leighs, currently attending St Margaret’s. We caught up with Jane to learn more about her story and her journey towards becoming a published writer…
Have you always known you wanted to publish a book?
I have always loved writing but never believed I had it in me to write a whole book. That changed when I went to China to teach English for a year. I kept a diary of my adventures and on my return to New Zealand I began to wonder if I might be able to turn my thoughts into a book.
In her late 50s, it took Jane 10 years to transform her diary into a book. Once ready, she began approaching publishers but after 17 rejections she realised perhaps it wasn’t going to be as easy as she had once thought. Despite this, Jane didn’t let the setbacks stand in her way and ‘Under the Huang Jiao Tree: Two Journeys in China’ was picked up by the 18th publisher; it went on to win the Whitcoulls Travel Book of the Year, 2010.
What have you learnt about writing along the way?
Writing is the hardest thing I have ever done, by a long chalk. It is also extraordinarily rewarding. Writing is all about giving attention to what is happening and then learning and understanding how to express that.
I think with most writers, and certainly what I found, is that there is something inside you that needs to be expressed, it’s strong, the feeling does not leave you alone until you do something about it – that’s where it starts. In a way, the writing has a mind of its own, there is a sense that you have to follow it, rather than lead it.
Who are your mentors?
My St Margaret’s English teacher. If you love writing you get into glorious day dreams about becoming a famous writer. She didn’t discourage me but she brought me back down to earth and I think that is important.
Do you have any other passions, beside writing and teaching piano?
Yes, fishing! Absolutely crazy about it. My grandfather taught me to sea-fish on the Otago Coast when I was four and I’ve never got it out of my system.
What’s next for you?
My second book, ‘Talk of Treasures’, was published in 2016 by a New Zealand publisher but since then a Melbourne publisher has picked up the rights and is bringing out an Australian edition later this year. Different publishers have slightly different outlooks and this publisher would like me to change the balance of the book a bit. It’s a very rare and precious opportunity to have the chance go back and see what you could have done better and develop the book in a slightly different way.
What advice would you give to young budding writers?
First, you must read well. If you’re going to write you must have a real awareness of words in you but the way to learn to write is to read well. What you take in is what you give out. Read well, read carefully. Also for a writer it can be helpful to read aloud; hear the rhythm of the words. You take in through your ears as well as through your eyes. Lastly don’t underestimate the amount of work involved but also don’t give up and even though it can be terribly difficult, you must find the courage to ask for advice and to let people read your work.