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Why be published by Honno? Our authors give their thoughts…

With grateful thanks to author and blogger Judith Barrow, who originally put this together from her series of interviews with Honno authors and published it on her wonderful blog.


Why Honno?’ was a question I wanted to ask each Judith Barrowof the following Honno authors when I started the interviews with them over the last few months.

I mean, I knew why I liked being published by Honno:

Honno  is my kind of publisher; small, independent, and led by strong women who know what kind of  books they want to publish and don’t accept anything but the best that an author can produce. So the editing is hard, but fair, and leads to many discussions – and a few compromises on both sides.

Because it is known to be a Welsh press it is sometimes assumed that all its authors will be Welsh as well. So, often, when I’ve appeared at events, people are surprised to hear my broad Northern English accent. The supposition is false; Honno’s aim as an inspiring, feminist, Welsh press is to provide opportunities for women writers. The only proviso is that they are either Welsh, are living in Wales or have a connection to the country – which actually covers a great many writers. I love their strapline -. “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” So it always gives me a thrill when the manuscript I’ve been toiling over for months (or years!) is accepted by them.

I’ve had experience of having an agent, of being asked to conform to the commercial market; to fit in. And it wasn’t for me. As a creative writing tutor, I’ve spent the last couple of decades encouraging students to “write in their own voices”. So when the agent told me I needed to conform if I wanted to be published by one of the big publishing companies, I knew it wasn’t for me. This, after she’d placed me with a commercial editor who, not only wanted me to write in a different way, but also wanted me to write in a different genre. “The talent and skill as a writer is there but you need to be open to change.”, was the advice.

I took it; I changed from being a client with an agent ( who had, after all, accepted me on the strength of my first book) to seeking other outlets for my work.

I was lucky, I found Honno.

But, enough about me.

Honno’s mission is to publish Welsh women writers – for the purposes of submission to Honno this means that you must be a woman born in Wales or resident in Wales at the time of submission. Honno also publishes titles of exceptional interest to women within Wales from writers who may not meet the first two criteria i.e. that they are female and that they are of Welsh birth or residence.

I started each of the interviews with the statement:”My greatest support has come from the group of authors published by Honno. We’ve met up in real life on many occasions…”


That being said, the question all the Honno authors were glad to answer was: “What do you like most about being published by Honno, an indie press rather than one of the big publishing houses?”

Click on an author’s name to read their full interview on Judith’s blog.

Thorne Moore

Thorne Moore

“It’s a small press, which means it’s personal. Maybe famous sportsmen or ex-cabinet ministers can be lauded (promoted) to the skies by big publishers, but most of their less famous authors tend to be lost in a very impersonal ocean, with very little one-to-one attention. They are names on a spreadsheet. With Honno, you know the team and they know you. You feel far more valued, even if the big bucks aren’t there.

And there’s the fact that Honno is a Women’s Press, run by women, publishing women (as well as being Welsh, of course). It’s not an anti-man thing, but I grew up in the era of the rising tide of women’s lib, when women didn’t just sit around arguing their case but took really positive actions to prove themselves, such as setting up publishing companies like Virago. Unlike others, Honno is still going strong and flying the flag.”.

 

Carol Lovekin

“The intimacy. The sense of being part of a family. Honno’s reputation as an independent press publishing writing exclusively by women appealed to my feminist heart from the start. And it felt like the right fit for my debut, with its connection to The Mabinogion and the legend of Blodeuwed

A small press may not have the financial resources available to bigger, mainstream houses; they do tend to have a broad vision. They’re less bureaucratic, more collaborative and if they believe in a project enough, will invest time, expertise and energy in it. This has certainly proved to be the case for me with Honno.

 

Alison Layland

“It feels like being part of a close-knit family. The small but dedicated and talented Honno team are accessible and supportive at all stages of the process, and it’s been lovely to become friends with so many of the other Honno authors. We’re a wonderful community, and although we’re scattered all over Wales and beyond, it’s particularly lovely when we get to meet up in person.”

 

 

 

 

Wendy White

 

“When I was writing ‘Not Thomas’ I knew exactly where I wanted to send it when I’d finished, and that was to Honno. I’d long admired their work and I loved the fact that they’re a female-only press and have a committee of women who decide what to publish. Added to that was my huge respect for Caroline Oakley, a Honno editor who had worked closely in a previous role for a number of years with (the aforementioned) Ian Rankin. I was absolutely delighted when I heard from Caroline that Honno were going to publish ‘Not Thomas’ and my whole experience of being part of the Honno family has been fantastic. All the staff and other authors are extremely supportive and go out of their way to make everyone welcome. I’m constantly recommending Honno to my female friends who are writers. It may be a small indie press but it commands huge respect and publishes wonderful books.”

 

Jan Newton

“I love the team spirit which goes with being a Honno author. The other authors are so supportive of each other, and you really feel part of the gang. You get to know everyone who makes Honno work, and feel part of the enterprise, in a way which would surely be very difficult in a larger organisation. I was, and continue to be, overwhelmed at the generosity of everyone involved. It feels like a real joint-venture, which is a pleasure to be a part of.”

 

 

Jane Fraser

“I think with Honno, my forthcoming novel has found the perfect home with the UK’s longest-standing independent press that champions Welsh women and Welsh writing. I am proud that I now find myself among a list of authors I so admire.”

 

 

 

Alys Einion

“First, the fact that I am published by a women’s press is a major achievement. I grew into my own identity reading books by Honno and other women’s presses, and I felt that there must be something really special about authors who are published by smaller presses who can’t afford to take a gamble in the way in a bigger publishing house could. I am in awe of my fellow Honno authors, and I really do feel honoured to be in their company. It is so great to have a good relationship with my editor, and the community of Honno authors is so supportive and helpful. It is a huge plus to not have to have an agent to get your work read. I could paper my wall with rejection slips and after a while it just wears you down. Then there’s that personal experience of being nurtured by an editor who really knows her stuff and is invested in making sure your work is the best it can be.

I think with Honno, the authors are all excellent, and that kind of sets a standard. It makes me strive to be better, to be worthy of the association. And it’s a feminist press, so what’s not to like?”

 

Juliet Greenwood

“I’m eternally grateful that I had the experience of being published by Honno before finding an agent and having a two-book deal with Orion. Having been through the process in the slightly less pressurised atmosphere of Honno, and learning the different stages of the editing process, gave me the confidence to feel I knew what I was doing – and even more importantly know that I had done it three times before so could do it again! That experience has been utterly invaluable. Honno also gave me time to develop as a writer and become more certain of who I was as an author.”

 

 

Hilary Shepherd

“The community of writers and the friendship that has come out of being published by Honno. Having the confidence that I’ll be taken seriously with the next book (though as with big publishing houses there’s no guarantee a book will be taken on). And going to the seaside whenever I go to talk to my editor.”

 

 

 

 

Jo Verity

“The informality and camaraderie of an indie publisher suits me and my way of working. I’ve been a Honno author for fifteen years and everyone I’ve worked with there has been approachable, supportive, flexible and available. I’m extremely blessed to have Caroline Oakley as my editor. She ‘gets’ what I’m trying to achieve and nudges me, firmly but sympathetically, in the right direction. I couldn’t bear to hand ‘my babies’ over to people whom I didn’t know, trust and consider to be friends

 

 

 

 

Jacqueline Jacques

“My association with Honno began with their anthology, Luminous and Forlorn, which included my short story, Lovey Dovey Cats Eyes. I like that they are real people, who treat their authors as real people, rather than as a means to an end. They respect your wishes, offer sound advice and editing and pull out all the stops to provide a really good quality product you can be proud of.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stevie Davies

“Being published by Honno is like going home. The first publisher of my fiction was The Women’s Press, where writers experienced warm support and a shared outlook on the politics of gender. At Honno there is a sense of solidarity such as one rarely finds in larger and more impersonal firms. Caroline’s editing skills are second to none and I have been grateful for her experience and insight.”

 

 

 

 


Submitting your work to Honno: Honno is always interested in receiving unsolicited manuscripts  but currently does not intend to publish  poetry, works for children, novellas or short story collections by a single author. Honno does publish full length works of fiction and non-fiction for adults (manuscripts of between 60,000 and 120,000 words).

See our submission page for full details. Also check the ‘For Writers’ section for details of our online Meet the Editor sessions, and our call for submissions to our non-fiction anthology on the 1970s.

 

FEMINIST BOOK FORTNIGHT – 4th – 18th May 2019

What is a feminist book?

We need to celebrate stories by women, for women, as just one more way to redress gender injustice.” Shami Chakrabarti

Honno is a women’s press with feminism as a core value – but we often publish books that don’t seem to have overtly feminist themes. So during Feminist Book Fortnight we asked ‘what is a feminist book?’, looking at a different book every day, chosen from both our contemporary and classic lists.

Here is the round up of the books selected by Honno staff and committee.

JILL by Amy Dillwyn.
The lesbian narrator of Amy Dillwyn’s novel Jill rebels against the class and gender constrictions of her society in her quest for self-fulfillment. At its first publication in 1884, it heralded the dawn of the ‘New Woman’ in fiction; reprinted in Honno Press’s Welsh Women’s Classics series in 2013, it remains today a vital and vibrant testimony to the pioneering feminism of its author. Jane Aaron

THE HOWARTH FAMILY SERIES by Judith Barrow.
Judith writes about a group of women through the generations from the early 20 Century and pre women’s suffrage.She depicts very clearly how society and family, including the women, slows down or prevents the women from progressing and improving their lives. Gaining the vote does not mean total freedom, her female characters are also struggling against financial, familial and societal constraints as well. Nicky

GHOSTBIRD by Carol Lovekin is about a family of women: teenage Cadi, her mother Violet and aunt Lily. When Cadi demands to know the truth of who she is, she wakes the ghost of her sister Dora, who will make all the family face the secrets they tried to hard to hide. Part family drama, part magic realism, the moving story treats everyone, old or young, lesbian or straight, with great intelligence and warmth. Janet

NANSI LOVELL: Hunangofiant Hen Sipsi byElena Puw Morgan
– A novel about strong female characters who take charge of their own lives and struggle with the conventional expectations of society at the time, e.g. as regards motherhood. Doesn’t idealise women’s lot in any way.Wini
– “Nofel am gymeriadau benywaidd cryfion sy’n cymryd cyfrifoldeb am eu bywydau eu hunain ac yn ymgodymu hefo disgwyliadau confensiynol y gymdeithas ar y pryd, e.e. parthed bod yn fam. Nid yw yn delfrydu bywydau menywod mewn unrhyw ffordd.” Wini

FALLING by Debbie Moon
A futuristic story or a woman with abilities that are used by the authorities, and not always to her advantage. She has to re-adjust to her new timelines and skills many times whilst being aware of those around her, including her colleagues who may wish her harm. Her character is written as a strong determined woman working to keep herself safe and free. Nicky

THE WHITE CAMELLIAWE THAT ARE LEFT by Juliet Greenwood

The White Camellia, set in the early 1900s, has some great feminist characters: Sybil, the enigmatic business woman who can hold her own with villagers, mineworkers and some pretty treacherous family members to aristocratic; Vicky who intimidates authority in defence of her fellow suffragettes; and Bea herself who is fighting the prevailing norms of eligible marriages, work considered suitable for females and male authority in her own young life. It’s salutary to remember the enormous societal challenges that the suffragettes faced, and inspirational that despite all of those, using their wit, courage and tenacity, they WON the right to vote. Nicola

In We That Are Left Elin’s wealthy but controlled life is changed utterly by the first world war. With her husband away, she has to learn to grow food for the village and help her friends, and experiences great danger but also shocking new freedom. When Hugo comes back, how can she go back to how life was before? The novel captures the repression of women in the early 20th century, the life-changing power of female friendships and the terrible cost of war to women and men. Janet

THE VERY SALT OF LIFE: Welsh Women’s Political Writing from Chartism to Suffrage – an important and innovative collection of writing by Welsh women in a domain not traditionally associated with them in the period covered by the book, i.e. politics. The edited collection makes it clear that women engaging in politics today and venturing into the public sphere are part of a longer tradition than one might think, and it gives a new platform and new visibility to female voices that have been neglected for too long.
Wini

ABSOLUTE OPTIMIST by MennaElfyn
The book that discusses the life of Eluned Phillips. She continually lived and wrote whilst every award and recognition that was given under her pseudonym was proclaimed as plagiarism (by men assumed to be her lovers) by her male and female peers when her identity was revealed. The strength Eluned showed through her life to continue to write is amazing. Nicky

STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES by Bertha Thomas
This is described as a collection of witty, sharply observant stories, written at a time of great social change. What I didn’t expect was that it would feel so contemporary and relevant. Enjoyable and illuminating, and the wonderful ‘Latest Intelligence from the Planet Venus’: a witty, pro-female-suffrage parody, is particularly enjoyable. Helena

GOD’S CHILDREN by Mabli Roberts The skilfully-told story of a strong woman determined to make a difference, with believable characters, dramatic adventures and plot-twists and exotic locations – and based on a true story. Gwyneth

THE GREATEST NEED: THE CREATIVE LIFE AND TROUBLE TIMES OF LILY TOBIAS, A WELSH JEW IN PALESTINE by Jasmine Donahaye
An amazing story of courage and enterprise against the odds. One woman in a time of great international upheaval standing up for human rights and for her own rights as a woman to make a difference socially and politically. Caroline

BETSY CADWALADYR: A BALACLAVA NURSE: An Autobiography of Elizabeth Davies by Jane Williams (Ysgafell)
The life-story of a Welsh woman who travelled the world, confronting monsters, typhoons, obstructive employers and Florence Nightingale – and did it her way! Gwyneth

And of course we have two very politically and overtly feminist books – WALKING TO GREENHAM: How the Peace Camp Began and the Cold War Ended bAnn Pettitt, a fantastic account of  how the author gathered together a small group of would-be marchers and set out to walk to a UK airbase given over to the Americans – and created an movemnt. And HERE WE STAND: women changing the world, by Helena Earnshaw and Angharad Penrhyn Jones, a fascinating and unique anthology about contemporary women campaigners and how they were changed by the process of changing the world.

We are looking forward to celebrating more feminist books not just during Feminist Book Fortnight, but for the rest of the year!

Helena Earnshaw

 

 


Feminist Book Fortnight was launched in 2018, by a group of radical and independent bookshops around the UK and Ireland, led by the wonderful Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham, as a celebration of feminist books. In 2019 even more independent bookshops, arts centres, feminist libraries and more around the country and abroad highlighted the diversity of feminist books over the two weeks with displays of books and lots of events. Participating bookshops reported lots of full events and a “thirst” for discussion of feminist issues as well as celebration of feminist achievements.

There has been an explosion of new feminist publishing in the last two to three years. Younger feminists are also discovering feminist classics. Independent bookshops wanted to celebrate these authors but also provide space for discussions and learning. Feminist Book Fortnight is a wonderful celebration of feminist publishing. If you missed out this year, then sign up for next year’s events – and maybe plan something yourself?

Keep in touch at:  https://feministbookfortnight.wordpress.com/ @FeministBkFt19

 

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Lost Voices: Welsh Women’s Classics

Queens of the Rushes team are: Helena Earnshaw: Cycle/Marketing, Tricia Chapman: Swim/Production, Caroline Oakley/Editorial. Alison Greeley/Finance did the whole thing!

The Queens of the Rushes

The Honno staff recently teamed up to ensure that one of their Welsh Women’s Classic titles: Queen of the Rushes by Allen Raine is brought back into print.

Queen of the Rushes sold over 300,000 copies at the beginning of the 20th century, when it was first published. It was made into one of the first British silent movies and was the first title in Honno’s Welsh Women’s Classics series. It is hugely deserving of remaining in print and the Honno staff swam, cycled and ran in the DYFI DASH triathlon on April 7th to raise money for a new edition to ensure it continues to be read. It is a tale that maps out a distinctly Welsh literary landscape and demonstrates Raine’s powers as storyteller, delineator of character and social historian.

Thank you to all who have supported our fundraising so far. There is still time to support us at: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/honno

Jane Aaron, editor of the Welsh Women’s Classics explains why they are so important, below.

ps. we all completed the event successfully and had fun doing so!


Lost Voices: Welsh Women’s Classics

The aim of the Honno Welsh women’s classics series is to bring back into print the lost voices of Welsh women’s writing, and what they have to tell us of Welsh women’s history, for the benefit of new generations.

It’s over thirty years since Honno Press was founded, and one of the first books the Press produced was the autobiography of the Welsh nurse and traveller Betsy Cadwaladyr, originally published in 1857 but out of print for over a century, during which time Betsy’s story was virtually forgotten. Born and raised near Bala, Betsy told the tale of her global adventures, which included nursing with Florence Nightingale in Balaclava, to the then eminent but also subsequently forgotten historian and poet Jane Williams, who set it down in print. Before 1987 Betsy and her story were virtually unknown in Wales, and it is unlikely that she would be enjoying her current fame without that Honno Press publication. Deirdre Beddoe, who wrote the introduction, gave a copy of the book to a professor in the Department of Nursing at the then University of Glamorgan; that professor subsequently named a student’s training hospital ward at the University the Betsy Cadwaldr Ward. Thus remembrance of Betsy’s name and her story was revived in medical circles, and ‘Betsy Cadwaladr’ was finally established as the name of the Health Trust in north Wales.

Honno’s Welsh Women’s Classics series has also had an impact on the teaching of Welsh writing in English at Higher Education levels. In the 1980s, though what was then called ‘Anglo-Welsh Literature’ was being taught at Aberystwyth, Swansea, Bangor and Lampeter universities, very few women authors were included in the syllabus. In 1990 only one woman writer was included in the Welsh writing in English modules at Aberystwyth University – the Welsh-language novelist Kate Roberts, taught in translation. Since then the ratio of women authors to men on these syllabuses has been transformed, and Honno can take a large part of the credit for this change. 33 women writers, compared to 44 men, featured on Welsh university syllabuses in 2013, and 21 of those 33 women appeared in the Welsh Women’s Classics.

The question then arises: why were these women’s books ever allowed to fall out of print in the first place? The publishing career of Menna Gallie helps to explain that process. A mid-twentieth-century author from Ystradgynlais in the south Wales valleys, Gallie is today an important figure within the Welsh canon because not only was she an excellent novelist, witty and empathic, but also because she was one of the few writers recording in detail the experience of working-class women in the coalfields during the heyday of King Coal. But Gallie’s reputation was affected by the double disadvantage which all Welsh women writers pre Honno suffered, that is, she was Welsh and she was a woman.

Before the 1970s, and the development of English-language publishing in Wales,  most Welsh writers in English, including Gallie, were published in London, where their work tended to be categorised as ‘provincial’. Secondly, and this is true for all women writers, of course, publishers, like critics, reviewers and university lecturers, tended until quite recently to be predominantly male.

But with her re-emergence in the Welsh Women’s Classics series, Gallie’s voice was rediscovered, along with that of many another writer, some of whom experienced a yet further disadvantage, being not only Welsh and female but also of another ethnic minority. It is particularly important in these post-Brexit days that we value the contribution to Welsh culture of such writers, Lily Tobias, who was raised in Ystalyfera in the 1880s and 1890s, was the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Poland. When her novel on conscientious objectors during the First World War, Eunice Fleet, which first appeared in 1933, was republished by Honno a reviewer in the journal Mslexia remarked

This is an important book to be made available and I found myself wondering why it had ever been lost.

Traditionally it was supposed that women, by and large, had little to say about political issues apart from feminist ones. But that supposition is only arrived at by those who neglect the actual evidence of women’s voices often raised in political protest. In order to give Welsh women’s political voices a hearing once more, the historian Ursula Masson and I brought out an anthology of Welsh women’s political writings, The Very Salt of Life.

Until quite recently it was thought that Welsh women had not made much of a contribution to the pre First World War suffragette movement. That misinformation is now being corrected, in part because of Honno’s resurrection of voices like that of Rachel Barrett, whose ‘Autobiography’ written in 1924 only existed in manuscript form in the Museum of London’s archives before Honno republished it in The Very Salf of Life. Rachel Barrett writes:

I was born in Carmarthen of Welsh, Welsh-speaking parents.  In 1905 I became science mistress at Penarth County School…and it was during this time that I became interested in the new movement for woman suffrage…Adela Pankhurst came to Cardiff as WSPU organiser [the militant branch of the suffragette movement] and I helped her in her work

Christabel Pankhurst asked me to give my whole time to the movement…. I was sorry to give up my work at the School and all that it meant [she was by then studying for doctorate in science – it meant giving up on a career] but this was a definite call and I obeyed…I became organiser for Wales…

In the autumn [of 1912] I was asked to take charge of the new paper The Suffragette…In April 1913 when we were making up the paper a group of CID men appeared and the staff of the paper were arrested…At the Old Bailey trial I was sentenced [to 2 months in prison]… …I was released on licence after a 5 days’ hunger strike…. In about 3 weeks time, I was re-arrested. This time I was in for 4 days…. When I had recovered I was re-arrested. This time I did the thirst strike as well as the hunger strike and was released after, I think, 5 days feeling very ill…I was smuggled into Kingsway House under the eyes of the detectives. I lived there bringing out The Suffragette as before, never leaving the office and taking my exercise on the roof.[1]

She carried on editing The Suffragette till it came to an end with the suffrage movement’s cessation of activities at the outbreak of the First World War, by the close of which, of course, women had won the vote. Her contribution to the Women’s Cause went unnoticed for years, but it was an essential one, and it is now being recognised – there’s a detailed entry on Rachel Barrett in Wikipedia, for example. Another lost voice restored, thanks to the Welsh Women’s Classics series.


Jane Aaron: Emeritus Professor of Literature at the University of South Wales,  is the editor of the Honno Classics English-language series (known as the Welsh Women’s Classics). Born in Aberystwyth, she has now returned to the town and taken up her old place on the Honno Committee once again. Her publications include Pur fel y Dur: Y Gymraes yn Llên Menywod y Bedwaredd Ganrif ar Bymtheg (1998), which won the Ellis Griffith prize in 1999, and Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing in Wales (2007), winner of the Roland Mathias Award in 2009. She also co-edited the essay collections Our Sisters’ Land: The Changing Identities of Women in Wales (1994), Postcolonial Wales (2005) and Gendering Border Studies (2010).

 

[1] Rachel Barrett, ‘Autobiography’, mss c. 1924, in Museum of London, ref. 57.116/47, in The Very Salt of Life, pp. 298-302

Celebrating LGBT History Month – LGBT Themes in the Welsh Women’s Classics

Honno Press have over the years published a number of novels, short stories and poems with LGBT+ themes, many of them in the Welsh Women’s Classics series.

Amy Dillwyn’s novel Jill, for instance is the story of an unconventional heroine, much like the author herself, and is based on the author’s own passionate attachment to a woman she called her wife, but who she couldn’t have. Jill is a poignant story of same-sex desire and unrequited love and is an under recognised lesbian novel, written 45 years earlier than The Well of Loneliness which is often hailed as the first British lesbian novel.

The editor, Kirsti Bohata, writes in Diva magazine that:

Writing against the patriarchal assumption that two women could only set up home together as a last resort, her novels validate lesbian love as a desirable alternative to marriage and family duties. In her novels, she turned to literary codes which emphasised a challenge [to the social order – her characters cross boundaries of gender, class and the law – in order to depict a same-sex desire that she wanted to be paramount, not a last resort.”

In Welsh Women’s Poetry, 1460 – 2001,  the first bilingual anthology of Welsh women’s poetry, in both the Welsh and English languages – Honno have published several lesbian poets. Gwerful Mechain [1462-1500], the most well-known Welsh female poet from this period, often challenged ideas of gender in her writing. Her poem ‘I’r Cedor’ for instance subverts the expected medieval odes to women on their beauty and is instead written to female genitalia.

Sarah Jane Rees (1839 –1916), another lesbian figure in Welsh writing, edited Y Frythones, (a monthly Welsh language periodical for women), from 1878-1889 as well as writing her own poetry under the name Cranogwen. Examples of her passionate poetry to women can be found in Welsh Women’s Poetry, 1460 – 2001 as well as a poem written in loving admiration of her – ‘Cranogwen’ – by Buddug, another key female Welsh poet of the time.

Author Margiad Evans had an affair with Ruth Farr whilst married and lesbian themes are explored in her short story ‘A Modern Adornment’, published in A View Across the Valley: Short Stories by Women from Wales c.1850-1950, through the relationship between Miss Allensmoore and Miss Plant, elderly women who ‘lived together for many years in a cottage outside a small village’.

Another writer, Bertha Thomas, was a nineteenth and twentieth-century ‘New Woman’ known for writing in support of women’s suffrage as well as on themes of gender and sexuality, alongside Anglo-Welsh identity, published in the anthology Stranger Within the Gates.

The identities and themes of gender, sexuality and national identity that run through the writing of many of the great Welsh women writers of the past  highlights the importance of keeping in print women’s historical writing to illuminate sexuality and gender in Welsh history.

You can find the texts listed above and below on our Classics page: Also check out our collection of lesbian novels, classic and contemporary, on offer for LGBT History month at: https://www.honno.co.uk/catalogue/fiction/novels/lesbian-fiction-collection/

With thanks to Mair Jones for her research on exploring LGBT themes in Honno’s books. Mair was writing an MA Dissertation on the Queer History of Wales while studying MA History of Wales at Aberystwyth University, and provided the material for this blog while volunteering for Honno.

 

 

Bibliography
Aaron, Jane ed. A View Across the Valley: Short Stories by Women from Wales c.1850-1950 An Anthology. Wales. 2002.
Aaron, Jane ed. Nineteenth Century Women’s Writing in Wales: Nation, Gender and Identity. Cardiff. 2010.
Bohata, Kirsti. Postcolonialism Revisited: Writing Wales in English. Cardiff. 2004.
Bohata, Kirsti & Gramich, Katie ed. Rediscovering Margiad Evans: Marginality, Gender and Illness. Cardiff. 2013.
Dillwyn, Amy. Bohata, Kirsti ed. Jill. Wales. 2013.
Dillwyn, Amy, Gramich, Katie. The Rebecca Rioter. Wales. 2001.
Dillwyn, Amy, Favre, Alison. A Burglary: Or ‘Unconscious Influence.’ Wales. 2009.
Gramich, Katie & Brennan, Catherine ed. Welsh Women’s Poetry 1460-2001 An Anthology. Wales. 2003.
Painting, David. Amy Dillwyn. Cardiff. 1987.
Roberts, Harri Garrod. Embodying Identity: Representations of the Body in Welsh Literature: Writing Wales in English. Cardiff. 2009.
Thomas, Bertha. Bohata, Kirsti ed. Stranger Within the Gates: A collection of short stories. Wales. 2008.

Book covers, and letting go.

‘Don’t go to Belchite at night,’ Manolo our neighbour says, ‘there are voices.’

It’s easy to believe there might be. Belchite is a monument to the Spanish Civil War, a village left in ruins after it was taken first by the Republicans in 1937 and then by Franco’s troops in 1938. By the end, in a deadly game of cat and mouse, any building still standing was pulverised as the Nationalists troops moved from house to house hunting down the last Republicans.

For a long time after the war the impoverished villagers went on living among the ruins, which Franco declared should be left as a monument ‘de victoria nacional’ and ‘Red barbarousness’. A new village was built alongside the old, but some residents refused to leave their old homes.

I didn’t know about Belchite except as a name in the history of the Civil War.  It was only when my third novel, Albi, was published that somebody told me the haunting cover photo had been taken there. I’d asked, of course, but that’s the thing about book covers – the publisher rarely knows much about how they were put together.

It turns out Belchite is only a few hours away from the remote village where we have a house. So a month after Albi was published my husband Nick and I set off to see for ourselves.

Spain is a wonderfully earthy place and so are its guided tours. We march round the ruins with our guide Nati and a group of Spanish, most of them young. One of the girls mentions that her great grandfather came from here and Nati breaks off her spiel to discuss whereabouts he might have lived. We move off again, past the group of men tossing a section of mud-brick wall (fibreglass, it turns out – they are making a film), under a stormy sky that threatens rain.

The sun is fitfully hot, poppies bob their scarlet heads in the meadows beyond the perimeter fence, and it’s hard to take in the enormity of what happened in this place: in less than two years nearly 5,000 people lost their lives here. It was late August and extremely hot when the Republicans drove out the Nationalists in 1937. The bodies had to be hurriedly buried in a mass grave. A year later when the Nationalists took it back more than 2,400 people were taken prisoner, many of them dying later in the labour camps.

Nati barks this information through her microphone and leads the way towards a church which looks as if it might be the one on my book cover. Nick tells her why we are here and gives her a bookmark. She holds it up in front of her – is it here? Yes, it’s here. Off we go in pursuit but no, when we get up close the shell of the church is similar but the house wall in the foreground doesn’t fit with the photo.

No problem, Nati declares, there are still two churches to go, and a convent.

The photo, of course, might be from many years ago, before the ruins subsided quite so much. It might even be a digital reconstruction of different photos. By now I am handing out bookmarks with gay abandon and everyone is joining in the debate in lively Spanish, all reverence gone. We go round the village sizing up the ruins and arguing until we get to the last church, and there it is: wall and window in the foreground with an old iron bracket that might have been for a sign, and in the background the blind façade of the church.

So that’s all right then, we’ve found it, and Nati can go back to her spiel. We become reverential again, because high on a ledge of the ruined tower of the church an un-exploded shell is visible, still lodged in the stone. History is shockingly real at moments like this and for me it is a doubly profound moment. I have borrowed these people’s history. Have I done it justice?

As for my book cover, the buildings of Belchite are only half of it. I will never know the identity of the ghostly child whose face hovers in the background and that is as it should be. We write our stories and someone else’s history becomes our own, but once out in the public arena our stories no longer belong to us. They belong to the reader.


Hilary Shepherd has lived most of her adult life in Wales, farming and making oak windows and kitchens, but during the 70s and 80s she and her family lived in Ghana and in the Sudan, which provided the material for her first two novels (Animated Baggage and In A Foreign Country)

In 2001, with her second husband Nick, she started spending time in Spain, in a remote village in southern Aragon. This is an area where the resistance fighters known as the maquis hid out in the mountains after the Civil War, until well into the 50s, and there are many stories in the village about living caught between the maquis and the hated Guardia Civil. Thinking about what it must have been like was the starting point for her third novel, ‘Albi’ (published April 2018).

 

Organising a Book Fair

Thanks so much to Judith Barrow for this detailed account of how to organise a book fair. Judith is currently organising the Narberth Book Fair which is being held on Saturday 22nd September 9:30am to 4pm at the Queen’s Hall, Narberth.

Over the last seven years of organising a book fair I’ve made many mistakes but, thankfully, learned from them. That’s not to say things don’t go wrong, or that something that seemed a great idea at the planning stage, turns into a disaster or, at the least ‘something to be avoided next time’.

So let’s start with the obvious; find someone like-minded to help you with the organising of the whole affair. More importantly, someone who you know well enough to recognise you’ll be able to work together without egos getting in the way. (And, yes, I’m speaking from experience; enough said!)

For the first two years I was on my own, didn’t sleep for weeks before and, on the day was too exhausted to enjoy any of it. Luckily, friends and fellow authors, Thorne Moore and Alex Martin, volunteered. (Well, I’m sure they did!). Anyway they came on board and, although we’ve lost Alex to the delights of France, Thorne is still with me and we work well as a team; each of us have our strengths. And a sense of humour. Believe me, if you’re determined to hold a book fair, you’ll need one.

So, to the practicalities:

You’ll definitely need a constitution for the official book fair bank account and if you’ll be looking for grants, sponsorship etc.

Get started early; you’ll need plenty of planning time. Work out the best time of year for your area by looking around, seeing what else is on at certain times. Is there any event happening on the date you’d like that might help or hinder footfall to your book fair? Is there a festival you could link up with? Or a similar event to yours which would take away your potential public? If the latter, don’t be inflexible, change your date.

Book your venue. You want somewhere that people will pass and enter easily. (Check for disability access and facilities). And check that there is somewhere outside of the building that you can hang a banner advertising the book fair on the day – or, at the least, somewhere that you can stand A boards outside without causing any obstruction.

If you intend to ask your authors to give talks, hold creative writing workshops, hold panels on various aspects of writing or genres, or invite publishers to put on an appearance for talks or editor sessions (always a good move and the authors will thank you!), make sure there are enough rooms. Most importantly, make sure the actual room/hall you’ll be holding the book fair in is large enough. You’ll need a fairly spacious area because you’ll be inviting lots of authors to participate… won’t you!?

Also check for the number of tables and chairs the venue has. And make sure you can get your hands on more tables if necessary. You don’t want to have more authors than tables

Find out if the venue has public liability insurance. If not you have two choices, stump up for it yourself (in which case you could be paying out a fortune) or ask the individual authors to take out their own – much the better option and a lot of writers have their own insurance anyway. We’re lucky; our venue has its own cover.

Lists, lists and more lists! Try to include as much detail as possible and when things need to be started or completed by. You won’t always hit the targets but you’ll know when they go whizzing by (a bit like that deadline you’ve set for yourself with your WIP). Know which of you is responsible for each task. But don’t forget to ask for or offer help from one another… you are a team working to one goal.

Set up your website. If you’re lucky you’ll find a whizz-kid happy to do it for you for free. (I found Thorne!! – smiley face.) If not, factor in the cost. Don’t forget you’ll need a domain name.

Set up a Facebook page.

Start to send out invitations to authors as soon as possible, giving clear details of when and where the book fair is taking place and the cost of hiring the tables. (We ask if they will need a full or a half share of a table; it depends on the number of published books each author has). It’s a system that’s worked well for us. Try to vary the genres, try for a good balance of men and women writers, certainly include children’s; writers (they bring their parents… potential adult readers!) Be clear what’s expected of the authors. By this I mean the simple things: a table cloth that fits the size of the tables (which you will be providing along with a couple of chairs- some authors bring along partners/friends to keep them company or to watch the table if they need to leave it for a few minutes). Where was I? Oh yes: tablecloth, books, of course, plenty of change. Suggest display stands, any flyers, leaflets, banners or posters, book price list, bookmarks and business cards. (It’s surprising how many authors don’t think of these things). Some authors, on the other hand, bring small free gifts or a bowl of sweets/chocolates as a tempter for potential readers to stop at their tables.

Children’s author Wendy White who also writes for adults as Sara Gethin displaying her books

I’ve said above that the authors are paying for the tables to showcase their books but that’s not strictly true. Any money we get in, after paying for the hire of the hall and rooms, goes on publicity and advertising the event. That’s the A5 advance “make a date” flyers. A4 posters, leaflets to go into libraries, supermarkets, shops, doctors and dentist surgeries and any public place we can think of (always asking permission, naturally). We also pay to place advertisements in local newspapers. If we do that we usually get a column or two of a free mention or even a photograph with details of the fair. Any money left over goes towards the authors’ very popular “goody bags” that we give to them. These contain a table sign, a badge, a pen (with the Narberth Book Fair logo on – a handy reminder over the next few months – and publicity if they get “lost”), sweets, a bottle of water (it’s thirsty work selling books), a couple of blank price signs, one or two bags (to put sold books into) and a couple of safety pins (to pin table cloths up). The idea is to provide the little necessaries that any of the authors have forgotten. To cut a long story short, we use all the money raised to the benefit of both the book fair and the authors.  Only fair, I think! Excuse the pun.

Search out sponsors, if you need them, around this time. Bribe them by saying they’ll be mentioned on all promotional material – including online mentions.

It’s nice around now to find a charity (hopefully a local one) to support. This could be where the sponsors come in as well; some shops etc. may offer something for a raffle.  We’ve also often asked the authors to offer one of their books as a prize and then reimbursed them the wholesale price. Most of them will donate because they lose nothing and maybe gained a few more readers.

Design posters and leaflets. Search out the cheapest but most professional printers. (You’re aiming for classy but economical!)

Around three months before the date of your book fair have A5 “Make a Date” flyers printed and put them into all the above places (libraries, supermarkets, shops, doctors and dentist surgeries etc.)  Start to casually and occasionally mentioning the event on any social media you’re connected to. Direct the public to your website because, by now, you should have at least some of the authors confirmed and fully paid up. Encourage your authors to do the same. (They’ll be as keen as you to get a good footfall on the day)

We also ask the authors for bios and images of their latest books: short bios for our Facebook page, longer bios for the website. We give each author a separate page here where they can write anything that’s applicable to their work and gives all their links on social media and their Amazon/ Kobo/Barnes and Noble pages etc.

Ramp up online publicity as the weeks go by.

Have regular meetings with your co-organiser(s) over the months. Make them fun as well as official; meet for coffee/ lunch, whatever floats your boat!)

Author Carol Lovekin’s book display

Draw up a map of the room where the book fair will take place with all the tables arranged and authors names on them (invaluable: for one, this makes sure they will all fit and, two, that the potential readers have a definite route around the room, so all authors will be passed/seen). We put the children’s authors together to make an attractive area that draws in the children (and parents!! Remember these are the potential readers of the adult books). We also try to group together the authors of same/similar genres.

Keep track of all the authors; there are almost always some who drop out at the last week or so, so make sure you have a few eager stand –by authors. You’ll find your waiting list grows every year as your book fair becomes more popular and gains more footfall. You’ll need a policy here for returning authors’ money if they don’t attend. We work on the basis of how much notice they give us and genuine reasons. Obviously if it’s the day before or on the day they lose the fee (unless we’re able to fill the space) because, by then we will probably have emptied the coffers on all the publicity.

It’s a good idea to have a page on the website that only the authors can see. This will keep them in the loop by giving out information that’s relevant just to them, give them chance to ask any questions, show them where their tables are situated in the hall.

Keep in touch with the management of the venue to make sure all is as you originally agreed. If they hold other events make sure to share them on social media; it pays off, they will reciprocate.

Around two weeks before start to distribute the leaflets, put up posters, place adverts and interviews in local newspapers. You will already have contacted your local Arts/Books Council and local County magazine months ago to make sure your event will be a featured at the right time – won’t you? Is there anywhere else you can think to advertise?

If you’re allowed, put up your banner outside the venue to make sure passers-by can see that your book fair is really going to happen

If you’ve filled all the spaces, this is the time to make sure all monies are in. You never know what last minute expenses will need to be paid.

The week before have a meeting to check, as much as possible, that all is ready and in place.

We always set up as much as possible the evening before the book fair: tables (labelled with the names of the authors), chairs and goody bags. Remember, some authors will have banners and so will need to be against the walls of the room, some will need to be near socket outlets if they have table lamps or laptops. Set up the raffle table if you’re having one and any posters, entry forms and explanation leaflets of the children’s competition, if you’re having one.

Set up your own table, you’ll have more than enough to do tomorrow.

And so to the day… Panic!! No, I didn’t mean that; but there will be an underlying unease that something has been missed/ has gone wrong/ been left out/forgotten. If anything has, now is the time to sort it out. And you will. Or you will if you can. If not, and it’s not a great disaster, forget it.

Authors Jan Newton, Thorne Moore and Judith Barrow

Some authors may have arrived the evening before and set up their tables but be sure to arrive a good hour before the time stated for the authors arrival on the day… some will be there early.

Be available to help/advise/chivvy along latecomers.

Open the doors to let in the hordes. Well we like being positive.

At the end of the day – put all the tables and chairs back to the storage places if required, clean up all rubbish, gather up any lost property (you’ll be surprised at the things that get left behind). In other words, leave the venue as you found it.

Breathe. Sit back on your laurels for … at least an hour. (only kidding!!) Arrange to meet your fellow organisers as soon as possible to recap, check receipts and monetary records and to highlight any issues that arose, adding ideas to make the book fair even better.

Check with the venue management that all was well after the event. After all you’ll need them again next year… won’t you?.


Judith Barrow has lived in Pembrokeshire for nearly forty years. She is the author of five novels, and has published poetry and short fiction, winning several poetry competitions, as well as writing three children’s books and a play performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre. Judith grew up in the Pennines, has degrees in literature and creative writing and makes regular appearances at literary festivals.

Read more about Judith’s books, workshops, and events as well as her blog devoted to conversations about writing and publishing at https://judithbarrowblog.com or on twitter: twitter.com/barrow_judith

 

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