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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.

 

Feminism and Women’s Presses

I first began to identify as a feminist at the age of twenty. As a teenager I came into contact with feminist ideas from reading novels like Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea and plays such as Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, but I didn’t yet realise that I could be a feminist or that I could contribute to this dialogue in some way. My relationship with feminism changed in 2001 when I stumbled across the Silver Moon Bookshop on Charing Cross Road and encountered my first literary, feminist space.

I think Silver Moon and the extensive selection of books it stocked altered my understanding of feminism, as it enabled me to connect what had been an abstract philosophy to a living movement which could potentially be a force for change. During this summer I visited the Silver Moon a number of times to buy novels and browse large art books, discovering the works of Judy Chicago and Georgia O’Keeffe in the process. Running my fingers along the spines I came across names of publishers I’d never heard of before such as The Feminist Press, Pandora Press, The Women’s Press and Virago. It was here I bought my first Virago title: The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. I think as a newly identifying feminist I was drawn to the provocative title and plus it was the perfect reading material for the train to accompany my newly shaved head and pink Doc Martens!

Now, sixteen years later, my feminism is more often expressed in the petitions I share on social media than in my appearance, but reading feminist and women’s literature published by the presses I discovered at Silver Moon has remained a constant. I have also discovered a few more along the way including Honno Welsh Women’s Press when I moved to Wales. During a recent discussion hosted by The Women’s Equality Network Wales in partnership with Honno I began to think more about these different labels such as ‘feminist’ and ‘women’s’ and what they have come to represent in publishing.

At the end of the 1980s, not long after Honno was founded, Nicci Gerrard questioned feminist publishing’s narrow commitment to ‘books about feminism’ and suggested an increase in the publication of ‘books influenced by feminism.’[1] Fifteen years on Simone Murray asked: ‘[W]hen is a women’s press a Feminist Press?’ and ‘does a press’s feminism reside in its means or its ends?’[2] In 2014 Catherine Riley concluded that Virago’s takeover in 1995 by Little, Brown (now owned by the mainstream conglomerate Hachette Livre) means that they now ‘reach a wide audience’. She concludes that ‘Virago has certainly adapted its way of conveying feminist messages, but retains its quiet influence. This has kept it relevant, continuing the attempt to convey feminist politics through publishing’.[3]

Therefore, is a press only a feminist press if all aspects of its operations are feminist-minded? And can this only be achieved if a press remains independent? Or is it the case that the ‘feminism’ resides in the output? But then should the output be solely about feminism or can it be more broadly influenced by feminism? Should feminist presses only be run by and publish women or is feminism actually a mind-set, an approach to be actioned by individuals of any gender? If a press is subsumed by a mainstream publisher is it a compromise or a progression? Although these questions are too vast to answer here they do reveal a complexity of purpose and thought which needs to be engaged with when discussing the future of women’s and feminist presses. Since the period of second-wave feminism – when many of these independent presses were first established – the publishing industry has changed dramatically and, as a result, presses like Honno are navigating a constantly shifting landscape whilst still trying to fulfil their key founding principles.

Here We Stand book coverHonno can be labelled a women’s press because it publishes only women and even though not every title is explicitly about feminism Honno is certainly motivated by a feminist agenda. For example its commitment to publishing reprints of titles by women long out of print reintroduces the writings of our ‘literary foremothers’ to the reading community. This series highlights a distinct women’s canon and provides further evidence of a history of feminist consciousness pre-1970.[4] Alongside its fiction list, Honno publishes biographies of women such as the Jewish writer from Wales Lily Tobias. Books like The Greatest Need reveal a history of female activism and creativity in Wales often hidden from view. As well as bringing to light Wales’ feminist history Honno also strives to document contemporary women campaigners. A good example is Honno’s recent anthology Here We Stand: a collection of interviews and articles which give an insight into modern issues, highlighting why the feminist movement is still relevant today.     

Although not a physical bookshop like Silver Moon was, Honno has also created a feminist, literary space which can potentially be a force for a change. It puts forward an alternative historical narrative which reveals a rich seam of feminist thought and action in Wales. This strategy continues to raise the profile of female writings whilst curating a historical foundation on which Honno’s contemporary writers can build. In her article on Virago press, Catherine Riley decries ‘the relative lack of published work on the important phenomenon of feminist publishing.’[5] Therefore, as Honno celebrates its thirtieth birthday is it now time for their contribution to feminism in Wales to be fully evaluated?

Biography

Calista Williams recently completed her PhD on ‘The National Library of Wales and National Identity c.1840-1916’ which was assisted by an innovative collaboration between the Open University and the National Library of Wales. She is currently researching the lives of the women who used the National Library when it first opened in 1909. Calista is now a Lifelong Learning Humanities teacher at Aberystwyth University.

caw52@aber.ac.uk

@Ca7ista

 

HONNO ARE CELEBRATING FEMINIST BOOK FORTNIGHT ON THE 20TH JUNE 2018, 6.30PM, AT THE BOOKSHOP, ABERYSTWYTH ARTS CENTRE.

 

[1] Nicci Gerrard, Into the Mainstream. How Feminism Has Changed Women’s Writing (London: Pandora Press, 1989), p.25.

[2] Simone Murray, ‘The Cuala Press: Women, publishing, and the conflicted genealogies of ‘feminist publishing’’, Women’s Studies International Forum, No.27 (2004), pp.489-506, pp.492-493.

[3] Catherine Riley, ‘‘The Message is in the Book’: What Virago’s Sale in 1995 Means for Feminist Publishing’, Women: A Cultural Review, Vol.25, No.3 (2014), pp.235-255, p.253.

[4] Cherie Kramarae and Dale Spender ‘Exploding Knowledge’ in Kramarae and Spender (eds.), The Knowledge Explosion. Generations of Feminst Scholarship (New York: Teachers College Press, 1992), pp.1-26, p.18.

[5] Riley, ‘‘The Message is in the Book’, p.236.

 

Honno Press – over 30 years of creating, publishing and companionship

An early Honno committee meeting with Luned Meredith, Althea Osmond, Rosanne Reeves, Leigh Verrill-Rhys (l-r) © Suzanne Greenslade

Back in October 1986 Honno was established as a Welsh Women’s Community Co-operative, the ‘Community’ being Wales. This was not a sudden event but a part and reflection of the enthusiasm and excitement which developed amongst women in Wales in political, academic and literary circles in a far-reaching campaign to draw attention to, and transform the sexist attitudes towards the role of the woman in the home and communities of Wales.

In the early 1980s Women’s Sections were established by Plaid Cymru and the Labour Party in Wales; a number of refuges were opened for women in Wales by Welsh Women’s aid; programmes on the history of women were broadcast, produced by new feminist independent companies; a series of articles were published discussing ‘the problems and aspirations of the women of our nation and other nations of the world’ in Asen Adda (Gomer 1975) edited by Ruth Stephens; the title Out of the Shadows (University of Wales Press 1981) by Deirdre Beddoe was published, creating a stir when she announced that Welsh women were invisible in the history of their country and in January 1986, to the great surprise of many, a special edition of the literary male-centered journal Y Traethodydd was dedicated to Welsh language literature and feminist criticism, written jointly by Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan, Kathryn Curtis, Elin ap Hywel and Marged Haycock. Around this time many students took an interest in, and specialised in women’s studies thus enriching the literary scene in Wales by presenting papers and books on all aspects of the life of women in Wales.

Caroline Oakley, Honno’s Editor, and Eurwen Booth, Committee member, toast Honno, at the 30th celebration. © Maria Wyles

 

In such an atmosphere, unsurprisingly, a group of women from different parts of Wales had the same idea at the same time, i.e. that now was the time to establish a publishing venture promoting writings by the neglected women writers of Wales. Numerous meetings and discussions followed and it was decided to assess the demand by writing to some hundreds of individuals asking them to buy as many £5 shares as they liked (with one vote for each shareholder at AGMs). We were encouraged by the response. We raised around £4000, and it became obvious that there was support for the idea. As a result Honno was founded, under the care of a voluntary executive committee including Kathryn Curtis, Ann Howells, Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan, Luned Meredith, Althea Osmond, Rosanne Reeves and Leigh Verrill-Rhys.

 

Over 30 years later we are delighted that these determined and passionate women have been recognised, with the Honno founders being included in WEN Wales’s list of 100 legendary Welsh Women.

Some of WEN Wales’s 100 legendary Welsh women with Honno founders Sheleagh Llewellyn, Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan and Rosanne Reeves (back row, 6,7,8 from left).

However, much more needs to be done, since there are many other female writers waiting to be taken out from the shadows – historical personalities, who worked tirelessly in their communities, and who portrayed their experiences in fiction and fact. As well as continuing to give a voice to the great contemporary women writers of Wales. Without doubt, we still need a publishing house like Honno, the only independent women’s press of note still remaining in the United Kingdom. And so, we look forward confidently to another 30 years!

 

 

 

 


 

Rosanne Reeves, is one of Honno’s founding members, Editor of the Clasuron Honno, and author of Dwy Gymraes, Dwy Gymru: Hanes Bywyd a Gwaith Gwyneth Vaughan a Sara Maria Saunders; Caerdydd: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru, 2014 .

Q&A with Editor Caroline Oakley

We will be featuring interviews with members of the Honno staff and committee on a regular basis – starting with our Editor/Publisher, Caroline Oakley.

 

Caroline OakleyHow long have you been working at Honno?

I’ve worked at Honno since January 2005 – at first I worked two days per week reading the submitted manuscripts and editing contracted titles. From 2008 I’ve combined editing with a publishing role, which includes some budgeting, scheduling the publications list, writing funding applications, rights management and liaison with the Welsh Books Council from whom we receive revenue funding towards the production of books and staff costs. I’ve done as little as two days a week as a freelance sub-contractor and as much as five days a week as a salaried member of staff. It’s been an interesting journey, and in 2011/12 Honno were good enough to grant me a sabbatical year to study for a Masters degree in the Teaching and Practice of Creative Writing.

What did you do before you worked at Honno?

Initially I worked simultaneously for Honno and my previous employer the Centre for Alternative Technology [CAT] in two part time roles. Before joining CAT’s publications team I was with the Orion Publishing Group for five years working as an Editorial Director for Orion Paperbacks and the Millennium imprint. I’ve also worked for Headline Books, WH Allen and Grafton Books (now part of Harper Collins). I worked my way up in publishing from Editorial Secretary to Publisher over the course of rather too many years than I’d care to mention.

What is the most important part of your job?

Ooh – that’s a big question. They’re all important in different ways, without any one of them it would be hard to publish successfully. But certainly without submissions Honno wouldn’t have authors and books to print, so it’s probably both assessing submissions and taking part in other initiatives that bring in titles and authors such as our regular meet-the-editor sessions and writers’ workshops.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Finding new writers, helping them hone their writing skills and sharing their delight when their books are read and loved.

Tell me about the difficult aspects of your job?

The most difficult bit of my job is finding the time to do all parts of it equally efficiently and fully – time is always short and in publishing there is always something more you could do. More reading, more polishing, more coming up with pitches to potential rights purchasers from foreign language rights scouts to film and tv producers. And now, with the rising importance of social media there is a whole new field of endeavour into which book promotion could venture – and we all know how much time can be spent in the wormholes that are Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

What do you like to do outside of work?

When there’s time I like to sew my own clothes, grow my own food and read something that someone else has edited. I also try to spend time outdoors looking at the horizon as an energising change from screen or paper.

What do you like to read?

Anything from SF and Fantasy, to crime, garden writing, memoir and general fiction – even the back of a cereal packet if there’s nothing else about. Recent favourites include Just Kids by Patti Smith and The Digby Cynan Jones; one I couldn’t get into: I Saw A Man by Owen Sheers.

 

You can find Caroline on Twitter @Caroline_edits

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