When my friend, Judith Barrow, and I – both published by Honno – realised we had been shortlisted, alongside one another, for the Literature Wales Book of the Year/Fiction Award, we immediately agreed on two things: we were chuffed to bits for one another & it was amazing to be recognised, slightly past the prime of our lives, for such a prestigious award. This led to a discussion about being published by a press that, amongst its many attributes, doesn’t see age. And I asked Judith if she would care to share her thoughts about being published by Honno. She agreed, and it’s my pleasure to hand over to her. Welcome, Judith!
Why I like being published by Honno
I’ve been a creative writing tutor for many years and am always pleased when a student of mine has a story or an article published… somewhere! But last week I was especially delighted to receive an excited call from one of them to tell me her story has been accepted for a forthcoming anthology by Honno, my own publishers. And it brought back the memory, my own moment of the excitement I felt when, some fifteen years ago, Honno accepted one of my stories for their anthology, Coming up Roses: tinyurl.com/t56r6mbx
The acceptance of that story gave me confidence to submit the first of my books to Honno. Six books later I’m still with them. And happy to stay with them.
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 it’s not only the professionalism of Honno, the specific care and attention they give to each element of producing a book, it’s the brilliant feeling of being part of a group of women who write diverse and brilliant novels. And who support one another and are generous enough to share and promote each another’s latest publication. In what we now call (and hopefully will again, to some extent before long) “normal times”, as many of us as are able meet up to talk about our writing, the current state of the writing world, new ideas for promotion – and just a general catch up on one another’s lives. And have a laugh. Oh, and lunch – and even, sometimes, a cheeky glass of wine.
This year, friend and fellow Honno author, Carol Lovekin, and I were honoured to be shortlisted for The Wales Book of the Year. Me for my novel, The Memory: bit.ly/3b2xRSn and Carol for Wild Spinning Girls: bit.ly/3gJx4dJ . It was an enjoyable and gratifying experience. We were delighted, not only for ourselves, but for Honno as well. A reward for all the hard work put in on both sides.
Thank you very much for your words, Judith. It goes with saying, I echo your sentiments about Honno – it’s wonderful to see our remarkable publisher acknowledged in this way. And well done us! It was an honour to be shortlisted with you. Here’s to more books by women of a certain age!
And before I go, dear reader, may I say how much I recommend Judith’s books.
Honno is a Welsh word meaning, ‘that one (feminine) who is elsewhere.’