This post is another one of those detours from the Landing Bookshelves that keep happening despite my best intentions. My only excuse is that if you discover a new (to you) author or publisher, you have a bounden duty to pass it on to anyone who may be interested. Well, as excuses go…
I came across Honno Press for the first time while book reviewing for www.belletrista.com The novel in question, Winter Sonata (Dorothy Edwards, originally published in 1928) was part of the Honno Classics imprint. As I rather shamefacedly confessed at the time, I mistook this Dorothy Edwards for a children’s writer of the same name and when I realised my error did a bit of research into the other Dorothy Edwards at the same time as researching Honno Press.
Dorothy Edwards (1903-1934) was a very talented Welsh writer who published a collection of short stories called Rhapsody the year before her first novel in 1928. Winter Sonata contains a useful essay by Clare Flay about Dorothy Edwards and I also found a link to a copy of the original press account of her death by suicide. A sad loss to women’s literature indeed. After reading her novel (see review here) I will try to get hold of her short stories.
Honno (Welsh feminine form of ‘that’) Press was set up in 1986 with the twin aims of giving a wider platform to Welsh women writers and for increasing the opportunities in the publishing industry for the women of Wales. The company was set up as a co-operative with around 400 shares sold to members of the public in the first six months of trading.
The press, based in Aberystwyth, still operates within its original remit of only publishing work by women from Wales. Prospective writers either have to be Welsh or living in Wales or have significant Welsh connections. Apart from its shareholders’ continuing support, the press has received financial support from The Welsh Books Council and the European Union for its worthy endeavours to promote Welsh women’s literature. The publisher’s list boasts an impressive 450 authors whose work covers fiction (contemporary and classic), poetry, memoir and non-fiction as well as children’s and teen fiction.
The catalogue has a strong Welsh language list as well, including books by well-known teen author Malorie Blackman translated into Welsh by Gwenllian Dafydd. Browsing through the Classics list has given me plenty of authors that I had not previously come across. As with the Persephone Books reprints (of which more another time perhaps) books that have slipped out of the reading public’s consciousness are given the chance to live again. Honno Classics provides a great opportunity to explore some rediscovered gems. I was particularly interested in the memoirs and some fiction reprints from the 1930s.
Over the years of Honno’s existence, many books have been prizewinners or have been included on awards shortlists. During the early years, Carol Anne Courtney won the 1989 ‘Wales Book of the Year’ for Morphine and Dolly Mixtures. More recently, Kitty Sewell’s thriller Ice Trap was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger in 2006. Coming right up to date Lorraine Jenkin’s comic novel Cold Enough to Freeze Cows won one of the top three prizes in the finals of the ‘Peoples Book Prize’ 2011.
To further the aims of the press in encouraging fresh new talent, Honno runs a programme of regular writing workshops (the next one is in January 2012) and hold ‘meet the editor’ sessions for prospective writers. Editors actively seek new writers for Honno Press with regular calls for submission for work they wish to include in the Honno short story collections. I am certainly planning to treat myself to couple of new books now that I have discovered this publisher; there might yet be a rival to my Persephone collection.
For further information on publications and workshops check out the website www.honno.co.uk
If anyone else has got any Honno Press favourites I would love to hear about them. Until next time…