Welsh women writers share co-operative platform

A Welsh women’s press is aiming for the bestseller list with its latest release. Honno Press, an independent co-op run by women for Welsh female authors, has just...

A Welsh women’s press is aiming for the bestseller list with its latest release. Honno Press, an independent co-op run by women for Welsh female authors, has just published the second novel from Thorne Moore, bestselling author of Welsh mystery A Time for Silence.

Motherlove is a family drama and a psychological thriller. “Think Jodie Picoult,” says Honno editor Caroline Oakley. “We’re backing Thorne Moore for the top. She’s already been a top ten bestseller in Bookseller magazine’s top ten ebooks, for June last year.”

The press is also re-publishing two books in its Welsh Women’s Classics series, which brings work by great Welsh women writers of the past to a new generation of readers.

“Lily Tobias was a wonderful Welsh-Jewish writer publishing during the middle of the twentieth century and an incredible activist for causes ranging from women’s suffrage to the establishment of a Jewish homeland,” Caroline says. “She was one of the first inhabitants of the co-operative housing movement, living in Rhiwbina, Cardiff, in the garden village there.

“This month we’re republishing her first novel My Mother’s House and the first biography of her life in writing and politics, The Greatest Need, by Dr Jasmine Donahaye of Swansea University. We’ve previously republished her novel Eunice Fleet.”

Honno was established in 1986 by volunteers who wanted to increase the opportunities for Welsh women in publishing and bring Welsh women’s literature to a wider readership. They launched a share offer and in the first six months more than 400 people bought shares.

Most of Honno’s titles are novels, autobiographies and short story anthologies in English, or classics in both Welsh and English. It has also published poetry and children’s and teenage titles.

The co-op is run entirely by women. A committee of ten volunteers sets the strategic direction of the press, decides the publishing programme and manages the office and staff. There are currently four staff, who mostly work from Honno’s office in Aberystwyth.

Marketing manager Helena Earnshaw says: “We don’t exclude men from joining either the committee or the staff, but inevitably the interest is mainly from women. As an employer Honno is very supportive of the needs of its employees and demands on them such as childcare or supporting family members and allows for flexible working where practicable.

“One of its core aims is to provide employment for women in publishing in Wales. We provide a platform for new writers largely through our commissioned anthologies – fiction and non-fiction – on a different theme each year. These usually contain a mix of new and established writers.”

Some writers go on to write novels, sometimes for Honno, sometimes for other publishers. Others prefer to continue with short fiction. The co-op also has an unofficial mentoring scheme whereby a Honno editor works with promising writers on their manuscripts free of charge, with an eye towards publication, but with no obligation on either side.

It runs open workshops on writing and publishing which are attended by Honno authors and other writers. “We’ve invited several of our authors to hold their own workshops,”says Helena.

“We also hold ‘meet the editor’ sessions where writers, not just Honno authors, can have one-to-one sessions with our editor.

“In the marketing department we aim to nurture our authors’ strengths and support them. As a small organisation we don’t always have the financial resources we’d like to promote their books, so we work with supporting them in their own efforts. Honno in turn is supported by the Welsh Books Council, both financially and through training courses, and we regularly work with other Welsh publishers.”

A Facebook group enables Honno authors to exchange information and news. “They support each other’s books,” adds Helena, “inviting other Honno authors for guest interviews on their blogs, tweeting news and being excited when one of them has a success or a new book out.”

In this article

Join the Conversation