Throughout the last few decades – and arguably centuries – Welsh writing has suffered a great deal of oversight, when it comes to recognition on the wider literary scene.
Although much has long been recognised by both critics and readers of Welsh writing – as is the often case within groups of writers and artists – Welsh women have suffered the severest neglect, often by these same critics and readers.
This situation has not arisen from a lack of quality in Welsh writing by women, or a dearth of interest in them – quite the opposite. A fact which Honno recognised, decades ago, and more importantly, did something about.
Honno is an independent co-operative press, dedicated to the promotion of Welsh women’s literature and run entirely by women. It was established in 1986 by a group of volunteers, and since then has been maintained with the support of the Welsh public; thriving on the faith of its individual shareholders, all dedicated to Honno’s mission.
A mission which some might call a labour of love, but arguably, is more a labour of necessity: Honno is one of the few presses in Wales to answer the desperate call for more female voices on the Welsh literary scene.
But beyond its promotion of contemporary Welsh women’s literature, Honno also helps unearth the voices and work of Welsh women writers once burrowed by decades of oversight. Honno’s Classics series is dedicated to the re-issuing of novels by Welsh women writers that had fallen out of print; restoring writers such as Allen Raine, Dorothy Edwards, Menna Gallie, Margiad Evans, and Winnie Parry to their proper places of renown.
In addition to its classic titles, Honno’s output also encompasses novels, autobiographies, and short story anthologies, primarily in English. However it also publishes poetry, child and young adult fiction, and many titles in Welsh.
As a result, interest in Welsh women writers – both public and academic – has rocketed in the years since Honno’s inception. Many of the talented writers once in danger of being forever forgotten are now being studied on university courses, and fallen in love with all over again, in the living rooms, bedrooms, and minds of readers, throughout Wales and beyond its borders.
Honno is located in Aberystwyth, run by a committee of volunteers, and receives financial support from the Welsh Books Council. Just recently – in 2012 – Honno celebrated 25 years of excellent publishing.
To mark the occasion Honno published its own anthology, All Shall Be Well; composed of 25 pieces of fiction and non-fiction, cherry-picked from their best publications. The anthology featured acclaimed writers such as Patricia Duncker, Sian James, Sarah Jackman, and Jo Mazelis, and was named Wales Book of the Month June 2012.
At the Welsh Writer’s Trust we happily look forward to both Honno’s next anthology, and the next 25 years, of – in the words of Honno themselves – ‘Great Books, Great Writing, Great Women.’
Honno provides both essential restoration and a rallying cry, within Wales. Hopefully we will see their work continue to inspire readers and publishers to delve deeper; into the untapped world of Welsh women’s writing, and the wealth of talent therein.
Or, as Sarah Waters puts it:
‘Hooray for Honno! For a quarter of a century its classic and contemporary titles have been reminding us why Welsh women’s voices should be nurtured and celebrated, why Welsh women’s writing should be read and re-read. Wales, the UK, and the British literary scene would all be the poorer without Honno. I wish it every possible success as it heads into its next 25 years.’
As do we.