Friday, 6 June 2008
Making Hay with Honno
'In Her Element', Honno's featured book for June.
May’s seen Hotel H heaving; we’ve had the Fat Boys (five days), Lily and Boyf (long weekend), Rose and New Man (Five days. Very nice, Rose. You can keep him. Yes, Lily, Rusty is lovely too) and Stepson One and Girlf (six days). It’s wonderful to see everyone but I was very glad to have the chance of an outing last week.
When I received an invitation from the lovely people at Honno asking me to join them at the Hay Festival to celebrate 21 years of publishing, I was thrilled but a bit apprehensive about my credentials for mixing with the hip and happening. As a Hay novice, the event was smaller than I’d anticipated, even, at first, a tad disappointing; I wandered round in a bit of daze worrying that I wasn’t ‘getting’ it. But once I’d parked myself on a bench to absorb the atmosphere I started to see beyond the clichés, the Boden catalogue families, and designer wellies, organic chocolate and worthy ice creams. Look a little closer, listen to snatches of conversation and Hay’s simply about folks enjoying books.
Naturally, the highlight for me was the Honno event. I couldn’t find it at first and stood around where I thought I was supposed to be wondering where to go until someone spotted my invitation and directed me to the VIP section! Do they mean me? They surely did! Even better, they were expecting me and by the time I’d been given a name badge and a glass of wine my VIPness had gone straight to my head and I couldn’t stop grinning. After all the hours spent alone applying bum to seat in my study it was a complete contrast and a real joy to be celebrating with everyone involved with Honno.
Honno was started in 1986 by volunteer founder members working from their homes and supported by people keen to see publishing opportunities for women in Wales. It was a real privilege to hear founder members Rosanne Reeves and Luned Meredith and long-standing member Eurwen Booth talking about those early days. Thanks to their efforts I can now hold a book in my hand with my work in it and my daughter, Rose, who worked as a summer volunteer with Honno, went on that same year, to fulfil her aim of a job in publishing; we’re just two of the many women who have benefited from what they begun.
I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to meet other Honno authors like Paula Brackston and Carol King who, like me, contributed to ‘Strange Days Indeed’. Lindsay Ashford, who has had four books published in five years, and was short-listed for the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year 2006 still sounded as thrilled about her success as new writer, Lorraine Jenkin, who is enjoying accolades from her fellow dog walkers for the publication of her novel, ‘Chocolate Mousse and Two Spoons’. Do check them out at the Honno site, in fact, do have a look anyway; there’s a wide variety of beautifully produced, inexpensive books to choose from.
I left the Honno party feeling exhilarated and inspired and as I walked through the crowds something strange was happening. People got out my way and kept giving me speculative glances. I wondered what was going on until I remembered I was still wearing my name badge. No, sorry folks, I’m not a real VIP but I certainly enjoyed pretending to be one for an afternoon.
On the subject of books, I bought a slim volume of poetry at Hay by another Welsh publisher, Pont Books, an imprint of Gomer Press. ‘Poems of Love and Longing’ has become an instant favourite, especially Chris Kinsey’s beautiful and moving sequence of poems about her greyhounds. There a couple of clouds on Hotel H’s horizon, bad and sad news, just part of life’s cycle, so this book’s been a bit of a comfort read lately, something to turn to before going to sleep. I’m glad that I didn’t resist the impulse that made me pick it up.