Debut writer wins world-wide book deal after pitching idea on Twitter

In January this year, Fife-based writer Esther Rutter decided to quit her day job to write and knit her way round the British Isles, combining locally-produced wool and historic knitting patterns to explore UK’s long love affair with wool. Then a tweet set in motion a flurry of interest which has resulted in a publishing deal with Granta Books.

Rutter entered the ‘Tweet Your Pitch’ competition run by XpoNorth’s writing and publishing network at the beginning of the year, and it attracted the attention of Edinburgh literary agent Jenny Brown. This was followed by interest at the London Book Fair and, after a two-way auction, world rights were won by Bella Lacey, editorial director of Granta Books. This Golden Fleece is due to be published in Autumn 2019.

Following a successful pilot in 2016, XpoNorth’s writing and publishing network worked with Scottish publishers and agents to stage a New Year tweet pitch session, on 6 January. Scotland-based writers were given the opportunity to pitch their unpublished books to agents and publishers using the hashtag #xpo – and hundreds of ideas were pitched in the following 24 hours.

“Tweet Your Pitch is a fantastic initiative, enabling new non-fiction writers like me to grab the attention of publishers and agents with a dash of chutzpah and a good idea,” said Rutter. “Without this competition it would have taken me much longer to attract not only a well-respected and experienced agent, but also a fantastic publisher and the opportunity to be a writer-in-residence. Thank you XpoNorth for making my long-held dream of becoming a writer into a reality.”

This Golden Fleece tells the story of Britain’s long love affair with wool, and its influence on our history, landscape, and culture. Rutter, who grew up on a sheep farm in Suffolk, and learned to spin, weave and knit as a child, travels the length of the British Isles from Shetland to the West Country, unearthing fascinating histories of communities shaped by the wool trade. Along the way, she makes garments connected to those places – a pair of gloves, a scarf, socks, a fisherman’s jumper, a blanket – reminding us of the value of local craft and our long and complex relationship with wool. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @thisgoldenfleece and Twitter @thisgoldfleece.

Granta’s Bella Lacey added: “I’ve been captivated by Esther Rutter’s absorbing history of wool and her intimate, inspiring mediation of the craft and history of knitting. She’s an instinctive storyteller, with a brilliant eye for detail, and brings startling new, and forgotten, histories to the surface. I’m thrilled to be welcoming her to the Granta list.”

XpoNorth’s next initiative for new writers is a live pitch session in Inverness at Scotland’s premier creative industries festival XpoNorth, on Wednesday 7 June.