Icon has bagged a two-book deal with nature writer and 2021 BBC National Short Story Award shorlistee Richard Smyth.
Commissioning editor Clare Bullock acquired world rights direct from the author. The first book in the deal draws upon his experience of fatherhood. Leaf, Feather, Bone, Shell: Teaching My Kids About Wild Things will be published in spring 2023, with a second non-fiction work to be published in 2025.
Leaf, Feather, Bone, Shell sees him describe how, on becoming a father, he found a new joy in showing his children the everyday wild things around them. As he and his children explore rockpools in Whitley Bay, or the woods and moors near his Yorkshire home, the book will imagine the world they might inhabit as they grow up.
The publisher said: "Through different objects discovered on their wanderings – a beech leaf, jay feather, or limpet shell – Smyth will examine his own past as well as that of the early natural historians, weaving together history, memoir and environmentalism to form a new kind of nature writing – one that both asks what we have lost, and what we have yet to find."
Bullock said: "I first met Richard at a New Writing North event in 2017 and have admired his writing ever since; in that time he has become one of the most exciting voices in nature writing working today. As soon as the team at Icon read the proposal for Leaf, Feather, Shell, Bone, we knew this was the real thing. Richard writes with great insight, intelligence and a total lack of pretension about the natural world, the complex relationship that humans have with our surroundings, and what that means for our children. It's a privilege to bring him to the list as Icon continues to grow."
Smyth is the author of six books of non-fiction and his commentaries on nature writing have appeared in the New Statesman, TLS and the Fence. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Literary Review, History Today, the Author and New Humanist, among others. His short stories have also been widely published.
He said: "I'm thrilled to be working with Icon on a book that I hope will capture a little bit of the magic that happens when children start to explore and discover wild nature and wild places – however close to home they might be. It's something that shaped my own childhood and it's something I'm so excited to be seeing in my own kids as they grow up. How our kids interact with nature is such an important, rich, complicated, marvellous subject – and an increasingly urgent one."