Windmill pre-empts naturalist's 'powerful' memoir in 24 hours

Windmill pre-empts naturalist's 'powerful' memoir in 24 hours

Windmill has signed Sally Huband's non-fiction debut, the story of a woman who combs Shetland beaches to find her place, in a 24-hour pre-empt.

Titled Sea Bean, the work is described as a "deeply honest memoir from a naturalist who sees the poetry in an otter's footprint or a fulmar's stomach contents, the potency in the myths of motherhood, the connectivity of the oceans and the relationship between islands, seascapes, body and self in our wild and modern world".

Publishing director Charlotte Cray pre-empted world rights in the memoir in 24 hours from James Macdonald Lockhart from Antony Harwood Ltd. It will be published in hardback by Windmill Books in spring 2022 and in paperback in 2023.

In 2011 Huband moved with her family to Shetland during the first of the autumn storms that would pound the islands all winter long. Two years later, her second child was born on the islands, but during the pregnancy, the base of Sally's spine was damaged and the pregnancy also triggered the onset of autoimmune disease. As Huband's relationship with her body changed, she took to wandering the many strandlines of the archipelago to see what the sea had washed up.

According to Windmill, this obsession with beachcombing "restored her to herself" and "became a summons to understand the islands in all their fragility and glory". It explained: "For on these shores, Sally was not alone. Shetland's unique position between the North Atlantic and the North Sea transforms these beaches into depositories for seaborne objects from far and wide. Here are tiny treasures that can be found if we look for them, and – from tightly coiled birch bark from Canada, messages in bottles from Norway – to very occasionally, a sea bean that has drifted all the way north from the Tropics– Sally found the world in her hands."

Cray said: "Sally’s story of self-discovery is truly powerful – it’s an invitation for readers to look at the wonders of the world more closely. Her exquisite plunge into her relationship with seascape, body and self make this an unforgettable memoir."

Huband said: "I couldn’t have wished for a more enthusiastic home than the one that Sea Bean has found with Charlotte and the team at Windmill. I’m really excited to begin the process of working with Charlotte to transform a manuscript full of islands, storms, messages in bottles, mermaid’s purses, magical charms, sea glass, cetaceans and seabirds into a fully-fledged book."

Huband won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award for narrative non-fiction in 2017 and as part of that award her work has been mentored by writer Sara Maitland. While her articles have appeared in various publications, including BBC Wildlife magazine. She also has an essay in Antlers of Water (Canongate, 2020), an anthology of writing on the nature and environment of Scotland, edited by Kathleen Jamie.