Dr John D RutterSaraband are to publish John D Rutter’s novel Approval, which follows would-be adoptive parents David and Cici through the complex local authority pre-adoption process.  Approval, Rutter’s first book, has won the 2020 NorthBound Book Prize. He completed his PhD at Edge Hill in 2017 and is an Associate Tutor of Creative Writing at Edge Hill. 

Would-be adopter’s story asks ‘uncomfortable questions about a painful, intrusive process’ 

Approval tackles the painful experience of childlessness and the path to becoming adoptive parents, viewed largely from the seldom-explored man’s perspective. Focusing on David’s past, each chapter opens with a simulated page of a local authority questionnaire for prospective adopters, interrogating an aspect of applicants’ histories – including their families, early life and schooling, previous relationships, past and present friendships, childcare experience and career. Linked short stories each centre on an episode in David’s background that relates to the opening question.

Fragments of David’s back story – some of them exposing flaws or difficult experiences – gradually build a picture of a couple struggling to balance their hopes and fears while confronting revelations from the past.

John Rutter says: “The Northbound Book Award will change my life. Having started writing relatively late in life, I can finally say I am an author and commit my time to writing. I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with Saraband.”

Sara Hunt said: “Approval is a powerful and accomplished work that asks uncomfortable questions about a painful, intrusive process. With an unflinching eye, the author draws the reader into the process of judgement, chapter by chapter. Against a strong field, this is an outstanding winner, and we can’t wait to publish the book.”


John D Rutter is a writer of and about short stories, who also teaches and edits. He completed an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and a PhD on the short story at Edge Hill University, where he has taught part-time for several years. Approval is his first full-length work. His short stories have been published as chapbooks and in anthologies, as well as in a number of journals and magazines. Prior to writing and teaching full-time, he worked in management. He lives in Lancashire with his wife, Lin.

About the NorthBound Book Prize

The NorthBound Book Prize is one of the Northern Writers’ Awards and is a collaboration between New Writing North and Saraband, judged by representatives of both organisations. It is funded by Northumbria University and Arts Council England. The award is for a full-length work of fiction or narrative non-fiction written for adults, and the winner receives £5000 in prize money and a publishing contract with Saraband. The prize was first awarded in 2019, to J.A. Mensah.

About Saraband: Saraband is an award-winning independent publisher of outstanding fiction, absorbing nature writing, pressing environmental issues and compelling memoir. Over the last quarter century, we have provided a platform for underrepresented voices that are often overlooked, championing diversity and inclusion as part of our commitment to excellence – and to our readers of all ages and backgrounds, wherever they may live. Our authors have won or been shortlisted for many awards, including the Booker Prize, Wainwright award, Rathbones Folio and a host of others.