'Writing Saved My Life'
Fairlady|May 2018

Sally Partridge tells us how she went from working as a receptionist at a factory to being an award-winning author, why she loves writing for and about teens, and why you should never set aside your dreams for someone else.

Liesl Robertson

Sally Partridge has always been a storyteller.

‘We used to go on long car trips when I was a kid and I would make up stories to entertain my parents,’ she says. ‘I used to rattle off stories about fairies and unicorns and all sorts of things. My parents were busy so I was on my own a lot; I think that’s where the imagination came from. Over time, that evolved into writing in notebooks at school and on the back of exam papers waiting for the exam to end. It’s a compulsion that never quite went away.’

She grew up surrounded by books: ‘My mom was a ferocious S reader – she still is. My dad, too. 

We had more books in the house than furniture.’

Despite their shared love of reading, Sally doesn’t think she takes after either of her parents.

‘I’m very bookish, but we’re very different, all of us. She describes her childhood as ‘not the most affluent’. ‘We lived in my grandmother’s house when I was growing up. When I left school, I did two years of college, but it wasn’t English or anything like that.’

At her grandmother’s behest, Sally studied tourism, but she never really took to it.

‘I did two years, but I didn’t complete the third year. Then I began doing smallish jobs like data capturing,’ she says.

A few years down the line, Sally found herself in a job she hated.

‘I was working as a receptionist at an aluminium factory in Montague Gardens, which was horrible. There was literally one door separating me from the factory floor.’ Dispirited, she took refuge in her writing.

‘I’d always been writing; I had these notebooks from when I was a teenager, with stories I’d written, and there was one I’d actually finished.’ It was a dark teen novel, set in a boarding school.

‘They start a poison club – they poison the headmaster and people they hate, and try to frame the new kid for it,’ she says. ‘I was so proud of it that I sent it off to every publisher in South Africa, including Human & Rousseau, but they all rejected it.’

Undeterred, Sally submitted her story to YOU magazine, which was running a writing competition.

‘I entered, and won! The first prize was getting your book published – with Human & Rousseau. When I found out my book was being published, I couldn’t believe it. It pretty much changed my life. I’ve been publishing with H&R ever since; this is my fifth novel with them.’

Inspired by her success, Sally applied for a job writing online ads.

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