Sally Watson was a top-notch author of historical fiction. Her books have been recognized around the world for their fiery, independent female characters, historical accuracy and level of detailed research.
You will enjoy reading her memoirs: Dance to a Different Piper, a tremendous account of her lifetime adventures.
Here is a quick summation written by Sally: "The memories of a woman
born in 1924: a kitten in a kennel, totally out of step with
her peers, dancing to her own piper. With neither the
inclination nor ability to conform, Sally flatly refused
even to consider the few options open to a female then: wife
and mother, nurse, typist or schoolteacher. Gifted with
fierce independence, a strong sense of the absurd, a
passion for patterns, words and color, and a flair for
writing, dancing and cartooning, she created her own
destiny, 25 published books, and a joyous, adventurous, and
richly fulfilled life described in these
About the Author
(Pictured circa 1947*)
Sally Watson: Born January 1924 in Seattle, Washington and lived a rich, fulfilling life until departing this world, March 2022 in Santa Rosa, California.
"Picked up phonics from Mother's kindergarten before I was two; the next thing anyone knew I was reading independently, which I went on doing for 12 years of public school, under my desk instead of arithmetic or geography. Rotten grades, didn't know how to study, I just read and wrote. Mum said I wrote my first book when I was four. Four pages, lavishly illustrated, begun with total phonic accuracy: "The sun roze up." From that, she decided that I should grow up to write books for children. Well, it was true I loved words and had a collection, just for fun, of synonyms for "said" and adverbs to accompany it. But when Mum suggested that I might write books for children, I sneered. For one thing, I'd read a book that convinced me one had to be a total genius and collect rejections for ten years. For another, I was going to travel all over Europe and study Highland Dancing and Judo and be a Prima Ballerina, I was.
At 16 or so, I discovered that I wasn't. Not a Prima Ballerina anyhow, and darned if I was going to settle for the corps de ballet. Disgruntled, I further realized that alone among my peers I hadn't the least interest in marriage and families. Nor in office work, the only thing going for women in the '30's.
Joined the Navy in 1944 and after that mess was over, I decided to go to college, and applied to Reed without knowing enough not to. They took me, it turned out, on "possible potential," and I waltzed innocently in...and by the time I realized that I would have to commit several major and sustained miracles to stay there, it was too late to do anything else. I was hooked by the intellectual excitement. (An astrologer once told me I had "a jack-ass determination that never knew when it was beaten, and consequently seldom was." True, I guess. A useful, albeit sometimes uncomfortable, quality.) At any rate, it was there I learned the discipline to write, but still had no idea of doing it. That childhood conviction was still with me.
But what to do? I still wanted neither marriage nor the office work I was temporarily stuck with. Moved to San Francisco, and then L.A., where (on Hollywood and Vine, true to cliche) I ran into an old high school friend who had just had a children's story published in a real magazine! Mental barriers collapsed all around me with almost audible crashes. I rushed home and started Highland Rebel that night.
I must have had a lot of writing dammed up in me. The first draft wrote itself in three weeks, the final in another three. It was accepted by the first place I submitted it, Henry Holt, without revision! And I was such a novice I didn't even know this was remarkable luck. (Needless to say, it never happened again.)
After three books, I had enough money to go to Europe for five months. Three more books, and I went back to England for a year and studied Highland dancing and wrote some more books. Passport and money ran out, so back to California for five years, helping Mother put out the first-ever audio-visual phonics course (which I now see duplicated virtually everywhere I turn. Never mind, Mother had good material, and the more who use it, the better.) Once it was accepted for publication, I realized I could now live in England on royalties, whereas I couldn't begin to in the U.S. So I went there and did that, and joined in Mensa, and went on writing books, and took up Judo at age 45, and I reckon I'm the only woman ever to do that and make Black Belt. Third Dan, at that.
Then, in about 1972, the bottom fell out. Up until then, my books were selling slowly but steadily, mostly to schools and libraries; and every time stocks got low, they just printed up a new edition. Now tax laws, it seems, were changed so that it was now uneconomical for publishers to keep books in stock over the turn of the year. So all twelve of my books went out of print almost simultaneously. And I was engrossed in Judo and also in copper enameling, and gardening my English country garden, and raising cats. So I stopped writing. And old fans kept writing and asking for copies of my books, and there weren't any.
After 24 years in England, I came back to America, the Sonoma County (not Napa) wine country, and joined a cat-rescue-and-adoption group and helped form another; and old fans kept on pleading for copies, and I discovered that feisty heroines are more needed now than in the '50s and '60s...so..."
Did you know...?
*Sally Watson (pictured above left circa 1947) tells us of a remarkable coincidence concerning this photo taken for a college Little Theater - just around the time of Lauren Bacall's appearance in To Have and Have Not.
Sally writes, "Remember that 'Anybody got a match?' scene? Same pose, same hair, same expression! I really took a ribbing! Well, I thought that was THAT. It wasn't. Fast forward to - '55 or so? When Mistress Malapert came out. Illustrated by someone the publishers found, in N.Y. unknown to me and vice-versa, who, to start, turned Elizabethan costume into Edwardian. In all my indignant kefuffle about that, I didn't notice faces until my friends began telling me that they all seemed to be me. Had a good look. Especially at the one on p. 133 (of Mistress Malapert)! There it was!"