The story behind the stories

• Stories •
Mary Duncan

The story behind Surfing Sally

After spending a year in the Orkney Islands, in the far north of Scotland, I returned to my home in Kommetjie on South Africa’s Cape Peninsula. I was inspired to fulfil a personal challenge, and wanted to see if all the years I’d spent working in the publishing industry on books and magazines had equipped me to take my own idea through to print. I was keen for the full responsibility and was prepared to take a chance on the big costs involved.

So I wrote the story I knew best: about living in a small, seaside village near the southwestern tip of Africa with my two salty dogs, walking the beach before and after work, photographing the sea birds, and surfing as often as I could. The three of us lived happily in a converted boatshed for seven years.

Everything in Surfing Sally is true, from the reflections in the bubbles of foam to the circles of rainbow I dived through when the sun shone directly onto the waves, and staying in the sea until dark while Tom and Tia waited in the moonlight.

I invited Wendy McKeag to illustrate my story as she too loves the sea, bright colours and the fresh sea air. She also knew Tom and Tia, my boatshed under milkwood trees, and me. She captured the spirit of Sally beautifully, with the playfulness, joy and colour I’d hoped for.

The sequel to Surfing Sally

To my surprise, I sold all 2000 Surfing Sallys that I printed. And then I realised it was only half the story. I also wanted to write a story about the place where I found my inspiration: the Orkney Islands. Although there’s no direct reference to Orkney in Singing Sally, all the illustrations are of the people and places that inspired me there. What’s more is that it took me on an astonishing journey to discover that my grandfather’s family had come from Orkney and Shetland.

I’ve since reprinted Surfing Sally to go with Singing Sally and so they’re both out there now, ready to share the joy of singing and surfing 🙂

Mary Duncan

Wendy who did the illustrations for Surfing Sally

• Illustrations •
Wendy McKeag

Surfing Sally children’s book illustration

Surfing Sally

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Singing Sally

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