New Writers Awards 2017: Helen MacKenzie

Children's and Young Adult

Helen originally qualified as a solicitor, but when she stopped work to concentrate on her young family, she combined her knowledge of the law and love of writing and became a freelance copywriter instead. She’s been writing content for legal firms and other professional organisations for over thirteen years now.

Helen recently completed a Curtis Brown Creative online course on writing for children, mentored by Catherine Johnson, and her writing achievements include being shortlisted for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition 2016 and for Scottish Book Trust’s 2016 and 2015 New Writers Awards: Children’s and Young Adult Fiction..

Helen is in the throes of completing her first Young Adult novel, but over the years she has written two other unpublished books - a middle grade story and a romance novel. She has also written several shorter stories for younger children, also unpublished.


Writing Sample

Dreeet dreeet! Dreeet dreeet!

‘Whassat?’ I snap upright in bed, instantly awake. A sharp rush of fear prickles my skin.

I look round. It’s dark, but the orange glow of the streetlights lets me check out the room: all of a jumble with clothes, video games and Star Wars Lego. Exactly as I left it.

So what…?

Dreeet dreeet. Dreeet dreeet.

It’s the landline.

Han Solo stares down at me from the poster on the wall. He looks faintly disapproving and I can’t blame him. I flop backwards onto my pillow. I can’t believe I was frightened by the phone.

Although… I sit up once more. Why would anyone call so late?

I listen hard. Footsteps thud down the stairs. The phone stops abruptly, and there is a short silence. Then the receiver bangs down and I hear footsteps again, running up the stairs this time. My heart begins to pound.

I look at Han Solo.

Han Solo looks at me.

A second later, I’m out of bed and tip-toeing across the room, trying to avoid the Lego and the worst of the crinkly sweet wrappers. I make it to the door with barely a rustle, but freeze as I touch the door-handle: both Mum and Dad are up now, walking past, talking softly.

I daren’t even breathe, but they’re soon gone and I’m out and into stair-creeping mode, keeping to the edge, avoiding the squeaky eighth step – and the loose floorboard at the bottom.

A silent shuffle takes me to the lounge. The door is open, just a crack, and I’m leaning towards the gap when I feel breath on my cheek and my heart stops dead.

‘Urk!’ I say, and jump round.

It’s Sally.

Sometimes I hate Sally. Doesn’t she know it’s rude to creep up on people?


Helen says:

"I was lost for words when I found out I had won this award – so much so that they had to ask if I was okay! It’s a huge boost. I’m thrilled and immensely grateful, and determined to make the most of the opportunity. Thank you, Scottish Book Trust."