After leaving school in the late 1980's I worked in various jobs before studying for a qualification in Child Care and Education. I worked as a Nursery Nurse for many years, employed as part of the Early Intervention Programme to help with low literacy levels in Craigmillar. During this time I worked predominantly with the Primary 1-3 classes. I returned to University in 2000 where I studied for a degree in Community Education. This covered many aspects of work – adult education, youth work, teaching child protection and working with a drug agency in Edinburgh. Shortly after graduating I had my son. Being a single parent has been a challenging but immensely rewarding job – my favourite so far! Writing is my biggest passion and I was delighted when my debut novel Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket was published in 2009. The following year Bree McCready and the Flame of Irenus came along and the third book in the series, Bree McCready and the Realm of the Lost completed the trilogy in 2012.
“I have worked with Hazel several times since she published her first Bree novel. She’s an incredibly engaging speaker, gently drawing the children into her fictional worlds and encouraging them to ask questions, suggest ideas and ultimately inspiring their own reading and story writing. Hazel is always so well prepared for a school talk, bringing a range of materials to show the youngsters as well as providing the basis for further classroom activity by teachers. I have seen Hazel deliver an author session in Linlithgow Bridge Primary and Low Port Primary in West Lothian as well as programmed a sell-out event with her at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.”
Janet Smyth, Children and Education Programme Director, Edinburgh International Book Festival.
About writer's work
The Bree series is a fast-paced and exciting action/adventure trilogy with soul. It has been described as “Indiana Jones meets Jacqueline Wilson”. The stories revolve around a threesome of children who discover a magical book and are subsequently thrown into a world of self-discovery and danger. There is a tender undercurrent that runs throughout the stories, a subtle message about friendship and love that reminds us not to give up even when all hope is lost. The main characters in the story have in some way all been touched by grief and this is a thread that runs through all three books. Bree’s story is told in a way that a younger audience will find easy to understand but also written to allow the more mature reader to identify at a deeper, allegorical level. At the beginning of the series we meet a quiet, unpopular girl who is locked in her grief and struggling to accept herself. However, as the story progresses we see how she not only learns to deal with her heartache but also how she comes to terms with, and learns to love, the person she is.
The first and most obvious theme that runs through the books is the enduring struggle between good and evil. The Bree series offers the reader a perfect balance of action and emotion and covers many topics that are relevant for the youth of today - bullying, self-image problems, grief, and relationships. Bree’s struggle is one that many young people will be able to identify with and there are rich opportunities throughout for stimulating classroom discussion. For example, Bree is tormented by a classmate and along the way we learn some of the reasons behind the girl’s vile and unacceptable behaviour. If this storyline helps just one reader cope with a similar situation then I will be satisfied that I achieved what I set out to do.
From the beginning I wanted Bree to be a heroine for children from one parent families. The fact that she lives on a neglected housing estate was a deliberate attempt to steer away from the stereotypical family life that is often depicted in children’s stories. Nowadays children from all walks of life need to be able to identify with the hero in the story. Bree symbolises survival against the odds and it is my hope that she will become a hero for all children. She is a solid role model who shows great courage and determination in the face of hostility and ultimately learns to accept who she is, warts and all.
Find out more about the Bree novels at www.breemccready.blogspot.com
Recently I began working on a recipe book to accompany the Bree books and I have to confess to enjoying throwing myself into my second biggest passion – food! From the ‘Bake With Bree’ recipe book evolved the idea of ‘Topics and Treats’ - combining my skills as a writer, Mum and Early Years Educator to bring classroom themes to life through the medium of baking, rhymes, songs and arts and crafts. By blending my passion for storytelling, literature, education and food I believe I can bring a unique and dynamic spin to learning. Armed with an A-Z of themed ideas (which are always child centred, fun and educational), vast experience, a creative flair and an endless catalogue of good ideas I can adapt and extend any theme to suit any classroom or nursery environment. I have over twenty years of experience working with children of varying ages and abilities. I have a sound understanding and the skills to cope with challenging behaviour. I have a qualification in Child Care and Education and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Community Education and I currently work part time in the Learning support department of a busy Edinburgh school. I am PVG registered.
“Topics and Treats” is suitable for any age group – from babies to teens. To find out more please visit www.bakewithbree.blogspot.com
I have a passion for literacy and for creating good quality, exciting stories for young children. I enjoy encouraging language and communication development through books and stories. Being a children’s author has not only offered me a keen insight into what young people look for in fiction but it has also given me a passion and determination to reach children who might otherwise approach reading and writing in a reluctant way.
I regularly visit schools where I talk to young people about my love of words and my life as an author. During a typical hour long session I talk about my exciting adventure series, introduce the characters and read from one of the Bree novels (I like the children to choose which book I read from). I share why I made the decision to become a writer, offering top tips and the benefit of my experience in the hope that they will feel inspired to put pen to paper after I leave. I always leave aside some time for a Q&A session where the children not only have the opportunity to ask me anything they like but also have the chance to win posters, bookmarks and maybe even a book!
The Bree series is most suited to P5-7 but I can easily tailor things to suit any age group.
I have been invited to speak at many literary events, including the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I have devised Teaching Packs to accompany my novels.
The Bree McCready trilogy is essentially an action/adventure series, however the novels are rich in themes which can be explored and unravelled by children and adults alike – friendship, relationships, alienation, loneliness, grief, bullying, change, problem-solving, self-image, love and acceptance. These themes could be discussed with children as young as 9 - and in much more depth with secondary school children. Friendship and loyalty are strong themes which younger children can examine and there is also the underlying theme of grief which has been handled sensitively. From my experience of school visits I know that younger children enjoy the magic and adventure and also the zany characters that appear throughout the story! Older children love discussing the idea of the seven wishes which help Bree and her friends along the way.
Websites featuring the authorBake With Bree: Topics and TreatsHazel's blogBree McCready series: website
Current events and projects
As the author of a successful children’s book trilogy I am available for readings, author presentations, discussions, projects and workshops which might incorporate some of the activities from my teaching packs. I am always open to other suggestions and new ideas! I have lots of experience working with children (especially around literacy topics) and my qualifications and experience also enable me to work with teachers and adults who are interested in using my book with their class/children.
I am more than happy to carry out school visits which are unrelated to my novels. I particularly love motivational talks and have experience of speaking with children about ambition and reaching their full potential. I have always felt passionately about stimulating creative writing in young people who might otherwise think they are not good enough or who feel intimidated by the written word.
In addition to writing the Bree McCready series I have more recently been exploring the world of screenwriting. My six part drama series "Face to Face" won me a place as a finalist in C21 Media's Drama Script Competition in December 2016 where I was invited to pitch my script to a panel of industry experts at the International Drama Summit in London. I am keen to adapt the Bree McCready novels for the screen.