Ross MacKenzie

Children's writers write for children because they remember what it was like to be a child. Making friends has never come easy to me; even at this point in my life, if I'm at a party I have to struggle to come out of my shell.

The first few years at primary, I did not want to be there - I just wanted to go home. As the years went by, I got more comfortable and towards the end of primary I started to enjoy school. I started getting involved in the school football team and going to after-school clubs. Mrs Byers was a big part of that.

She must have been in her late twenties and had red, wavy, curly hair and really big Deirdre Barlow glasses that covered quite a lot of her face. She enunciated very clearly, but she wasn't posh; when she talked, we listened.

Mrs Byers was my P7 teacher. In P7, you feel very grown-up, but at the same time there's this trepidation about taking that next step and starting over in high school. It's that transition from childhood when you are starting to become a young adult. Having a really good teacher is an anchor for you at that time in life. Mrs Byers was funny and inspiring. She was a friend when you needed one and all sorts of things to all sorts of different people.

Mrs Byers was the first teacher who spotted I had a confidence problem and difficulty believing in my own ability. She honed in on it and tried to get me to believe in myself. It was not obvious to me at the time she was doing that, but looking back I can see it.

She treated you not simply as a child, but as a person. She was good at relating to kids and getting involved, rather than just going through the motions. She got kids interested through her own personality. A lot of teachers, kids are scared of them. We weren't scared of her, but we respected her because of the way she treated us.

I'll always remember one project in particular: we had to think about where we would be in 10 years' time and draw ourselves. I drew myself with a massive Tom Selleck, Magnum PI moustache and a hideous red and turquoise suit. I wanted a moustache because my dad had one. I've had second thoughts about that since.

Mrs Byers turned up at one of my signings at Waterstones. I hadn't seen her since 1993, but I recognised her immediately. I still called her Mrs Byers. Her first name is Sandra, but I didn't use it. I couldn't.

My two great loves at school were English and art. My sixth-year studies English teacher was Mrs Moffat. She was fantastic. Usually, when you were dragged along on parents' night you were bored out of your wits, but I'll never forget one of the things Mrs Moffat said to my mum and dad. She said it would take her a paragraph to say the things I could sum up in a sentence. I'll never forget that - having a teacher say you could do something not just on a par with them, but better. That really boosted my confidence.

Mrs Moffat was working to push me into becoming a writer, but I think she thought I would be best suited to journalism because my writing was punchy and succinct. I'm working on a newspaper, just not doing the job she wanted me to do - I'm a graphic designer. I always wrote in the background as a hobby, though, and I decided to go for it with my writing a couple of years ago, spurred on by my wife. In the end, I got my book published; hopefully there will be many more to come.

Ross Mackenzie was talking to Emma Seith. www.zacandthedreampirates. co.ukauthor.html

Personal profile

Born: Glasgow, 1981

Education: Kirklandneuk Primary, Renfrew; Renfrew High; Cardonald College, Glasgow (graphic design)

Career: Graphic designer, The Daily Record newspaper; 2011 winner of a Scottish Children's Book Award for Zac and the Dream Pirates.