Tag Archives: family

Tax Credits

2 Sep

Do you qualify for Tax Credits?  They have proved to be a lifeline for so many of us, and are especially useful for the early stages of self employment.  If you have been claiming Job Seekers Allowance, and decide to start your own business for 16 hours or more a week, you may qualify for Working Tax Credits, which could bring in roughly the same amount of money that you were previously receiving on JSA.  This can take a lot of the risk out of becoming self employed, as you still have some regular income to rely on, meaning that you can afford to invest your business income back into your business.

To receive Working Tax Credits, you usually need to work at least 16 hours a week (employed or self employed), and have a low income (this includes your partner’s income too).  You don’t need to have children to qualify.

The easiest way to find out how much you could get, is to use this simple calculator.  You will need to have a rough idea of your income for the previous tax year, and an estimate for this year if you think it will be very different (for example if you have been on maternity leave, or have been made redundant or started a new job).  You can also try out different scenarios, for example based on you working different numbers of hours, or using more or less childcare.

To make a claim, simply call 0345 300 3900.

For more information, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website, gov.uk, or the HMRC website.

Want to be a writer?

17 Sep

We meet so many customers who dream of getting a book published one day.  Sophie Duffy is a writer who lives in Teignmouth, Devon.  She has had two (fantastic) books published in the last couple of years.  For her, it all started when she took an evening class in creative writing after having children.

So you want to be a writer? Well, let me just say, it’s the best of jobs and the worst of jobs. Well, not completely the worst – it’s not like you have to go down any mines or endure arm-to-arm combat – but it is one that requires tenacity and a very thick skin. You have good days and bad days and days that you wonder why on earth you are doing this, but once you embark on your writing journey, it is impossible to retrace your steps.

Once a writer, always a writer. You will look at the world differently. You will have more empathy for your fellow human beings. You will notice words and the beauty and rhythms of language. You will read differently. You will yearn for some time and space for your writing. Time will be even more precious than before. You will have to get used to rejections (lots of them). You will have to get used to criticism and weed the useful from the distinctly unhelpful. You will learn to find ways to answer the same old questions graciously: ‘Is this really fiction?’ ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ ‘Do you earn loads of money?’

Mmm, yes, money. There won’t be loads of it. Maybe a trickle here and there if you are lucky.

You will have to be disciplined as you work home alone. ‘No, I can’t look after your toddler this afternoon, I am working.’ ‘No, I can’t meet you for a cuppa this morning, I am working.’ ‘No, I cant pick up that package from the post office today, I AM WORKING.’

But don’t let any of this put you off if you have a desire to write stories. It’s all worthwhile when you hear from someone you’ve never met that they loved your book.

So how did I start? It was back in 2001. We’d just moved from London to Worthing with our three kids, aged 2, 4 and 5. I didn’t know anyone and my brain was going to mush so I decided to do an evening class. I chose creative writing partly because I had done an English degree but mainly because it was on an evening when my husband was around to babysit. After the first lesson, I was hooked. I had a fantastic tutor and made some great friends. I went on to do an MA in Creative Writing by distance learning at Lancaster University.

In 2005, having completed two unpublishable novels, we moved to Devon. I joined Exeter Writers and began writing The Generation Game. Always one for competitions, I entered the opening chapters into the Yeovil Literary Prize in 2006 and it won. This gave me the confidence to carry on, especially after being approached and signed by an agent. Unfortunately, once finished, the agent didn’t sell it.

So I began on another novel, This Holey Life. I entered the opening chapters of this into The Harry Bowling Prize in 2008. Although it was runner-up, my agent didn’t like it. So should I start another novel or go it alone?

I left my agent. In 2010, after a year of wondering if I’d ever make it, I saw an advert for the Luke Bitmead Award for new novelists and entered The Generation Game. To my delight it won and I received a bursary and a publishing contract. The Generation Game was published in August 2011 by Legend Press. A year on This Holey Life has been published, also by Legend.

It’s been a long journey but I’m glad I carried on. The good thing about writing when the kids were small was that I learnt to write in small bursts, to make the most of every opportunity and to treasure those times when I could write stories. And now, at last, people are reading them.

And finally. My novels are fiction but I do write what I know and so I write about family life. The Generation Game explores what family means – it’s not necessarily your blood relatives but the people who bring you up and love you that count.

This Holey Life is the story of Vicky, a reluctant curate’s wife, struggling to come to terms with a bereavement and her husband’s new-found faith. When her older brother comes to stay, her world is turned upside down as childhood roles are replayed between brother and sister.

Eleven years on from that first evening class, my kids are 13, 16 and 17 –  so look out for teenage angst in the next novel. Now I just have to write it…


Writing can be isolating so think about joining a group


Maybe do a class

Enter competitions – get your work out there!

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