RETIREMENT - - -
AN OPEN-DOOR TO A NEW LIFE
By Josie Whitehead
Above: The five books containing about 400 poems published in 2010 by AMS Educational Publishers, Leeds and poems that were chosen by the children and teachers of Yorkshire schools in a 9-month market-research prior to publication.
Poems for Younger Children which have been turned into songs
I have been a teacher of business studies/secretarial work for much of my life, in Colleges of Further Education, plus a great deal of secretarial work also in many different offices.
ALL SAINTS PRIMARY SCHOOL, ILKLEY
I volunteered two hours weekly at All Saints Church of England School, Ilkley from 2006-2010. During this time the children of one class (nine and ten year olds) asked me to write them a poem and they especially asked for a poem with a story in it and with ‘rhythm and rhyme’ because they told me this was their favourite type of poem.
They and children in the following years encouraged me to write about 400 poems for them and to make a website so that they could read the poems again at home, but especially they wanted voice recordings so that they could listen to the poems which, I believe, is so important to children.
Mr S Sharp, AMS Educational Leeds (formerly head publisher for Edward Arnold Educational before they were taken over by Hodder & Stoughton), saw my poems on my internet website and asked if he could market-research them in Yorkshire schools for 9 months. He returned to say that the teachers and especially the children were so delighted that he published nearly all of these poems in 5 books. (See books above).
These poems were sold to a Cheshire Publisher later when Mr Sharp retired, but this publisher, I was told, didn’t take children’s poetry and so the copyright on all my poems was returned to me and the books were stopped.
Some of my poems have gone to other well-known educational publishers, but they are all on my website which has taken me years to make.
People have added to what I’ve done. The students of Bradford University have turned my Wizard of Alderley Edge into an animated film. Some of my poems for younger children have been turned into songs. (Poems for Younger Children)
One of my poems went in an opera. (A Little Green Caterpillar) and Illustrators have added their work etc etc.
I joined Linkedin and within a very short time I was given the title: Linkedin’s most powerful woman because of the numbers of educationalists who linked immediately to me because of my poetry. (Links above)
I received an email from a children's online newspaper to say that children in 132 countries of the world had chosen me for the title of 'Inspirational Online Children's Poet 2007. (Link above)
Lastly a Professor of Literature from Shanghai University wrote a lengthy article for a leading Chinese newspaper about the ‘wonderful poems written by Josie Whitehead’.
I didn’t recognize myself.
Then our MP gave me advice: He suggested I contact Webanywhere in Keighley:
https://www.webanywhere.co.uk/ who do online learning programmes for schools. They did market-research in their schools and I heard that 100% of the schools that they served, were quite happy to pay a subscription fee for the poems to be brought into their schools via Webanywhere. One hundred of my poems were chosen and were illustrated ready to be used, but no mention was made for a contract with me. I refused to sign my poems over to them without a proper author’s legal contract and what they sent me was rubbish. I have worked in many legal offices, and know what an author’s contract looks like, plus the fact that I had an Author’s Contract with the publisher, Mr Sharp. I gave Webanywhere the chance to give me a proper contract but when nothing came, I didn’t hand my poems over because teachers and children can reach my poems any time from my own website.
Lots of other things have happened since then, but at the moment my poems go out to schools in 188 countries of the world with thousands coming to it. I also do skype visits to schools worldwide and love to meet the children and their teachers.
James Akers, Digital Culture Network (https://www.jamesakers.co.uk/) knows me well. I have recently been nominated to be entered for the digital skills award as one of five in the country. (Arts Council Award). I didn’t come first but was delighted that all the work I’ve done in the making of my website, at my age, was recognized.
I have had a wonderful time writing the poems and meeting the children of the world. So when you think of retirement, be prepared for anything to come along to open up new doors in your life - doors which hopefully will lead you to a new and enjoyable life doing things which you've never done before.