Many of the folks in my audiences remember my father, John J. Kelly. They just don’t remember him as I do, for they only had him as high school principal.
I tell them I had no dates in high school, since no young man wanted to come to my home. None was that brave. I hoped the reason didn’t signal some serious defect in myself.
I tell them I stood at the podium at my 50th Class Reunion some years back and asked: “All right, men….I always wanted to know: How many of you actually did want to take me out on a date, but never dared, when we were in high school?”
Hands shot up and we all laughed.
I was happy…. even if they were just being kind.
I now write about youthful memories and focus, too, on other West Warwick folks in articles that appear in the Kent County Daily Times’s Weekend edition. I’m also a regular commentator in the Providence Journal Op-Ed section.
But I’m a late bloomer as writer, for my writing career follows my 30 years as teacher and another 8 years as realtor.
I now add guest-speaker to my resume, and I have to say: I’m loving it.
Husband Paul Wesley Gates and I went before two West Warwick audiences at Wildberry Apartments and Plaza Esperanza last week where we had a ball. While at one, a woman came up , tapped my husband on his arm, and said: “You look just like Roy Rogers.”
I laughed, inwardly, as I thought: “That must make me Dale Evans.”
I get why she said it. He’s tall, lanky, with a Southern drawl (he’s a long-ago transplant from Arkansas who got here as a Navy Seabee.) As such, he’s a great favorite of the ladies. It helps that he wears a western hat, cowboy boots, and a leather vest with insignia sewn on.
I freely admit: I use him for my presentations.
You see, I write about his adventures in our children’s books, Grandpa and the Truck (Books 1 and 2), for he was a long-haul, big rig driver who went all over the United States, moving households. Our books are the perfect vehicle (pun intended) to teach geography, regional differences, dialect, trucker lingo (the words we can safely use). Each story comes with guide questions, maps showing where the truck is, a moral (remember—I’m a teacher) and table of contents.
To date, we’ve published two colorfully-illustrated books, and we give lively presentations on those, too. Our biggest audience was a 200-child school gathering in Tiverton.
Since writing/guest-speaking is my third career, it proves: Age is no stumbling block to new experiences.
I get that message across to my audience.
My mission is to give the over-55 crowd encouragement to try their own hand at writing, for it’s my belief we all have an arsenal of stories inside, narratives that are rich in detail, almost screaming to be told.
I tell my senior students to get a writing journal and “start small,” considering “Who are the 5 people who had the most impact on you?” I then suggest they describe those five, with 2-3 phrases each. Then, choose one person of the 5 to develop more fully.
For example, my own mother, Doris Barlow Kelly (I bring a picture of her to my presentations), would be “energetic”…”a little spitfire”….”oldest daughter of a large mill-working family” (she had 16 siblings.)
I then proceed to flesh her out and let her come alive, mentioning perhaps one funny incident of many. I’ll share an example in future.
I like to think of writing as “painting with words.”
How’d we start off in our new guest-speaking venture? Lucy Goulet, Resident Services Co-Ordinator for Housing Opportunities Corp., looking to inject spirit into her residents at Plaza Esperanza and Wildberry Apartments invited me to speak to residents in both apartment buildings, after seeing my website (www.colleenkellymellor.com).
She’s to be commended for working to enrich the lives of her residents.
As for us, we will continue “on the road” in future, guest-speaking, encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone, for we’re living embodiment of what happens when one keeps going through doors in life.
(Pic below, my Mom, Doris Barlow Kelly, appears on the left, alongside the book jacket for Book 1 of Grandpa and the Truck.
Colleen Kelly Mellor (email@example.com) will guest speak at 3 more locations in weeks ahead. If you order her children’s books through www.grandpaandthetruck.com, she can personalize-to-child and autograph them. Contact her at email address for guest-speaking.
Picture below is of my Mom, Doris Kelly (she accompanies me ‘in spirit’ to each of my presentations) and one to right is of the lean, handsome cowboy image, Paul Wesley Gates on cover of our Grandpa and the Truck book 1. He’s the real draw at our talks–especially to the ladies.