Former teacher’s trucker husband is inspiration for children’s book
After a horrific car accident almost took her husband’s life two years ago, Warwick resident Colleen Kelly Mellor was driven to pursue a long-term goal of writing.
Mellor's husband, Paul Wesley Gates, was parked on a mountain road in Asheville, N.C. when a 12-year-old girl driving her uncle’s truck crashed into him. Gates suffered a broken neck and neurological issues due to the accident and suffered through a nine-hour surgery.
While the surgery was successful, he still suffered many after-effects of the accident. According to Mellor, she began writing the “Encouragement in a Difficult World: Biddy Bytes Blog,” in order to maintain a positive outlook during a hard time.
“‘Grandpa and the Truck’ is a culmination of what we went through,” said Mellor. “It started with the accident, which brought on Biddy Bytes to focus on the positive, which worked, and the offshoot was ‘Grandpa and the Truck.’ I thought, now that I’m used to putting things out there; I’m going to do this, too.”
As Mellor said, the blog transitioned into the “Grandpa and the Truck” series – stories for children ages 4 to 8 that tell the story of her husband’s life as a long-haul trucker. Mellor says her grandchildren’s love of grandpa and the truck stories were inspiration for the series.
“He would tell me the stories of his career on the road, so I began telling them at bedtime when they were here and they would say, ‘Grammy, tell me another grandpa and the truck story,’” said Mellor. “I thought, I’m a writer; why not write these stories down, and then I did research and found out that no one had ever done this.”
Mellor was a teacher for 30 years, so it’s no surprise that she made sure to include educational messages in her stories. “The big rig is a perfect vehicle to teach life lessons,” said Mellor.
The children learn such lessons as to never to go off alone and are given question sheets where they can apply the lessons to different situations. The books also contain maps of the featured areas in the stories so children can learn geography.
According to Mellor, writing a children’s book was much harder than she anticipated and required the teamwork of her, Gates and illustrator Dana Irwin. “The three of us got together weekly and would hammer out how these things were going to go,” said Mellor. “He gave us trucker terminology and made sure it was accurate with the trucker industry. We needed the three of us to be working; it was really a [seven days-a-week] job.”
The books are self-published by Mellor through CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing website. Mellor said she came to this decision due to a feeling that she needed immediacy.
“I’m a survivor of cancer,” said Mellor. “Ten years ago they really didn’t expect me to make it through, so I did not want to wait two years to get a publisher. I really didn’t have time for that.”
As another aspect of the project, Mellor made a self-recording of the stories along with sound effects.
“He was putting it together and adding sound effects, which really made the story come to life even more,” said Mellor. “I found a different vehicle to get the stories across through oral reading.”
Clips of the recordings are on grandpaandthetruck.com. The book can also be bought on the website for $14. Trucker Paul and Mellor are currently signing up school and library visits and are already properly vetted by top school administrators. They can be contacted through the website to schedule a spirited reading and visit.