style="float: left; margin:10px" Meeting 77-year-old William Weinbrecht was one of the biggest blessings to come out of the hospice work my husband has been doing. Michael was so moved by the book Bill had written for his granddaughter that he came home and shared the story with me.
Bill starting writing stories for his granddaughter when he realized she was having trouble pronouncing certain letters, and he turned them into a book, Stories for Amanda.
These short stories are silly and sassy. Although they're just plain fun to read, they also teach important lessons about family, friendship and life -- and the fact that we can come up with creative ways to help the people we love.
I was honored to speak to Bill, who is such an inspiration and proves that kids have so much to learn from their grandparents.
Lois Alter Mark: I know that your granddaughter had trouble with her speech, but what gave you the idea to write a story for her rather than just helping her practice the letters?
William Weinbrecht: I remember that day very well. She was talking about her "teacher" and it sounded like "teacha." She pronounced anything that ended with an "r" with an "a" sound instead. I thought, "I have to help," so I took her outside and we sat by the pool while I told her a story. I came up with an alliterative story using all "r's."
What was Amanda's reaction to that first story?
She loved it. We went inside so I could write it down and she could then read it to me. I called it Not a Very Bright Raccoon.
I noticed that you also wrote stories focusing on other letters like "f," "p" and "g." Did you choose those specific letters for a reason?
She enjoyed the stories so much, I decided to write more. I liked the idea of alliterations so I just went through the alphabet and chose letters for which I could think of a lot of words.
How old was Amanda when you started writing stories for her?
She was about five or six, and I wrote the stories over the course of a year and a half.
Did they accomplish your original goal of helping her with her speech?
Yes! She also took a speech class, so the stories reinforced what she practiced there. She had such a good time reading them. She and her friends would read them out loud together and laugh, and it was wonderful to watch.
Which story was her favorite?
She loved Fanny the Friendly Feline because it's very short. We would try to read it fast and would just start laughing. It's impossible to read fast!
Is that your favorite, too?
No, my favorite is The Pumpkin Patch Picnic. It's just fun.
It's so special that Amanda has a book meant just for her, and I bet it's become a treasured possession. When did you decide to put the stories together, and how did she feel about it?
It wasn't until years later, when she was in her teens, that I told her I was going to compile a book for her. She said, "No, papa, you don't have to do that." She was very touched.
I know you've volunteered at a children's hospital by sketching cartoons for the kids. Have you shared any of the stories with them as well?
I started volunteering about seven years ago, after I was diagnosed with cancer and, no, I never read the stories there.
Your stories are so sweet and fun to read, and I can see how they would totally appeal to young readers. Did you always want to write? Have you written anything before these stories?
I don't think I would have written a book if it weren't for Amanda. All I ever wrote previously were loan agreements.