AS: Amazing! Your 5th collection of stories, and yet they are still so fresh, so vibrant and varied. What’s your secret to finding such intensely interesting stories?
CBW: There’s really no secret to finding interesting stories. All you need is a willingness to ask and the capacity to listen—to really listen. I find that the most rewarding stories come when I close my mouth and just absorb what the other person is saying! Sometimes, during a conversation or interview, I think the story is over, but if I stay quiet for another minute or two, I’ll find the story has only just begun.
AS: One of the sections of the book is called Faith and Courage. What’s the connection between the two?
CBW: One is often an outgrowth of the other. Being whacked by a ‘double whammy’ of challenges can either make one shrivel and give up in defeat, or it can bring out the most potent parts of our neshamah. In “Dance of Life,” for instance, a man facing the loss of a long-awaited kidney draws on his faith and finds the courage to dance, to celebrate the fact that it wasn’t meant to be. In “Guided by an Angel,” the protagonist draws on his faith and finds the courage to travel alone to meet his brothers, whom he had never met before.
AS: When writing these stories, many of them poignant, did any of them actually bring you to tears? Which one, and why?
CBW: The story “Judge and Jury,” about a woman whose husband is experiencing an emotional breakdown, had a powerful impact on me. I know many people who are living like this, acting as if they had perfect lives, in a desire to preserve their dignity and protect their families. In reality they are dealing with unfathomable challenges and intense pain—and the judgment of their own family members, which is sometimes hardest of all to bear.
AS: And here’s the toughest question of all: Which of the stories are your favorites?
CBW: Asking me to name a favorite would be like asking me to name a favorite grandchild—I love them all so intensely, and each has a special place in my heart.