AS: Mazel tov! Your sixth collection of stories — just released and already a bestseller! So tell us — what do we see “when the curtains part”?
CBW: We see pain. We see angst and uncertainty and fear — but we also see raw grit, the determination of the climb, and the joy of triumph. We see real people who are called upon to make excruciating choices. But most of all, in their struggle — and, often, their ultimate victories — we see ourselves.
AS: Over the years, you’ve written so many stories, each one unique. How do you work that magic?
CBW: It’s a gift from Hashem, nothing to do with me. But since I’ve published my first book nearly thirty years ago (Open House, long out of print), I have made it my business, when people share their stories, to try and penetrate their essence, to get to the core of what makes them unique.
AS: It’s been a tough year, with losses, lockdowns, parnassah woes, and sky-high anxiety. Can you give us an example of a story that will help us get through these challenging days?
CBW: The story “The Last Laugh,” about a Holocaust survivor whose aron was mixed up with that of a meis mitzvah during the height of the pandemic, is a perfect example of the unique hashgachah that we merited to see during these trying times. There are no accidents — even if events may feel random. They are all perfectly orchestrated from Above.
AS: Whenever we ask for your favorite story, you say it’s like choosing your favorite child. So, we’ll ask you something different: Which story was the most fun for you to write? Which do you feel was the most challenging?
CBW: The first story in the book, “Behind Closed Doors,” was a lot of fun to write, because it was before Purim and everyone was in dress-up mode. Since I had once procured a similar Yerushalmi costume for a friend, with hilarious results, I relived that memory.
The story of Sani, a child who had two “mothers” vying for the privilege of raising him, was by far the most challenging to write, because there was so much pain involved, and there was no closure for one of the “mothers.” But today Sani is doing well, and his parents are seeing much nachas from him, so I guess that makes it a success story.