East Brunswick author lauches ‘EXTRAordinary’ podcast

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EAST BRUNSWICK – Highlighting the triumphs and tribulations of eight different professionals, author Shirley Wachtel has launched the new “EXTRAordinary People” podcast.

Wachtel, who is a Middlesex County College (MCC) English professor, said her new podcast features her interviewing inspirational people who have exhibited fortitude, creativity, and/or who have conquered obstacles.

“The reason why I chose that particular title is that these are people that I just know in life,” Wachtel said. “They are ordinary people, they are everyday people it’s not like a Brad Pitt that you go running up to you know somebody that it a superstar, but they are superstars in their own way. … It teaches and motivates students to rise above and each one of them I think rises above the ordinary and that makes them extraordinary people.”

Wachtel said her first interview was with fellow MCC English professor Santi Buscemi, who discussed higher education and his ideas as an educator, which aired on Feb. 3.

Future interviews, Wachtel said, will include her son, Oscar-winning screenplay writer Charlie Wachtel, which will air on June 15. Michelle Schwartz, a breast cancer survivor, will speak about how she survived cancer and her positive attitude and mindset, which will air on March 16.

Registered nurse Juliette Tolode will speak about being an African immigrant living the American dream on May 4. World-renowned orchestra conductor James Gaffigan, who lives in Amsterdam, will appear on Aug. 3. Amy Dagliano, co-founder of Rowan Tree Work Place, is scheduled for Sept. 14. Eva Wiener, who is a Holocaust survivor, will appear on Nov. 2. MCC English Professor and award-winning playwright Benjamin Marshall is planned to speak on Dec. 14.

Wachtel has been an English professor at MCC for more than 25 years, and has been an East Brunswick resident for more than 30 years. She is also a writer and has written several books including “My Mother’s Shoes,” which is a memoir about her mother’s experience during the Holocaust. She has also written several children’s books as well.

“I see myself primarily as a writer and as a teacher career-wise. … I did this because it’s more or less a passion project,” Wachtel said. “It’s an exciting way to connect with others and that is what I do as a teacher. I do this every day, I introduce students to material that excites me and I’m hoping that it sets a spark in them.”

Speaking to the people she has interviewed, Wachtel said, “It’s really is a learning experience for me. I honestly find them fascinating and they do come from all walks of life. I started out as a journalist … [and] I was the editor of a newspaper in Brooklyn. … I have this passion for stories and I love listening to people’s stories. It’s tough for me as a teacher because I do a lot of the talking usually, but now I have to do a little bit more listening.”

Interviewing individuals she has known at various points in her life or whom she has heard about, Wachtel said each person she has interviewed she considers a role model.

“Surprisingly enough the podcast itself does not require a lot of work. As a matter of fact, thankfully I have my producer and I got someone who is my webmaster who has been putting together the material on my website and helping me publicize this,” Wachtel said. “It isn’t a lot of work like writing a novel or anything like that and I have purposely avoided doing research on these individuals because when I’ve interviewed them I want to ask them the questions that anybody else would ask them.”

Besides interviewing her son Charlie, Wachtel said, “I made an effort to … not do any kind of research just as a regular person having a conversation with somebody else and the questions come easily because their answers fuel more questions in me.”

By creating this podcast, Wachtel said she hopes that listeners can relate to each person’s story in some way or another.

“I am hoping that these conversations will help, so these people see a path [and] that there is a path and there is a way that they can obtain their goals or they can surmount an obstacle,” Wachtel said. “The second thing I am hoping is that because these are in essence ordinary people I mean we are really all the same that people will start to believe in themselves … [and] that their all people like myself, don’t be afraid to take up that next challenge because if you keep trying I believe … you can really and anybody can achieve their dreams.”

A new episode will air every six weeks and people can listen to the “EXTRAordinary People” podcast on her website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, RSS Feed, Stitcher, and Tunein.

For more information about the “EXTRAordinary People” podcast, visit www.shirleywachtel.com/podcast/.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.