I first met Zibby Owens online. First, there was her fantastically great name—how could I not follow someone named Zibby? She had an online voice that was honest, and true and huge-hearted. Then it was all the astonishing work she was doing—essays and podcasts, and book things, and when I heard she was moderating Brenda Janowitz’s book event for The Grace Kelly Dress, I wanted to go, first to support Brenda, a friend, but also, let’s face it, because I HAD to meet Zibby.
Meet her I did and she was even more incredible than I expected. She’s fireworks! She was dressed in a sparkly top I coveted, and we began to email. You’ve never met anyone so generous. She featured my novel With or Without You as a pick on Good Morning America Online (for that, I will bake her brownies from here to eternity.) She invited me to write something for her. (Ditto the brownies or the sweet of her choice.) And every time I go online and see what’s she doing, I’m just more and impressed. Zibby lifts the world up. She truly does. She makes you want to have half her energy, half her smarts, and even half of her heart. And I am so, so lucky to know her.
Zibby is the creator and host of the award-winning podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, and her newly launched Moms Don’t Have Time to Lose Weight. A regular contributor to ABC's Good Morning America online, she’s been interviewed by CBS This Morning, and she contributes to a wealth of publications like Good Day LA, Good Day DC, Good Day Dallas, Marie Claire, Redbook, The New York Times online and more. She was named NYC’s top book-fluencer by New York magazine ,and Oprah.com included Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books in their list of the best podcasts — twice.
Before the pandemic, Zibby ran a literary salon, moderated bookstore events and hosted book fairs. During quarantine, she hosted a daily Instagram Live author talk show, Z-IGTV and a weekly live show with her husband called KZ Time. But wait, there's more! She also launched an online mag with original author written essays called We Found Time and started Zibby’s Virtual Book Club.
Zibby’s extraordinary essay Racing Against the Corona Virus is now up on my Psychology Today Blog/Column. (It has photographs, too!) And thank you so much, Zibby! You are EVERYTHING. I can’t wait for you take over the world!
Let’s talk about your latest—Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology, that came about as a way to honor your loss (I’m so very sorry) of both your mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law from Covid, both in the space of six weeks. Being who you are, you are also generously donating all proceeds to Mt. Sinai for Covid vaccine research. I love the sections: Read. Workout. Eat. Have Sex. Breathe. There are more than sixty essays here! What was it like getting the essays, and how did you decide the format and what to include? I’m curious how you say no to people, because you seem like the person who always, always says YES.
First of all, you are just beyond sweet. I’m going to frame this introduction by my bed. Maybe it would help me sleep better - ha! Well, getting the essays was really fun. First I identified the categories I wanted to start with. Then I made a huge spreadsheet and started reaching out to authors to ask if they’d write for me, along with some ideas for them based on their books and/or our discussions on my podcast. For example, I would suggest an “eat” essay to someone who had confessed to an eating disorder in our interview. Then I worked with editors/authors Claire Gibson, Elissa Altman and then Carolyn Murnick to manage all the submissions and edit them. At first they all lived on my website under the We Found Time magazine umbrella, but after several months I realized: wait, a minute. This is a BOOK. And yes, there were some essays that might not have been necessary the right fit given their topic or whatever, but luckily I’ve just launched Moms Don’t Have Time to Write, a Medium publication, and am going back and publishing them there!
What is so remarkable about these essays is that they go beyond the Pandemic. By that, I mean that the issues in these essays speak to women’s lives always, connecting us around the issues that resonate for us, all about how we spend our time, and who we strive to become. The biggest message seems to be: we are a tribe. We can connect. We can help and support one another. Can you talk about that please?
Oh my gosh, I couldn’t agree more. Making people — especially women — feel less alone has been a big part of my mission from the start. I was crying on the bathroom floor one day about something kid-related (which was so unimportant in the big picture that I can’t even remember what it was) and I was like: there must be other women out there, crying on their bathroom floors. It’s why I write. Why I podcast. Why I’m doing this anthology — and the next one, coming out in November 2021!
You have said this wonderful quote:
I believe in the power of stories.
I believe in the healing power of a good conversation.
I believe that listening is far more important than speaking.
I believe that the right book can change everything.
Can you pick one of these beliefs and tell us your personal story about it? (I know, I know. I put you on the spot! Forgive me!)
Forgiven. But only because you promised me brownies. Let’s take listening. I grew up very shy and even went through a whole summer when I was 14 when I literally couldn’t speak at all. Yes, I could be myself around my friends and family, but in new situations, like going away on a language-immersion program, I literally couldn’t speak. So I spent the summer listening, analyzing language, marveling at how easy and effortless it seemed to be for everyone else to simple speak. I’ve always been an observer, watching, listening, before engaging. I love photography and am constantly snapping pictures, just like the snapshots of scenes in my mind that I end up writing about. Listening is powerful. I learn so much about other people. And then they end up really opening up to me. Because I’m legitimately interested. I really do care. I think people can tell.
I also loved the To-Do list you posted on the bookmarks you include, which really, every single reader should do for every book. Post a photo of the book. Order the book. Give copies as books. Leave a review. Consider buying in bulk and spread the word. And I recently received the most wonderful grab bag from your publicist with a jump-rope that I use now! How did you get so brilliant at promoting all the things you do? How did you figure it all out? (And readers, please do all of these things!)
Well, I’ve been doing my literary podcast for just under three years now and have been pitched books in all sorts of ways from a standard-issue publisher mailing to a hand-delivered package with a hand-written note. I’ve gotten scarves, luggage tags, CBD bath bombs, chocolates and, most recently, a Twix bar. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. I know how hard it is to stand out; I get pitched about 75-100 books each week now via email (preferable) or in the mail. Like I said before, I watch and observe. Also, I did have a mini-career in marketing/advertising a lifetime ago, working at a brand development and design firm in L.A., then at a big Internet incubator called idealab! and then for Unilever Prestige helping launch the Vera Wang fragrance, before going to Harvard Business School. So I do have some experience in marketing. But mostly, I can just put myself in someone’s else’s shoes and know what I would want — and then I do that!
You also have a two-book deal to write children’s book with Flamingo an imprint of Penguin Random House! Is this scary, exciting, what? And will you test-drive these books on your own kids?
Yes! The kids have already heard the first book and have gotten sneak peeks of the illustrations of two of the main characters! It’s a really fun process. Princess Charming is schedule for early Spring 2022.
What’s obsessing you now and why?
Honestly, I just got the coolest thing ever. It’s this object that on the outside looks and feels exactly like a book, but when you open it, it becomes a lamp. I put it on my bed as my husband sleeps and the kids delight in opening it up and illuminating their rooms. It’s just the coolest. It’s a total splurge item that no one actually needs, but aren’t those the best types of obsessions?
Thank you, Caroline!