Zibby and I discuss her anthology Moms Don’t Have Time To, the genesis of the essays, how she pulled this project together so quickly, which genre is Zibby’s personal favorite, how she reads so many books, and what surprised her the most about compiling these essays into an anthology.
Zibby and I discuss her anthology Moms Don’t Have Time To, the genesis of the essays, how she pulled this project together so quickly, which genre is Zibby’s personal favorite, how she reads so many books, what surprised her the most about compiling these essays into an anthology, and much more.
Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology can be purchased at Murder by the Book.
Zibby’s 4 recommended reads are:
book, authors, essays, called, people, moms, live, week, books, pandemic, Robux, read, events, vaccine, husband, hospital, write, ran, anthology
Zibby Owens, Cindy Burnett
Cindy Burnett 00:07
This is the Thoughts from a Page Podcast where I interview authors about their latest works. My name is Cindy Burnett, and I love to talk about books. As I'm sure many of you realize, I did not publish podcast episodes according to my regular schedule this past week. Texas, and Houston where I live, were heavily impacted by weather more extreme than we usually encounter. And unfortunately for us, our power grid was not up to the task. As a result, a significant number of people were without power for many days, and a week later, Houston is still under a boil water mandate (for those who have water, some people still do not). While my family weathered the storm with very little damage, many Houstonians did not. People across the country have been asking me how they can help so I'm including links to to reputable groups who could use the support currently, Kids' Meals who feeds thousands of low income children daily and lost all of their food due to the lack of power, and the Houston Food Bank who is facing unprecedented requests. In an effort to get back on track. I am releasing the two episodes that should have aired last week this weekend. Today I am interviewing Zibby Owens. Zibby is the creator and host of the award winning podcast, Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books. Before the pandemic, Zibby ran a literary salon, hosted her own book fairs, and was a frequent bookstore event moderator. During the quarantine, Zibby hosted a daily Instagram Live author talk show called Z-IGTV, a weekly live show with her husband KZ Time, launched an online magazine called We Found Time and started Zibby's Virtual Book Blub. She is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Business School and currently lives in New York with her husband Kyle and her four children. I hope you enjoy our interview. Welcome, Zibby. How are you today?
Zibby Owens 01:51
Good. How are you Cindy?
Cindy Burnett 01:53
I am so good. And I'm just so excited to be talking with you. So you have this anthology coming out called Moms Don't Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology, right?
Zibby Owens 02:03
Yes. I'm very excited.
Cindy Burnett 02:05
First, I have a very important question for you. When do you sleep? You seem like you just do stuff around the clock. So I don't even know how you sleep.
Zibby Owens 02:16
I have a confession which I probably shouldn't even say out loud. But my kids wake me up so much. And last night I was so sleep deprived that I just bribed them with Robux. I don't know if you know that is but like for anyone who has a kid between the ages of basically four and 15 like Roblox is like the thing right now. Anyway. So I was like, I'll give you 80 Robux, which is like $1 if you'll sleep through the night, and they all slept through the night. So that's how I slept. (laughs)
Cindy Burnett 02:42
You're like great, thank you. So you have to tell me because I do have a 15 year old, but he's my youngest. What are Robux?
Zibby Owens 02:47
Well, Robux is like the currency for a game called Roblox, which is actually a collection of games. I can't believe I'm even talking about this. But anyway, Roblox has all these games like Adopt Me. And it's almost like you get to be the character and you get to get pets. And if you want a new hairstyle, you have to spend Robux on it. So you actually have to get real money if you want like blonde hair instead of brown hair.
Cindy Burnett 03:11
Well, now that we've gotten that very important question out of the way, why don't we talk a little bit about just what you do day-to-day? I mean, you are such a fabulous advocate for authors, and you do so many different things. Can you kind of tell me a little bit about them?
Zibby Owens 03:22
Sure. Yes. So the first thing I do is my Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books podcast, which is almost three years old. And I release at least five episodes a week, although I have too many in the queue so I'm gonna have to do a big blast soon. But so I do that. So I interview authors via Zoom, usually, so at least five a week. But I generally end up doing about eight a week, so that I have a backlog because I'm always afraid I'm gonna run out, which is silly, but it's true. I also have Moms Don't Have Time to Lose Weight. So I have an Instagram community for that and a podcast for that. And that just comes out once a week, I runs a Zibby's Virtual Book Club, which I love. I do that every other Tuesday from two to three Eastern time. And I have like a nice group of women who come every week. And then each week we get different people from all over the world. And for the first half an hour we talk about the book and the second half an hour, the authors come and do a Q&A with us. So that's fun. I recently started an online magazine for Medium called “Moms Don't Have Time to Write”. And that is going to feature essays based on submissions from anybody who wants to do it. I mean, you have to be accepted and have a good essay, but it's on inspired by things moms don't have time to do. And I have two anthologies coming out the first in February, like you mentioned, Moms Don't Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology and those are author written essays inspired by things moms don't have time to do so the authors are award-winning, bestselling authors, notable, amazing writers who contributed to the first and the second anthology and the second is coming out November. I have two children's books coming out from Penguin Random House's imprint called Flamingo and that will be in 2022. And I write. So I write for, I pick a lot of the books for Good Morning America each month. And I do stories for GMA book club. I write for The Washington Post. I write for Medium. I write for Parents. I write for lots of magazines. And then I do media where I promote all these things that I love. So I go on Good Day D.C. every month, and I've been on Good Morning America, and CBS and all these different shows and NPR and recommend books. And then I do my own Instagram at @zibbyowens, and I post there every day and try to bare my soul. I think that's pretty much it.
Cindy Burnett 05:34
(laughs) Again, when do you sleep? I love the book club. I have participated several times and just thoroughly enjoyed that. It's so much fun. It's just fabulous everything that you do.
Zibby Owens 05:45
Cindy Burnett 05:45
Why don't you talk a little bit about getting started with the anthology? It was part of a magazine, an online magazine, correct? And you've cumulated them into this book?
Zibby Owens 05:54
Yes, that is what happened. So I had planned to do an online magazine, to be honest, kind of similar to what I'm actually launching now with “Moms Don't Have Time to Write”. But I wanted to do a publication where authors from my podcast could contribute essays. And I had all these big plans for a launch event and this whole big thing, and then when the pandemic hit, I scrapped all those plans and decided, Okay, instead of like building out this whole new, exciting website, and all the rest, I'm just gonna put it up on my site. And I'm gonna get all these essays from the different authors. I worked at first with Claire Gibson and Elissa Altman who helped me edit and then Carolyn Murnick, and all of them had also been authors on my podcast, and I commissioned essays from lots of different authors who I love who I thought would have a good story to tell. In the first book, the categories are moms don't have time to eat, workout, breathe, read and have sex. So the essays were not about not having time, they're just about those topics. So I released usually four or five a week for about eight weeks, on my website, and I just posted about them, but I didn't spend any time really marketing it or trying to drive traffic there. Because I mean, there was just so much else going on. But I figured why not launch this while everybody is at home and does have time. So I called it We Found Time. And then I stopped it. The summer came around, I figured, okay, well, life is going back to normal enough that people aren't literally locked in anymore. And I just had too many things per your sleep comment to keep rolling this out. So I stopped. So that was probably the end of July. And then the beginning of September, I was thinking back on the summer and all the essays that had come out, and I started rereading some of them, and I was like, you know what, this is a book, like this is an anthology. This should be a book. So I quickly put them all together. And I reached out just to one publisher named Skyhorse, which I had met with the two men who run Skyhorse a while back, they'd actually seen me on this like Taxi TV piece I had done, which is like insane. But anyway, we'd had coffee once, and I had been so impressed by their ability to get books out quicker than any other publisher. And I wanted this book out ASAP because I wanted it out during the quarantine. And it's about, a lot of the essays, are about the quarantine that should come out during the quarantine. So I pitched it to them. And I was like I have contracts already with every single author. And here are all my essays, and I think it should be a book. And they were like, okay, so now it's coming out of the book.
Cindy Burnett 08:25
Well, and it did all move so quickly.
Zibby Owens 08:28
Yeah, I go quickly.
Cindy Burnett 08:30
So then that raises another issue regarding the book and you've had, you had a rough time personally with COVID. So you are donating the proceeds from the book. You want to talk a little bit about that.
Zibby Owens 08:39
Yes, thank you for bringing that up. All proceeds are going to the Susan Felice Owens program for COVID-19 vaccine research at Mount Sinai Health System. My husband Kyle's grandmother and then his mother both passed away from COVID in the summer of 2020. His mother in particular was like in perfect health - age 63, had recently got divorced, had this new boyfriend, was like riding on a motorcycle, and had lost all this weight. She was like, overflowing with life and excitement to delve into phase two of life having been married for 40 years and she was just amazing, Susan, just like this fantastic woman. She ran a company that I actually helped her start called Nini's Treats which makes crumb cakes based on her mother's recipe. Anyway, her mom Nini, who was 90, had to go to the hospital for a pre-existing condition, caught COVID in the hospital. Then the hospital released her despite them asking repeatedly for COVID tests. The hospital declined at that point in North Carolina, I think there weren't enough tests going around. And they sent her home and because she had COVID and because the two of them lived together and had lived together for 20 plus years, Susan got COVID from Nini. Her name is Marie Felice, but they call her Nini, and Nini had to go back to the hospital, passed away, and then Susan was admitted the next day. And we thought, Okay, well, gosh, what a pain that she has to go in the hospital, but I'm sure this will be a quick thing. And it became an extended, horrific drama. And she ended up being in the hospital for six weeks, transferring hospitals multiple times, having to go on an ECMO machine, a ventilator. My husband Kyle and I and his sister Stephanie had to be in charge of her care from a different place. We were in New York, Stephanie ended up leaving Charleston where she lives to go to Charlotte, and then eventually to Duke to be nearby her mom, but she wasn't allowed to see her. She just felt better being in the area. But we all had to do it remotely and FaceTime with her through the doctors and talk to doctors every three hours and do whatever we could. And it was awful, and up and down, and just really traumatic and terrible. And then she passed away. Yeah, it was just horrible. Afterwards, I wanted to do something to give back and to help. At the time, this happened August 31st, the vaccine was still in the works. And nothing had happened. So I wanted to try to help other families and spare them the just the terrible experience that we all went through. And Kyle and I have only been married, I only met Susan about five years ago. Kyle is my second husband. But for Kyle and Stephanie, this loss, especially their mom and grandmother, has just completely devastated knocked them over. The grief is just overpowering. Anyway, I wanted to do something to help. And I'm on the board of Mount Sinai Medical Center. So I started this particular program and Mount Sinai is working on their own vaccine that will be mostly in developing nations, because it doesn't require the frozen aspect of the others. It's much more cost friendly. And anyway, so I'm donating all the proceeds of the book to that, and I'm having a fundraiser on February 16th, in conjunction with BookHampton to try to raise more money for the charity and use the press for the book to raise money.
Cindy Burnett 11:55
Well, first, I'm very sorry. And I mean, I know we've talked about it before, but I am. I just can't imagine that loss. And I'm sorry for them and for you. But I think that's just wonderful that you're doing something so powerful, that will help so many different people.
Zibby Owens 12:10
Thank you. I mean, it's the least I can do. I wish I could do more.
Cindy Burnett 12:13
Well, I think as the vaccine is rolling out, and we're seeing a variety of hiccups and keeping it so cold is definitely a challenge. So for third world countries to not have to have that component to it should help significantly.
Zibby Owens 12:26
Yes. So fingers crossed this vaccine also works and comes out soon.
Cindy Burnett 12:31
I certainly hope so. Tell me a little bit more about when you were recruiting authors, how you slotted in where people were going to write - whether they're going to read about reading or breathing or having sex. Like how did that all come about?
Zibby Owens 12:43
It happened in in a bunch of different ways. Some were just authors who I'm particularly close to, or I was emailing with regularly, or I just thought would have great essays, I basically let all the authors know what the categories were. And then they pitched what topics they were interested in writing on. And then in conjunction with my editors, we picked the ones that would work the best. For a while there were too many in a certain category so we had to start assigning in different categories. And it just sort of happened. It just unfolded this way.
Cindy Burnett 13:12
Well, that's what I was wondering about the categories because it would seem like you might end up with 15 people in work out and two people in breathe or something.
Zibby Owens 13:19
No, no, I know what you're saying. But I also had interviewed all the people already. So I knew a lot about them. I had not only interviewed all the authors, but had read their books. So in a lot of cases, I knew from their memoirs or from our conversations that there was something relevant to one category or another. And that's why I would start with that one.
Cindy Burnett 13:39
Well, that makes sense, then yes, because it's something relevant to either their story or you know they love to work out or whatever it is - they've lost somebody and there's some portion of that they might want to talk about.
Zibby Owens 13:49
Yeah, so like for my next one, my next anthology will come out in November, the categories are different, and it's moms don't have time to sleep - I'm not gonna remember them - sleep, write, get sick, see friends and lose weight. So then I knew certain authors had written on friendship, so I could ask them. I knew certain authors had written about and talked to me about sleep. So yeah, it made it a little easier.
Cindy Burnett 14:12
But that alone would just be a large project, just trying to get everybody slotted where they wanted to be and where you needed somebody. Well, you clearly love to read, do you have favorite genres?
Zibby Owens 14:22
I prefer memoirs. That's my favorite genre. I love memoirs. I could read a memoir, I mean, I was gonna say I could read a memoir a day, but I basically do. But yes, memoir is my favorite genre. I just love hearing about people's lives. I love learning more about people.
Cindy Burnett 14:37
Well, I wondered about that for a while how you were reading every single one of these books. And then I think I saw you speaking somewhere, you'd written something that you read the beginning like the first 100 pages and then sometimes skim or do pick up the end or whatever.
Zibby Owens 14:51
Yeah, I do skim the rest. But I've, I've sort of taught myself how to skim so that I get everything that happens. Like I know everything that happens in all the books and the things that interest me the most like seem to pop out at me, but I can skim it. And I can have I mean, I can talk about it just as much as, I might not have gotten every sentence, right, especially for literary fiction, right? I'm going to miss some of the beautiful sentences in the second half. But I'm going to know exactly what happened. And then I also interview, the research the author, because, yes, the interviews are about the books, but I'm really interested in the people. So I might be even more interested in an essay they just wrote or something about their life that they have on their website that I'm like dying to talk about. So the book is a piece of the puzzle, but not the only piece.
Cindy Burnett 15:36
No, that makes sense. And I agree, I think it's really interesting to research the authors. And sometimes you stumble across something that's totally fascinating that you wouldn't have known if you just focused on the book.
Zibby Owens 15:46
Cindy Burnett 15:47
Well, what surprised you the most about this project?
Zibby Owens 15:49
There's just so many, like, I should even say, this is a surprise, but there are just so many emails involved. It's just so much back and forth. And on so many different things related to the book. I thought that it would be so easy because the whole thing was done. Contracts were done. The book was done. I was like, Okay, I could I'm like doing that motion where you like, clap your hands together, like boom, boom, it's done. Right? But that's not how it works. And everything is a debate and a conversation and the publicity of it - the layout, internal layout, font, cover, external layout, proof this jacket. What do you think of this, like, da da da, there's just a lot of stuff. It's, it's just a lot of planning. You can't just like let a book come out. Unless, if you want it to get any sort of attention and get readers. Like, my goal in this book is to get the right people to read the right essays for them. I mean, there are essays in here that really will help people relate to other people, feel less alone, think, feel, all of that. And so I want the right people to find this book. And so to do that, I can't just write the book. I have to launch a full-on campaign around it essentially as if I'm like running for office. So there's definitely a lot more to it than writing.
Cindy Burnett 17:07
Well, and then there are so many authors, so if you're trying to plan events, just the logistics of corralling two people, ten people, whatever the events are going to be, that's just a lot. Talking about the cover. I think it's really fun. And I bet your kids just loved being able to be on it. Several of your kids enjoyed being able to participate.
Zibby Owens 17:25
Yes, we try not to have the kids like on social media or have their faces anywhere. But I thought if I could cover up their faces enough, it would be okay. So yes, my two daughters are on this cover. And my two sons are going to be on the next cover.
Cindy Burnett 17:38
I wondered how you balanced it. So and I think it is great that their faces are covered, because that's nice for them to not have their faces out there. But they're still getting to participate.
Zibby Owens 17:47
I mean, truth be told, I tried to get all four kids in this picture. (laughs) The oldest boy and the youngest boy would not participate. And then when the book came out, I think they regretted it a little bit. So I was like, would you like to be the next cover? And they like jumped up to do it. So.... (laughs)
Cindy Burnett 18:06
Okay, that's hilarious, and I loved your dedication to them.
Zibby Owens 18:10
Cindy Burnett 18:11
Talk a little bit about your children's books.
Zibby Owens 18:13
Yeah, I've actually started working again on that as of yesterday with more emails. It's called Princess Charming. And it's coming out probably spring of 2022, even though I sold it in January of 2019. But that's okay. No big deal. And I can't really say too much more about it. But the character's named Princess Charming, and then there'll be a follow up book as well.
Cindy Burnett 18:34
Oh, that's really fun. And it sounds so cute. Yeah, that's the funny part. And I guess proves your point with Skyhorse, that the publishing process is very slow.
Zibby Owens 18:43
Yes. But yes, but I've found a way to speed through it, at least for this at least for the anthology.
Cindy Burnett 18:51
Which is great. What do you like to do when you're not writing or reading?
Zibby Owens 18:55
I love spending time with my kids obviously. That's usually what I'm doing when I'm not working. Sadly. I mean, I adore seeing my girlfriends and my friends. And I used to love throwing events and dinners and breakfasts, and I just love to entertain. And I can't do that anymore because of the pandemic. But that is something that I love, love, love to do. I love to go to LA. I live in New York. So I like to travel out there. But I also haven't been able to do that in a while and spend time with my husband. Play tennis. I love playing tennis, just like wandering around exploring different neighborhoods and driving around even just driving, this is so pathetic, even just going for a drive to nowhere with my husband is something that I love to do so.
Cindy Burnett 19:37
I love to drive too, and it's funny because I'm in Houston so we drive a lot. But obviously during the pandemic we haven't driven nearly as much and so when I do have the opportunity to drive I really now appreciate it a lot more than I did. I love just putting music on and just being able to just kind of be by myself for a little bit and just drive.
Zibby Owens 19:55
Yeah, me too.
Cindy Burnett 19:56
We will get back to being able to have events again and spend more time in large groups and have book clubs and things like that. I'm really looking forward to that.
Zibby Owens 20:05
I really just can't believe it'll ever go back. I mean, I really hope it does. I just didn't like so pessimistic. So I don't know, the way I've gotten through this whole thing is just focusing on like today, like, I'm gonna wake up and look at my calendar today and deal with what today rings. And I'm going to try not to be sad or think about what's not happening tomorrow.
Cindy Burnett 20:24
Well, and I think that's a great way to do it just one day at a time. But I also think I mean, I really hope we will return to at least some things, but I think it really varies like I love to come to New York and see Broadway shows, that's one of my very favorite things to do. And pre-pandemic did it regularly. And I just can't bring myself yet to a time when I feel like okay, I'd feel comfortable sitting in a theater. But on the other hand, like having book club with ten people seems more comfortable to me than sitting in a Broadway theater right now. I mean, neither one are comfortable at the moment, long term, once we're past the vaccine, and all of that some of those things just seem a little mind boggling to me at the moment.
Zibby Owens 21:01
Cindy, in five years, or ten years, or whenever it is that we all feel comfortable, you and I have to go to a Broadway show together. Can we make that plan?
Cindy Burnett 21:10
I would love to do that. I know, I would absolutely love to meet in person, because we talked a number of times, but to actually meet and I'd love to come to one of your salons too, your book events.
Zibby Owens 21:19
Yes, I mean, I would, I would love to do the salon again. And I just long for a time when we can start having people over and hugging and all that all of that.
Cindy Burnett 21:28
I agree. And I'm going to plan my trip around your salon. And we'll do the Broadway show. And all of that will be great when we're back to normal.
Zibby Owens 21:35
I'm looking forward to that.
Cindy Burnett 21:36
Before we wrap up, this is probably a trickier question for you than it is many of the authors that I ask, but would you like to tell me about some books you've read recently that you really liked?
Zibby Owens 21:45
Sure. And this is biased, because literally I just read these. So it doesn't mean I like them more than others that maybe I read two weeks ago. So I just finished reading The Kitchen Front, which is a historical fiction, a novel by Jennifer Ryan, who's a bestselling author. And it's about a cooking contest in World War Two where four women compete for a spot on the show, but they have to cook based on the rations that were in place at the time. It's very clever. It has like recipes, and it's very cool, think like Top Chef World War Two.
Cindy Burnett 22:16
I loved her first book, The Chilbury women, The Women's Chilbury Choir, whatever that word is, that is one of my favorite books. And so I'm really excited for that book.
Zibby Owens 22:24
Oh, awesome. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones is a beautiful, very lyrical, almost like mystical fiction type of book that takes place in Barbados, and a woman who has a baby, her husband gets involved in this sort of accidental question-mark crime. The people who come to Barbados are part of it like the tourists, plus the locals. It's really interesting. Eliza Starts a Rumor by Jane Rosen. I just did an event with her this week. This is also fantastic. And it's about a woman who's agoraphobic, which you don't find out why until the end. And she lives in the Hudson Valley in New York State. And she is a little bored one day and trying to revive the message board for moms that she runs. So she starts, she posts something that isn't true. And then of course, everybody in the community thinks it's really about them. So it's really funny, Jane Rosen, who wrote it has like a great sense of humor. So it's a fun read. And yeah, it's like kind of delicious. It's great. Harold Koplowicz is the president of the Child Mind Institute, which I'm actually also on the board of and that helps with children's mental health and reducing the stigma of mental health and doing research to find biomarkers to prevent mental health from even presenting itself and just and also treatment of disorders. He has a new book out called The Scaffold Effect: Raising, Resilient, Self-reliant and Secure Kids in the Age of Anxiety. Which like who doesn't want to do that?
Cindy Burnett 23:51
Those all sound fantastic. I always enjoy hearing your recommendations. Well Zibby thank you so much for joining me today on the Thoughts from a Page Podcast. I really appreciate your time, and I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with you.
Zibby Owens 24:03
You too. Cindy. Thank you so much for having me on.
Cindy Burnett 24:07
Thank you so much for listening to my podcast. If you liked this episode, and I hope you did. Please follow me on Instagram at @thoughtsfromapage, tell all of your friends about the podcast and rate it wherever you listen to your podcasts. I would really appreciate it. Zibby's book can be purchased at Murder by the Book where I work part time, and the link is in the show notes. Thanks to K.P. Regan for the sound editing, and I hope you'll tune in next time!