Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 year ago

S1E10: Mary Alice Monroe and Mary Kay Andrews, with Zibby Owens

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Mary Alice Monroe and Mary Kay Andrews interview Zibby Owens of Mom's Don't Have Time...

Welcome to friends and fiction. five best selling authors and the stories Novelist Mary Kay Andrews, Kristen Harmel, Christie Woodson, Harvey Patty Callahan, Henry and Mary Alice Munro are five longtime friends with more than 80 published books to their credit In 2020 they created friends and fiction to provide author interviews and fascinating insider, talk about publishing and writing and to highlight independent bookstores. These friends discuss the books, they have written the books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place France and fiction is sponsored by Mama Geraldine's bodacious Foods, the company that makes Mama Geraldine's cheese straws which come in six varieties and are the best selling cheese straws in the United States. Founded by former radio executive Cathy Cunningham and named for her mother. They have melt in your mouth cookies to delicious treats and a woman owned empire. Now that is something that Friends and fiction can really get behind Try them, you'll be so glad you did get 20 off on your online order at Mama Geraldine's.com with the Code Fab five snack on y'all. We'd also like to thank our other sponsor, page one books who offer a book subscription package that we love the hand select books for you each month based on your preferences in their book knowledge. And because the reeds are being chosen by actual independent booksellers, you know, you're more than just an algorithm. The subscription package, which can run 36 or 12 months is a...

...perfect gift for a book lover, even if that book lover is you. Page one books, the personal touch of an indie bookstore with the delight and surprise of an online subscription service curated just for you. First time subscribers get 10% off with the Code Fab five at page one books dot com. I'm mary Alice Monroe and I'm mary Kay andrews and you're listening to friends and fiction, the podcast arm of our Wednesday night facebook live webcast. You can also listen to all our episodes and our Friends in Fiction, Youtube channel. Today we're chatting about a woman who seems to have enough energy, ideas and enthusiasm to single handedly run a small country or a large family. Of course we're talking about and two Zb Owens, who is the award winning creator of the popular moms, don't have time to read books podcast, but like most women and moms that we know she wears so many more hats. He's also an author, a mother of four as we mentioned, and a powerhouse book influencer whose literary salons over the course of the past three years have introduced followers to hundreds of works of fiction and nonfiction, All of these books that reflect on women's lives issues and concerns. And her show was a top literary podcast, as selected by Oprah.com in 2019 and 2020. She also created moms don't have time to lose weight. I'm on that 100 community and host the accompanying podcast. I also love her really wonderful quick writing tips from authors wake up and right, well, maybe at some point, ZB will ask one of us to offer a writing tip. Oh, I sure hope so. I'd love to. Well, what connects all these projects is the encouragement ZB offers women to carve...

...out time to become engaged to find pleasure in the company of books and especially through her podcast, the opportunity to make time for a literary chat with friends. And that's a mission that all five of us at Friends and fiction can hardly endorse. We've been especially looking forward to discussing Zibri's newest project. Moms don't have time to a quarantine anthology. Published just this past february. So let's bring her on and ask her how she came to birth this latest brainchild baby. Hi. Hi ladies. Thanks for having me. Oh thanks so much for coming and welcome. Welcome. Your introduction points to all your busy with while raising a family. It's literally and thats pun intended are inspiring. How did you get into doing all the things you're doing? What was the initial spark? So take me back to the beginning of this glorious journey. Okay. Not not every minute was so glorious. Let me say, I'm sure what what started the whole thing is I well, really if you go back, what really started it is that I got divorced and suddenly I had time on my hands when my kids would go to my ex husband's house every other weekend. And for the first time in almost a decade there was silence and I had time and so I turned more to books and writing and reading the way I have always done my whole life and I started writing more essays. I started publishing parenting essays when I had the time to do it. And one of those essays called A Mother's Right to Sanity on huffpost when somewhat viral and really encouraged me to keep going. So I started doing more and more. And one night after I collected a bunch of essays my husband said to me you know you should really write a book with all your parenting essays. And I said mom said I'm time to read books. And then I was like that's so funny, I...

...think I'll make that the title of my book. I tried I put together a book proposal and um that with a couple people about it and I had no platform, right. I had, I've been writing freelance articles since I was 14, but of course that does not count. Uh neither did the book, I go throat and neither did really any anything on my resume. Nothing matters. I wasn't on social media at the time. And so a friend of mine said you should try starting a podcast. And I was like, well, what's a podcast? So I went home after we met in the school lobby. She was a friend from we are kids into the same school and my husband, I sat on the couch that's right here behind you and tried to find the button of how to listen to a podcast. And finally did. And then I had to figure out, well, what should my podcast be about if I do a podcast and I was going to clip articles and just read them because I'm always sending articles to friends and ripping things out and recommending books and doing all this. So I thought, well I'll just read them because people are so busy, maybe they'll have time to listen. Then I found out that was illegal. So I scrapped that plan and thought, well I guess I could interview authors. I knew like, I don't know three authors so I can start with them and see how it goes. So that's what I did. And I just googled how to start a podcast and recorded it. The first one I read that original essay as my first episode and in my bedroom across the hall and I thought I would just kind of quietly try it using that same title that I had wanted to be a book. So how long ago was that? Because what's a podcast these days? It's like asking what's a weekend? I know I sounded so naive, it was over three years ago this okay. Uh I had known one person who had done a podcast, I just have I was not into that genre and yes, in the last three years my gosh, things have exploded in so many ways for this industry. So it was nice to get in on it before literally everybody I know has a podcast, everything. So maybe the...

...anthology includes original essays by his bestselling and award winning writers like chris Bohjalian who we're going to have on friends and fiction. Sonali dev also Gretchen Rubin jillson topple, Oh, evangeline lilly and laura mary Philpott. I'm intrigued. How did you choose the contributors and the topics they addressed. And I was curious about how you organized all those essays now. Was that a cart and horse situation? So this actually wasn't supposed to be a book before the pandemic, it was going to be a website which is sort of what my new website is turning out to be in a way, but I wanted to make it a big splashy goop like website where I would have essays on all the different things that mom didn't have time to do and I had like a zillion different ideas for that. Um I was looking into hiring a web design firm and making this whole thing. When I started it, I emailed all the authors in one like mass email who had been on my podcast that far at that point there had been about 300 or so people. Now, there have been over 600, but I think there were about 300. Um and this was last January 2020 and I just emailed them all and I said I'm starting this new thing and I'm commissioning personal essays and I would love for you to be involved. And basically anyone who wrote back at that time, was it? I mean basically what happened, a lot of people remember getting that email now, but you had to have already been on my podcast? No, I don't. Um and some people got added along the way. But I, once I heard who was interested, I put a spreadsheet together of things that I wanted them to write about based on either their books or the conversations we had on the podcast. So for instance, someone could have come on to talk about a thriller but mentioned that she loved running. And so I got spoke to her. I picked the five topics for the first anthology...

...which her moms don't have time to eat read, have sex, breathe and um what's the last one? I don't know. Something else really important that we don't have time to do that. I can't remember. So uh lose weight is going to be in the second anthology, eats anyway I haven't slept so I can't even answer my questions. Anyway. I thought they were the ones that moms didn't have time to do the most and that would resonate with people the most. So I started with those and then for right next anthologies comes out in november. I actually posted on facebook and I was like fill in the sentence. Moms don't have time to blank like what do you have time to do the least? So that's how I got my next topics. Although most people said they didn't have time to finish a cup of coffee while it was still warm, but I didn't think that would generate too many essays, although it did inspire me to buy a plug, which has changed my life when I got to. I mean literally looking at little chops for our, that's a good idea. So that's um that's how it happened. And then I launched when the pandemic came, I decided to forget about all the plans for the splashy website and my four kids were home and doing remote school and we were sequestered as we stayed for weeks and months like everybody. And I thought, well I'm just going to throw these essays up on my own website and I begged a girlfriend who had worked with right after college to make my website look a little bit better than the standard issue Squarespace. And we just published a couple essays each week for a couple of months. And then eventually that summer it felt like things were getting back to normal a little bit enough, right? We were all getting together outside a little more distance. My kids could see a couple of kids. So I thought, well maybe people don't have time to read this. So I stopped. But then in september I went back and I thought I wonder how many essays I ended up running And I called it, we found time because it felt like we found time. It turned out I had over 60 and so I copied and pasted them all into one document and I was like, it's a book. So um so I was like this is gonna be the easiest sell because I...

...have all the contracts already signed. And I had included that I could make them into an anthology because I was like who knows? And um I just went to this one publisher who I knew could turn things really quickly and that's what happened. Congratulations. Yeah. I was thinking it was really tricky to heard that many notoriously independent minded kitten writers. But it sounds to me like you since you already manage a household including four kids of different ages, you had that down pat, I'm not just because they live here, doesn't mean I'm successful in getting them to do anything. Just get there alive at the end of the day, you're successful. I do feel that way sometimes then that's a win. Now I do have pretty I have pretty good kids and I had pretty good writers. So I I also had amazing editors who I worked with. So I don't mean to suggest in any way that I did this by myself. I worked with Claire Gibson and Alyssa Altman and then Caroline Munich joined in about halfway through and we did it as a team. It was really great and they would take the first stab and I did finish in coffee at it and you know everybody worked on it. It was great. Well I've seen pictures of your house which is fabulous and there are stacks of books everywhere. I mean I can't even imagine how many books that come to your house every day. I know we get some but I but you I can't believe you must be on a first name basis with the ups driver. I I just can't imagine they are probably uh running tracks to your carpeting. But as a mom who doesn't have time to read books, what's your secret to reading so many books? Are you a speed reader? Do you listen to audiobooks? How do you get through so many books? I do all those things I listen to audiobooks while I do other things like walk the dog or walk somewhere Or drive with the kids somewhere. Um I do speed read. I don't...

...finish every book. I try but I make a point to read at least the 1st 5200 pages of every book slowly and then I speed up. Uh that's fascinating. That's a tip I've never heard. I don't know that's just what I do because I feel like after the 1st 100 pages I really get what's going on. I know I can have a lot to discuss. I only have half an hour on my podcast. Some books I finish and not, I can't finish all of them. It's like impossible. Um I do seven podcasts a week on different books. So I would love to, I mean literally that would be a dream if I could just read all day every day. But I read in all sorts of different times throughout the day too, so I don't and it's not passive reading, I'm not like laying on the couch, it's more like when you read for school, so I'm like at my desk and I have a pen and I'm turning down pages or um you know, I always read while I put my kids to bed because that takes forever. So they sit and then they pop out and they sit and pop out and you know what? I used to drive me crazy because I was like, I need to go get work done and now I'm like, well I'm gonna use this time. So they're always like okay you have your book mom. So then I go get the book and I yeah, I just try to fit it in. I love it. I love reading. It's, you know, it's such a passion. So what you were saying, all those books arriving, I mean it does not get old. No, I mean it it's like, it's so nice. I mean I literally bought a library card because I couldn't fit them all even in my shelf. So I have like stacks on this library card next to me. Um But it's great. It's amazing. Um I just wish I had more time to read well quickly because I I know we have a lot to get through, but I'm curious how with that library card of books, how do you pick which one you're going to read next? What's your filter? Um Well, I read based on what's in my calendar, right? So I book, so I look and see what's coming up and I know that some books I need to start a couple weeks ahead of time, uh, to make sure I get enough reading done some books, like...

...nonfiction books, for instance, I can just sit at my desk and and plow through. But you know, literary fiction takes a long time. And so I have to start that weeks ahead. So I just do it based on my calendar and make sure that I'm sort of simultaneously getting through enough of a bunch of different books. I read so many books at the same time all the time. So it's not like I do one and then another, but I'll take like three next to my bed. You must be a popular person to sit beside at dinner parties because someone you can always turn to you and say, well, maybe what are you reading? And I'm just wondering how many authors do you have you kept account with how many authors you've interviewed over the past few years And I also wonder how do you keep things so fresh and lively? I've interviewed over 600 people. I don't know how I keep things fresh and lively. I think it's because I'm so excited about everything. I'm like, I like genuinely, like really passionate and excited and everyone has such a different story to tell in all the books and all the people. It's you know, if you sat next to me at dinner, you would end up being the one doing most of talking. I hope because I really like learning. This is a non traditional thing with you guys interviewing me. I would much rather be interviewing you. So, um I get a lot of enjoyment from learning about other people and their processes and I like learning. So I don't know. I'm just always curious now. Is there a golden unicorn, an author that you've been questing over all this time that um, just with that just outside your reach? Um, I always wanted on a Quinlan and I just got her after she turned me down so many times or her publicist or whatever. So maybe like the sixth or seventh time. She finally said yes because it was through somebody she knew, um that I knew. So that was really exciting. Now I'm a bit of hers to write. I love her. Oh my gosh, I've been reading her stuff forever. Um...

...please for you. That's good. It's nice when that one, that one comes that you really want to hear. Well, speaking of really wanting to hear you did an interview I was watching on Good Morning America and about your book. Moms don't have time to read a quarantine anthology but you said something that really rang true and it was the things we don't have time to do are actually all the things that make life worth living. I mean especially now that just really rang true and so I guess my question is, how did you become so wise? So young? Uh huh. Um Thank you. I have had a lot of loss in my life. Um starting when I was 25 I lost my roommate and best friend on 9:11 and uh it changed my life like there was the before and there was the after and we have been inseparable for almost six years since we had met at the beginning of college lived together for four years. That's okay. Um especially during that time when your friends are like everything right? We weren't married yet, none of that. Um And I had just left living with her to go to business school and then two weeks out into business school, 9 11 happened and she worked in the North tower and um for a long time I believed that she had been at her desk and had been hit like immediately. Like she wouldn't have known she just disappeared into thin air and she had taken the job to sort of pat her resume for business school so she couldn't fly the following year. And it just all seemed so unfair and I got very a crash course into life not being guaranteed and nothing being guaranteed. And then over the next year I lost many more people to my grandfather, my step grandfather, my stepbrother, my best friend from high school, committed suicide. It was like quite a year. And um it changed everything. And so I just,...

...and I've always been, I should say, like super sensitive, right? So this is, you know, I was like sitting in the car when I was eight, being like, well, how do we know that your blue is my blue? You know, like, you know, it's always been at the soul and this and that. So I've always been that way. I've always been an old soul myself. But I think that that, combined with some of the experience says that I lived through it just, I don't know, this is just I have this, you know, it's like a raw nerve. Yeah. And it obviously it seems like time becomes a real issue for you. I mean, you obviously are very sensitive to time. Yes. You know, you graduated from Yale and Harvard Business School's IBI. Is this the kind of career you envision for yourself? And if not well I guess we've touched on a little bit about what inspired you to pursue a literary life, but I'm interested in what you thought it would be, what you thought your professional life would be. Well, starting when I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer, that's really all I ever wanted to do. And I interned at Vanity Fair after my freshman year of college and I was like there is no path from being an intern at very fair to being a writer at Vanity Fair. So I was like I'm not going to I can't just be a writer, I have to like go out and do other stuff. Um So that's what I did and then I ended up really enjoying all of that other stuff as well. I love psychology and I thought about being a psychologist for very seriously. Um And then I realized you can apply psychology to consumer behavior and what makes people buy things. And that was really interesting to me. But I do remember this time at business school I took a course about finding your perfect career or something ridiculous and I remember thinking like, okay, here's my skill set, There's no answer to what I should be doing. Like I I am very clear on my strengths. But yeah, there's nothing and it's so crazy...

...because my career turns out had not even been invented yet. So I mean I did do a lot of journalism and I've done all these different types of things along the way. But for me the bar was set pretty high, which is, you know, if I'm going to get killed sitting at my desk doing my job, then I have to be doing something that brings all of me to what I'm doing. It can't be marketing Pepperidge Farm cookies anymore, like it has to be all me. And so that's what it ended up being and and my goodness, you certainly did right a lot. We're going to talk about that in a minute, but let me go back just for a second about you said you experienced so much loss in your life and that contributed to your wisdom. But I am thinking in particular of this last year, 2020, which we all know, it was very hard for you because you lost your mother in law, your Grandmother in law, is that correct? And of course I followed you and you actually had COVID-19 yourself. And it was very touching. I lost a number of family members as well. And it's a year, it really was a year like no other. And I guess looking at your work and productivity in this tough year, it didn't stop. So how do you keep being creative when life is handing you such so many blows or how do you make lemonade from lemons? This is how I process life. So it's not how did I do it despite that, it's I did it because of that. Um I shared on instagram as I went through everything, because writing about what I'm going through and sharing it is how I make sense of the world and it always has been So Um there were times where I had trouble reading um you know, in the aftermath of my mother in law's loss, I you know, the next 10 days or so, it was very hard. I did finally get into a...

...couple books but um you know it was it was hard, but then again reading is how I escaped reading is how I self soothe um and all of that and if there's ever been a time for escape and self soothing, it's been the last year. So um I've just been able to ramp up and I think that my desire to help people in the literary community, it just seemed at the beginning of the pandemic, like I was sort of set up to do that in a way that I had to to take, not take advantage that sounds wrong, but like I had to I could do it so I had to do it like everyone was jumping in to help in some way, shape or form and this was the way I could jump in and help. And so I just double down and I was like I'll do whatever I can because everyone needs help. You know I couldn't go to the hospital necessarily and help out the doctors but could I help a debut author with a book coming out to no book stores being opened? Yeah that I could do. So that's what I did. Well, so now I see that you're writing a novel so what can't you do? I'm not I'm not writing a novel anymore. Thank you. I am just not. I have I have written a novel um but I am actually writing a memoir now um which I will have some news about soon. Well good, I'm so glad to hear that because after listening to your comments about your life and wisdom, I'm I'll be first in line to buy it. But are you still writing the Children's books because I want to know about is that the princess charming who I want to read about? Yes. Princess charming is coming out in March of 2022 from flamingo an imprint of penguin Random house and I just wrote the second one of those. So I don't know when that will you finished it? Oh good for you. I mean it's a Children's book. It's like don't say that. No, no, literally zip me I have to say I just finished my first middle grade that you have in your hands I think and I think the biggest surprise for me was how difficult. No, no, no, no, no. I was saying picture book. You wrote, you...

...wrote this, I wrote like a picture book with like 100 words or something crazy. Hard to write. That musical has been musical and a little rhyme to it maybe. Didn't you find what was the most difficult part? I did not find that hard. I love I did not find it hard uh at all, but I I love, There you are. Yeah, but it was not hard. So maybe there'll be more princess charming. Yes, there will definitely be too. Um but we'll see what comes after that. Good for you. You know what I'm wondering? ZB I'm wondering if you were seeing any kind of common thread In this latest crop of books written during the pandemic, do you think? And I know Mary Alice's book that comes out in May has a um has some of the pandemic in it. Do you think you're going to see pandemic thing? Literature as a trend in for 21 and 22? Um Well, because of the slow cycle, I'm actually wondering if I'm going to see more of that the following year almost. Right. It takes so long for things to come out. But already I have to say in a lot of nonfiction books and in introductions and things like that. It has been in a lot of those um and in memoir a little bit, but not so much in fiction I have found. I have not seen it yet really infection. But yeah, I don't think I can think of an example of seeing it yet in fiction. It was difficult, it was having done it. It was probably the toughest book I ever wrote. I think it does take time and a lot of perspective, but I've been the new york times actually had quite a few segments on life, post pandemic in life during the pandemic, which I thought were very good too. Well I'd like to switch gears a little bit and ask about moms don't have time to lose weight podcast, which I think speaking of the pandemic is certainly timely. A number of us have gained the COVID-15 and since season is coming,...

...what I loved about the podcast community was people really contributed their, their successes, their advice, their tears there. You know what, what's right? What's wrong? I'm curious what prompted you to begin this community? I mean, everything that's come out of this whole brand has been sort of on a whim. I've had no big strategy for it. I should not admit that, but it's true. So it all just comes out of the things I'm thinking and feeling, um I had gained weight during the pandemic. I felt really bad about it. One day I posted about it. So many people felt the same way and commented back, I thought, well, let's get everybody together. Because that's like one thing I like to do is if people are feeling the same way, let's somehow connect everybody to each other and to me and everything else. So I started it and then once I had the community on instagram, I was like, well I might as well have a podcast. Um so I have found that my attention to that waxes and wanes based on how focused today. I'm trying to explain myself, which I have not been very good about lately, but I'm also starting Moms don't have time to travel and moms don't have time to grieve. And a new podcast called Moms Don't have Time to have sex, which I'm gonna launch on Mother's Day, which that is hysterical and be so funny. I'm it'll be very different. It's a Q and A format kind of like Dear Abby but with this international sex expert who's written 17 books and she's british and she's hilarious. That's hopefully launching Mother's Day. All right, I'll be I'll be listening. It's going to be very fun. I mean, she wants me to ask these questions. I'm like, I can't say this out loud, and she's like, that's why it's going to be funny. Oh my gosh, Anyway, so that's I'm looking forward to that. That Me too. That will be very music. If it's like any of the others, it will be very lively. Yes, it will be lively. Well, talking about how moms don't have time...

...to have sex is a great place to say that we have reached the part where we come to authors don't have time to talk anymore because we have to go do other things in the podcast. But I feel like we've just touched the tip of the iceberg of stuff we could talk about with you, zippy. Thank you so much for being with us today. Thank you for having me. Thank you so much. And I'm guessing you have a book right nearby. You're dying to dive into. I have all of your books right nearby. Actually. I, I mean I have my whole night, but thank you. We're not worthy for everybody out there. Thank you for listening to ZB Owens today and be sure to get a copy of moms. Don't have time to a quarantine anthology wherever books are sold and we hope you enjoyed listening to the friends and fiction podcast. If you have, please subscribe and join us for our live show every Wednesday at seven p.m. Eastern. You can find us on our friends in fiction facebook page or watch live on our Youtube page or at parade dot com. Until then, bye bye Stevie and happy Reading. Okay. Thank you for tuning in, join us every week on facebook or Youtube, where our live show airs every Wednesday night at seven p.m. Eastern time and please subscribe to our podcast and follow us on instagram. We're so glad you're here.

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