Zibby Owens is the creator and host of the award-winning podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, where she interviews authors about their work. She was named “NYC’s Most Powerful Book-Influencer” by New York Magazine and is referred to as “the Oprah of books”. Owens is a regular contributor to Good Morning America online and the Washington Post, and has contributed to many publications including Real Simple, Redbook, Parents, the New York Times online, Scary Mommy, and Huffington Post. All of the proceeds of her latest book, Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology, will be donated to the Susan Felice Owens Program for COVID-19 Vaccine Research at Mount Sinai Health System in honor of her late mother-in-law who lost her life to COVID.
How’re you feeling? I’m so sorry that you got COVID – and right before your book tour…
I become myopic when I’m focused on something. I was highly immersed in launching my book, but then COVID knocked me off of my feet and made it impossible. I knew the book tour would be remote and virtual – I was ready for that. I didn’t expect to be in bed for nine days.
How did you go from business school graduate to writer?
Writing has always been my first love. I interned at Vanity Fair and learned that there was no clear path from intern to writer. I was also interested in psychology, which led me to pursue a career in brand strategy and marketing. I went to business school but was always writing on the side. I lost my best friend on 9/11 and wrote about it. I then decided that I needed to do something that brought my whole self to my work. I took a year off and wrote a novel. I got an agent, but it ended up not selling. I ghost wrote a book and continued to freelance.
Has there been a common thread that’s run through your career?
Everything I do involves how people think and feel mixed with entrepreneurship. I love starting things, branding things and connecting people.
You have four children, an award-winning podcast, an illustrious freelancing career, books published, etc. How do you balance it all?
Each day is different. I’m always reprioritizing my time. I try to start working as early as possible. I do things really quickly. I’ve assembled an amazing team. There are also days when I’m overwhelmed and I just cry.
Why do you think you were pulled to the literary world?
I love to read and I read quickly. I’ve been a reader and writer my whole life. I’m truly curious about people. I’m a connector and bringing books to people is another way I like to connect people.
Why are you uniquely positioned to help authors connect with readers?
I have formed this platform. I have a small team and I’m able to pivot. When I have an idea, there’s no gate – I just do it. For example, I recently started a fellowship for aspiring memoirists. I’ve also had many ideas that haven’t been successful, but there’s not a lot of downside or cost so I keep trying new things.
How do you select the authors to interview and the books to feature?
I’m inundated with pitches from publishers. I keep a folder of pitches on my computer and I’m constantly going through that folder.
I love the title “Moms Don’t Have Time To.” What is the meaning for you behind that? You certainly have made the time to accomplish a lot – is the takeaway that you prioritize what’s important?
When I was writing parenting essays my husband suggested I create a collection of my essays and turn it into a book. I responded, “Moms don’t have time to read a book!” Then I thought that’s a great name for a book.
The title is a tongue and cheek way of saying that you should take the time for things that matter. When you’re in the “mom years” it feels impossible to even breathe. But there are things you can do during the crazy times to make the crazy times a little less crazy. For me, that’s always been reading.
I’m acknowledging the craziness and business of motherhood, but also trying to send a life raft to other moms. We can make time and we’re still the smart, capable, multi-dimensional women we were before we had kids.
Who is your target audience?
Despite this title, my audience is not just moms. My audience consists of caretakers – those who are putting their own needs second.
What’s next on the horizon?
I have a second anthology coming out in November called Moms Don’t Have Time to Have Kids. I also have a children’s book coming out called Princess Charming.
You’re very talented at bringing people together and championing authors through your podcast and your online community. How do you balance promoting other writers vs. delving more deeply into your own writing?
I do not take enough time to write myself. I focus 99% of my energy on other people.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Remember your story is going to be important to someone. It doesn’t have to be a bestseller, but it will touch someone and that makes it worth it.
What book has had the greatest impact on you during the pandemic?
Writers and Lovers kept me up until 2am. It has themes of loss, writing, and mother-daughter relationships. It captures a lot of issues in my own life.
Who inspires you?
Both of my parents are voracious readers and always made the time to read. My step-grandfather owned a small printing press and he published a book of mine when I was nine, which was such a thrill.
How do you think the literary world has changed over time?
I think and I hope that there’s more of a movement in understanding the author’s personality. Just like when you read about a movie star’s personal life, it allows you to enjoy their work on a deeper level. Until recently no one paid attention to authors and you could be sitting next to them on the bus and not even know. Now they are getting the celebrity status that they deserve.