white woman with dirty blonde hair in a bookshop

Unlocking Literary Joy: Zibby Owens Discusses the Power of Reading

Sep 30, 2023

We are excited to welcome Zibby Owens to The Style That Binds Us Podcast! Zibby is an author, podcaster, publisher, CEO, and mother of four as well as the owner of Zibby Owens Media.

She also has a bookstore, so there’s so much to get into today. We can’t wait to hear all about her career, company & more.

“If you just don’t give up and you have talent, eventually, something will hit. But you have to just keep going
Zibby Owens, author, podcaster, founder and CEO of Zibby Media
/ Photo Courtesy: Ellen Katz

Thank you so much, Zibby, for being here.

It is my pleasure, thanks for having me.

To start, will you walk us through your career?

The quick version is, I’ve loved books and writing my entire life. I was that kid with a nose in a book all the time and wanted to be the youngest novelist ever when I was eight. Now I’m finally gonna become a novelist when I’m forty-seven, but that’s fine, I got there.

I had a career with twists and turns when I realized after an internship at Vanity Fair, that there is no clear path to becoming a writer. That was my freshman year of college and I tried a bunch of different things – I was a psychology major, I worked in an inpatient unit at a psychiatric hospital, and thought a lot about becoming a psychologist, which I feel like I am part-time.

I worked in marketing because I love branding so much. I worked at a collection of startups after college in Los Angeles, California watching companies launch because I also love the entrepreneurial side of starting businesses, and coming up with fun ideas, and helped launch a fragrance at Unilever for Vera Wang.

Then, I went to business school where I went through a lot of life-changing events. Not the least of which was losing my college roommate and best friend on 9/11, which made me rethink what I wanted to do. I also, by the way, met so many people at business school, who wanted to be marketers.

I went to school thinking that what I was going to school for was marketing, and I liked marketing. But I met people who loved marketing the way I love writing, reading, and doing everything in that, so I started rethinking the whole thing. I took a year off after school.

I wrote a book, but it didn’t sell, I ended up writing another book which did sell, and then, I took eleven years at home off with my kids. I have four kids, who are now sixteen, and eight – almost nine. While I did that, I was never really sitting around, I was very busy. I was writing, I did freelance writing articles, and I helped a few friends who were starting up companies.

After I got divorced, when my kids were older, I had some free time every other weekend. When they were with their dad, which was hard to get used to. I got back into writing, I got back into reading, and I could do sort of whatever I wanted with that time. I realized again how life is short, but it was time to rewrite my own story.

So I went back to writing, I wrote a whole other book, and I wrote proposals for lots of other books. I got an agent, and then I had a friend who suggested I start a podcast because I wasn’t even on social media. The podcast was, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” where I decided to interview an author every episode that started once a week.

It moved to daily during the pandemic and it stayed daily. It led to all these other things that were not the plan, but as soon as I felt where it should go, I followed. So it led to in-person – events, a book club, and live interviews.

I started moderating a lot of bookstore events – a platform where authors wrote essays that became Zibby Mag. It’s now led to a bookstore and a publishing house, which takes up a huge portion of my time- books. The magazine, events, retreats, I opened a bookstore recently in California. I have a memoir coming out and a children’s book. Now I have a novel coming out and it’s just been exploding lately. 

I understand exactly what you’re talking about because I had to go back and forth day-to-day when I was in Birmingham, Alabama. So every third week we were meeting halfway, she would go with him and I would be on my own figuring out what that was like and everything. I am also a stay-at-home mom, figuring out something to do, other ways, and everything.

I also minored in psychology because I couldn’t figure out exactly what I wanted to do in psychology and I was worried it would be so heavy. It’s so funny how things come full circle and now, I work with women in their closets and we work together to empower other women and people to live their most fearless and stylish lives, to promote people like you, brands, books, and all of these things. It’s interesting how everything that came before leads to what’s happening now, right?

Yes. That’s why when people ask what my advice would be to younger people or my younger self, I always say, “It will all make sense later.” Keep doing all the things that you love, even if they don’t link up perfectly in the present. When I look back at literally everything I’ve done at any job, I’m using it right now.

Exactly, it’s fascinating. You look back and think, “Oh I wish I hadn’t worried so much about that.” “Stop worrying and put your energy into creating.” That is so true. Now, I want to hear all about the bookstore. How did you design it? The look of it, what books did you choose? All of the things.

Cofounders Sherri Puzey, Zibby Owens, and Diana Tramontano / Photo Courtesy: Zibby Mag

I partnered with two women I’ve been working within Zibby Media, Sherri Puzey and Diana Tramontano. We were in Los Angeles, had just gotten the lease for the store, and stood around my kitchen island to talk about the curation.

One important thing is that I wanted to counteract the disappointment people feel when they’re looking for a certain book, and the store doesn’t have it. You want to support any bookstore so you go there with your request, and then they’re like, “I can order it for you”, and you’re like, “This is a waste of time.” I didn’t want that.

I wanted to lean into what makes independent bookstores so special, and it’s not having all the books when you want them. But what it is, is the ability to act as a place for curation and recommendation in a way that bigger stores can’t quite do as effectively. Where you have booksellers who know the merchandise backward and forwards.

We wanted to be able to communicate all the things we knew about the books because the three of us read like 8 million books and have them so that people find something that we knew they would like. At the time I was doing all these TV things all the time, when people would say, “What’s a book for your sister”, “What’s a book for your mother?”, or “Tell us about book thrillers for this holiday season.” I kind of riff off that and all the different bookshelves are a different topic or emotion.

So we have a whole section devoted to how books make you feel, books that make you tremble, books that make you lost, books that make you cry. Then we have books by different identity types, including books for the anxious person, which is me. We have books recommended by different booksellers, and we have shelves curated by other authors because people always like to know what other authors like to read.

We have books for the knowledge hunter, coming of age books, coming of middle age, coming of old age. We try to poke fun at some of these categories in a light-hearted way to show that, “We get it, we’re readers.” When you walk into the store, you can say, “Oh, I’m an anxious person who wants to love my neighborhood.” You can go to the neighborhood shelf and the anxious shelf. Now you’re down to maybe 25 books to choose from, and you leave with something that is going to hit. That’s the merchandise.

In terms of look and feel, I have very specific tastes. I’m all about hospitality, making people feel at home, and wanting everything I do professionally to feel as intimate as I do it personally. I’m used to hosting a salon downstairs, I love design.

Not fashion for me, I’m kind of not into that, because I’m so limited in what looks good on me that I just can’t be that into it. I love home design, I love picking things out, and I worked with the contractor who had done my own home to do the walls. I’ve become a very great customer of Wayfair, especially on Black Friday, and days the things are on sale.

Farrow & Ball wallpapers, Serena and Lily wallpapers, blue and white wallpapers, a beautiful throw-around on the sofa with great coffee table books and plants. Just making it, I put framed pictures of everybody on my team in my office so it feels like a home. I want it all to feel like a home away from home.

Right, so there you just use your psychology learnings. The same thing about styles, you might not be aware necessarily what you’re putting on your body. The colors and things resonate with you, but your style is also about your surroundings and all the things that make you.

That’s really what we’re about to do, it’s not necessarily so much about fashion as it is about – your insides matching your outsides, your surroundings, feeling good, and knowing who you are.

My mother just turned 75, and I had a little luncheon for some of her best friends yesterday. Some of them hadn’t been to my apartment and they were like, “This is such a happy home, it just feels like such a happy home”

That’s awesome.

So you organize it by color also, right? At least at home, which we can see in the back.

Yes. At home, I organized by color. Not at the store, that would be too hard. Yeah, at home, I like to have it in color. I think that way, it’s easier for me to find something when I’m like, “No, we’d have that yellow cover.”

Will you tell us about Zibby Media?

Zibby Media is the new name and we’ve just rebranded with a new website – zibbymedia.com. We’re in the process of consolidating some of our Instagram accounts. Because everything that I’m doing from my podcast, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to the retreats that we do, to the books we publish, everything is linked under the same goal which is deepening the connections between readers, authors, and each other.

I decided to make it like an overarching brand that includes everything. So if you’re taking a class from Zibby Classes, or you’re going to a retreat, or you’re going to a book event for one of our books that came out. You’ll be around like-minded, bookish people who care about authors, who care about books, and who care about other people.

Embrace the uniqueness of independent bookstores; they may not have all the books you want instantly, but their magic lies in the art of curation and personalized recommendations, a charm larger stores can’t replicate

In that way, we’ve created this wonderful community. What does it mean to be media including our publishing house? Will it be books? We have a book that comes out every month in fiction and memoir. So far we have only women authors, and we have all women except for one guy, Jordan, on our team.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t take men, we have a submission from a man I’m very excited about. It includes Zibby Mag, which is our online magazine, where we have deep dives into different authors. We have an essay written by an author every week, we do book roundups and other fun things. We have a book club.

Every month I pick a book, we meet with the author, do a Q & A with her, and also discuss the book before the author joins the book club. It includes our series of Zibby Classes and we have a whole new slate that just came out for this fall and includes retreats, which we’re doing every couple of months.

We have one coming up soon in the Santa Barbara Wine Country for sixty women, we have one in Austin, Texas coming up. We have a Miami Book Fair. We’re doing a whole retreat around that, I’m trying to plan when it’s intricate but it might be too difficult.

Then we have the audiobooks that we produce for books. We had been producing a lot of other podcasts, and I’ve kind of narrowed that down to just one other one and mine. Yeah, and it’s fun, we’re putting on lots of events. It’s just a lot of bookish joy.

That makes me feel like all the things we’re trying to do are manageable. That is so much, Zibby. That’s wonderful.

I do have a whole team now though, the publishing company takes a lot of resources.

Sure, all of those things. Setting up a retreat and all that.

What are the classes that you offer?

They’re mostly writing-focused, and they’re mostly taught by authors who have been on my podcast or other authors I know or who approached us and have a great topic or something. It’s everything from helping craft your brand as an author, to pitching for magazines, or how to write your first novel.

There are one-time workshops like writing about enhancing how you write about the scenery in place, we have all things like those types of classes. Also, memoir writing, and we have a writer’s table, a writing group that meets every Monday.

That’s awesome. Well, Mom works with authors on their book tour wardrobe. So keep that in mind if anyone’s like, “I have no idea how to best represent myself as an author when I’m going to all these different cities, all the different climates” and I’m just trying to speak to the book and not have to think about wardrobe. 

It’s crazy. The book tours are so frenetic, right? They’re wonderful, I think it’s an amazing experience, I think that the authors desperately missed that, at least I know the ones I worked with during Covid. Just have to do it online, but okay. Will you tell us about the books you’ve written?

The books I’ve written, sure. The first two came out of the pandemic. As I said, I had started a website that became Zibby Mag. It was supposed to be this beautiful new site, but it hadn’t been built when the pandemic came out. I had assigned a bunch of the articles, or rather the essays.

Moms Don't Have Time to Have Kids: A Timeless Anthology

So the first two, one was called, “Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology” and one was “Moms Don’t Have Time to Have Kids: A Timeless Anthology” Each of those, I had authors write about, not about what moms didn’t have time to do, but I picked like five topics for each book. “Moms Don’t Have Time To Eat” I had a whole section on authors writing about food, or authors writing about sleep, insomnia, naptime, or whatever.

So they were really fun and creative and I wrote essays for each of them as well. But it was mostly like Lily King writing about her daughter, and just all these authors, I admire contributing. I compiled and worked with an editor to do so in 2020 and they came out in 2021 – one in February and one in November.

I had a book deal for a children’s book that kind of fell in my lap through a friend. So I had a book called “Princess Charming” come out from Penguin Random House, last February or March. Then last July, my memoir came out “Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature” That was my story, as told through scenes and books that I was reading at the time, because I always remember what I was reading and where I was, and I read it. So it was telling the things I wanted to get across, including this sort of circuitous career, but also a lot of the losses that I’ve gone through.

Blank: A Novel

I’ve had a lot of grief that came very early in my life and so writing about that, and writing about falling in love with my second husband, all of that. I’ve been trying to get that story out, particularly of the 9/11 peace since right after 9/11 and I was glad to finally bring Stacey’s story into the world. I have a novel called “Blank“, which is coming out on March 1st of next year.

That is about a mom, wife, and best-selling author, Pippa, who lives in Los Angeles. The story takes place over six days in Los Angeles when her deadline for her second book is looming. What happens over that week is she comes up with the idea to hand her book in blank, because she hasn’t been able to figure out what to write and thinks it’ll be an interesting commentary on the publishing industry as a whole. So it’s part satire, but the heart of it lies with Pippa and her relationship with her kids, her husband, her sense of self, and the way she’s able along with her girlfriends to find her voice again.

That’s great. About one of my friends who is an author, her name is Patti Henry. When you go to The Secret Book of Flora Lee, wherever, she’s often in England in her mind. As a writer, I feel like you get so lost in what you’re doing and you look up and it’s like midnight. It’s like, “Where are the kids? Where is everything?” It’s hard to switch gears, right? I know for you to switch, I would think. Mom, and then all of a sudden, here you are. “Now I’m gonna write this book”, “Now I need to make sure that retreats are being set up.” I know you have a team, but to have the time to be creative, sometimes we feel like that’s a strain too. Because we’re so busy doing all the things we have to do. Do you have any thoughts on that?

That’s great. About one of my friends who is an author, her name is Patti Henry. When you go to The Secret Book of Flora Lea, wherever, she’s often in England in her mind. As a writer, I feel like you get so lost in what you’re doing and you look up and it’s like midnight.

It’s like, “Where are the kids? Where is everything?” It’s hard to switch gears, right? I know for you to switch, I would think. Mom, and then all of a sudden, here you are. “Now I’m gonna write this book”, “Now I need to make sure that retreats are being set up.”

I know you have a team, but to have the time to be creative, sometimes we feel like that’s a strain too. Because we’re so busy doing all the things we have to do. Do you have any thoughts on that?

I try to do kid-related stuff in its bucket in terms of the logistics of being the mom, not the actual being with the kids. But all the doctor’s appointments and all of that, I have all these different email addresses. So when I go through my emails, which I’m relentless and always paying attention to, I have like a whole kid email.

I dedicate time to when I’m going to deal with it, and then I sort of put that hat on and deal with it all at a stretch, and then I stop with that inbox and move to a different inbox. In terms of being with my kids, I don’t find it hard to be creative when they’re around, because they’re creative and fun.

You don’t need to be quiet somewhere?

I couldn’t write fiction around the kids. I had to do that around nobody, no noise. But memoir and all the other types of writing, that’s fine. I can do that in a crowded room. But fiction took a different muscle, so I had to do that differently.

What are some of the things that you love most about books?

I love learning about people. I love putting myself in other people’s shoes because I feel like I try to do that all the time, right? I try to imagine what it’s like, and books show me what it’s like. I love hearing people’s stories, I never get tired of learning people’s stories, ever. I love the feeling of getting to surround myself with beautiful language.

But then at the same time, moving on, and having a book that makes me laugh out loud, or a book that tears at my heartstrings and I’m crying. I love how books make me feel. I love just how much I’ve learned even since I started the podcast about different people.

I’ve been a big reader forever but I just learned so much about people I might not have ever learned about. I just did a podcast before this with a man. He was talking to me from his English classroom in New Jersey, but his whole book was actually about him growing up in Alabama, and being biracial.

The In-Betweens: A Lyrical Memoir

Yeah, growing up in Alabama. It’s called “The In-Betweens: A Lyrical Memoir” by Davon Loeb. It’s absolutely beautiful, it’s called a lyrical memoir. I never would have crossed paths with this man, I probably would never have had this in-depth conversation.

Instead, I know all about him, and his childhood, and I got to feast on how he writes, which is so gorgeous. I don’t know, I just marvel at that. I marvel at all the connections, I don’t mean connection in a network-y way, I mean actual true connection. Like on a deeper soul level that I get every day.

So did you do this podcast recording today? You know we’re from Alabama?

That’s right. I know, you were just mentioning Alabama and I’m like, “That’s crazy.”

Isn’t that crazy? You probably haven’t thought about Alabama in years or maybe you have. It’s remarkable, his name is Davon Loeb?

Yes. D-A-V-O-N L-O-E-B (davonloeb.com)

Okay, we will read that. There are some wonderful things about Alabama and some challenging things.

I’ll just say it wasn’t even my idea, a new girlfriend I had met through our kids, Sara who’s a middle-grade author said, “I’m good at figuring out what people should do next in their careers.” I was like, “Okay, I barely know you but fine, totally happy to take your recommendation.”

She thought about it for a few days, I was running into school, and she was running out of school. She said, “A podcast, you should start a podcast.” I was like, “What? Why would I do that?” So that’s how it started and I originally wanted to write a book called “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” but the agent I was working with didn’t think publishers would find that funny.

Wow. It’s true even now when you run a business or anything, it’s like you feel guilty when you’re reading something that has nothing to do with your work. But you desperately want to escape everything and delve into a book, so it’s hard to find time to do those kinds of things.

Yeah, but always worthwhile.

Break things down into little chunks, and just try to do the one thing, do that one thing well, and then put it aside, that’s accomplishable.

Totally. We sort of talked about it a little bit, but how do you balance motherhood with your career?

I try to bring my kids into what I do all the time. They’ve all done podcasts with me, I have another one next week that they’re doing. Anytime my kids like a book, I offer to get in touch with the author, which I do.

I think they’ve grown up in this crazy world where authors are just people we can always access whereas for me, I had one author pen pal as a kid and it was the greatest thing ever. So they’re really into what I’m doing, I’m always asking them questions. I talk to them about, even whether or not, “Should I let this person go? What do you think?”

My niece helped me design the bookstore, my nephew helped me design my office. They’re just into it. My older kids who are now sixteen, remember very well that for a long time, I wasn’t doing anything and so they’re very proud of me. The little kids have grown up with me being a working mom, so it’s kind of different, but they all know that I’m building everything.

My son, who is eight, is sort of my biggest reader ironically of everybody, and loves reading the books we publish. They play games with each other like guessing, “Which book is coming out? Which month?” like quizzes, “Okay, March 2023.” They’re just really into it, they come to book events, and I’m always dragging them into bookstores. They’re just a total part of it.

I’m cognizant of sharing exactly what I’m doing because it’s one thing to say. I have work, go in, close the door, and do something that people don’t understand. It’s another to say, “This is the author I’m talking to right now.”, “What’s it about Mom?”, “It’s about x, now I’m gonna talk to him.” Then I close the door, they know exactly what I’m doing. I come out and I tell them about the podcast.

Or they say like, “Why are you on your phone too much?” I’m like, “I’m literally on the phone booking an aerial silks private lesson.” Like, “Give me a break.” I guess transparency is the answer. I’ll say on a weekend, my Inbox is up to 542, and like, “I gotta attack this.” Then I’ll call out and be like, “I’m down to 320.” They’ll be like, “Yay!”

I try to keep them involved, I have radically cut back on what I used to do with their schools. I used to be more involved and go to PTA meetings – I just don’t do that. I go to the class events for each of their classes. Once I go to curriculum night, but I no longer go to the optional things. My older kids are at boarding school now, and that still takes a lot of coordination and more constant shipping them stuff and whatever. But I just do it, you just do it.

That’s exactly right. Don’t compare yourself to other people and wonder how they do. But I think, what a gift you’re giving your kids for being and having them be involved. Also, if they’d like a book, you reach out to the author. I don’t know if you have the author on the podcast, but they do the podcast with you for the author or anything like that. That’s just phenomenal, that’s amazing.

It’s so nice for you to have the kids and you’re a part of that next generation where it’s so many people. Maybe they aren’t around siblings or younger people that much, but you are getting to see them develop and how they think about the world. I feel like that’s so interesting to be exposed to, and probably helps you a lot with your business, and you’re thinking about the future.

Yes, and I’m eager to see how this whole thing plays out as they get older. They’ve already been like, “When you die, who gets the store?”

Working with Delia, my daughter has been insightful when she tells me things about how her age group is feeling. About so many different things that you were just coming from a different paradigm, so it does enrich both of our lives when we can have these intergenerational conversations.

Yes, and how do you figure out which books to publish? Publishing a book a month? My goodness.

We get a lot of submissions, and we have very narrow parameters about the topics. We don’t do historical fiction, we do contemporary fiction and memoir only. I count contemporary as anything after I was born, which was in the 1970s. So far, I said only women, but we’ll see.

Strong sense of voice and plays, propulsive narratives, beautiful writing, it’s pretty clear. It’s pretty obvious when a book is really good, honestly. We get a lot of submissions, and some books are stronger than others. When there’s a book we just read a book, all of us, that’s so sensational.

We’re meeting with the author today, I hope we get it. We need our whole team to be on board because there’s so much work and trying to bring it to market. Everyone has to be excited. We’re trying to be very picky, we haven’t acquired anything in a couple of months because we’ve just been waiting for the next great thing.

We have our lineup that’s already set through 2024. We do not do a book a month but do six which are A-plus. So for now, we’re full on one book a month, but we’ll see what happens. If we get sensational books, then we’ll do twelve.

All right. What are your current book suggestions?

Hell If We Don't Change Our Ways

I’m currently listening to “Tom Lake” by Ann Patchett, and that’s narrated by Meryl Streep so I’m having a lot of fun listening to that. We have a book coming out from Zibby Books called “Hell If We Don’t Change Our Ways”, which is so good. It’s one of those sensational A-plus books, it’s coming out in early October.

You can pre-order it but it’s amazing, written by a woman named Brittany Means. It’s a memoir about her very traumatic childhood, how she wrestles with the sense of memory, and how she’s put her life back together, even though she’s still in her 20s. It’s amazing.

What else have I read? I’ve just read something. This is not something I would typically read, but it’s a history book by a man named Douglas Brunt about Rudolf DieselThe Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel: Genius, Power, and Deception on the Eve of World War I. Because I do like history and business, and it’s about sort of how he formed that company and why we should all know about Rudolf Diesel, and we don’t. I finished that recently.

What else did I read? There’s a book also coming out next month called “Remember Love: Words for Tender Times” by Cleo Wade, I love that. What else have I been reading? Well, it’s not coming out for a little bit, but I got an advanced copy of Anna Quindlen‘s new book (After Annie) and it’s so good. I’m excited about that.

The Leaving Season: A Memoir in Essays

What else am I reading? Oh, “The Leaving Season: A Memoir in Essays” it’s great, we just had our book club meeting about that by Kelly McMasters. It’s a beautiful collection of essays that tell like a narrative. She’s an amazing writer, it’s about raising small kids and how she was deciding whether or not to leave her husband who is an artist. How she opened a bookstore and lived in the country, country-like woods. It’s about her, it’s really beautiful, that’s how she got through this period. That’s one of my recent favorites, The Leaving Season.

How do you find new authors?

I get pitched by all the publicists, not all but probably most workbooks coming out. If the pitch in the email sounds good, I will read it. If they send me the link to the electronic version, I’ll read it a little bit.

If I like it, I’ll ask for the whole thing in hardcopy, because I need it here so I don’t forget it. Even when I ask for hard copies of the podcast, I’ll probably choose maybe one out of five, even that I request. I go through all the publisher catalogs that are on this website called Edelweiss.

Sometimes authors reach out directly, sometimes friends recommend books, and sometimes other authors recommend books. I have to like it because I’m the one rooting for it, reading it, and talking to the author. There has to be something that I like about it.

Yeah, that’s fascinating. I’m sure you get ideas about books from everywhere. Okay, when you were interviewing all these authors, what are some of the top takeaways that you have gotten?

The top takeaways are, that it takes practice and time. You shouldn’t expect your first novel to sell, you have to write your first novel so you learn how to do it, just how to do it. Your next one is, you try to do it well, that’s your practice one. Then your third novel should be the first time you even expect to sell a book, so it takes a long time.

I think another thing is, the people who publish are the people who don’t give up. It sounds so obvious, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best writer on the planet. There could be probably somebody way better, who wrote a beautiful short story, but they gave up and went on and did something else.

If you just don’t give up and you have talent, eventually, something will hit. But you have to just keep going, a lot of people tell me that. I’ve learned a lot of authors have anxiety, and part of that is being so hyper-aware of surroundings that makes you a good observational person who can put that in their writing.

I’ve learned you can’t chase trends like right now rom-coms are such a big trend. Don’t write rom-coms if you’re not a good rom-com writer just because you think it’s on trend, because by the time it comes out, it won’t be a trend anymore. So you have to stick to what you do well, and what you want to do.

It’s too hard to write about trends, I think. What else have I learned from other authors? So many of them their advice is to read, and it’s true. You get so much education from reading other people’s work. Pick something you never get tired of talking about or reading about.

Right. Yeah, that’s wonderful. I love “Don’t chase the trends.” We tell people that when building their wardrobe or when a designer is designing their collection.

Also, don’t expect your first book to sell, and don’t give up. Those are all really important things and I think it’s important for writers to hear because sometimes I’ve heard writers say it’s a lonely profession.

That’s another thing I would say, get feedback often. Don’t just toil away, find somebody you want to swap your work with, take a class, take a workshop, find a writing group, or just read it to somebody but don’t keep it all to a secret because you’re worried about it. You’re better off finding out and doing something than toiling in obscurity for two years, and then finding out it’s not working quite right.

Do you have any advice for writer’s block? What should someone do if they’re experiencing that?

So funny, somebody yesterday just answered this question by saying, “Write in three-word sentences, until the writer’s block goes away.” Tips for writer’s block, I like to just write scenes, I like to think of writing in scenes.

It’s hard to say I’m writing a whole novel, but I’m gonna write that thing where there’s that car accident like that’s a scene. I think if you break things down into little chunks, and just try to do the one thing, do that one thing well, and then put it aside, that’s accomplishable.

That is great advice for life, for sure. The other thing I was thinking about too, my mother used to tell me because I loved to read as a child so much and she would say, “Stop reading and look out the window, we’re in Nantucket.” It naturally builds your vocabulary too, you don’t even realize what you’re doing.

Yeah. My son the other day was like, “I’m feeling a little melancholy.” I was like, “Is that right?”

That’s adorable. When I’m reading, I’m constantly looking up and getting dictionary.com. “What is this word?” or trying to learn new words constantly. If someone does write a book, what are your tips? How should they go about getting it published, or an editor? There are a lot of different people that you have to contact.

Keep doing all the things that you love, even if they don’t link up perfectly in the present.

My first advice if you’ve written a book, is to make sure you’ve written a good book before you try to sell it. Don’t wait for an agent to tell you it’s a bad book, not bad, but there’s a high standard for publication. Not every book is ready when it comes in. So you’re much better off sending in a book to a publisher, which is ready to be printed.

If you don’t feel like you can take it further, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to send it to a publisher. It might be time to get an independent editor, it might be time to workshop it with a group. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s done.

It just means you need another pair of eyes on it, and you should wait until somebody has read it and been like, “This is amazing”. Try to get it to that point, because you don’t get that many chances with publishers.

That’s awesome. I know it. We are so sorry to hear about your loss on 9/11, that is such a major event every single year, it is completely inescapable. Will you tell us how that changed your outlook on life?

Before I lost Stacey, I hadn’t lost anybody close to me. Our lives were so entwined. It changed the way I live because it’s one thing to say life is short, but it’s quite another to be packing up your best friend’s sweaters.

Telling her gym that she’s not coming back and putting her stuff away, it’s just unbelievable when you go through all the things of shutting down a life. It’s hard to then live the same way again. Me, professionally, I believe she was killed while sitting at her desk because she had just gotten to work in terms of the timeline, but who knows?

So I vowed to myself that if I was gonna get killed at my desk, my work had to be something where I brought my whole self to what I was doing. It couldn’t just be something I was doing before like marketing Pepperidge Farm cookies. But it had to be me that nobody else could step in and do exactly what I was doing, that it was like my thing.

How old was she?

We were 25 at the time. In a way, it has made me have less fear because If I don’t do it, I’ll forever miss the opportunity. Whether that’s trying a new thing, or launching a new business. As long as it’s not a big deal.

On a smaller scale, It’s very top of mind for me on a daily routine basis that everything can end at any time. Which sounds dark, but it’s also very motivating. I work against time every day, people are like, “Do you sleep?” I mean, “Yes, I do sleep.” But I feel like I am chasing an ever-diminishing hourglass every single day, and I’m racing so I do things quickly. I read quickly, I stopped to smell the roses, so to speak, but I am fully aware.

I’m 47 years old, like, “Okay, what am I gonna get done in the next five years?” Like, “Where am I gonna be in 10 years? Am I gonna want to be working at this pace?” Like, “Where am I going with this?” It’s also made me much more sensitive and I think helpful when other people have losses.

Right now, I’ve learned with loss, sometimes the most unexpected people are the ones who show up for you and are the most helpful. So I try to be that person to as many people as I can. I’ve always been extremely sensitive, it’s made me even more sensitive and it just changed me entirely.

Right. When you say sensitive, are you talking about empathetic?

Yeah. Empathetic, emotional, reactive. Things affect me very deeply in every way.

Which is gonna be a good thing, and can be a hard thing to do things so intensely, right? On one hand, you’re constantly thinking about what it will be like in five years. Then, on the other hand, you’re thinking, “Well, I might not be here tonight.”

What were your biggest takeaways from business school?

Academically, we read all these cases. We’re always evaluating what happened and what can people do differently, it was some of the smaller decisions that led people to get off track. I think about things from an operational standpoint, I’m always like, analyzing operations because I loved that class. I very much appreciate operational efficiency.

I just dropped my daughter at school, and I said to the headmaster, “This place is run in the most efficient way possible. I love it. Thank you.” I got a lot out of operations. Leaning on other people who went to business school with me for advice, I helped my husband’s family start up a crumb cake business, and I didn’t know what I was doing in terms of that. So I called a friend of mine who was in logistics, and I was like, “Tell me about these frozen trucks” Do not be afraid to ask. I learned the importance of collaboration in small groups.

I’ve heard so many times that connections that you make as far as leaning on each other, collaborating, things like that, and reaching out to ask questions of each other is a big part of the benefit of going to business school. So where can people find you?

They can find me mostly on Instagram, I’m on there way too much @zibbyowens. But I kind of use Instagram as my daily diary of sorts, a visual diary of what’s going on behind the scenes and all that. They can go to my website Zibby Owens, for all of my writing, past essays, and news about my books, they can go to zibbymedia.com, for all of the company’s stuff.

I have a substack where I write an essay every week, zibbyowens.substack.com, and I’ve gotten into that. I even have a paid component where people can get behind-the-scenes videos of my podcast, extra excerpts, invitations, and all sorts of fun stuff, that’s on substack. But really, they can usually just find me reading.

The people who publish are the people who don’t give up.

Are you thinking about opening more physical bookstores?

I am thinking about it. I’ve had several opportunities to acquire other bookstores that I’ve turned down. I would like to get a bookmobile, I want to do that. I think eventually I’d like to open perhaps one more, but not this year.

I’m waiting, I think I need to wait a little bit. But I do want to have something in New York but I don’t think a store, I’m thinking maybe more like a club. I don’t know, something different. 

Well, good. Keep us posted about that. I love my neighborhood bookstore, The Corner Bookstore. It’s so much fun to go to meet the authors, hear them speak, and things like that. So I think it’s nothing like local bookstores.

How can we support you? What’s next for you?

Buy the books we publish. Spread the word about the books we publish. Buy my next novel, “Blank” I’m excited about. Yeah, just spread the word about what we’re doing. We’re just trying to let people know that we’re here and all the great things we’re doing.

Yeah, thank you, Zibby. Thank you everyone.

Thank you for having me.

Have a good day.

If you’ve enjoyed this episode, we’d love for you to spread the joy—share it with a friend and hit that subscribe button. Your involvement helps us grow, and we’d be thrilled to have you along for the journey.


Have you heard about our weekly newsletter? It’s your ticket to exclusive content that doesn’t make its way to other platforms. We’re talking behind-the-scenes insights, bonus stories, and much more that’s just for you.

Imagine getting a delightful newsletter drop every Tuesday, except for one special edition on the third Thursday of every month—it’s Alison’s Celebrating Life After 40 edition, a must-read!

Important Links

Connect with Zibby Owens


Read Zibby Owens’ Books

Books Zibby mentioned during the episode:



About the Guest

Zibby Owens is the creator and host of the award-winning, daily podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books. Zibby is also the founder and CEO of Zibby Media, dubbed “the Zibby-verse” (L.A. Times). It includes the publishing house Zibby Books, the online magazine Zibby Mag, Zibby’s Book Club, retreats, classes, and events. She owns Zibby’s Bookshop, an independent bookstore in Santa Monica, CA. A regular contributor to “Good Morning America” and other outlets, she loves recommending books as “NYC’s Most Powerful Book-fluencer” (Vulture). 

Zibby is the author of Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature and children’s book Princess Charming, and editor of two anthologies, Moms Don’t Have Time to Have Kids: A Timeless Anthology and Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology.

A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Business School, Zibby currently lives in New York (with frequent visits to L.A.) with her husband, Kyle Owens of Morning Moon Productions, and her four children ages 9 to 16. Follow her on Instagram @zibbyowens and Substack where she tells it like it is.

The Style That Binds Us


you said:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.