Zibby Mag

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How Zibby Owens Made 2022 My Year

Thursday, December 15, 2022

By Tamara Schweitzer

Finding the Zibby Mag community was the highlight of my 2022. That I came to find this community when I did was truly serendipitous.

It was fall 2020, the first (eternally long) year of the pandemic. I had just sent my 4-year-old son back to preschool — masked and all — for the first time in 6 months, and I was trying to distract myself from my fears. I was sitting at the dining room table (and in earshot of my first grade daughter’s math lesson on Zoom) working to put the finishing touches on a freelance project I had taken on one week before the world shut down.

A mom from my kids’ school had hired me in March 2020 to write the content for an ebook and website she planned to launch for women going through divorce. She had the vision but lacked a way with words. As a journalist, I had never really taken on a project like this, but it had been a while since I had done any sort of writing — professionally or personally — and I was hungry for the opportunity.

Those days I was squarely in the stay-at-home mom zone, having gotten away from the creative pursuits that lit me up; parenting was a beast that overtook me in unexpected ways. Back in my 20s, I thought pursuing a career as a journalist would be the perfect job to parlay into a freelance business once I was ready to become a mom. I could write from anywhere, I envisioned, which would allow me to remain ever-present for my kids. Spoiler alert: It didn’t quite work out that way for me. Instead, it was easier to tuck that crucial part of my identity away for safekeeping and tell myself I’d get back to it someday.

That someday seemed like it was finally becoming today for me in 2019. I was finally finding time to do more than voyage to the grocery store or a complete load of laundry (folded AND put away) in those fleeting morning hours before the noon preschool pickup. And I was getting the itch to write again. The irony of it all was that I had no idea that parenting in a pandemic to two little ones (3 and 6 at the time) was coming down the pipeline, and that my someday would be pushed farther out on the horizon. Again.

So much has fallen into place this year because of the Zibby Mag community. Connecting to authors and fellow writers has been the single greatest joy in my life.

I clung to the promise of my new professional project, hoping it would be the gateway to more creative pursuits in the future, the ticket to bringing me out into the light again. The truth is, I loved being able to help someone fulfill their dream. The fellow mom from school (who had now become a friend) wanted to bring women together around the shared experience of divorce and build a community that was so necessary for sustaining women in times of isolation. Though not a divorcee myself, I understood the innate desire to be part of a community with other supportive women. I had already been going through my own sort of isolation as a stay-at-home mom sorely lacking a community of creatives. Layer on the physical isolation of Covid lockdown, and I was desperate for the right kind of connection with no idea where or how to find it.

On Zoom, I spent countless hours with my client/friend. In between fistfuls of chocolate chips eaten straight from the bag and children whining in the background, I listened carefully to her life story so I could make the words on her website and ebook resonate with women all over the country. During one of our many conversations, after lamenting the fact (for the gazillionth time) that we were already several months into the pandemic and that nothing seemed to be getting any better, we got to talking about books. As it turned out, we were both reading Untamed, the book of lockdown. It seemed there were women everywhere screaming to break free from their cages. A new wave of women’s voices were getting heard.

My friend shared that books had been a companion for her during the difficult days of her divorce and the ensuing trauma of her family breaking up. When she had no idea how she was going to get through her pain, she discovered a book that changed her life She had referred to it every day since. Through the screen, she held up her weathered, dog-eared pages of Elizabeth Lesser’s Broken Open: How Difficult Times Help Us Grow. I could see in her eyes how much this one book meant to her; how it had become the catalyst for her healing and her decision to become a divorce coach so she could help other women through this unsettling time in their lives.

As a book lover myself and someone who is enamored of authors, I had heard of Elizabeth Lesser but hadn’t read any of her books. When I looked her up later that night, I practically jumped up with enthusiasm. As fate would have it, Elizabeth Lesser was a few days away from the pub date for her newest book (her first since 2016), Cassandra Speaks: When Women are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes. It felt all too relevant for the moment.

And then, serendipity. Elizabeth was gearing up for her virtual book tour and posted about an upcoming Instagram Live interview she was doing with someone named Zibby Owens for her podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books. This was the first time I had heard about Zibby, but she had me at “Moms Don’t Have Time To.” I’d never felt more seen. From that first episode I listened to with Elizabeth Lesser, I was hooked. We as readers imagine what it’s like to know the author behind a book, but Zibby opened up all this access to them in a way that no one else was really doing.

It’s not an understatement to say that her podcast carried me through 2021. It was my window to the outside world. People were still writing books, things were still happening in their lives, and I could be invited into those lives whenever I wanted. I listened in between loads of laundry and cooking my thousandth meal of the pandemic, or on those rare mornings when I got to take a walk by myself. It was a thrill waking up every day to see what new episode had posted. I was interested in them all and devoured them like a little kid left alone with the cookie jar.

From then on, I was team Zibby. I jumped at any chance to be immersed in the inclusive community she was building. I even joined Zibby’s launch team for her first anthology and soon found myself on a Zoom with her, brainstorming ideas for spreading the word to our communities about her collection of pandemic essays. And I just kept following all things Zibby knowing it was leading me somewhere.

It’s not an understatement to say Zibby’s podcast carried me through 2021.

And where I ended up was glorious. It was New Year’s Eve 2021. We were in the midst of another Covid surge; it seemed like everyone around us was getting Omicron; we were in isolation yet again. As I lay in the dark at the foot of my daughter’s bed waiting for her to fall asleep one night, I saw a post by Zibby announcing a writing group that was starting up in a few weeks led by Darcey Gohring. I signed up in 4.2 seconds.

Shortly after that, I received a welcome email from Darcey. The first session of the writing group was set for January 24th at 4pm Pacific time. My heart sank. I’d be picking up my kids from school then. The old me would have let it go and suffered through an afternoon breaking up fights between my kids and then silently becoming resentful. But something inside me said: no more. The force was strong; nothing like the hunger of a mama bear emerging from hibernation. And boy was I hungry for connection with like-minded people. I didn’t even know at the time who I would meet, but I knew that if they were Zibby enthusiasts, it would be the right place for me.

As the first group Zoom session approached, I shocked myself with my Jedi scheduling skills. I prepped my kids that when they got in my car that day after school, I was going to be on a very important Zoom with my earbuds in and wouldn’t be talking to them. We would drive in silence while I listened with my video off to the first part of the call. Once we pulled into our driveway, I arranged for my kids to go straight from my car to our neighbor’s yard where their teenage daughter would babysit them for the afternoon. When I was safely inside my bedroom and in front of my computer, I sank into my chair with a smug smile; I had pulled it off. Who was I? It’s amazing how when you want something badly enough, you find the drive to make it happen. I could feel the hollowed-out part of my shell steadily getting the substance it needed to feel whole again.

From then on, the Moms Don’t Have Time to Write online group (now Zibby Mag group) became my weekly non-negotiable ritual. I arranged for babysitters or family to watch the kids for the sessions in the afternoon. I would rejoice on the weeks when the sessions were scheduled for 10 am because it really got to be my sacred time; with the kids at school, I didn’t have to arrange for childcare those weeks.

Having the group on Mondays always made the week that much sweeter. Except for a handful of times this year when I had other important commitments, I always signed on to attend the writing group. I made it a point to join — even when the kids were home, sick. I listened in from Cancun, Mexico the Monday after my brother’s wedding weekend. I remember my excitement when I saw that my 40th birthday fell on a Monday and realized that I would get to spend an hour of my birthday feeling nourished by the most welcoming community. It was the only gift I needed because it was the gift of finally coming back to myself.

From then on, I was team Zibby.

So much has fallen into place this year because of the Zibby community. Connecting to authors and fellow writers has been the single greatest joy in my life. I have met the most interesting women who I am grateful to call my new friends and who are the best community of cheerleaders a girl could ask for. Several of us have connected outside of the group and met in person. We immediately embraced, knowing that we were safe with our people. What’s more? I’ve found my newest venture into book coaching. I’m fully immersed in my creative pursuits once again. It all just feels right.

With 2023 around the corner, there’s so much more to look forward to. Zibby is opening a bookstore in my city (lucky Los Angeles people!) and I’m signed up to go on a retreat.

It’s safe to say that 2022 was my year. I bet Zibby would say the same was true for her.


Tamara Schweitzer is a former journalist who is now training to become a book coach.