Former Moms Don’t Have Time to Lose Weight guest Ann Garvin joins Zibby for a new conversation. The two discuss Ann’s latest novel, I Thought You Said This Would Work, and how we rarely ever talk about how significant friendships are in our lives, as well as how destabilizing it can be to lose them. Ann also shares what motivated her to start Tall Poppy Writers, a female writing collective designed to help women connect with one another to not only improve their work but also build a supportive community.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Ann. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” You’re one of the first people who’s come on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Lose Weight” first. Could that be? I don’t know.

Ann Garvin: I think you might be right, yeah. Thank you so much for having me. It’s such a thrill to be on your show.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, you’re so amazing. I loved this book. Tell listeners, please, what your book is about. What inspired you to write it?

Ann: My book’s about old friends who had a conflict where one of them didn’t know what was the conflict was. The other one had a misunderstanding about it. They were best of friends, the kind of friends that were sisters in college, that kind of friend where you tell them everything. They make your whole life work. Then on graduation, there’s a miscommunication. It’s so bad that they lose each other. Also, this was in the nineties. They’re more maybe our age or a little bit younger, and so they didn’t have that ability to just text or call or find people. They were young. There was such a feeling of, oh, my god, what happened? and shame and not really understanding how hard it is to make another friend later in life that feels so much like that college friend. Over the years, the protagonist, Samantha, understands what she lost and then is so deeply sorry and doesn’t know what she did. Then Holly, the woman that she fought with, she has really taken it to her heart. She’s not about to make friends with this woman anymore. Their best friend is in the hospital. She has cancer. She’s asking them to do a big deal for her. She needs her Great Pyrenees dog that lives at her ex-husband’s house. She wants that dog so she can get through chemotherapy again. This is a remission situation. She’s like, you know, you guys are the only people that I can ask to do this. This dog can’t be flown. You’ve got to drive with him. You need each other to do this.

They can’t say no. They don’t want to do it. They’re both on their way out to California to pick up this dog. They pick up a D-list celebrity who just sort of attaches herself to this twosome. She is like a fairy minx who is constantly causing trouble and making an angry situation funny. What’s interesting about her is that I didn’t know she was even planned. She just showed up in the book. She was obviously the most fun to write. When you’re a D-list California celebrity, anything can come out of your mouth. It was so much fun. It was so fun. They’re both irritated, but they both kind of are glad she’s there. Nobody wants to read a book of two people fighting all the way. It was a really fun write. I wrote it because I was having dinner with two friends who are sort of friends, but mostly, I’m the one that is the glue that brings those two together. I had this flash where I thought, oh, my god, it would be funny to put these two in a tiny car and make them drive cross-country. That was the inspiration for it. It was just that, even though neither one of them are really in the book. I asked my friend, I said, “Do you even see yourself in the book?” She was like, “No, neither one of those people are me.” I’m like, “I know.” People think that you pull so much from your life, and you do, but no one was harmed in the writing of this book. No friendships were harmed.

Zibby: Let’s go back to Katie’s relationship with her dog. I thought the way you wrote that was really beautiful. Her husband basically gets the dog because of his ability to be litigious and unending reserve of cash, and gets remarried to this woman, Mindy, who then becomes allergic to the dog. Then after all this fighting when Katie has to give up just because of her resources, she loses the dog and then goes into such a state of grief over losing it that she doesn’t know what to do. The fact that you said that the dog was the one who was able to be a cancer-sniffing dog before that was a thing, tell me about that.

Ann: I think dog lovers and cat lovers, it’s really no different, whatever animal really speaks to you. For me, I always have a dog on my lap, so I always go to dogs. You know how they are so unbelievably loving? If I cry or laugh, my dog knows it. He knows what’s going on. Her ex-husband takes the dog. Then because she’s allergic, his new, younger wife, he dumps the dog at a pound. He’s one of those men that blame the wife for the divorce even though they divorced them. That’s the ultimate not-okay-ness as far as they’re concerned. He’s mad. He’s dumps the dog at the pound. Those two friends have to go there to get that dog.

Zibby: I can’t believe the guy would do that. That’s the lowest of the low. You have to be a really bad person, I feel like, to abandon the dog that you know has a loving potential owner out there, or that’s just someone who’s so been hurt or so vindictive that they have to deprive someone else of joy.

Ann: It’s so childlike, so ugly that they would take the thing that your once-beloved loves and then — that’s how we feel about our animals, certainly even more so about our children. When you tap into that emotion of losing something that is so close to you, especially when you need it to really heal and stay alive, then I think you’ve tapped into something that most people can relate to. For me, I know that if something happened to my dog or someone took my dog, I would require some heroics to get her back.

Zibby: My dog is literally under my desk right now. I think it’s interesting you said it was so childlike of the ex-husband, Tom, because I feel like Samantha is a little bit almost — I don’t want judge anybody because, whatever. Maybe this is just her true self, but she also felt a little bit territorial over Katie in terms of Holly. I was struck in how much, and maybe you did this just to emphasize their relationship, that even on her way into the hospital and dealing with that drama when she was the main point person before, her feelings of being sort of usurped as the main caregiver trumped everything else. She was like, oh, no, I wasn’t called first. Obviously, people have those little pangs of things, but I do feel like it was very — what’s the word? — almost a little exaggerated in her response to that.

Ann: For sure. I think she was so damaged by losing this best friend of hers that she just now questions whether she is that good of a friend. What do you have to do to be that good of a friend? How could she have lost her very best friend by something that she doesn’t even know what she did? Now she’s over the top with this other one who she still has. She’s so worried that she’s going to lose her or other people in her life. She chose the wrong husband, so now she doesn’t really trust herself anymore. I think that that was the pivotal relationship, that losing of Holly, that threw her off her game forever.

Zibby: She’s also a widow, which was so sad. She had lost her husband when her daughter was a baby or when she was pregnant, very, very early.

Ann: Yes, very early.

Zibby: And that Katie had been there for her in those moments.

Ann: Right. It’s that kind of complicated history that we all get as we get a certain age. You sort of approach — I don’t know if this is your experience. I remember getting married. It was the most romantic notion without understanding what the job was. I always say that you pick your partner having no idea what the job is going to be. It’s sort of like you put an advertisement out and you think, I really like it when they make me laugh and have a nice smile. I want to be able to have sex with them. You don’t realize, later, what you want someone to do is peel a banana for you when you broke your arm. Maybe you want someone to just listen to you when you’re complaining about something and not solve it. You don’t even know that that’s a job requirement. You throw yourself into these situations. Then little by little as you learn wisdom, you start to understand that these things really change our trajectory in life. Some of that baggage we have to learn is just baggage and get rid of it. With Samantha, she had a lot of garbage from losing that friendship and maybe not having the greatest marriage. She really is questioning herself. I thought that life was just doing these points, marriage and family and those kinds of things, and it’s going to be a wonderful trajectory all the time. What you realize later is that each one of those things is very spikey. You learn so much in the end.

It’s so funny because I always think — this is going to sound silly. I always feel sorry for all the people that were on the Oregon Trail that died when they were twenty because you don’t get to know anything about yourself until you’re older. Then all of this experience and hardship and wisdom sort of comes to fruition. I think that sometimes it takes until you’re fifty before you go, oh, my gosh, I’m a fully realized person now, not just a pretty cardboard cutout. I like writing about these really complicated things that make us human that are like you and I, not somebody that — one of things that Katie Moretti tells me, she goes, “It’s really easy to make –” This is not true. I know this isn’t true. She goes, “Whenever my thriller gets boring, I kill somebody, but when you write a book, you can’t kill anybody. You have to keep making it interesting.” The way that I like to make it interesting is to take normal problems and put them in a little bit of a pressure cooker and then show people, isn’t that sad? Isn’t that funny? Isn’t that sad? Isn’t that funny? You have to really underscore some of their weaknesses to get there.

Zibby: Interesting. I feel like you’re really highlighting the almost-impossible expectations of marriage, especially when you get married young. Just like what you’re saying, you change yourself. Your needs change. How can one person be expected to kind of know that, sense that, shift with you? It’s a miracle that it ever works right.

Ann: It’s a miracle. It’s a problem that I like to look at with a magnifying glass, not really a problem, but an experience for people that I just can’t look away from. I think it’s fascinating how certain people connect and how other people don’t connect and how some of those relationships are sustainable and some of them aren’t. I lost a friendship. It was probably fifteen years ago. I still don’t know what happened in that friendship. I’m assuming that I did something. I’ve reached out, actually, last summer because I found her. She lives in Australia. I said, “I always felt that we had this disconnect. I just have always felt really bad about it.” She goes, “No, I don’t think so.” Then I thought, oh, I just think maybe she doesn’t want to talk about it. That’s fine, but I may never know what happened there. I know that all of us have those. We lose friendships. Sometimes they gently slide away, which is sort of a blessing. Then we also have friendships that maybe should slide away, and we don’t know what to do with those. Marriage is one of those things that we can put a stake in it and go, this is why relationships are hard, but friendships are a little bit stickier because we don’t have the license and a way to break up.

Zibby: It’s so true. The impact of breaking up with a friend can be just as life-shattering. I recently interviewed Kelly Williams Brown who wrote something called Crafting for the Insane. It was really good. Sorry, I can’t remember the name.

Ann: I love that.

Zibby: It’s a really great memoir. In our interview, she was talking about how she had lost two friends, the friends who had stood by her and abandoned her. She didn’t go into details, but she did say that when she eventually got diagnosed for the pain, they called it traumatic loss of chosen family, traumatic grief. There was a DSM category or something for it in psychology because it’s such a thing. It’s so traumatic and makes such a difference. People say, oh, it’s just a friendship. Well, no, it’s everything. It can be everything.

Ann: That’s fascinating. That is fascinating. It deserves it. Don’t you think it deserves that?

Zibby: Yes, a hundred percent.

Ann: I think that’s why women often both get sort of lifted but also disparaged for writing so much friendship fiction and things like that. My god, what is there in the world if not friendship and family? If we’re not going to really take a good, long look at that, then what is there? It’s certainly not our jobs. It’s these relationships that we build every day. Also, this is true when we’re young but even more true as we get older, we are weirdos. People are weirdos. I like a good weirdo. I love a good weirdo because they are the most interesting people. My characters can be a little bit weirdos. People are always like, how did you even — what is that? I think, spend a little time with people. Everybody will tell you all their weirdo-ness. I love that. I just think the weirdo-ness makes them more loving or more able to love. Their mess makes them more loveable.

Zibby: I love that. Wait, so Ann, tell me about starting Tall Poppy Writers and that whole thing and running — tell me all about that, please.

Ann: I’ll tell you, back when I was — my first book came out in 2010. I didn’t have any author friends. I wasn’t in the business. It was kind of a fluke. I sat in my chair. I was on the day of my divorce. I had pneumonia, a divorce, and my book came out. I thought, oh, my god. 2010 was really before — self-published people really knew how to do social media and sell books. The traditionally published people really were behind the eight ball on that. I thought, oh, my god, I am never going to get any readers. My career is going to go right into the — because there’s no possible way for me to do this. I thought, I don’t like that. It made me think, this is probably why so many women writers write one or two books, and then they’re done. I thought, this is how women get silenced. It became sort of a feminist issue for me because men get a lot of the accolades. They get a lot of the awards. For a while there back in 2010, New York Times was not really putting men and women on the list at the same time. There were things that were definitely in equities. I thought, that doesn’t go for me. That makes me unhappy.

I thought, well, I’m going to do what bands do, which is have an opening band for the smaller author in the same way. Remember that commercial way back a thousand years ago, “I’ll tell two friends, and you tell two friends, and so on and so on”? That was really the roots or the underpinnings of social media. I thought, if we all just get together, we’ll help each other on our launches. Instead of just one person talking about it, we’ll have multiple people talking about it. I had no idea what I started then. It really struck a nerve with everyone. I also didn’t know — I’ve been a professor for years. When you’re a professor, you tell your students, you do this or you fail. As a collaborator, that’s not my role in the Tall Poppies. Making a structure work with a lot of really independent, strong women thinkers is both exciting but also takes a feat of organization. I’m a lovely person, but organization is not my forte. I realized that I had to bring in a lot of other people that had better skills than I. We started to build Poppies based on their skills, like marketing skills and art skills and organizational skills. That’s what we’ve come to. It’s been a really great thing. I never had any idea how big it was going to get.

Zibby: How big is it? How many writers are there? How do you get involved? How do you become a Tall Poppy writer? What are the requirements?

Ann: We have fluctuated from fifty writers, and we’ve gone all the way down to twenty-five, like when the pandemic hit us hard. Now we’re back up. I think we’re at thirty-six or something now. We worked really hard to diversify our authors. For a while, we were the Tall White Poppies. It was very uncomfortable for me. We’ve worked really hard to bring in lots of diversity recently. That’s part of it. If you want to be a Tall Poppy, we do have an application on our website. Also, it’s best to probably reach out to a Poppy and just feel them out and say, “How would I be a Poppy? What does it take?” I think what I would tell people most is that what it takes is generosity. Anybody who wants to be a Poppy because they think that’s a way to get their book into the world, that’s really not the greatest way to approach us. The best way to approach us is, “Here’s what I can bring. I love the idea of helping other people because I don’t like to talk about myself that much,” which is really where it started for me. I’m not showing that right now because I’m talking so much, but I don’t love talking about promoting my stuff. I’m from the old school of, if people find me, that’s great.

What we look for in a Poppy is just this generosity and an ability to start in a double Dutch jump rope and get moving right away and bring ideas and help move people forward and want to collaborate ideas and openness and things like that. That is really what makes the Tall Poppies different and the best. Plus, we’re a cross-genre group, so we all write different things. We try to make sure that everybody writes different things. We try really hard to bring in and help as many authors as possible. Even if being a Tall Poppy is not something that you can do because of time, interacting with us is the way to get our attention. Then we help out as much as we can. Our goal is to help everybody. If there’s readers, oh, my gosh, that’s great. We’re not competing for those readers. I only compete for readers like three days around when my book comes out. Then it’s just everybody trying to find a really good book to read. Maybe they don’t want to read a road trip book where there’s a dog in it. Maybe they’re more interested in reading a thriller. Well, we have those too.

We just think that getting these books in front of readers, like you do every day all over the place, is the most wonderful thing that you can do for writers and keeping reading alive and keeping reading in front of people and keeping story in front of people. You know how they’ve said that people’s attention span is so shortened? I don’t actually think that’s true. I think what people want is a good story. When they find a good story, they will spend the day reading that story, or two days or three days. That’s certainly my case. We want to make sure that it’s not just the biggest-name people that get known. It’s some of the smaller-name people that don’t have, say, the publicity funds or don’t have the largest publishers. We want to make sure that there’s more of an egalitarian kind of way of approaching book promotion. That’s why I started it.

Zibby: I love that. That’s great. That’s amazing. I just love that.

Ann: When did you start doing yours?

Zibby: March of 2018.

Ann: Okay, so we have been limping along much longer than you. When you came onto my landscape, when I started to realize who you were, I thought, oh, my god, this is exactly what we need. This is exactly the kind of thing. What you do is just that very thing. You elevate these readers and writers so that they can find each other. It’s so important. That’s what we need.

Zibby: I’m trying. Ann, I know we’re almost out of time, but I want to know what you’re working on now. Are you working on a new novel? What’s the plan? Then advice for aspiring authors.

Ann: Yes, I’m working on a new book. I just got my second round of edits back. It’s the hardest book I’ve ever written. It’s set in New York, though.

Zibby: Oh, nice.

Ann: Yeah. It’s about three women of three different generations who bond on an airplane. Each of them from the different generations help each other figure out what they have to do in life. Right in the center of it is a blackout. They have to navigate their way through a blackout to get to what they need and want. I’m never going to write a three-person point of view ever again. I could die, this book was so hard to write. I don’t know why, but it has really done a number on me. I would say, a new, aspiring writer — I have so many thoughts. I think about this all the time whenever — what would I have told myself? I read one time that impatience is the thing that will stop a career in writing. When I first read that, I just sort of blew it off. I was like, I’m not that impatient, whatever. I thought, oh, my god, that’s everything. You have to be patient with your writing. You have to be patient with your craft. You have to be patient with the people that tell you that your book isn’t working or is working. You have to be patient with the process of finding readers. You have to be patient building this career. Impatience is the thing where you’ll, oh, it’s fine. It works fine. I just want to get it out there. This agent is the agent that I’m going to take because they’re available to me, and not being patient and finding the exact right way to move forward rather than the way that you feel time-urgent. Honestly, at this point, that’s probably my number-one thing, is this patience, and patience with yourself, oh, my gosh, and your story. I’m speaking very heartfelt about that now because I’m deep in the middle of a book that is only sort of working. I’m trying to give myself as much patience and generosity as possible.

Zibby: Awesome. Ann, thank you so much. Thanks for all you do for authors. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” and all of it, really.

Ann: I love it. Thank you. Next time I come in New York, I’ll give you call. We can get together. I will.

Zibby: Please do. Yes, absolutely, a hundred percent.

Ann: Thank you again. Thank you so much.

Zibby: You’re welcome. Thank you. Bye.

Ann: Buh-bye.



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