Zibby Owens: Hi, everybody. I hope you’re having a good Wednesday so far and that this week has been not as much a harbinger of bad news as weeks prior and that we’re getting through this quarantine together. I hope also that you’ve taken some time, and I hope you will, I really, really, really hope so, that you’ll read some of the essays that I have on my brand-new site, wefoundtime.com, which you can also access through zibbyowens.com. It has exclusive essays connecting brilliant minds to busy readers. That’s you, the busy readers, probably also the brilliant minds though, to be honest. You should definitely check it out. I’ll have new essays up every week from people who have been on my podcast. I just need the readers to come and read. So please read. Tell your friends. I hope the essays help. My whole point is to help you guys through life as best I can by bringing you insights from people I find wiser than myself. I hope it helps. Check it out. Let me know what you think. Read the essays and share with friends. Also, don’t forget to check out my Instagram Lives today from eleven to twelve Eastern time every day on my @ZibbyOwens account. Thanks.

I’m here today with Dibs Baer who’s the author of Lady Tigers in the Concrete Jungle: How Softball and Sisterhood Saved Lives in the South Bronx. Dibs is an entertainment writer and editor who worked in the magazine industry for fifteen-plus years. She has written or cowritten six books including the New York Times best seller I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends. Dibs currently lives in Palm Springs, California.

Welcome, Dibs. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Dibs Baer: Thank you for having me.

Zibby: Dibs is actually short for something else, right? I read — what’s your real name?

Dibs: Deborah.

Zibby: Deborah.

Dibs: Yes.

Zibby: How long have you been Dibs?

Dibs: I would say twenty years.

Zibby: Wow. How did it start? Can I ask?

Dibs: Yeah. It’s sort of a silly story. My mom, when I was a kid, wanted me to have a nickname. She tried Dibs, but it was too contrived. Nobody did it. I made the mistake of telling my best friend that story in grad school. Then she was started calling me Dibs. It kind of stuck after that. Then I just grew to love it, and now I’m Dibs. That’s it.

Zibby: That’s so cool. A lot of people call me Zibs. We’re Zibs and Dibs.

Dibs: Zibs and Dibs. We should have our own cartoon or something.

Zibby: I like it. We should. Take it on the road. Your latest book is called Lady Tigers in the Concrete Jungle. Tell listeners what this book is about.

Dibs: It’s about a guy named Chris Astacio who got his first job as a PE teacher at one of the most dangerous, poverty-stricken neighborhoods in America, really, in the South Bronx. When he got to the school, it was his first job, and he noticed the girls were going after each other in such a vicious, violent way. He had never seen anything like it. He was so shocked by it. He was like, how can I help the girls? There was no extracurriculars for the girls at the school. They didn’t have the money for it. He decided just to start this softball team. The first tryout, four girls showed up. He said, “I don’t care who it is. Bring all your friends back so we can have a team.” The next day fifteen of the worst girls in school who all hated each other walked through the door. It was because they didn’t want to go home and they didn’t have anywhere to go. They couldn’t go outside in the neighborhood. They just wanted to be in the gym. They didn’t care about softball. They just showed up to hang out in the gym. It’s about how he turned that group into a team of sisters, really. It’s just this crazy year of him finding out all of them have an issue in their personal life. It was about him navigating that. They weren’t doing well in school, most of them. It’s really not about softball, the book. You know Lance Armstrong’s book It’s Not About the Bike? This is not really about softball. It’s really about girls coming together and learning how to be a team. That’s the basic gist of it.

Zibby: How did you discover this whole story?

Dibs: I played competitive softball when I was a kid. A woman that I played with is now a coach. She introduced me to Coach Astacio. We just hit it off. We had instant chemistry. He’s such an amazing person. When he told me about the first year of the team and everything they went through, I was just blown away. I was like, this is one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard. Then that was it. Then we just started working and talking all the time. That’s how it came about.

Zibby: Wow. I noticed in your acknowledgments at the end, you talked to him as the last person. You were like, “We did it.” Was it hard? Yes?

Dibs: Oh, yeah. First of all, we had one publisher say yes, barely. You know what I mean when I say barely?

Zibby: Yes.

Dibs: I love our publisher. Thank god she did say yes. She got it.

Zibby: You only need one.

Dibs: You only need one. That’s it. Whoever’s out there listening, don’t give up because there might be somebody out there that gets it. Keep pushing if you believe in it. At the same time, I had three proposals out, way more commercial things. Never thought this book would go anywhere, and it was the only one that sold.

Zibby: Really?

Dibs: Yes, of the three projects I was working on.

Zibby: Were they collaborations, or were they all just you, the other proposals?

Dibs: The other two were collaborations. This one was the biggest longshot. It was the one that went. From that to the logistics of getting all the girls back together again and getting them to talk and wanting to talk, it was about a year and a half, two years. The emotional toll of it on everyone — but it was so amazing and inspiring, I feel like the greatest thing I’ve ever worked on. I’m so passionate about it. That’s why I’m so excited to be here because I want more people to know about it.

Zibby: I do too. That’s why you’re here.

Dibs: Thank you.

Zibby: It’s true. All these girls, I kept flipping the page, one person after the next. Then her friend gets murdered next to her. Then they’re in jail with the mother. I’m like, now what’s going to happen?

Dibs: That’s the thing. I didn’t know this was going on. These girls have no one to protect them, no champion for them. It’s happening not only at this school, but in so many places where these young girls — again, these are middle school girls. I think when you read the book, a lot of times — people have said this to me, that they felt like they were older because of the things they were going through. No, they’re in junior high. You just can’t believe that they’re having to go to school. No wonder they’re not learning anything when their home lives are a disaster. Their school is a disaster. You read in the book that no one’s going to class. They’re all in the basement doing horrible things in the basement.

Zibby: And all the faculty keeps quitting.

Dibs: The faculty keeps quitting. They can’t go out. They can’t even play in the neighborhood. There’s nowhere for them to go. There’s nothing for them to do. They’re stuck at home in these terrible situations. Chris pulling them out of that and being a father figure, there’s so much to the book. It’s almost overwhelming, and I get that.

Zibby: Then Chris’s own cancer journey, which was horrific to read about, his stomach cancer and the pain, I feel like you captured that so well. I felt like reading it, I was going through it, his excruciating pain and having to be taken care of by his wife. Oh, my gosh, it was so intense.

Dibs: I know. The whole thing is so intense. He went through his own childhood trauma just like the girls had. Then on top of that, he battled stomach cancer. Then even after that, he was doing this. He’s amazing. I hope you get to meet him someday because he’s incredible.

Zibby: I was so afraid that I was going to get to the end of the book and he would not be alive. He’s alive and well?

Dibs: He’s doing well. He gets tested frequently. He’s sick a lot because he has a lot going on, but he’s doing very well.

Zibby: What do you think it was about him that made him be able to connect with these girls and have them open up? You were talking in the book about it wasn’t even about the softball. Sometimes he would just sit and talk and figure out what was going on with them, and how much they needed that. Because of that, they could be a team and could be more successful. What do you think it was about him that let them open up so much to him?

Dibs: He does have an incredible personality. Beyond that, they trusted him because they knew that he went through the same thing. He’s from their neighborhood. He was one of the first adults in their life to actually care about them. That matters. Also structure — do you ever watch Supernanny?

Zibby: No.

Dibs: I like that show.

Zibby: Do you?

Dibs: Yeah. I don’t even have kids, but I love Supernanny. If you watch that show, the common theme in that show that she does is structure. Children actually like structure and a schedule and actually being told, “Come here at this time. We’re going to do this,” and have a plan. I think that their lives were chaos. He made it not be chaos. Then of course the whole father figure thing, I would say all but one or two of the ones in the book had no father living at home or even in their lives at all. Here’s this guy, the first guy that they can trust and cares about them, isn’t going anywhere. He stuck it out. He didn’t leave like the rest of the teachers there. He actually cared. You see in the book that he — they’re not going to class. He walks around the school finding them and poking his head through the window of the class and watching them as they’re goofing around in class and being like, “Stop.” It worked.

Zibby: Nobody had thought to tell their story until you came around?

Dibs: They had been on Ellen. That was another part of it. My friend, her team invited their team to Chicago to play an exhibition match. Then Ellen had them on the show, a later team, so a couple years later. They went kind of viral for that. They did have a little bit of attention.

Zibby: Is that why she blurbed your book?

Dibs: Yes.

Zibby: I see, which was so cool.

Dibs: Well…

Zibby: Multiple reasons?

Dibs: No, I was going to say that was sort of a publisher trick, putting it on the cover. She said that on the show with them.

Zibby: It’s okay. The quote, by the way, is, “I hope this inspires you as much as it inspires me. I love this story. – Ellen DeGeneres.” So you’re saying she didn’t love the book? She loved the story of the girls.

Dibs: She loved the story of the team, yes.

Zibby: Are you about to get in trouble? Should we not talk about this?

Dibs: No, I just feel like —

Zibby: — Did they ask her?

Dibs: I don’t know.

Zibby: Okay, whatever. We’re going to just put this down and move right along.

Dibs: Moving right along. I mean, she — okay, moving on.

Zibby: Anyway, so they were on the show. You had heard about them that way too. They were on the Today Show too. There was a story on today.com, at least. They referenced your book.

Dibs: That was after. The Ellen thing happened before. That actually helped sell the book. They had gone viral because of the Ellen thing because of the story.

Zibby: Excellent. Are you in touch with the girls?

Dibs: Oh, yeah. Not all of them. They’re busy, but there’s probably four or five that I keep in touch with regularly.

Zibby: That must mean a lot to them too.

Dibs: Yeah, I love them. I love all of them. They’re so brave. The fact that they opened up — and they really talk. They go really in-depth.

Zibby: They needed it.

Dibs: They needed it, yeah. I talk to Genesis. Robin is doing amazing. Angie’s hilarious. She’s great. Yoshi, I talk to a lot because she still talks to Coach Astacio a lot. This is something that is not going to be something that I forget about ever. It’s real relationships when you go that in-depth with people.

Zibby: Even Chris’s life. Then after his stomach cancer, and then his child has autism, all this stuff.

Dibs: It’s never-ending.

Zibby: I was like, what now?

Dibs: I know. He’s incredible.

Zibby: Yet he has this intrepid spirit.

Dibs: Completely.

Zibby: Amazing. I feel like this should be a movie, like a Lean on Me.

Dibs: I hope so. We’ll see.

Zibby: Are you working on that?

Dibs: We’re working on it.

Zibby: All right, good.

Dibs: I just feel like the girls don’t have those movies. The boys get Friday Night Lights. They get Rudy. They get Blind Side. What are the girl movies like that? A League of Their Own, which I love.

Zibby: I was going to say, yeah.

Dibs: Can you think of any other female, girl, sports team movies?

Zibby: Bend It like Beckham.

Dibs: Bend It like Beckham, when was that? How long ago?

Zibby: A while. Ten years? I don’t know.

Dibs: She’s the Man. Do you remember that one with Amanda Bynes?

Zibby: No.

Dibs: Where she dresses like a boy to be on the boys’ team.

Zibby: No, but I remember Just One of the Guys. Did you see that?

Dibs: I love that movie.

Zibby: That was great.

Dibs: That was a great one. I follow her on Facebook.

Zibby: No way.

Dibs: Joyce Hyser Robinson, I think her name is. She’s amazing. I love her.

Zibby: It was so funny. My brother and I, I don’t know why we used to watch that movie all the time.

Dibs: Me too.

Zibby: I was telling my husband Kyle about it. I was like, “I don’t even know why, but she dressed up as a boy. Then she wanted to be on the football team.” My brother was like, “No, no, no. Let me tell you why. She was doing this newspaper article.” He remembered the whole thing.

Dibs: Yeah, she was doing the newspaper.

Zibby: I forgot about that part. I have to go watch it again.

Dibs: I’ve seen that movie about forty times.

Zibby: We watched it over and over again.

Dibs: That’s what we did in the eighties.

Zibby: Yeah, that’s right. Every eighties movie, I watched like a hundred times. I’m trying to answer your question now about more movies about girls’ teams, which is crazy. I’m trying to think. What about surfing? That doesn’t really count. There’s some girls’ surfing stuff.

Dibs: Oh, yeah, the girl that was bitten by the shark.

Zibby: Anyway, good point.

Dibs: Yeah. I mean, why not?

Zibby: Why not?

Dibs: I don’t know.

Zibby: I’m going to google this after you leave. I won’t waste more time. This book was a departure for you from some of your , if you will. You were a celebrity editor, In Touch, for seven years. You interviewed all sorts of famous people from Mariah Carey to Angelina Jolie and a million other people. That was your thing. Then you started working on books with some of those people.

Dibs: Maybe not quite that .

Zibby: Okay, fine. Literally, I know this might sound terrible because you wrote a whole book with this woman Retta. I had not heard of Retta until lunch yesterday. Then I was like, wait, I’m interviewing somebody who wrote a whole book about Retta.

Dibs: That’s so weird how that happens.

Zibby: Isn’t that crazy?

Dibs: Yeah, because her show, the third season just started last night.

Zibby: I don’t watch a lot of TV anyway. Her book that you wrote with her is So Close to Being the Shit, Y’all Don’t Even Know.

Dibs: Do you like that title?

Zibby: By the way, you are the best title person ever. All of your books have the best titles.

Dibs: I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends.

Zibby: I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends, I was also worried about that last night. I was like, I’m interviewing somebody who doesn’t want to make friends.

Dibs: Oh, no. I do.

Zibby: I’m kidding. Talk to me about how you picked that type of book to ghostwrite and to work on with other people and then transitioning to this one.

Dibs: I’d worked in magazines for fifteen years doing celebrity stuff, highbrow, lowbrow, the In Touch lowbrow, and then interviewing some really big A-list stars for Gotham, Hamptons, Women’s Health, and stuff like that. Then the magazine industry kind of imploded a little bit. I moved out here. I was freelancing. Courtney Robertson, who is the star of The Bachelor, we had a mutual friend. It’s funny because when I was working at In Touch, I was in charge of putting her on the cover like naked in a bathtub. Then my friend was like, “She wants to do a book. Do you want to talk to her?” I was like, “Does she want to meet me?” Then I met her. I said, “Look, I just have to say right now, full disclosure, I was a main reason that your life was kind of a living hell after you were on The Bachelor.” She laughed about it. Then we were good. We were good to go. That was another book where — it was the first thing I ever did. I didn’t know what I was doing. We did a proposal. I just knew we were the first ones to actually say — all those girls on those shows, they have non-disclosures. They’re not allowed to talk about the actual process of the show. Courtney had been so torn apart by that show. She wanted to talk about what had happened to her. We just basically said, we’re doing it. We don’t care if they sue us. Go ahead. We’re not worth the shirt on our backs. You want to sue us? Go for it. You can’t tell someone they can’t tell their story. We did. I knew if we did it in the right way that it would be really big because The Bachelor has a built-in base of eight million people. If we just got a percentage of those people — then sure enough, first one I ever did, New York Times best seller. It’ll probably never ever happen again.

Zibby: Stop.

Dibs: No, I’m just kidding. It was incredible. Another thing about that book was that we had an original agent. After we turned in the proposal to her, she said, “This is so crass and disgusting. I can’t shop this.” I literally couldn’t get out of bed for like two days because I was so distraught about it. Then all of a sudden, I woke up and I was like, well, who said she’s right?

Zibby: Good for you.

Dibs: I was like, I’m going to find the right person. We did, and the rest is history. I just knew. You have a feeling about it. I knew that if we did it the right way the fans of that show would eat up, and they did. They loved it. I love that book. I love Courtney. Now all of them are doing it. We were the first to say what they were doing in the fantasy suite, all of that stuff. Anyway, that was a really long story. Sorry. That’s how I got into the ghostwriting thing, was that book. It’s funny because you think, oh, New York Times best seller, I’m going to have all these things coming my way. It doesn’t work like that. You have to hustle and be out there constantly. I’m still working hard to get the ghostwriting thing going. I’ve done some really fun ones, but it’s tough. You just take what you can get. You’re always up against a million people to get those gigs.

Zibby: I think the real problem is the implosion of the magazine industry which has left so many talented writers and editors without a good place to land, and so the competition to be a ghostwriter escalates.

Dibs: Absolutely. Definitely.

Zibby: Which is so sad to me as somebody who loved magazines. I put that in the past tense. I shouldn’t. Loves, loved, I don’t know.

Dibs: It’s different.

Zibby: And then so much talent.

Dibs: So much talent out there. I’m actually in a Facebook group called After Mags. It’s run by — I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of her. Her name’s Chanda Zap. She did ed2010.com. It’s a networking thing for all the people who are left jobless from the magazine industry. We all help each other out. It’s kind of cool. Everyone’s pivoting to really interesting stuff. I guess that’s another good thing, like, when one door closes, another opens kind of thing. This is where I ended up just ghostwriting. Then I got to do the Lady Tigers book. Now I’m, I guess, an author.

Zibby: Yes, you are an author, which is cool.

Dibs: I like it. It’s fun.

Zibby: Do you have other projects? Are you still hustling for your next project?

Dibs: My next one is I am helping an Instagram influencer who has fourteen million followers do his book. That’s starting up. We’re meeting on Friday for the first time. That’ll be new, doing something with an influencer. He’s really funny and stuff. I think it’s good after this book being so heavy. He’s the opposite of that. It’s just light. That’ll be nice. Then I’m working on a book about — I think I was telling you I live with my mom now after my dad died. I’m doing a book about becoming best friends with my mom later in life and then living in a retirement community.

Zibby: It’s like that movie, the Cameron Diaz movie.

Dibs: Yeah, In Her Shoes.

Zibby: In Her Shoes.

Dibs: I say I’m that mixed with Kramer from Del Boca Vista. Do you watch Seinfeld?

Zibby: Yes.

Dib: Remember when he — for any Seinfeld fans.

Zibby: That’s awesome. Well, that’ll be a great book too.

Dibs: I’m just starting that. I’ll let you know how it goes, hopefully.

Zibby: Do you have any other advice for aspiring authors now that you’re an author?

Dibs: Let’s see. I definitely think the big thing is, like I was saying before, about not letting one voice tell you you’re not going to make your book happen. Just keep looking. That’s a big one, I think. It’s a tough business. It’s really hard to sell a book. I don’t care who you are. you could be famous, and it’s still hard. That would be my best advice, I guess.

Zibby: Okay. That’s good. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Dibs: Thank you for having me. This is awesome.

Zibby: I really hope that people listening get inspired by the story of the girls in your book, Lady Tigers, and that they read it and spread the word about all the great things that can happen when somebody believes in —

Dibs: — Please spread the word. Please leave reviews. Tell everybody you know, all that good stuff. Thank you.

Zibby: Thanks. Dibs and Zibs signing out.

Dibs: That’s right.

Zibby: Thanks again for listening today, everybody. Don’t forget to check out wefoundtime.com. It’s also available on zibbyowen.com as a tab, but also at wefoundtime.com. Check out the essays. Go to Instagram, @ZibbyOwens. Check out my Instagram Lives, eleven AM to twelve PM every weekday Monday to Friday during this quarantine where I interview four to five authors live for a few minutes each. Please check it out. Thanks for listening. I really appreciate it. Bye.