Jen Hatmaker, MAKE ME CARE ABOUT...

Jen Hatmaker, MAKE ME CARE ABOUT...

In this special bonus episode (which was recorded in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Acast Creative), Zibby interviews New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and book club host Jen Hatmaker to discuss “Make Me Care About,” a podcast that will explore topics that, sometimes surprisingly, have profound importance and impact in the world – like iodized salt, garbanzo beans, maternal mortality, syringes, and poop! In addition to explaining how her incredible partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation came to be, Jen also talks about her new cookbook Feed These People, her inspirational, bestselling backlist, and her loyal online community!


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Jen. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Jen Hatmaker: Love it. Love the title of your show. Hilarious and true. Thanks for having me.

Zibby: I’m really excited to have you on for this bonus episode, which we are recording in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Acast Creative, to learn all about your new podcast, “Make Me Care About.”

Jen: Fantastic. I’m thrilled to talk about it. Literally, it slides exactly under the umbrella of what you are offering your community, which is, we want to know some stuff. We don’t have time to read dissertations about it. Give it to us brass tax. That’s exactly what this podcast is.

Zibby: Yes, I love it. I want to talk about all your books too. You just have so much cool stuff going on, basically. I was watching some of the trailers for “Make Me Care About” and all of that. Why should we care about iodized salt?

Jen: I know, right? That’s kind of the fun on the entire series. We’re going to bring to you a handful of topics that you’re going to be like, what now? What again? Why? What is it? Yet these are deeply rooted in issues going on both domestically and abroad. These are big deals in terms of justice work and environmental work and health work and progress work. I’m with you. I was like, iodized salt, I kind of feel like I know. I’ve seen it on the label. I don’t really know what that means. That’s what this is here for. We got you covered. In short order, we are going to teach you a handful of things to care about, and you’re going to see why.

Zibby: That’s amazing. How did you end up partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on this?

Jen: Right? That’s not normal. That was not just a normal Wednesday. I am so flattered and honored, frankly, to be working with them. They’ve never done a podcast before. Their foundation does monumental work in the world. It’s hard to even really quantify the good that the Gates Foundation is doing in the world. They were like, we are so deep in the bag on these issues, on these needs, on these people groups, on these cause areas, but we just realized the ordinary folks that are out there living their life don’t necessarily know. What if we put together a podcast series for regular people? Make me care about some of these things just to bring us in collectively as being, essentially, good neighbors to each other globally. They just said, “Jen, you are a regular person.” I’m like, “I sure am.” They were like, “Would you be interested in hosting a series for us? It’s from scratch. We’ve never done it before. We don’t really know what we’re doing, but we’d love to put together a podcast series for your community.” I said, “I’m thrilled, honored.” It was the easiest yes I ever gave.

Zibby: That is amazing. Did you already know them, or was this literally a call out of the blue getting picked for ?

Jen: It was kind of a call out of the blue.

Zibby: That is amazing.

Jen: To be fair, I’ve had Melinda Gates on my podcast before, so we do have a connection. Mostly, me looking in the window of the Gates Foundation going, man, you guys are doing good stuff. This is good work. Our connection was kind of loose. I was so flattered that they came and asked. We went through a bunch of phone calls and a bunch of Zoom calls. We finally were like, let’s do this. Let’s put it together.

Zibby: Amazing. How many episodes per season? What is the structure like of the podcast? Who picks the topics? Do you get to pick all of the things to care about? Tell me all of that and all the guests too.

Jen: We have just one season at this point. I think we have thirteen episodes. Might be up to fourteen. This was all developed, of course, by the Gates Foundation in that these are some of their major cause areas where they are contributing and leading and innovating and researching. They’re on the ground. These are in play already. They are in the works. I was regular. I’m over here going, I don’t know why I should care about syringes. I don’t know why I should care about poop. I don’t know why I should care about garbanzo beans. Really, I’m kind of the target demographic. I just happen to also be the host. They were the ones who came to me and said, “We’d like to connect you, Jen, with our brilliant leaders and scientists on the ground doing all this incredible work. You interview them. Let’s see if we can get, collectively, the community to care about some of these huge issues going on in our world.”

Zibby: I love it. That’s so cool. What a blast. I love it. Can we talk about your books a little bit as well?

Jen: Sure.

Zibby: You have a new cookbook out now, Feed These People. So amazing, with snippets from you and recipes and photos and all the good stuff. Tell me more about that book. Why now? Why this book?

Jen: It’s outside my genre. I’m a writer, but I typically write nonfiction books for women. That’s sort of my space, which is, development and growth and the, basically, emotional and mental and spiritual care of women. That’s really where I concentrate. I have always loved to cook. I’m a cook. I’m just a home cook, a normal person who just cooks for the people that live here. I’ve dabbled for years putting recipes online and on my socials. I’ve even had them in my last two or three books just as a little, here, here’s a little bonus. Basically, my community has been asking me to write a cookbook for almost a decade. This is no joke. They started an online petition. Thousands of people signed this thing to get me to write a cookbook. I was like, you guys cannot just bully me into writing something. That’s not how it works, except it did. I wrote this, at long last, cookbook. It was so fun. I literally cannot wait to write another one. It was just a blast. I loved writing it. I loved spending a million hours in my kitchen testing all the recipes, feeding all my people. I really love food writing. That’s really fun for me. The whole book is hilarious. Even if you’re not a cook, it reads like a stand-up comedy show. I can’t tell you how many readers are like, I don’t cook. I don’t want to cook. I sat down with your book and read it like a novel. I’m like, great. Perfect. Whatever you want to do, man. I wrote it for you. What you do with it is up to you entirely. It’s called Feed These People. It’s such a good time.

Zibby: That’s amazing. I went back and read Of Mess and Moxie. I have to say, from the very first pages, I had chills up and down my arms. You start it with, this one’s for the girl of twenty-three. This one’s for the girl of thirty-eight. This one’s for the girl of fifty-nine. I was just like, oh, my gosh. I was imagining this montage of my life before my eyes. Then you go in and give all the advice. That was so powerful.

Jen: Thank you. What a lovely thing to say. Of all the books I’ve written, I think that’s my favorite intro I’ve ever written. I, of course, patterned it after Martina McBride’s song, “This One’s for the Girls,” where she went decade by decade. That was so meaningful to me. I have five kids. My kids range from seventeen to twenty-five. I have a bunch of young adults that belong to me. I love them. I believe in them. I care about them. I’m forty-eight, so I’m getting close to fifty. The fact that people look to me in their teens and twenties and thirties and then my age, forties, and even some women that are older than me, for leadership and for influence and for, really, sisterhood, will just never stop freaking me out. It is so profoundly special to me. I take it incredibly seriously. That is a huge responsibility to me. When I wrote that intro, I thought, everyone’s welcome at my table. I don’t care if you are in college. I don’t care if you are retired. All women are welcome at my table. Thank you for pointing out that intro. I sure loved writing it.

Zibby: I loved it. You’ve recently released your book that was 7. What’s the new title? I wrote it down.

Jen: It’s called Simple and Free.

Zibby: Simple and Free, that was too hard for me to remember, apparently.

Jen: It was a social experiment that I did a little over a decade ago — it felt radical at the time — social experiment in which I took seven areas where I felt like I had too much of it all, like clothes and food, spending, waste, stress, all these things where I’m like, it’s just too much. It’s all too much. I spent one month on each category. I pared my options down to just seven things. For example, I ate the same seven foods for a month. I wore the same seven pieces of clothing for a month. I only spent money in seven places for a month, etc. Then I thought, let’s just see how it feels. Let’s see what happens. I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was radical. It changed my life. I learned so much. I learned to live a little lighter on this earth and to care for it in ways that were more meaningful and long-lasting and sustainable. It needed an update. It was an experiment from ten years ago. I had learned so much since then. The world has changed so much in ten years. I went back through and reworked it and added everything in that I’d learned. There were a handful of things that I said, I wrote this ten years ago, and I understand this thing differently now. I left it in, but I put all these additions and said, I’d like to add some more commentary to what I said before. That’s as much as I knew at the time. This is what I know now. You watch in real time, ten years of growth because I both left in the original and then added so much more work to it. The newest version is called Simple and Free.

Zibby: It’s so great. What’s the main takeaway? Is it better to have less, to lessen your choices and live more intentionally?

Jen: Almost without exception. There’s almost no exception where that was true. Keep in mind, this is 2011. One of the categories was media and technology, and so even how much that has changed since 2011. Going back and reading my earliest work where we were still sort of at the earlier stages of social media — we didn’t even have Instagram yet. Reading it, I just went, oh, man, I wish I would’ve taken my advice even more now that it is so all-consuming. We’re having to really fight against the machine. I really didn’t find any area in which I think more was more. It was all a relief and a comfort to clear out a lot of the chaos and clutter and noise. I think, often, fondly back on those seven months because of how revolutionary it ended up being for the way that we live our lives.

Zibby: I love social experiments like that. Have you read — oh, gosh, now I’m forgetting her name. This is what happens when I don’t sleep enough. She takes tech Shabbats. Tiffany Shlain. She takes a tech Shabbat every Saturday and did a whole experiment. What would it be like if her family did not use technology for one full day each week? How would that change her family life? As you can imagine, it made it much better.

Jen: It does. You think, one day off, big deal. It matters. It matters because of what you experience alternatively. It’s not just that you’ve eliminated a noisy channel. It’s that in its absence, you learned to live differently. You fill your time differently. You prioritize connection and experiences and adventures differently. It’s not just what’s missing. It’s what you add that you just simply wouldn’t have otherwise because we’re too busy filling our eyes and our brains with everything else. Great suggestion. I’ll be sure to write that down.

Zibby: For people who aren’t as familiar with you and your whole trajectory to being the big deal that you are, how did you get started? How does one even join your community? Where is that? Where does that live? Where should they go and all of that?

Jen: I’ve got a really slow trajectory. Definitely, not a flash in the pan. Definitely, not a one-hit wonder that just spiked all of a sudden. My community has grown really slowly over a lot of years, just one book at a time, one reader at a time, one person at a time, which I love because it gives my community a lot of depth. We have a lot of staying power. Our loyalty is very baked in. It makes us sturdy. This isn’t just a shallow community with shallow roots. It’s really rooted. At this point, I’ve got a lot of books to choose from. I have two podcasts: my podcast, which is called “For the Love;” and then the “Make Me Care About” podcast with the Gates Foundation, which is just out. We really just started recently releasing the first two episodes. Those come out every Wednesday. Then I have a book club, Jen Hatmaker Book Club. That’s one front door. I just have so many things. In general, I would say our community largely gathers together on my social feeds. That is the easiest, most free front door to see what the fuss is about, to see where the shenanigans are. There are lots. It’s a lot of shenanigans. My social feed is where most people join and where I get introduced to my community. Then I’ve got plenty of places if you want to down the funnel. I’ve got tons of sub-communities and Me Courses and podcasts and book clubs and all these incredible other spaces to connect and belong. Jen Hatmaker on all the socials is usually the front door.

Zibby: Amazing. I’ve started something similar, but it’s more in its infancy. I have a book club, not as big as yours. I have thousands of people in my book club. I have this podcast, obviously, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” I opened a bookstore in Santa Monia. We have classes. We have retreats, a magazine, Zibby Mag. I’m trying to build a community. Looking at you, it’s inspiring.

Jen: I love that. That’s it. That’s what we can do. We take what we love and what we have, and we build the community around what we care about together. Then we grow it just person by person. I’m not interested in anything that promises razzle-dazzle, like, here’s a way to spike. All that is easy come, easy go. I think what really matters is building something lasting that has depth to it, that’s thoughtful and intentional, a place with a lot of connective tissue to it. That’s the stuff that’ll hang on. We’re not looking to be a TikTok star that’ll just splash in March and be over by October. Building is way harder work, way slower, way more fits and starts. At the end of the day, I think that’s what you and I will end up holding. We’ll be proud of it. Of course, as you’ve probably experienced, the community gives to me, I feel like, far more than I’ve ever given to them. It is reciprocal, which is really saying something in this world which feels so isolated and disconnected. Good for you. Keep going.

Zibby: Thank you. I feel like it does become self-serving. When I’m upset about something, I post about it. Then all these people respond. Then they start responding all to each other. It’s really awesome.

Jen: Incredible. The sum ends up being greater than the parts. It takes on a life of its own. I’ve always said I don’t care if it is in person, in a live room, in a chat room, virtually, you put enough women together, and they will create their community, with or without your leadership. You don’t have to influence it. You don’t have to even make it happen. It will happen. Women are greatest.

Zibby: So well-said. That’s amazing. Are you working on any new books now?

Jen: Not yet. I had a book, contractually, that I was supposed to write in the last couple of years. Then my life just took such a different turn. I wasn’t ready to write it. I’m actually still not quite ready. I just said, I need to put a pin in this. I lost my marriage after twenty-six years. Then it was the pandemic. All the losses were so compounded and so unexpected, just no precedents, at least for either of them, in my world. I am always committed to never writing from a gaping wound. I want to make sure that I’m writing from a scar. I haven’t been ready. I needed to live this chapter of my life before I was ready to write about this chapter of my life. We’ll see. Hopefully, in the next couple of years. Writing is my favorite thing that I do out of everything that I do. I look forward to putting pen back to paper.

Zibby: It’s so smart to know you’re not ready. So many people don’t have that self-knowledge or the confidence to wait or knowing what’s going to be a better product in the end for everybody. I also got divorced. I have four kids. I’m remarried now.

Jen: I’m sorry that we have that in common. We’re both learning. You’ve learned. There is a very vibrant, possible life on the other side of that loss. You couldn’t have told me that three years ago, but now I know it’s true.

Zibby: I think that’s what especially women like to know. You don’t ever run out of time where you can’t change things.

Jen: Never.

Zibby: You can always pivot and care about something new.

Jen: Always. We’re never out of time. It’s never too late. We’re never too old. Something’s never too far gone. There’s always possibility. Sometimes we choose it. Sometimes it’s chosen for us. Regardless, we get to decide what we’re going to do with that pain. I have learned that tends to be a pretty reliable front door to growth if we’ll let it.

Zibby: Yes, absolutely. The book club, tell me a little more about that. How do you pick the books? How often does it meet? How do people join?

Jen: My book club’s virtual. That’s how it started, of course. It’s virtual in all the states. I think we have members in every state. Then of course, as women do, as mentioned earlier, without our influence, leadership, or suggestion, they started meeting locally. They started finding each other. Who’s in Chicago? Who’s in Philadelphia? Now we have chapters locally that meet everywhere. They get together in person. We have a book a month. It’s the most fun. Then the author of that book always does a dedicated podcast with me for the book club. We get to ask her — we mostly feature female writers — our specific questions about the book and the plot and the characters. We hit a lot of genres. We’ve had it all, memoir, historical fiction, every kind of novel. We did an autobiography on RBG. We’re not genre specific. We’re just good books specific. It’s called the Jen Hatmaker Book Club. I always call it the best little corner on the internet. We have a private Facebook group that is just so connected and so dear, so safe. We do book stuff over there, but we do mostly life stuff over there. It’s a joy. It’s one of my favorite things.

Zibby: Talk about books is really talking about life. It’s just a bridge to a conversation.

Jen: It is. That’s right.

Zibby: I should’ve mentioned — now here I am just advertising myself here. I also started a publishing company. We publish one book a month in fiction and memoir. We have really, really great books. I’d love to send you any if you’re interested. I think you’ll like them. They’re all written by women. We’re a women-owned and operated company. We have one guy. The rest of us are women. They all have a strong sense of voice and place and propulsive writing and narratives. I think you’ll like them.

Jen: Good for you. A publishing company is no joke.

Zibby: It’s no joke. It’s a lot.

Jen: That is an undertaking.

Zibby: I could just do that, and I would be busy enough.

Jen: No question. Especially, one book a month, that is a lot. That means you are in development a year and a half out. That’s a serious deal.

Zibby: Yes, we are. We have our list set through the end of 2024 now. If you don’t mind, I could send you a little bit.

Jen: I would love it.

Zibby: Putting you on the spot. I can delete it if you’re like, no, I hate .

Jen: No, I would love it. Of course, I would. I’m a book lover. I’m a book club lover and creator and curator. Yes, of course. Thank you for the offer.

Zibby: Amazing. What are we going to care about next? What’s next up on your show? Who are you most excited about?

Jen: I don’t know when this is going to air. Last week, one of my favorite episodes came out, which was maternal mortality, specifically, Black moms. Black maternal mortality in the US is fundamentally unacceptable and kind of a quiet issue. Tomorrow, we talk about garbanzo beans, just the average conversation we’re all having, which turns out to be a superfood and an answer to malnutrition in really profound ways globally. That one was really exciting. We go on from there. We have one on college. Does it still matter in today’s day and age? What does the data show? We have one episode that talks about the single grade between K through twelve that is the highest predictor of a student’s success more than any other grade.

Zibby: Can I guess?

Jen: Guess.

Zibby: Third grade?

Jen: Great guess. I had guessed kinder or first. I was thinking about emerging literacy. My second guess was junior year because that’s that launch year. It’s ninth grade. The data is unambiguous. It’s really an interesting conversation. Then we still have my very favorite episode coming up in May, which is digital money and what happens when we can get women access to digital money globally, what it does for the GDP, what it does for the economy, the community, the family unit. It’s profoundly exciting. Of course, I am someone who specializes in the empowerment of women, so I couldn’t get enough of that one. I wanted to stay on that episode for a hundred years and be like, and then what can we do? It’s all very fascinating and very hopeful. I learned so much. I also walked away going, look at these brilliant people on the ground with solutions. This is a solution-led series. It’s very exciting. I feel so grateful that they’ve contributed their expertise and their knowledge and their time to the show. I feel very privileged and honored to get to roll out these conversations to the community.

Zibby: That’s so fun. Thank you so much for coming on.

Jen: Appreciate you having me.

Zibby: Thank you to the listeners for listening to our special episode today created in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Acast Creative. Please listen to “Make Me Care About.” Jen, thank you so much. Thanks for chatting and doing this whole podcast. You are such an inspiration to me. You’re a model that it can work. It can go on for a long time. It makes a difference just to keep going. You don’t know how much you’re inspiring me, but you are.

Jen: Thank you. What a lovely thing to say. That means the world to me. Thank you so much for having me on for a little bonus episode. I’m delighted to be inside your community. I’m cheering you on.

Zibby: Thank you. You too. Take care. Buh-bye.

Jen Hatmaker, MAKE ME CARE ABOUT...

MAKE ME CARE ABOUT… by Jen Hatmaker

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