Educator, journalist, and author of The Gift of Failure and The Addiction Inoculation Jessica Lahey joins Zibby to discuss her books and the parenting advice they provide. As someone who has recovered from a substance abuse disorder, Jessica shares how parents can change their attitude around drinking to help minimize the risk of addiction in their kid’s future. She also tells Zibby about why research-based nonfiction is her favorite topic to both read and write, how the responses to The Gift of Failure helped her write The Addiction Inoculation, and what led her and her friend KJ Dell’Antonia to start their podcast #AmWriting.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Jessica. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence and The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. Thank you for all the bookmarks, which are fabulous.

Jessica Lahey: You’re so welcome. The bookmarks are fun, actually, for speaking gigs because people always want takeaways. If you put the takeaways on the bookmarks, then people can actually literally take them away, the advice away with them.

Zibby: Interesting. I love it. Number one of a thousand helpful things you will say in this podcast. Keeping track. This book, I fell in love with you on the first page with your whole story, which I did not know. First of all, you are tied for first in best opening lines of a book, ever. “Hi, my name is Jess, and I’m an alcoholic.” The first chapter of this is like a whole memoir, to me. I wanted more and more and more. Did you write that memoir? Did you write that?

Jessica: No. My favorite books to read are nonfiction at the intersection of research into — there’s a wonderful book by Lulu Miller that came out two years ago called Fish Don’t Exist, those kind of books where you’re researching something and then you realize, holy crow, there’s a lot of memoir here too, so that intersection of memoir and nonfiction. Research-based nonfiction is one of my favorite places to be.

Zibby: You were so open with your own story and how you resisted the family history, how you fell into it, how you were such a high-functioning alcoholic, how your friends didn’t even believe you when you finally told them because you hid it so well, and how you’re using your own experience of getting sober and how you’re trying to protect your kids and, thankfully, by extension, all of our kids.

Jessica: As soon as I got a hold on my stuff, I went to go look at, okay, now what am I dealing with? Clearly, there’s genetics. There’s all kinds of other stuff. The wisdom out there is, substance use disorder is preventable. That word preventable, what does that even mean? What’s in our control? What’s not in our control? All that sort of stuff. Given that I didn’t have a horse in any particular race in terms of, substance use disorder’s a brain disease, substance use disorder is a developmental issue, substance use disorder is a response to trauma, I got to just research everything and pick and figure out what actually has the most evidence behind it. I’m a big research geek. I love, love the research. Love it, love it, love it. That’s why the journalism that I’ve done and the books that I’ve done are all about, let me go find out the answer to this question and then translate it for people who don’t want to do all the research themselves.

Zibby: That is so nice of you. Thank you for that. Next big, pressing issues I have, I’m going to come your way and be like, if you would just solve this problem for my kids and me, that would be great. Thanks.

Jessica: It’s funny because when people say, especially when I was writing — I wrote a couple years at The Atlantic. People say, where do you get your ideas? How do you manage to have articles that do well over and over again? I’m like, luckily, I guess other people are as interested in the big question marks having to do with education and parenting and all that sort of stuff as I am. My position has always been, write about the stuff that interests you the most. Often, I hope that readers will follow. Trying to write to what other people want — obviously, you have to know your audience and write to an audience and all that sort of stuff, but trying to follow trends in writing is just sort of a losing game.

Zibby: Yes, I agree. Either you have to be interested or — well, if you’re not, nobody else will because you can tell. You can tell in your writing if you’re just phoning it in.

Jessica: That works with teaching too. It’s so much easier to get students interested in something you’re reading or an assignment if you’re really pumped about it. Some of that energy transfers over. My writing is always at its best when I’m either playing — the most successful blog post I ever wrote was something I wrote just because I needed to fall in love with writing again. It was just a silly thing. It’s been one of the most successful things I’ve ever written in terms of my own blog. The books, you have to be willing to live with ideas and questions and promotion for years. Boy, if you don’t like it going in, you’re in big trouble.

Zibby: Yes. Wait, so when — I want to talk more about — let’s start with this because I want people to know the few takeaways that might be on the bookmark for this podcast if they want to do whatever they can to prevent their children from drug addiction, alcoholism, all of that. There are many chapters, all of which have very effective lists and things and how you parent. Not My Kid. You had this whole thing on, get enough sleep. I was like, oh, no. Is that for me? Is that for my kid? We’re both doomed. We’re all doomed. What are the top three things we need to remember?

Jessica: The very first thing, I think if you were to interview someone like Peggy Orenstein, in her books, Boys & Sex, Girls & Sex, any hard conversation, any conversation that makes you really nervous, the more often you have it, the earlier you start, the more you have this conversation be something that grows with your kid in a developmentally and physically appropriate way, then the easier those conversations get. The first time I talked to my kids about my substance use disorder, I threw up. It was really scary. The more you have those conversations, whether it’s sex, whether it’s drugs, whether it’s any high-risk activity, the easier it gets. Start early. Talk early. Talk often. In the book, I give scripts about how to do that. When I say early, I’m talking preschool, kindergarten. Those start with conversations about safety and what we put in our body and thinking about why prescriptions have someone’s name on them and it doesn’t just say, anybody can take this. Besides talk early, talk often, delay, delay, delay, not only because — ninety percent of people who have substance use disorder in adulthood started taking drugs and alcohol before they were eighteen. Statistically speaking, the older a kid is when they try drugs and alcohol for the first time, the lower their likelihood is of developing substance use disorder during their lifetime. A kid in eighth grade, if they try drugs and alcohol for the first time, they have a fifty percent chance of having substance use disorder during their lifetime. If they start at eighteen or twenty-one, you can get that all the way down to ten percent.

Those are the first two most important things. Talk early. Talk often. Delay, delay, delay. Then be willing to think about some of the assumptions that you make about drugs and alcohol and also about your own use and about the use in your family. Just try to be a little objective about it because when I start talking about risk factors, a lot of them are really common things, divorce and separation and adoption and things like that. There’s no blame, no shame here. This is just about information. The information is really helpful. The big one that tends to really piss people off is, people really, really want to believe that if I let my kids have sips of alcohol in our house before they’re of age, it’ll somehow teach them moderation and they won’t go as crazy later. That is absolutely one hundred percent a myth, and not only because we can’t teach moderation, but because the European Union has the highest rate of alcohol consumption in the entire world according to the World Health Organization. There’s a bunch of reasons why that’s a myth. The biggest one is that delay, delay, delay issue. The longer we can keep kids from having their first drink, their first drug, the lower their lifelong rate of substance use disorder will become.

Zibby: Let me just play devil’s advocate on all of the research.

Jessica: Sure. Of course.

Zibby: I worry that if a child says, “Hey, can I have a sip of that? Can I try that?” and I don’t give it to them, it’s like not they’re going to not try to get it elsewhere. Aren’t they going to just ask someone else for a sip?

Jessica: That’s really interesting. I thought, first of all, teenagers and drugs and alcohol, forgone conclusion, right? Then, of course, I almost didn’t even write the college chapter because I’m like, well, forget — I date myself with this. I’m fifty-two, so I’m thinking Animal House. It’s all about alcohol at college. It turns out that that’s absolutely not true. There are lots and lots of kids that make it to eighteen without using drugs or alcohol. The numbers are actually a lot lower than we might expect. That was a big eye-opener for me. Not only are they lower than we might expect, even in college, it is the vast, vast minority of students that are drinking the vast, vast majority of the alcohol on campus. The other thing is, it’s not about the no. It’s about, let me explain why. The tricky thing here is, I did the research for this book in between my two kids coming of age. I now have a twenty-three-year-old and an eighteen-year-old. The twenty-three-year-old was allowed sips. The twenty-three-year-old, as I admit in the book, had tasted wine right after he was born because it was a really nice bottle of wine.

Now I have completely changed the way I parent because my eighteen-year-old, we talk about the stuff that’s in the book. He was obviously there for all the research I was doing. We talked about it over dinner and stuff like that. Now if he wants a sip of something, I say, “No. I wrote this book, and I know for a fact that if you put off having drugs and alcohol until you are of age –” when I talk about legality, really, what I’m talking about is brain development — “then you are a lot less likely to have substance use disorder. I’m an alcoholic. I know how painful and hard that is.” Given that he knows the statistics on this because we’ve talked about it so much, if I were to give him a sip, I would be saying, I know what the research says, but it’s easier for me or you’ll like me more if — I’ll be that cool parent if I let you have sips. He knows what the statistics say in terms of what I should be doing. If I were to give him a sip, I would be saying, yes, I know what the deal is, but I don’t care. I’m going to be the popular one today. It’s all about the because.

Zibby: Even a sip?

Jessica: It’s not about the quantity. It’s about the attitude. There’s a permissive attitude around drugs, which is, oh, kids are going to do it anyway. I might as well have the kids over here and take all the keys. That way they’ll be safe. I’m going to let you have sips. There are gradations of that, of course. Obviously, there are religious ceremonies in which — in fact, there are exemptions in state laws around religious celebrations. It’s kind of beside the point when we start nitpicking all of these details of volume and how often and all that sort of stuff. The research is really clear that parents that have a consistent and clear message of, “No, not until it’s legal for you,” which, as I said, for me, is all about brain development — we do a lot of talking about that brain development and what it means and why it’s important and why drugs and alcohol are much more dangerous for an adolescent brain than for an adult brain. They have a much lower risk of substance use disorder during their lifetime. Whereas parents with a permissive attitude towards drugs and alcohol, their kids have a much higher rate of substance use disorder during their lifetime. From my perspective, my message is always, I’ve been there. I want to avoid this, if at all possible, for you. This is the best parenting practices I know about based on the statistics and based on the fact that I’m married to a statistician who really helped me break this stuff down. This goes back to Gift of Failure. I did the best I could do with your brother given the information I had at the time. I was wrong. I now know better, and so I’m going to do my mea culpa and move forward from a place of knowledge and do the best I can now based on what I know. What I know is really, really clear, like I said, based on the statistics.

Zibby: Wow. Okay, good to know. You’re catching me early. This is perfect. I have two fourteen-and-a-half-year-olds. It’s just becoming a question of, can I have a sip? This is the perfect timing. Thank you for the research.

Jessica: Again, you don’t just say no. You say, no, and… You talk to them about their brains and exactly why you’re saying no. For adolescents in particular, the why is the most important part of this. That’s why these conversations are really important to have early and often.

Zibby: Interesting. Those were amazing takeaways, super useful.

Jessica: Again, there are scripts in there because I know how difficult these conversations are. The feedback I got from The Gift of Failure when I was out on the road was, yeah, yeah, yeah, these generalizations are great, but I want you to tell me exactly what to say and how to say it. Frankly, the most fun part of the book, The Addiction Inoculation, was this two and a half pages where I polled all these adolescents about ways you can say no to a drink or a drug without looking like a total dork at a party. There are two and a half pages of totally legit excuses that can get you out of it if you don’t want to partake. I love writing those scripts if they’re coming from a place of — these are kids who are telling me, really, these are things we use, and they work.

Zibby: The only excuse I remember that people used to tell at parties back in the day — I’m forty-five. I did watch Animal House, but it didn’t come out while I was — I feel like the only people who — they were all saying, I’m going to run for president one day. I don’t know if that ever happened to you. It was those kids.

Jessica: That’s so interesting. In college, yes, that totally happened. There was a political science major in college I knew and really just adored. That was his excuse too. Isn’t that interesting?

Zibby: Yeah. Well, I hope more people want to be president.

Jessica: Mine usually was, I’m driving. I was sort of the caretaker. I would hold the hair back when the friend puked. I was scared to death of alcohol because I was raised by an alcoholic parent. It was just easier for me to be the designated driver than anything else.

Zibby: Can we go back in time for two seconds?

Jessica: Of course.

Zibby: Will you tell me a little bit more about your growing up? I know you grew up with an alcoholic parent. You wrote about your childhood here, your childhood friend and trying alcohol for the first time. Non-alcohol related, what was your background? Where’d you go to school? When did you know you wanted to write? Tell me about leading all the way up to these books and Kristen Bell and your podcast with KJ. Take me to the present. How many brothers and sisters? The whole…

Jessica: I was raised in a little town outside of Boston called Sherborn, which is sort of near Wellesley, Natick, Framingham, that area. It was predominantly farmhouses and things like that. It looks a little different now. I was so fortunate to go to a fantastic, fantastic public high school called Dover-Sherborn High School. My English teachers there — I had great teachers pretty much throughout. I knew I wanted to be a writer from really early on. I always, always, always wrote and did the editor-in-chief of my school paper, that kind of thing. I had two teachers, Don Cannon and K.C. Potts — my maiden name is Potts, but there’s no relation. They both really were cheerleaders for me. In fact, I still have a paper I wrote for K.C. Potts where, in the margin, he indicated how he could see what I was describing, just how well my language worked there. I just knew that I wanted to be a writer. I started on my school paper and did all that sort of stuff and just kept writing and kept writing and didn’t get serious about it in terms of being published until later, until really — I always blogged. I blogged as a teacher. Tons of teachers blog about education because it helps other teachers know what works and what doesn’t. My education blog, my teaching blog started getting popular. It was picked up in a couple of various places. Then I started writing for The Atlantic.

Also, to back up, I have a little sister. She’s fantastic. She has two girls, so I get to be an auntie to two girls, whereas I have two boys. Married to a physician here. We live in Northern Vermont. My husband’s an infectious diseases doc and medical ethicist. I’m looking out over the woods of Vermont. Fantastic parents. Yes, one of them was an alcoholic. One of them was raised by an alcoholic. When I got a hand on my own sobriety — by the way, it was my dad who confronted me and said — my sobriety date is June 7th, 2013, which coincides with a couple things. It coincides with the sale of The Gift of Failure, mainly because I couldn’t be a full-time alcoholic and writer and teacher. Something had to give there, and so it was the alcohol. I knew that was coming. June 7th is my mom’s birthday. I got black-out drunk at her birthday party. My dad, the next morning, came up and just said, “You know, I know what an alcoholic looks like, and you’re an alcoholic. You need help.” I was ready at that point. I often talk about getting to that point as being a one-hundred-piece puzzle. I think in the book I call it a fifty-piece puzzle, but either way. Let’s say a one-hundred-piece puzzle where over and over again you get these little hints of, oh, maybe I’m drinking too much, or whatever.

I can never ever guarantee that the stuff I’m doing with my kids will keep them from developing addiction or substance use disorder. If they can start with more pieces of the puzzle fitting together than I had when I started really losing control of my drinking, then the faster they’ll be able to get to a place of knowing that they need help. My dad was my one hundredth piece. Again, I couldn’t have gotten there without pieces fifty-seven and pieces sixty-eight and stuff like that. I’m hoping that all of this information that my kids get from me about prevention sort of bumps them up to at least piece thirty or forty or fifty or something like that so that if they do develop a problem, that they’ll have a shorter road to knowing that they need help. I’m so grateful to my dad. My dad’s also really conflict-averse, hates fighting with me, hates it when I’m angry, will avoid that at all costs. The fact that he put all of that aside to come and confront me is a most amazing show of love that I can’t even imagine.

Zibby: Wow. Then how did get you from there, The Gift of Failure? Tell me about what happened with Kristen Bell and this book and how you met up with KJ and decided to do #OnWriting.

Jessica: Let’s see. Gift of Failure came out of, actually, an article in The Atlantic that went viral in January of 2013. The funny part about that is I had been chasing my agent, Laurie Abkemeier, for about ten years at that point. I knew I wanted her to be my agent. I just admired her writers. I kept querying her. She’s like, “No, this isn’t quite right.” I would send, “Hi, it’s me again. Here’s another query.” Finally, when this article, “Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail,” went viral at The Atlantic — actually, it was my first article at The Atlantic. I ended up writing for them for a couple of years on a really regular basis. That was my first one. It went nuts. I did all the morning shows and stuff like that. Fourteen editors wanted the book, so we had a robin-round auction for that book. It was exciting, everything I hoped and prayed it would be, and sold it. I think now it’s sixteen countries or something like that. It was just really exciting. As you well know, The New York Times best-seller list changes over time. They take lists out. They put lists in. At the time I hit The New York Times best-seller list with The Gift of Failure, there was an education list and there was a parenting list. Those lists don’t exist anymore. It’s really strange to me how the fact that I have a New York Times best-selling book will always follow my name. It makes or breaks your next book. It makes or breaks the amount of money you get for your next book. It is really at the whim of The New York Times Book Review, what lists they choose to keep in there and which lists they get rid of. It’s just a weird, weird thing.

Anyway, I wrote for The Atlantic for a while. Then KJ Dell’Antonia took on the job that Lisa Belkin had started at the Motherlode at The New York Times. When she did that, we were so excited for her. I had started answering questions for her because I was at the intersection of parenting and education. There wasn’t really anyone writing at that intersection at that time, so got super lucky. Got to slide into that niche. That became my niche. I started writing a column for her called The Parent-Teacher Conference. I wrote that for three years. It was great. I loved writing that column. KJ and I are friends. We lived near each other. We had talked and talked and talked about starting a podcast. It wasn’t until KJ finally said, “No, no, no, we just have to do this or we’re never going to start,” and we did. We just posted our three hundredth episode not that long ago. Have never repeated an episode. Have never missed a week. We added Sarina Bowen, the best-selling romance author. It has been such a fun thing. We said we would do it until it wasn’t fun anymore. That covers all that.

What else did you ask me? Oh, Kristen Bell. It’s funny. I help a lot of authors with their platform and their marketing and how they can make connections. It can be so hard to get books into the hands of the people you want to get them into. I talk about persistence all the time and being resourceful and things like that. Kristen Bell, in the summer of 2017, ’16 or ’17, did an Instagram post holding up the cover of my book saying, “Thank you so much, @TeacherLahey,” on Instagram, “for writing this book.” I was doing something. I was working. My phone blew up. It was my sister telling me what was going on. The book sold out everywhere, like, everywhere. I actually have a pretty good idea of how that book landed in her lap. I can trace it back to a couple of people who I got books to early on when the book first came out. It’s one of those things where you never — you can’t make that happen. You never know when it will happen. There’s a lot of luck involved. There’s a lot of serendipity involved. Again, I feel like there are opportunities to make serendipity happen, but it takes years to build a platform. Anyone who’s promising you, whether as a publicist or as a social media manager, that they can make something like that happen, unless they’re Kristen Bell’s best friend, that’s not really possible. I got to do the “Armchair Expert” podcast, which was a hoot. I’ve been very, very fortunate. The Gift of Failure will always be my baby. For me, The Addiction Inoculation was actually the book that I was sort of born to write. It’s what has made the hell of going through substance use disorder definitely worth it. I’m really proud of that book, mainly because of all the crap I had to face and try not to get defensive about in order to write the book. Did I answer all the questions? I’m not sure.

Zibby: You did. Thank you. Check plus.

Jessica: Okay, good.

Zibby: Do you have other books? Do you have other topics you’re currently researching? What’s on your list?

Jessica: I’m in a really interesting spot right now where I have two — I had an idea for a book about a year ago. The way selling a nonfiction book works is that you have to write a proposal. My agent, Laurie Abkemeier, she’s also my first editor. She is so good at this. We have been tweaking a proposal for a book for about a year. Then about three months ago, I had an idea for a book I want to do more and first. Now I’m driving Laurie crazy because we have this proposal that’s pretty much done that Laurie’s really excited about. Hopefully, my editor will be really excited. My editor is Gail Winston at Harper Books, my dream editor. That was the other thing that was amazing. When we had this huge auction — the way a round-robin auction works, just for your listeners, is everyone gets to submit their first offer for the book. There were some pre-empts, people trying to make it so the auction didn’t happen because the auction usually works in the favor of the author. There were some pre-empts. We didn’t take them. I wanted to throw up. I’m like, really? That’s a sure thing. We had this auction where everyone had to submit their first offer. That happened on a Wednesday at ten AM. The auction ended at five PM on Friday on Easter weekend, I think. It just so happened that my first choice of an editor ended up on top. That was Gail Winston. I didn’t have to take Gail’s offer. I could’ve taken someone else, and number two, would have been fantastic too, but Gail is my dream editor. She’s fantastic. She’s really, really wonderful.

The answer to your question is — what book comes out next? I’m not sure. I can’t say what they’re about because Gail has not seen them yet. My agent is really smart about this. We always have a long-form proposal, which is eighty pages because it’s sample chapter, chapter summaries, market analysis, my media contacts, what I’ve done, my speaking engagements, all that sort of stuff. It’s got this long table of contents. We submit the full-on, big book proposal to my editor because if she says, no, we don’t want it, and if I still want to do it without my editor, then we can go out to other publishers. That sounds like a major pain in the butt, but doing a nonfiction book proposal really helps you figure out what the book is. Having to articulate what every chapter’s going to be about, the narrative it’s going to feature — I always write with a narrative arc. No matter how wonky the science is, I always have a narrative arc. Figuring out what the stories will be about so that I can get to the research and contextualize the research, that’s hard because often, that requires me to go find people and to do most of the research for the book. By the time I had done the book proposal for The Addiction Inoculation, I had read two-thirds of the books that I eventually ended up using in the book. You start off in a place of kind of knowing the landscape of your book a little bit better. It’s a really pain-in-the-butt process that pays off huge if you sell the book because you’re not just feeling your way around in the dark. It’s a cool process.

Zibby: Is there anything left in your literary wish list?

Jessica: Yeah, actually. I love Mary Laura Philpott’s I Miss You When I Blink and Bomb Shelter. Mary Laura is a friend of mine. I happen to be a huge fan of essay collections. I love them. I love them. I also love creative nonfiction. One of my bucket-list items was to be published in the magazine Creative Nonfiction, edited by Lee Gutkind, and I was. It’s one of the pieces I’m most proud of. Something in that sweet spot of essays and creative nonfiction I think would be my ideal. I do have two novels in progress, both of which are fun to tinker with. They sort of take a backseat, usually, to the nonfiction. Writing fiction is extremely hard for me. It’s like pulling teeth. Maybe it would get easier with more practice. Dialogue, for me, is tough, and stuff like that. I have lots of stuff I’m always working on. KJ and Sarina and I were talking about this on a podcast recently. There’s a lot of stuff that’s in the back of my head that, if something were to come up in the news or in the zeitgeist or whatever that happens to be a good fit with that thing, I would be like, oh, it’s time for this. I have lots of essay topics for things I would love to be in that essay book eventually. I’m always thinking about those. I’m one of those people that is constantly cogitating on writing while I’m doing other stuff. Getting to understand that the writing process, for me, is very much about weeding the garden and cleaning the bathroom and — I’m remodeling one of the rooms in my house right now. While I’m doing drywall, I’m working on book stuff. Understanding that that’s not separate from the writing process, for me, has been really freeing because I used to feel guilty about that time. Now I just understand that when I’m on walks, when I’m lying in bed for twenty extra minutes in the morning just letting my brain do that unhinged wandering thing, that’s when I get some of my best ideas. That’s when it’s important for me to value that daydreaming time.

Zibby: Love it. Jess, thank you. This is amazing.

Jessica: You’re welcome.

Zibby: I’m sorry I went a little over the time.

Jessica: No, no, this is great.

Zibby: I feel like there are eight thousand more questions I wanted to ask you. Hopefully, next time in person.

Jessica: I wouldn’t have three hundred podcasts of an episode about the writing life and what it means to be a writer out there if I didn’t love talking about this stuff. I love all the angles, the writing and the publicity and all that stuff. It’s all really fun. I’m so grateful to watch you cultivate this literary existence that’s been really fun to watch. You knew what you wanted. You went out and have started creating it. I think it allows people to say that, whether it’s becoming a bookstagrammer or being a book tech-talker or whatever, book talk, there are ways into the literary life that aren’t necessary about being published yourself or aren’t necessarily about — anyway, I think it’s really cool. It makes this life accessible for lots of people.

Zibby: Good. Thanks. I’m having so much fun. I loved what you said about, when it stops being fun, I’ll stop doing it. That’s kind of how I feel. I love what I do. I love all this stuff. It all just feeds and feeds. I get more excited. It’s so fun for me. It’s hard for me to ratchet it back. You get it.

Jessica: The process stuff is what’s really fun for me. When do you write? I have all these tricks for getting my brain into writing mode. A lot of them are stuff I learned from other people, like having a music playlist that’s specifically for serious work time. I hear it. My brain goes, oh, we’re in serious work time now, not checking-email time. It automatically dumps me into that place. I love learning other people’s tips and tricks. I’ve learned so much from all of our guests. It’s really helpful.

Zibby: You should put them all together.

Jessica: That would be really fun. Actually, every time I go on a podcast and I talk about — after Gift of Failure, I had some problems with it. I created this “don’t do this again” mistake list. All these people email me. They’re like, can I have that “don’t do this” mistake list? I’m like, it’s kind of specific to me. I use the word particularly too much, so take all those words out. Yeah, that would be really fun.

Zibby: I usually ask for advice for aspiring authors, but I feel like you already gave it because you were just talking about the daydreaming thing. Then you had so much other advice. I was like, I can’t even ask it again. I have so much great advice I’ve already gotten. Unless you have another piece.

Jessica: The biggest piece of advice I give is the same piece I give to my students. I was a middle and high school teacher for twenty years. That is, read your own writing out loud because you catch so many mistakes. If you’re lucky enough to get to read your audiobooks, you’ll get to know which things you can’t say very easily and which things just don’t sound right. It’s a little of that David Sedaris-y — he gets to learn what it sounds like read out loud as well. Read what you write out loud. Close the door. Say it out loud. You’ll catch so many of your errors. That way someone else doesn’t have to catch as many of your errors.

Zibby: Perfect. Thank you so much.

Jessica: You’re so welcome.

Zibby: To be continued at some other point. Anytime you want to talk books, I’m in. I love it. I love the writing life.

Jessica: Absolutely. Thank you so much.

Zibby: Thank you. Have a great day. Buh-bye.




Purchase your copy of THE ADDICTION INOCULATION on Amazon and Bookshop!

And purchase your copy of THE GIFT OF FAILURE on Amazon and Bookshop!

Subscribe to Zibby’s weekly newsletter here.

You can also listen to this episode on:

Apple Podcasts