Broadway superstar Kristin Chenoweth joins Zibby to talk about her new picture book, What Will I Do with My Love Today?, which was inspired in part by her beloved dog, Thunder. The two discuss why Kristin decided to incorporate heavy themes like loss, adoption, and perseverance in the face of adversity, as well as how the pandemic played a role in the story. Kristin also shares her favorite passage and the responsibility artists have to put their work out into the world.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Kristin. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss your amazing new children’s book, What Will I Do with My Love Today? illustrated by Maine Diaz.

Kristin Chenoweth: Thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m super excited to be able to talk to everybody, especially the moms that don’t have time to read a book.

Zibby: Yes. I have four kids. I had no time. I thought this would be a good way to help people hear about books that they might not otherwise and get the backstory.

Kristin: That’s so cool. That’s so cool of you.

Zibby: Thank you. Let’s just start with you talking about this amazing book. Then I want to come back to our pre-chat because that was so interesting. Why did you write this book? Why is this important to you?

Kristin: One of the things that happened — I don’t know how you felt — when the pandemic first hit, I went from 180 to zero. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I thought, what will I do with myself today? was originally the thought, the question. My boyfriend, now fiancée, said, “Just take a beat. Maybe you can hear what you’re supposed to do. Just take a beat.” On one of our walks with Thunder, my dog, I was feeling pretty low, and she just looked up at me, like all of our pets do. People who love pets understand what I mean. They can look at you sometimes at your lowest. I’ve had a lot of loss this past couple years. She just looked at me like, it’s going to be okay. I thought, oh, how can I show you how much I love you? Then the question evolved into, what will I do with this love? What will I do with my love today? I just want to share with everybody how the title became because that’s how the book became. I thought it might be a song. In the middle of the night, I have a tendency to — a lot of writers are this way. I’m no Shakespeare, but I write thoughts down in the middle of the night. Then I get up in the morning and go, oh, right, that’s what I was thinking.

That’s how this book was born. Thank goodness it was born because I have heard from so many people that they have the same relationship with their pet. Also, what am I going to do with myself now? How does life look differently? What’s going to be important to me now? This pandemic has given us time to not just find solutions, but ask the questions that we’re scared to ask of ourselves. That’s why I wrote the book, if you want to be honest. It’s pretty deep, but that’s why I wrote the book right there, is to not to be afraid to ask yourself, ask anybody, what will I do with myself today? How am I going to leave this world a better place? Again, I’m a scared writer because I’m not you. I’m not her. I don’t want to try to be great, except, I want to get my message across. How can I do that in rhyme and with the way I want it to be heard? That in conjunction with my lovely illustrator, Maine Diaz, who I just loved — I thought she just nailed it. I picked from a lot of people.

Zibby: Yes.

Kristin: Thank you. I just went right there to her.

Zibby: Amazing.

Kristin: That’s how the book came. I’m so glad I did it. I’d love to do another one. I’d love it to be a sequel. I’d love it to keep going. I have to tell you something. It’s sort of happening naturally, so that’s great.

Zibby: It’s amazing. By the way, yes, I love the deep. I’ve also had a lot of loss in my life. I feel like it deletes a lot of the need for the non-important stuff. I think that’s why I also relate so well to this book. We all have limited time. We don’t have all the time in the world. What are we going to do?

Kristin: There’s no promise for tomorrow. What you just said, it’s because the loss and pain and even where we are in our world today, easy to let that — you said it perfectly. If I may steal that from you, I’ll give you credit.

Zibby: Go ahead.

Kristin: It’s easy to delete. Allow it to delete. The good things, the good times, the blessings — thank you for that. I needed that today.

Zibby: No problem. By the way, I don’t know if you can see my dog on the floor because she’s black, but I am also a huge dog lover.

Kristin: You leaned over. I was like, is that an animal?

Zibby: It is an animal. It’s so funny. Before COVID, I interviewed an author named Rochelle Weinstein. Her whole book was about someone who had a big loss in their life, and the dog stepped forward as the main comfort. At that time, I didn’t have a dog. I was like, oh, that’s so amazing. During the pandemic — I will go back to you in one second.

Kristin: This is what I want to talk about. I love it.

Zibby: During the pandemic, my husband’s mom and grandmother both passed away from COVID. My mother-in-law was only sixty-three and beautiful and in perfect health. It was horrific, a six-week, drawn-out, awful process. When she died, we actually adopted her dog, which is who Nya is. From when I went down to Duke to the hospital where they finally were allowed to see her just to say goodbye, Nya sat on the bed with me while I sat there just waiting. Since that moment, she has not left my side.

Kristin: This is what we’re talking about today. This is just a conduit to this conversation. You have a little piece of her with you, if I may.

Zibby: Yes.

Kristin: My god, what bigger blessing could there be? You have that beautiful furry baby. That’s what I call them. It’s your mother-in-law you’re talking about, right?

Zibby: Mm-hmm.

Kristin: To remind you every day in the best possible way, what true love is and how it continues on. I’m sorry for your loss. Yet thank you for sharing that story. A lot of us need to hear it.

Zibby: It’s fine. When you said you have had a lot of loss lately, it’s a special place in the world for people who have that fresh loss and who automatically can rethink and can connect with what’s really important.

Kristin: What’s really important.

Zibby: That’s what your book does so well. Part of what’s important is, you realize, love. That’s really the most important thing of all, is who you love, your relationships with them, right?

Kristin: Yes. Thank you so much for understanding. I look for ways — I’m lucky, and you are too. Anybody that’s artistic, we get to put it out that way. Even if this weren’t to be printed ever, I would still have gotten to do it and have it. As artists particularly, we have a duty. It’s almost a requirement to get it out whether anything happens with it or not. This whole time period, I hate to say it, we just keep rolling into new stuff.

Zibby: That’s fine.

Kristin: That’s important to talk about, the state of our world. To see so much hate in the world, to concentrate on the word love, it battles hate better than any other word I know. You’re going to know. What is the exact term for a word sounding like what it is? That’s what I think love is. Love sounds like what it is.

Zibby: Oh, onomatopoeia or whatever?

Kristin: Onomatopoeia. That’s what the word love is to me. Yes, everything you said. Ditto, and times ten. You understand.

Zibby: There was a friend of mine who said it’s like a club you don’t want to be a part of or something.

Kristin: I lost my best friend this year, two years ago right when it started.

Zibby: I’m so sorry.

Kristin: Thank you. Fifty. No, forty-nine. Same. You think, so young. Not ready. It wasn’t time. This is what we’re talking about. What will I do with my love today? That’s all you can do, is show love. Forgive yourself when you mess up. That’s important too. Forgive yourself when you mess up. Then move on.

Zibby: Another piece of the story, too, in your book is about helping other people, helping, giving back, paying attention to everyone in the world, being aware that we’re all so interconnected. The energy you put out into the world is so important. Like you’re saying, you have to put all this out there. I completely agree. That’s all you can do. It’s like an Instagram Live with all the hearts. You’re pressing the heart, heart, heart button. They’re just flowing from you.

Kristin: It’s totally true. Also, you’re a mom, you understand. I’m not a mom, but I’m a mother, if that makes sense. I have several kids I take care of. No, I’m not a twenty-four/seven mom. I don’t have your job. I do not. That’s, to me, the most important job on this planet, for parents. I do have this dog. I do take her everywhere with me because I need her with me a lot. There is something to the word rescue. See? Words. I’m not a wordsmith, but I just love them. As an adopted person myself, getting to adopt a dog and having us get each other in a way — we’re both little rescues. I wanted to help other people too. Adoption isn’t really the theme of the book. Well, it didn’t start out that way. It’s now become like, hey, this book is about adoption and rescue. I’m like, you know what? It is. I didn’t set out to be that way.

Zibby: It could be about anything you want it to be.

Kristin: It kind of is. We’re just people wanting to be loved by somebody that sees us. There’s something I’m learning from the younger generation. They want to be seen. I say this because I was the woman rolling her eyes at fifty going, I want to be seen. I want to be heard. You know what? Stop that. Get out there and work your butt off, and then let’s talk. No, no, no. Now I get it. I get it. The problems today are different than the problems that were twenty, thirty years ago. There’s instantaneous gratification or dissatisfaction with these things. I totally stand corrected. They — all of us, not just they, but specifically they because they’re our next generation, need to be seen. They need to be heard. They have lots to learn. We have lots to give, but they have lots to teach. We need to hear it. All of this packaged into this tiny, little book that didn’t even set out to say or be any of that just happened. That’s why, as a writer, when I write a song, for example, I think, oh, this song’s going to be about this. I do this a lot. Whoa, the song’s not about that. I end up writing it. I’m like, I was completely wrong. Especially to anybody listening out there who is an artist, a reminder — I’m not a teacher; I’m a reminder — to not put yourself in a box because I set out to write a song, and what came out was a children’s book. For whatever that’s worth for your listenership, for whatever that’s worth.

Zibby: It could still be a song.

Kristin: It might just be. I’m going to be reading this at a lot of very fancy places coming up. My music director, the woman that goes on the tour with me, her name is Mary-Mitchell Campbell. She’s Broadway royalty. She said, “I feel like there’s a song there.” I went, “Okay, okay.” Then you just said that. I’m listening, again, to all the signs. Why can’t there be?

Zibby: Yeah, why can’t there be? Nice accompaniment. It would be great. I actually have a children’s book coming out on April 19th. It’s called Princess Charming. It’s about a girl who just can’t find her thing. She keeps messing up everything she tries and can’t figure out what she’s good at. Then she realizes what she’s really the best at is not giving up at whatever she puts her mind to. Then there’s a big twist at the end. I’m excited.

Kristin: I’ll probably love that book.

Zibby: I send you one.

Kristin: Princess Charming, yes.

Zibby: Because of that, I’m so attuned to every decision that goes into the books and what goes on the cover and the little imagery and how amazing your end papers are and just all the things that go into it and everything on every page. I didn’t know you were adopted, to be honest, before. I’ve been a fan from afar watching you on stage in Wicked, oh, my gosh. By the way, there’s a song in Wicked about losing a friend that when I lost my — not to keep talking — I also lost my best friend on 9/11. Soon after that, I went and saw Wicked. I can’t remember exactly when. That was the song that I would play over and over again. Do you know which one I’m talking about?

Kristin: Yes. It’s called “For Good.”

Zibby: Yes, “For Good.” Now that you’re in the friend loss thing, that happened to have been the song that was most powerful for me at that time.

Kristin: It’s all about friendship. It’s all about . It’s all about what we look for in our relationships. Of course, that stuck to you.

Zibby: Anyway, so I saw you from afar, but I didn’t know about your adoption. I found it particularly interesting to learn of that. Also, I don’t think you hit people over the head with it at all. It was subtle. It was just introduced in passing.

Kristin: I think because, for me, I forget — first of all, thank you for bringing it up. I don’t lead with that. I don’t think about it because I’m me. It’s like me saying to you every day, I’m four foot eleven. I’m four foot eleven. I’m four foot eleven. Of course, I know it. People around me know I’m little, but I don’t think about it every day. Of course, I know I have a funny speaking voice, but I don’t lead with that. It’s part of who I am. The adoption, like I said, I didn’t mean to make it about that, but I think there’s a lot of people in this life that need to hear it, and even people who feel lost. It’s not just that I was adopted as a baby and the way it happened, which is another book, which was a miracle, but that I have this dog. Again, I go back to Thunder, thinking, oh, I’m that crazy dog lady now. I’ve seen people on the street, and now I’m her. It’s okay. There is one passage in the book for me — “passage,” I use quotations. This is my favorite part of the whole book and one of the reasons I was so happy when I got it down in the way I wanted it to be heard. You know what I’m talking about because of the rhymes and the sequence. “You see, Thunder, families don’t all look the same or talk like each other or have the same name. Sometimes extra love in your heart and your home is waiting for somebody who’s all alone. No matter how life has brought us together, adoption means family, and family’s forever. We’ve had lots of love in our family before, but with you, Thunder pup, we can have even more.” I guess what I’m trying to say here is, love breeds love. That’s it.

Zibby: It’s true. It’s so important. It’s simple but not because so many people still don’t get it.

Kristin: I know, honey. I know. That’s why we as artists, when I say we have a responsibility — I don’t mean that with any sort of arrogance. I just mean there’s a responsibility to say what’s in your heart, especially put out good in the world, whether it’s through a song, a book, a painting. It’s a responsibility. I believe that’s why God gave certain people certain gifts. Notice I’m not in a math lab. I’m not a surgeon. I’m not a very good driver.

Zibby: Me neither.

Kristin: Thank you. I speed way too much. I’m doing what it is I’m supposed to be doing. You are doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Thunder is doing her little job. I love getting deep, especially with something that seems so little and so like nothing. This probably took me more time to write than anything I’ve ever done because I just wanted to say it in a way, in a certain rhyme. Actually, I have a woman that helped me. Joni Rodgers is her name. Whenever I write something, I always want her to look over it because I’m trying to be respectful and well-spoken. She just said, “There’s really not a lot to change here, Kristin, or work on,” but it took me two years. It took two years.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. It’s really good. It really works. It gives you the chills and makes you smile and all the good things.

Kristin: All the feels.

Zibby: All the feels, yes. Right, that’s what I’m supposed to say. Wait, you spoke in the beginning that you have been going through some vertigo and stuff lately. What’s that been like?

Kristin: Anybody out there that knows what Ménière’s disease and/or vertigo or ringing in the ears — all of those things are sisters to each other, or brothers depending on how you look at it. Doesn’t matter. I have that. I have Ménière’s. It is vertigo accompanied with ringing and balance issues. When I’ve looked back upon my life when it’s really been bad, as an adult is when it kind of — in my twenties. It’s accompanied with a migraine a lot of times. Thank goodness for Botox, by the way. That is the truth. I made the decision long ago when I found ago that it worked. I was like, do you want to be able to move your face, or do you want to be able to move at all? I’m like, I think I’ll choose B. Botox has really helped with — it’s helped in a lot of places now that I want it to, but it’s helped all over the head with migraine triggers. All of this to say, flying — I don’t drink a lot of alcohol anyway, but that’s something to watch. Low sodium is something to watch. I’m having it right now. Here’s the lesson. Here’s the thing. Sometimes you can do everything just right, just like you’re supposed to, and it’s still going to happen. Sometimes you know you’re walking that fine line. Oh, I’m getting on another flight. I’m having too much salt here. You don’t get it.

The lesson is, do your best. Give into it when it happens so that you can get over it. Of all things to have as an artist, I said to my mom not long ago — now it’s been a couple years. I said, “If I could just cut off one of my fingers and never have this again.” She goes, “Who are you to say that you’re not going to have a certain something? Everybody has their crap. Yours just happens to be the inner ear.” She’s right. I bet I wouldn’t say that if I were a guitarist. She’s been such a great influence as far as injury, sickness, and healing. Who are you to be special to not have something? Everybody has something. I’m like, “But nobody can see it. It’s not that I want pity, but it’s inside my ear.” She’s like, “Cole Porter, let’s look at all –” She goes, “Let’s look at everybody who’s ever had this problem.” Then we started talking. She goes, “What do you think about Van Gogh? Do you think he chopped off his ear because maybe he couldn’t — the ringing, maybe he had — who knows?” It’s just an interesting question to ask of oneself. Why not me? I’m no special or different than anybody else. Everybody’s got their crap.

Zibby: Right, but on the other side, it is interfering with one of your God-given gifts.

Kristin: It does. It brings me to my knees. For me, it’s prayer, meditation. For other people, it’s different things. When I start to really focus in and just hone in on it and relax and calm down, be still, all the things that we’re supposed to do, actually, when we pray or meditate, I can sometimes get over it. For example, I am flying tonight. I’m in a very good spot right now. I’m being very careful with how I move. I’m going to be so in a prayerful mode when I get on that plane. I don’t want anything to disrupt it or make it weird again, but it might. It’s worth it to me to try because, again, I don’t know how much — not to get morbid, but I don’t know how long we are here. I want to keep continuing to live and try. If it were yesterday, I couldn’t have done it. Now at this point in my life, all these things that I’m receiving — why this? Why that? It’s now, why not? Calm down. Relax. You’re of a certain age. Chill out. You’ve been blessed. You work your butt off. Continue to do what you love. These are all things that keep coming in like little zappers in my brain. You know what I mean.

Zibby: I know what you mean, but it still stinks. I’m sorry.

Kristin: Thank you.

Zibby: It’s very unfortunate. I had vertigo for one week. I was like, how do people live with this? When I had COVID, it caused — it’s awful. I literally was like, I can’t believe — I thought back on all the books I’d read about people with chronic pain and chronic vertigo. I was just like, oh, my gosh, I can’t believe it, how disruptive it is. It’s completely disruptive.

Kristin: That’s the word. That is the word. Today even, I want to look great for you and everything, but I thought, you know what? Here I am. I’ve got a ring light around me. I’m just happy to be on the call. This is it, people. This is it right here. I think I said to you before the interview — it’s okay if you don’t want to video it. Not much will be shown. I said, you know what? It’s okay. I want people to see the good, bad, and the ugly. I show what my hair and makeup team can do all the time. That’s a fact. Maybe that’s graduating a little bit. Maybe I feel like I’ve graduated. I’m like, eh, this is the real thing. Maybe it’s not pretty or happy, but it’s alive.

Zibby: First of all, you’re a beautiful person, but it’s mostly from the inside. That sounds cheesy. I’m certainly not here for your hair and makeup. If I wanted to go see you in hair and makeup, I know where to find you. This podcast, this is about the inside. This is about what we think and feel, not what we look like.

Kristin: Thank you. Amen, sister.

Zibby: Thank you so much, Kristin. This has been so nice. Thank you for being so open and real. It’s so personally refreshing to be able to just connect and find when people are on the same wavelength and really get it.

Kristin: Same, girl. Same. Very rare. Stay safe. Take care of that dog and all those kids.

Zibby: You too. Thank you so much.

Kristin: I’ll be getting the book. Princess Charming?

Zibby: Yes.

Kristin: I’m actually already like, . That’s the song.

Zibby: Take it. Run with it. I love it.

Kristin: I can’t wait to read it.

Zibby: You’re so sweet.

Kristin: I can’t wait.

Zibby: Thank you. Bye.



Purchase your copy on Amazon and Bookshop!

Subscribe to Zibby’s weekly newsletter here.

You can also listen to this episode on:

Apple Podcasts