Laura Tremaine, LIFE COUNCIL

Laura Tremaine, LIFE COUNCIL

Zibby is joined by writer and podcaster Laura Tremaine to discuss her latest book The Life Council: 10 Friends Every Woman Needs, an adult friendship book filled with honest confessions, wisdom, and wit. Laura discusses the different types of friends (from the “battle buddy” to the “obsessive”) and then describes her personal experiences with friendship, from making her deepest friendships in her tiny Oklahoma hometown to feeling completely lonely after moving to LA to finally learning how to evaluate and nurture her smaller friendship circle. She also talks about her podcast, 10 Things To Tell You, and shares her best advice for aspiring authors.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Laura. I’m so excited to have you back on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” I feel like your last book just came out. Wasn’t that a minute ago? Back with The Life Council: 10 Friends Every Woman Needs. When did your last book come out? How much time has been in between?

Laura Tremaine: It’s almost two years exactly. It came out in 2021. I remember being at your house at a beautiful party and telling you that I was writing The Life Council. That feels like a minute ago too.

Zibby: Right? I remember that party, obviously. Maybe not obviously, but I do. Somehow, between 2021 and now has slipped by me completely. I’m like, wait, it’s 2023? The pandemic was three years — what? No. How could that be?

Laura: It’s crazy.

Zibby: 10 Friends Every Woman Needs. I was mentally trying to slot all my girlfriends into these roles as I read through your different classifications. I was like, hmm, I don’t know. Talk about what this book is about. Why a book about friendship? Why these friends? All of that.

Laura: I’m writing about friendship again. Share Your Stuff was also a little bit about friendship, but from a different angle of sharing your stuff in order to connect, mostly with friends. This book is about, actually, adult friendships. On my podcast and on my social media, I feel like it kept coming up over and over again, how difficult adult friendship can be, or complicated. We feel obligations to friends. We don’t really know how to be a new friend. We definitely don’t know how to make new friends out of the blue. Keeping up with old friends sometimes is complicated. This theme just came up over and over again. I felt like it isn’t a relationship that gets a lot of talk or instruction. We get all kinds of books about marriage and parenthood. We just don’t get a lot of talks about friends because it feels like friendship should be this unending resource. If one friend doesn’t work out, there’s always another person. I guess that’s sort of true, but that’s not really true in our hearts. We really want to feel deeply connected to people.

This is certainly not an instructional book. I’m not a psychologist or a therapist or anything like that. It’s more just a way to look at the landscape of the people already in your life and see how they can fit into your friendship structure. Instead of feeling like, “I don’t have any friends. I only have acquaintances. I’m too busy to do the friendship thing,” all these obstacles that get in our way, I wanted to lay out how I had worked it out for myself. It’s a lot about the way you think about it. It’s not about a ton of action. I don’t want to give people a new to-do list here. It’s looking at your own landscape and being like, what is this person bringing to my life? What am I bringing to theirs? Not all friendships have to be deep. Some friendships can just stay in their lane. You can have a work friend only. You can have a mom friend only that you only see in the bleachers. That is still very fulfilling in a life.

Zibby: I particularly liked the obsessive. I’ve been obsessed with different things over the course of my life. Then through those things, you attract different people. Then you go on to something else, and then they’re not as relevant, in a way.

Laura: Exactly. Also, is there anything more satisfying than a friend that is also obsessed with the thing you’re obsessed with? You can obsess together. Sometimes that’s just a season. Maybe you’re only into running or embroidery or whatever for a minute. Then you’re not anymore. When you have that time together, it’s a bonding. It feels good. Again, it doesn’t need to go the huge distance. It is something that brings something to our life. I feel like friendships like this don’t get a lot of credit. The only friends that get credit are old friends, bridesmaid-level friends, friends that help you through your toughest time. Those are beautiful relationships, but those are unique. They’re kind of a different animal. Those aren’t the things that keep us from feeling lonely all the time. We can alleviate some of our loneliness with the people who are daily in our life, or even on a screen.

Zibby: It’s so true. I had a friend I really only connected to about the show Homeland. Do you remember that show?

Laura: Yes.

Zibby: I was obsessed with Homeland. I had this one girlfriend, and we would compare notes and watch together.

Laura: I love that. Actually, I want to say more about that. The internet is a gift to us in that way because you can find fellow obsessives so easily. There’s Facebook groups or Reddit threads or whatever about whatever thing you’re into, especially if it’s a TV show or a band or a podcast. Maybe that’s all you have in common. Maybe that’s enough.

Zibby: Did you know — I’m probably the last to know this. This isn’t totally relevant, but because we’re talking and we’re talking about making friends in random places. When I was on LinkedIn last night, all of a sudden, it popped up. It was like, would you like to join this group of ten thousand writers and authors? I was like, okay. Did you know there were groups on LinkedIn?

Laura: No. I’m not on LinkedIn. Are you on LinkedIn very much?

Zibby: Yeah.

Laura: I mean, I have a page. I’m just not very active on it.

Zibby: I’ve been building up my company and hiring people. Then I realized I could post on it. Anywhere where I can post news. You can find like-minded people even on LinkedIn, I guess is my point. Anyway, sorry, tangent. What else? The battle buddy, that’s the mom in the trenches, correct? Yes.

Laura: Yes. Anyone in the trenches I feel like can be a battle buddy. I’m just going to beat this drum. It doesn’t have to be a lifetime relationship. You can have a battle buddy with someone that you went through one day. You had a traumatic thing happen one day. It doesn’t always have to be bad, necessarily, but one thing that really bonded you that was short term. It doesn’t have to be a lifelong battle. It can be, of course. We have these battle buddies that help us through a diagnosis or a really hard time. A battle buddy can be — the friend that I write about in the book was my roommate for just one year. We barely even talk much anymore. That one year was so formative for me. The other battle buddy that I write about, we are dear friends. Our friendship came to be because we were on a trip together, a trip that lasted less than a week. It was a difficult trip. We went through this thing. A battle buddy can be sort of short term, but you have this bonding thing that you went through it together. You’ll always have that connection.

Zibby: We accidentally met this other couple on my honeymoon with my first marriage. They ended up living nearby. We became friends just because of that. Now I think they’re still married, but we’re not married anymore. I have an idea for you I just thought of. I was thinking how it would be so cool to write an essay about each of these friends as a writing prompt. Write an essay about your daily-duty friend or whatever. Write an essay about this, that, or the other thing. I think you teach a Zibby Class. The assignment should be to write these essays. You have ten classes, and then you talk about those essays.

Laura: I would love that. Great. Let’s talk about it.

Zibby: Wouldn’t that be fun?

Laura: It is a really good journal prompt or writing prompt, essay prompt. I don’t want people to be so married to the ten archetypes that I share. I tried to make them general enough. I also shared my own experience. I do hope that when people are reading through those different stereotypes that it is getting their juices flowing of, who is this friend to me? This doesn’t exactly fit. Maybe it sparks what someone else is to you. It would be great journal prompts. Also, you can take it in your own direction. Ah, this is really making me think of what this person meant to me, even if it doesn’t fall in this exact definition.

Zibby: How nice would it be, too, to have everybody then send the essays to those ten friends? Think about all the joy. Let’s say you had twenty people, and they each wrote essays about ten friends. Then they all sent them to those friends. Think about how many people’s — what is that? Two hundred or something? — lives that are now better. It’d be fun. Think about it.

Laura: It’s true. Beautiful.

Zibby: You joked in the book about how growing up in Oklahoma, you expected that a bigger community would yield more friends. Whereas in truth, it was easier to have friends in a smaller community. Tell me about that.

Laura: I grew up in not only Oklahoma, but a small town in Oklahoma. It’s the type of town where everybody knows everybody. For better or worse, everybody knows everybody. I went to school with the same people that I learned how to read and write with in elementary school. We graduated at the same time. Then I went to college where I was in a sorority. I just felt like, when I got to adulthood, I didn’t realize that friendship had sort of been handed to me on a silver platter this whole time. It had just been served up. Small town, you just know people. Sorority, here’s the people that you’re going to be friends with. When I got in the real world and I moved to Los Angeles, I was wanting to broaden my horizons. Moving to LA did broaden my horizons in a lot of ways. I thought, there’s five million people here, five million options to be friends. I thought it would be easier to make friends than it would be with a small town. The opposite was true.

When you’re in the smaller community, whatever that is, your town, your church, your work, your whatever, a smaller community, the connection there feels easier because you’re under the umbrella of something you already have in common. In Los Angeles, this was not true. It’s five million people going in five million different directions. It didn’t feel like that they were as interested in investing in deeper relationships. This city has a reputation for being shallow. That can be true in some instances, especially just on the surface. It felt like all of the girlfriend rules that I knew were different in LA. People are flaky here, especially when they’re twenty-two years old. They’re like, meet you at the bar, or don’t. I just felt like nobody here kept their word. Nobody here wanted to have deeper conversations. Everybody was a little bit out for themselves. I don’t feel that way in Los Angeles as a whole. There’s amazing people here. I’ve made amazing friendships, but it did take me a long time to find deeper friendships here. I’ve always likened it to Los Angeles because that’s where I was.

Part of it also might have just been, post-college life in your twenties is a mess. A lot of people are selfish and flaky and whatever. It might not even be LA-specific. It was just that moving to a big city from a small town, the friendship rules and expectations were so different. It led to a long time of loneliness for me. I felt like, I live here, but all of my connections, all of my deepest, heart-centered friendships were back in Oklahoma for a long time. In fact, I didn’t make good friends in LA, with a few exceptions, but I didn’t make my deepest friends in LA until I became a parent. Then I made some mom friends because, again, we had this thing in common right off the bat that put us in the same space or maybe in the same mindset. There’s so many different types of people in LA. There’s so many ways to be in a city. It’s just a different lifestyle. When you’re in a small town where you’re like, there’s only so much to do, getting together with people is the thing to do. Obviously, that’s going to bring tons of connection. It’s just not true. Not true in Hollywood, I’ll just say.

Zibby: I had the exact same experience. I moved to LA after college in 1998. I had the hardest time meeting like-minded people. I missed my friends so much. I was like, there’s so many young people in LA. This is going to be amazing. I didn’t have that structure in my job. I did my job, and then I left. I made, actually, one lasting friend. Sometimes friends in situations like that, you don’t even realize — you become friends ten years later after you experience it. It takes a while. You can’t just instantly make best friends. I had the same feeling, but unlike you, I left. I went back to New York. I was like, I can’t do it. I only lasted two years.

Laura: Do you have better friends in New York? Did you when you were young?

Zibby: Yeah. Also, all my college friends moved to New York. I was the only one who moved out West. It was for a boy at the time. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise. Then we broke up. Even when we were together, he worked all the time. I was like, what am I supposed to do here? I was so used to working hard in college. Then all of a sudden, I was done with work at five. I was like, what on earth am I supposed to do now? I’m used to working until midnight every day. It was sort of a sad time.

Laura: That’s what my story was too. I was just super lonely.

Zibby: Too bad I didn’t meet you. We could’ve hung out if I had known.

Laura: Right? I was just a few years behind you. I will say, going with the theme of all of your work, one of the things that alleviated my loneliness was I started a book club. I was like, I need friends. I invited a couple of people I knew and then also a new worker at my husband’s job. It was just totally like, does anybody want to be in a book club? The benefit to a book club for making friends was that it met regularly. It was once a month on the calendar. You didn’t have to figure out something new and exciting to do. It was already a built-in structure that was already on the calendar. I didn’t have to reach out and be vulnerable every time and be like, do you want to get together? We had this set thing. Even once a month, which isn’t very often, of course, was enough to feel like, okay, I have some friends. I have some book club friends.

Zibby: It’s true. By the end of the time, I had four really close friends, but it did take a while. It wasn’t the same. Now they are still my really close friends. Now I’m thinking, oh, my gosh, they’re going to — . It just takes a little bit. I feel like there’s shame around that. Your book really makes it like, it’s not you. It’s not like you’re unpopular or undesirable or that people don’t want to be your friend. There are times of life when it’s easy. There are times of life when it’s hard. It’s okay to be friends with people for different reasons at different times. It’s all sanctioned, which is great.

Laura: I start the book off with a friendship reckoning that I had during the pandemic. I didn’t want to start the book with, I have the friend thing figured out. I don’t. I wanted to share right from the get-go, the pandemic, the last few years, the political division, all the things has made friendship harder. People have had a lot of struggles with friends. Myself included. I thought this friend and I were going to break up. We had to sit in the backyard –this was the very deep pandemic times — six feet apart and have a really hard conversation. I just wanted people to know that if that happened to you or is in the midst of happening to you, that’s happening everywhere. People aren’t really talking about it. It’s not the type of thing you post on social media. Oh, I had a friend breakup. It’s true.

Zibby: It’s true. Actually, there’s a woman who’s coming to my signing at the bookstore this weekend named Annie Cathryn who wrote a book called The Friendship Breakup. You might be interested. It’s a novel. I feel like the two of you might want to chitchat. She has a podcast. I’ll connect you two if you want.

Laura: Is she LA? She’s local to me?

Zibby: No, she’s flying in from Chicago. She heard about it and was like, “I want to come. I’m going to fly in.” I was like, okay. She’s lovely. It’s true, not something to post about. I’m also curious how you maintain your friendships; A, because in the beginning of the book you keep talking about how selfish you are, which I highly doubt; and B, you don’t email, at least for professional reasons, all the time. You have an autoreply that you’ve chosen not to email that much. I think that is amazing. Tell me about that.

Laura: Not to joke about this, but actually, there’s so much digital communication these days that it just pings off my anxiety. I have two kids who are in sports. I feel like I’m on text threads all day long. I get a million emails for work. There’s obviously DMs in all the social media places. There’s so many ways to communicate. When I get all this incoming communication, I just shut down. I don’t communicate with anybody, which is terrible for friendship. I used to use that as an excuse. This makes me very anxious. I’m not going to be good at it. If I don’t text you back, you can’t take it personally. This was sort of my mantra for a long time. Then I realized I was actually damaging some of my friendships by taking that stance. It doesn’t mean that I can’t take care of my mental health and stay aware of it. Also, this is the way that people communicate. This is how people are doing friendships in 2023. I guess I could choose to have a smaller circle and not nurture some of those friendships and whatever, or I could try and work with it. What I do — I have to do this for myself. I set a timer and sit down and reply to texts because this is how mom-life friendship works for me. This is how people are checking in on each other. This is how people are showing that they care. Now I also do, we can get together and do normal things, like moms’ brunches or moms’ night out or taking a hike with a friend or the normal things that friends do.

Honestly, in this life, for me, a lot of it is texting or liking people’s Instagrams, just showing that you care in these smaller digital ways. I was just not doing my friendships any favors when I refused to do that. The email autoresponder, that’s for work only. I was like, I’m going to have to take care of myself in places where I can, so in work situations. I have an assistant now. I have an autoresponder. Then in places where it really matters, like relationship, I am going to have to make it work for myself. I’m going to have to take care of my mental health while also nurturing these friendships in the way that they need to be done. That’s not easy for everybody. That’s not a priority for everybody. You have to think about it for yourself. These are definitely things to think about if you’re like, I’m never on Instagram. I’m never on Facebook. I don’t do social media. Then if you notice that’s where a lot of your friend group is communicating or sharing their lives or whatever, that’s going to be a trade-off. I’m not telling you to get on social media if that’s what your choice is. In some ways, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Oh, I refuse to do X, Y, Z. Why am I so lonely? You have to recognize there are some trade-offs.

Zibby: Interesting. Give me the whole run-down of all the things you’re doing now still, what you’re starting, what you’re ending, books you’re writing, all the stuff.

Laura: I’m just trying to launch The Life Council, first of all, well into the world. I really care about that. I still do my weekly podcast. It’s called “10 Things to Tell You.” It is a place where I talk about topics and offer journal prompts and conversation prompts for people to connect with others. That’s kind of my gig, is sharing yourself. I’m podcasting, writing books. I want to write another book after this. I have not started it. I have lots of ideas. I ran a class called Journaling for Grown-Ups that was gangbusters. I really care about teaching grown-ups to journal because a lot of people think journaling is for angsty teenagers or something. I feel like, no, journaling can help all of us. Those are my biggies right now. I’m loving it. I love podcasting. I love writing books. It’s just where I am.

Zibby: That’s amazing. If you could be friends with somebody you don’t know now, who would it be? Or you know who they are, but you’re not friends.

Laura: Oh, gosh, that’s such a good question. You know who I’m loving? Do you follow Sharon Says So, Sharon McMahon? Do you know who that is?

Zibby: No.

Laura: She calls herself a governerd. She’s a former government teacher, maybe a current government teacher. She posts from a neutral place, an unbiased place. She kind of translates what’s happening in government, in the news and politics. She makes it really understandable. I find what she’s doing to be so relatable and so smart and needed. I have just been soaking her in. She’s @sharonsaysso on Instagram. She has a pretty big following now. I started following her kind of when she was new, but now she’s really grown her platform. I do not know her in real life. I would love to. I did not know I was going to say that. She just came out of the blue. That was a good question.

Zibby: There you go. That’s awesome. I feel like I would like to know Sarah Jessica Parker, but maybe it’s really Carrie Bradshaw. I don’t know. Either of them. Either the character or the actual Sarah Jessica Parker. She’s so into books. She lives in New York. I feel like we’d have a nice chat.

Laura: If we’re going to take that route, I really want to know Reese Witherspoon, who also lives in LA and is also into books. I feel like we would be friends.

Zibby: I’ll give you that. What advice do you have to aspiring authors?

Laura: Just start writing. I put off my writing a book for a long time. You know what I did that ultimately served my authorship? I started blogging. Blogging, it’s a little bit of a different world. I started blogging in 2010. Obviously, the internet looked different back then. Writing somewhere every day completely changed my writing life. Nowadays, even if you are writing something every day on social media, that still counts. You are really learning when you’re writing for an audience, which we can do, instant gratification, and get feedback. You can see what hits and what doesn’t, what people respond to. How long is too long? If you can edit it down to be very short. Giving yourself an assignment and writing every single day for an audience — if you write every single day for yourself, you’re still writing. I’m not discounting that, but it’s maybe a different learning curve because you’re not getting the feedback. I wish I had started writing books earlier. Definitely, writing publicly on a blog and then on social media taught me lessons I never could’ve learned if I was toiling away on my own in a closet. I used to be a lot fluffier with my writing. I used to maybe take a tangent that I don’t now. Writing for an audience, you’ll see. If you give yourself an assignment — I’m going to post every single day, a few paragraphs or whatever — you’ll really start to sharpen how to make a point quicker, how to land a joke, what didn’t work, all of those things. Not that all writing is — you should not always have your audience tip-top of mind. We want to create art and do that kind of thing. Look, let’s be honest. In this publishing industry, you’re writing for an audience. You just are. When you learn to do that, you’re going to have a better shot at putting together a better proposal, building a platform, which now seems so important, and selling your book, which is what we want. If you’re an aspiring author, you want people to read the stuff that you’re writing, so you have to learn to write for the current reader.

Zibby: I love that. Excellent advice. Amazing. Laura, this is so fun. I hope I’m in town when you’re doing your event in April. If not, I hope to see you at something else soon. I hope I can make it into your extended council of friends.

Laura: Oh, my gosh, Zibby, I always love chatting with you. I’m so glad that we’ve become acquainted in the past couple of years because I love what you’re doing. I feel like you’re just opening the doors for authors and giving readers a broader experience. I really appreciate what you’re doing for this whole industry, for this whole world that we’re in. It matters.

Zibby: I appreciate what you’re doing because connection is sort of the byproduct. That’s what I’m after, is getting people to connect over books. You’re just going straight there. It’s a much more direct route. I hope to see you soon, Laura. Thanks so much.

Laura: Thank you, Zibby. Bye.

Zibby: Bye.

Laura Tremaine, LIFE COUNCIL

LIFE COUNCIL by Laura Tremaine

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