Zibby Owens, BOOKENDS

Zibby Owens, BOOKENDS

“This whole experience has taught me that my people are all over the place.” In a special episode, Zibby is interviewed by New York Times bestseller and friend Allison Pataki to celebrate the release of Zibby’s debut memoir, Bookends!!! Zibby shares why she likes to be so open about her emotions both online and in this book, what she has taken away from losing multiple loved ones, and how she might not have ever ended up where she is if she had never written an article for Seventeen in 1992. She also tells Allison who she thinks would play her in a movie and why she values the community she has cultivated so much. Want to know which books Zibby mentions in Bookends? Click here to check out her list!


Zibby Owens: Hi, everyone. Instead of welcoming someone else today on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books,” I am basically welcoming myself because the amazing Allison Pataki is going to interview me about Bookends, which comes out today, July 1st. I am so excited and also scared and all the things. I’m going to turn it over to Alli.

Allison Pataki: Zibby Owens, congratulations. Can we just give you a round of applause? I’m just so happy on your book birthday for this gorgeous, important book to make it out into the world, Bookends. Congratulations.

Zibby: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Allison: Gosh, Zibby Owens, writer, reader, mother, founder of the amazing, award-winning podcast and CEO of Zibby Books and book influencer. The list goes on and on and on. I think it goes without saying that you have interviewed and spoken with a lot of authors and writers over the years. The exact number’s probably five million or something if we’re being really precise.

Zibby: I think it’s around 1,200 or maybe more.

Allison: 1,200, you are amazing. Now the tables have turned. You are the writer and the author that is being interviewed and launching this book, this beautiful memoir. Can we just start with, how does it feel? How do you feel?

Zibby: It is crazy. The book came out, as you know, on Amazon First Reads on June 1st and was free for all Prime members then, so people started reading it and writing me. I started getting all this feedback right away. I have to say, it was just ridiculously emotional to have it come out even as a preview. I’m glad it did so I could brace myself for now. It’s coming out today, July 1st. I have worked on this for so long. It’s really the culmination of my entire life in so many ways, my personal life and my professional life. Now it’s all just out there. I am so proud because I’ve tried so hard to do it. Also, I feel very exposed. This is me. This is everything I’ve never even told my closest friends, some of this stuff. I’m proud. I’m proud that the response, mostly, has been really positive. I’m just going to ride this wave and see what happens.

Allison: Proud, as you should be. It’s amazing. The acclaim and buzz is so well-deserved. To feed off of that point you just said, you have obviously read your way through life, but you’ve also written your way through life. You’ve been a writer since you were a girl. You talk about it, publishing articles in magazines. You’ve written your way through so many of your life moments. Can you tell us a little bit about the story behind the story of how this book is now out in the world and how your first memoir as a writer is now going out to readers everywhere?

Zibby: As you were talking, I was like, that’s true. I have been writing my way. Maybe my next memoir should be Endpapers. I’m kidding. Yes, I write to make sense of the world, as so many of us do. I was really shy, as I talk about in this book. I turned to writing because all my thoughts were kind of trapped in my head. I just could not get them out a lot of the times. Still today, if I sit down and write, my feelings are much clearer when I can type about them than when I can talk about them. It makes no sense. I don’t even know why that happens. Are you like that?

Allison: That’s how you process. Yes, absolutely. It’s like taking an inventory, almost, of your thoughts, getting it organized.

Zibby: I definitely have not been stopping to do that enough lately, which is why I’m a mess half the time. Writing has really been helpful to me. As you know, I had this article come out in 1992 from Seventeen magazine. Actually, I have it here. This was the magazine.

Allison: You have it. I love that.

Zibby: I’ll see if I can find it. When I wrote this piece, which never was supposed to be a piece — I wrote it because I was upset. My mom found it and encouraged me to send it in, which, by the way, had she not done, I would not be here today. I don’t even know what inspired her to tell me to send it in. I should actually be interviewing her.

Allison: Thank goodness she did.

Zibby: Then honestly, it was not only the writing of it, but it was the letters that came back to the magazine once it came out. I was like, this is it. This is amazing. It’s really easy for me to share my feelings and write about them. I didn’t think that was anything special. I just thought everybody sort of dealt with things that way. I’m clearly totally unprepared. Oh, here’s the — I’m showing you. This is me. I really don’t even look that different, right? It’s ridiculous.

Allison: Which is a good sign.

Zibby: Getting that connection with people was really soul-fortifying and helpful to me then, helpful to me now. That’s why I just kept doing it and why we’re here.

Allison: As you said, this is the culmination of so many things for you as a personal and a professional and a mom and a writer. I have to read something that somebody said. This is actually a fellow author whom I met in your beautiful salon, Lynda Loigman, who’s just a treasure of a human. She read this in the early stages and said, “I’m not normally much of a memoir reader. To me, it always feels like there’s so much spin, too much gloss, too much hype. What kind of person wants to be that honest?” It goes on. She says, “Zibby Owens, that’s who. This is a book that only she could write, and readers will be drawn to every earnest, beautiful, inspiring word.” Wow. Applause.

Zibby: Thank you, Lynda.

Allison: Thanks to Lynda for putting it so well. I loved that blurb because it did actually really accurately capture how honest and raw and open you are. Zibby, that, I’m sure, took a lot of bravery and a lot of guts. That’s got to be new. Also, how did your loved ones feel? As you said, you’re revealing, in some ways, things that even your best friends don’t yet know. As you unburden that and then put it out into the world, how are you navigating that process?

Zibby: I’ve been showing drafts of this to my family all the way through. I’ve gotten many corrections from my parents making sure they were all comfortable with everything. I cut about thirty thousand words close to the end of stuff I — ultimately, I didn’t even need it. As my mom said, “I didn’t even miss it.” Sometimes less is more. I didn’t include everything that I could have. I picked and chose really important moments which encapsulate a lot more. I think they’re all excited for me. I don’t know. We’ll find out.

Allison: It feels whole. Whatever you cut, I don’t know because I read a later version, but it’s a full narrative arc. Well done. You did a beautiful job of selecting how to tell your arc. You had many amazing moments in this book, but you had one mic-drop moment. I just need to ask you to highlight that for a minute. You say throughout you have had incredible joy and blessings in your life with your children and your career and your family, but oh, my gosh, Zibby, you have also had incredible loss and grief and trauma. I think the extent of the loss and the grief that you’ve had will probably come as a surprise to many because it just seems like the hits keep coming to you. You say something so beautifully here. You say, “I’ve gone through the depths of grief only to rise up again and again and again because what choice did I have? My deep understanding that life is short and that I could be next propels me to follow my heart, stand up for what I believe in, and work hard to make a difference while I can. We get to do this only once. Time is ticking. Moms don’t have time to waste.” That gives me chills when you say that. I dogeared the page. It says so much about you as a person and your mission and the way you live every day. Can you please talk about that a little more for your listeners and your readers?

Zibby: Thank you. I was like, what’s the mic-drop moment?

Allison: You had so many. Seriously, I dogeared that page. It gave me the chills. It’s beautifully put.

Zibby: That really is how I live. This book coming out and even the introductory conversations I’ve had on podcasts or whatever has made me rethink why it is I live my life the way I do now. So many people have had tragic losses in their lives. I didn’t lose a parent. I didn’t lose a child. I did lose my best friend at a time when I was just figuring out who I was and who was my closest person right then. I think there’s no way to fully understand mortality better than having the person with whom you’ve spent the most time in the last decade or whatever it was, seven years, suddenly literally disappear from the planet without a trace. I say that flippantly. I don’t mean it that way. My best friend, Stacey Sanders, died in the World Trade Center attacks. From that moment on, it was like, not only is death not just a concept or a thing that’s going to happen so far away, but it can happen so suddenly and so completely that it almost feels like we’re not even totally here. If you can just snap your fingers — in that moment, she just disappeared. Then I had another really close friend pass away and then another close friend.

There’s a huge spotlight on the fact that even though we’re however old we are, we are not guaranteed another day. I literally live that way every day. I think about it probably way too much. Not that I ruminate. I was getting dressed this morning and looking at how I have to color my hair again. I could barely see the sink. My eyesight’s going quickly. I’m forty-five. I just feel like this past year or two, I’ve really noticed aging affecting me more than it has ever. I’m like, okay, all this stuff is happening. I’m probably just going to die soon. That’s okay. It’s going to be one of those things where then people will say, oh, she was always talking about dying. Now, look, she died. I was having this whole meta thing. To say I wouldn’t be surprised sounds weird, but I just wouldn’t be surprised if I find out that I’m — but it’s fine because I don’t regret anything. I am living each day as best I can, although too stressed and doing too many emails, because we don’t get to do this again. I’m totally aware of that. It’s like I got over some — I don’t want to compare myself to someone who has survived an illness or anything because I have not been through that. I don’t mean to make assumptions. I do feel that I’ve been given a new chance to live where everything is crystal clear, so I do it. Not to sound cheesy, but I do mean all that.

Allison: So beautifully put. Not only do you live every day, but you seem like one of those people — it’s rare; I feel like it’s rare — where you live literally every hour to the fullest. It’s got to be your up-close, intimate knowledge of what it is to lose so many people that you love, and so suddenly in so many cases. If you could say one thing to Stacey, what would it be? What do you most want to talk about with her?

Zibby: It’s so funny because I’m still really close with her family. When Bookends came out June 1st, her mom and I, on email, were going back and forth just cheering because we’re getting her out into the world again too. Her mom’s like, go Stace! Not that it’s all about her. That’s one slice of it, but it was one of those defining moments in my life. What would I want to say to her? Oh, my gosh. It turns out that she was such a gift in life and in death, the things that she taught me, how to live and how to live even more fully without her. She was always trying to pull me out and get me to loosen up or have fun and talk and smile and dance and all this stuff. She was just so full of life. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve gotten there. It’s a lot because of her.

Allison: That spirit of hers, you really capture it. You do it so well when you talk about getting ready. She always looked amazing. She seemed like a larger-than-life woman who is still with you because she is larger than life.

Zibby: Not just me. She had so many friends. I felt so honored to be such a close friend of hers. So many people considered her a very, very close friend. It’s awesome. She’s just that kind of amazing, warm person who made everybody feel special.

Allison: A light in the world, amazing. She’s so happy for you. You must feel that, right? You share about her. You share about so many friends and family members. You’ve made a really — you talk about this in the book — a conscious choice over the years to be an open person who shares a lot on social media. Not everything, obviously. We know social media, it’s curated. You share about Kyle, your amazing husband. You share about being a mother. You talk about the behind-the-scenes. You talk in the book about how you had to make that decision to really let people in so they could know you the person. That would be beneficial from the business perspective as well. Can you talk a little bit about social media? You’re a public figure. How do you navigate the personal life and the public life? Your thoughts on that.

Zibby: Public figure, I don’t know.

Allison: Yes, you are. Whether you like it or not, you are.

Zibby: I have always felt really comfortable sharing my emotions. We all feel a lot of the same stuff no matter what our circumstances or what the issues themselves are. I don’t know why I have felt comfortable sharing it. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten such positive reception for it. People are always telling me, oh, my gosh, I felt that way too. You said something I was thinking. You made me realize what I was thinking. All that stuff. I wasn’t on social media for a long time. I didn’t join until I started my podcast. I had joined because of Nene’s Treats, which is the crumb cake company that I helped my in-laws start up. I did the Nene’s Treats account, so at least I knew what I was doing. Now my sister-in-law, Stefanie, does that. I started it maybe 2018, maybe 2017. I have to look. It was all new to me. It’s not like I said, I’m going to start social media and be totally honest. It’s happened over time. It’s just become a tool where I feel like it’s how I write every day. I know it’s not that many words. There are a lot of times where I’m like, hold on, I’m posting. Not because I’m posting about an event. I feel like I used to write more essays, and now I’ve taken these shortcuts onto Instagram. Sometimes I’m not even writing the whole essay, which is probably not a good thing, but it’s so immediate.

The times when I’m most upset, it’s allowed me to reframe it. If I’m really upset about this, I know that people out there have also been through this and are upset about this. If I just put it out there, I’m going to feel that back. It always happens, whether it’s, I’m upset that I’ve gained weight or I’m upset that — sometimes I don’t even say why I’m upset. I’m just upset about something. People still respond. Me too, or whatever. Whether it’s something funny or happy — there are huge areas of my life I never talk about, many areas, in fact. It almost doesn’t matter because you still know who I am and what I’m thinking and feeling without every single detail. That emotional truth can come out. It’s funny. The day we’re talking, today, is my twins’ fifteen birthday. I debated this morning, should I post this picture that I dug up of me the night before I gave birth, giant and ridiculously swollen and whatever? I thought about it for a second. Then I was like, out of respect to the me that would’ve been horrified with this coming out, I’m not going to post this because that me would be livid if she knew. I decided not to.

Allison: But readers can read about it in here, about the journey with twins in Bookends. Amazing. It’s probably, as you said, just a form of creative expression. It’s another outlet and another way to engage with your readers. That’s great. We’re grateful that you do social media, so keep at it. One of the things that you do share about a lot, obviously, is your relationship with Kyle. When you go more into it in this book, it’s an amazing story. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Kyle multiple times. You know I love him and love you guys. I loved how you met. He flat-out could care less that you’re the customer. He’s like, I’m not giving your kid tennis lessons. I was laughing out loud at how he put it. He was just so direct. Also, it’s the moment in the book when you least expect Zibby Owens to find the love of her life. You describe how you get there. You’re crying. Your hair’s in a ponytail. Wow, that must have taken you by surprise, this love story.

Zibby: It did. By the way, that day when I met him, I didn’t see him again for six months after that. I didn’t know that that would be another turning point in my life at all. I was annoyed. I was just like, what the heck? People can read about it. Basically, I met Kyle related to an event I was doing. Anyway, you’ll just have to read it and find out.

Allison: It’s so good.

Zibby: I still can see myself just standing there on the tennis court with jaw dropped. What? He’s not going to give my kid this lesson. I don’t know why. I feel like I was not looking for this, for him. My mom, at one point, was saying to Kyle, she’s like, “Where did you come from? It’s like you just arrived like manna from heaven.” He just popped on the scene. I don’t mean to sugarcoat, either, my relationship with him. I’m always saying nice things. We’re posting. I don’t want to give anyone the impression that we’re not just a regular couple because we are. The stresses of daily life and managing the four kids and life, everyone has their moments. There is something very energetically great about the two of us together and makes us both such better people and more creative and the best version of us. It’s very cool. Now I get to watch him as he develops his thing and I develop my thing. It’s just so cool. Six years ago, we were going to SoulCycle and watching movies. Seriously, it’s ridiculous.

Allison: It’s so good. It’s one of the best parts of — everyone needs to read the book to hear this amazing love story. If you had this moment, this chance which you have to connect with your readers on your podcast, what is one thing you really want to say to them or you want them to take away about this book, about your story? What is something everyone should walk away from this podcast knowing about you and this book and this experience?

Zibby: I guess just that this is as raw as it gets. A lot of people are saying, after they read it or people who have been listening to this podcast for a long time, they all come up to me and they’re like, I feel like we’re friends. I feel like I know you so well. They really do know me so well. It’s a bizarre piece of writing a memoir like this or being so open on social or on here or wherever where it’s almost this one-sided friendship that is happening. I don’t know them yet, but they know me. I have, of course, had this with lots of authors myself on the reading side. It is a bizarre thing. I guess what I want to say is, you do know me. Even though I don’t know all of you personally yet, those of you out there who are like, oh, my gosh, we would totally be friends, we probably would be friends. We would have fun going out to coffee.

This whole experience has taught me that my people are all over the place. It’s another world-shifting thing that has happened with the podcast and everything else. You are not in a world that revolves around where you live or where your kids go to school or the things you thought were the outer limits. That is just this tiny little piece. Expanding is actually so easy, especially around books. You might not live where your people are. I don’t mean to say — I have great, amazing friends here too. Meeting this book-loving, tapped-in community — I was an old soul growing up. I’ve had a lot of loss. I feel like there are so many people who just get that and have had that and understand it. There’s no place, necessarily — I want to start the Old Souls’ Club. Somebody’s probably done that before. I haven’t even googled it. I’m sure it’s taken. Apologies to whoever started it. That’s a rambling answer. I guess just, you do know me. You don’t know everything about me. That’s because I do have my life and my stuff. If what I share helps anybody, if any of my offerings here in this whole little media thing I’m doing help your — I shouldn’t say little. Someone wrote and said, don’t keep saying, my little this, my little that.

Allison: You’re big.

Zibby: I have to stop saying that.

Allison: Your magical .

Zibby: If anything is helping you, that makes me feel so good. I would say, please leave an Amazon review.

Allison: Absolutely. So beautifully said. As you said about Stacey, I think probably, many people feel that way about you where it’s just an honor to be in your life and to be your friend. I know many people feel that way. Speaking of getting to know you, we have three minutes left. Can we do a quick lightning round?

Zibby: Ooh, yeah. Sure.

Allison: Get to know you even a little bit better. Zibby Owens, morning person or night owl?

Zibby: Morning, early morning.

Allison: I feel like that was probably pretty obviously. Sorry. Coffee or tea?

Zibby: Coffee.

Allison: Yes. Also probably pretty obvious. Favorite season of the year.

Zibby: Summer.

Allison: Favorite place in the world.

Zibby: I’m debating between my bed and an actual place.

Allison: It’s your book birthday. You can pick two.

Zibby: Anywhere on the water and my bed.

Allison: Great answers. How do you feel about audiobooks?

Zibby: I love audiobooks. I recorded my own, so people can listen to that.

Allison: Awesome. That’s great that it’s your voice. Interview that you think about time and time again.

Zibby: I did an interview with a time management expert named Pamela Morgenstern. Julie Morgenstern, sorry. She had this concept of min, max, mod. You can do the minimum, maximum, or moderate amount for each task that you undertake. You just have to decide what bucket to put it in. I use that frame of reference all the time. I used it at the birthday party yesterday. I use it often because not every situation calls for the maximum effort. That is something that I have to keep in mind. That’s the most useful to me in terms of my parenting life.

Allison: That’s so great. Who do you most want to interview that you have not yet interviewed?

Zibby: Ooh. I’d really like to interview Oprah.

Allison: I knew you were going to say that. Yes, I feel like it’s going to happen. You guys are circling each other, right?

Zibby: I don’t know. I’m probably circling her, but thank you.

Allison: We know Oprah listens to your podcast because she loves it.

Zibby: We do not know that, but someone on her magazine heard it.

Allison: If Oprah hears this, that’s going to be a good one. Who would play you in a movie?

Zibby: I don’t know, but I actually have been mistaken for Sofia Coppola before.

Allison: That’s a good one.

Zibby: I’m not suggesting it. I actually had this really funny story. It takes two seconds. I was at the Four Seasons restaurant in Midtown Manhattan with my dad having lunch. I saw Harvey Weinstein walk in. He starts coming over to the table. I was like, oh, I guess he’s coming to say hi to my dad or something. He comes over, walks over, looks me in the eye. I don’t know why, but I stood up. He was right there reaching out. He took both of my hands in his hands. He was like, “Sophia, how are you?”

Allison: Get out of here!

Zibby: I just said, “I’m great. How are you?”

Allison: That is amazing.

Zibby: I know. Then he went back and sat somewhere else. My dad was like, “What is –” I was like, “I’m just going to going with it.”

Allison: You said you had been mistaken for her, but by Harvey Weinstein, that is next-level doppelganger. That’s amazing. Obviously, we’re all so excited about Bookends. Yay! We cannot wait for this to be out. We’re excited. Can’t wait for readers to have this in every single one of their hands. What are you most excited for? What’s happening now that…?

Zibby: What am I most excited for with the book coming out?

Allison: Yeah, with the book and your next few days and weeks.

Zibby: I’m excited to meet people who have read it and want to talk about it or just that personal connection when I’m going on book tour.

Allison: Amazing. Congratulations. We’re all so excited, so happy for you. Everybody needs to read this book and give this book to their family and their friends and their loved ones. It’s truly so beautiful and such a beautiful achievement, Zibby. Thank you.

Zibby: Coming from you, this means so much. Thank you so much for reading it early and then offering to do this interview. I was like, yeah, let’s do it. Thank you. That’s so nice of you.

Allison: I begged. I begged to do this interview. Are you kidding? It is my honor and my privilege. Thank you for letting me do it. Just so, so amazed by you, as always.

Zibby: Thank you. This is so nice.

Allison: Congratulations, Zibby.

Zibby: Thank you so much.

Allison: Enjoy every minute.

Zibby Owens, BOOKENDS

BOOKENDS by Zibby Owens

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