Q&A with Zibby Owens, Host of “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books”

Zibby Owens is a longtime supporter of the Children’s Museum and co-founder of the annual CMEE Family Fair fundraiser. A mom of 4, she hosts a popular podcast, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books,” which was just nominated for a prestigious Webby Award in the Best Podcast: Arts & Culture category. (You can cast your vote here.) It was fun to catch up with Zibby in between her twice weekly interviews with nationally-recognized authors.

What was the inspiration for launching Moms Don’t have Time to Read Books?

Crazy story. I’d been publishing a lot of parenting essays online for sites like HuffPost, ScaryMommy, TODAY Parents, Kveller and other places, so my husband suggested that I write a book of my parenting essays. I rolled my eyes and said, “Ugh, moms don’t have time to read books!” Then, a lightbulb went off. I could write a book and have THAT be the title. Well, turns out people in the publishing industry didn’t find that so funny. While I was debating doing that book, I had coffee with a fellow mom from my son’s school, a famous young adult fiction author, Sarah Mlynowski (author of UPSIDE MAGIC and the WHATEVER AFTER series). I was asking for her advice about the book and she said, “I think you should do a podcast.” I was like, “What’s a podcast?!” I ended up using that book title for the podcast and scrapping the book. For now.

Since you organized the “CMEE Book Club” almost a decade ago, you’ve introduced the East End community to an incredible array of authors. How do you pick the authors who appear on your podcast?

Thanks for remembering!! That book club was fun. I pick the authors purely selfishly. If I want to read their books or have already read and loved their books, I invite them on the show!! Now that the podcast has gained some traction, I have publishers and publicists pitching new books to me all the time. If I like the sound of the books from their descriptions, they send me galleys (advance copies) and then I start reading and decide. It’s seriously the coolest thing ever. I get books in the mail every day and pick who I want to talk to. Dream come true!!

It can be a challenge for parents, especially moms, to balance their home and work lives. What’s the best advice one of your guests has offered for how to achieve that equilibrium?

I’m glad you’re not asking me that question because I’m still trying to figure that out!! My podcast guest, Jessica Turner, wrote a book called, STRETCHED TOO THIN: HOW WORKING MOMS CAN LOSE THE GUILT, WORK HARDER, AND THRIVE. She interviewed thousands of moms for her book and broke it all down into specific coping strategies.  In the transcript of our interview she says, “If you’re stretched too thin… I get it. Start with one thing. If home management is a struggle and then within home management your kitchen is always a hot mess, okay. Start with just one thing. Then build on that.” Tackle one thing at a time. It’s all we can really do without getting completely overwhelmed.

What books would you recommend to parents at the Children’s Museum?

There are some fantastic books that take place in the Hamptons by authors I’ve interviewed or will interview on the podcast. Jeanne McCulloch of the Paris Review wrote a brilliant, beautiful memoir called ALL HAPPY FAMILIES, which takes place in East Hampton.  Jamie Brenner has a fantastic novel coming out on May 7th called DRAWING HOME which is based in Sag Harbor. I’m actually interviewing her at Barnes & Noble on the Upper East Side May 7th at 7 pm if anyone wants to hear us in person! And Nicola Harrison wrote a book called MONTAUK coming out this June. So pre-order those!  I’m also a huge fan of Susan Verde, who is a local best-selling children’s book author. Her book, YOU AND ME, illustrated by Peter Reynolds, is great not just for kids but also as a gift for spouses/loved ones/best friends, or anyone you feel lucky to have found in life. 

Do you have any advice for other moms or dads who are interested in getting into podcasting?

It’s surprisingly easy! I use Podbean. You can literally just record on your phone if you want. I have a more complicated set-up now, but it’s all pretty easy to do. My advice is to listen to all the podcasts similar to what you’re thinking of doing before you begin. Make sure someone isn’t doing the exact same thing – and if they are, make sure they’re doing it terribly (hahaha). See what you like and don’t like about other podcasts. Then make sure there’s something valuable you’re offering listeners that they need to hear from you. 

What does your family enjoy most about the East End?

My kids love CMEE! We also love BookHampton in East Hampton, Hampton Library in Bridgehampton (great storytime!),  the Parrish Art Museum (fantastic art programs for kids!), Buddha Berry in Sag Harbor, and buying brownies at Round Swamp.  My older kids also love going to Staples in the Bridgehampton Commons. Seriously, it’s like their favorite thing. We’re super excited for the new Berry & Co bookstore in Sag Harbor opening in May! And early dinners at the Palm are a must. I even wrote an article about how I’ve been going there since I was a kid myself.

Thanks, Zibby!  Voting for the Webby Awards ends April 18. Please join us in supporting “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books”!

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