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Getting to Know Zibby Owens: Avid Reader, Podcaster, and Empress of Books

Book Influencer. Podcaster. Writer. Editor. Bookshop Owner. Bookworm Zibby Owens is one busy woman. And that’s in addition to being the mom of four kids. The epitome of following your passion, Zibby talked with us about her work, how she balances it with being a parent, and parenting teens.

Q: How did you get started with your podcast, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books”?

Owens: I’ve been a huge reader my whole life. I love to read. I feel like books have been the flashlight leading me through life and I have always been really passionate about sharing great books and great articles. I get really excited about everything and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, you have to read this!”

I ended up starting this podcast kind of on a whim, and it’s all grown from there. I didn’t know how much I would just completely love interviewing authors. I started writing authors fan letters when I was a kid and even ended up at the Plaza having tea with this author who I had been a pen pal with for many years anyway, when I was 12 or something. So I have a long history, and I just love doing what I’m doing. Now that I’ve gotten to know all the authors so well and the industry more, it’s led me to all these other channels and doing all these other things that have just become natural outgrowths of my love of reading.

Q: How do you have time to fit your reading in?

Owens: I just fit it in at different parts of the day. This is at least what’s worked for me, but I don’t know if this works for everybody. There are points in the day where I’m like, “Okay, this is when I read.” I’ve made reading more or less into a habit. A couple times a week, I go down to the gym in my building on the elliptical machine and I read the whole time and I hold the book in front of me. I’m kind of working my core and reading at the same time and doing the elliptical.

I always read while I’m waiting for the kids to fall asleep. I have four kids, so the little guys take a while and they like me nearby. So whenever I start bedtime, I bring my book. I read a book to them and then they’ll ask, “What are you reading?”  And we talk about my book and I’m hoping that it eventually inspires this love of reading. But who knows? And at least it involves them in what I’m doing because then I can say, “Guess who I interviewed today? The woman who wrote that dragon book you liked!” I always try to do [the podcast on] some books that they like so they think it’s cool. 

I read before I fall asleep every night, and I listen to audiobooks while I walk my dog. Or if I drop my daughter at school and I walk home I’ll listen to an audiobook on the way, or if I have a long drive. Although audio books are slower for me than regular books because I read so quickly and I can’t listen very quickly. And some books I read at my desk. Yeah, I just sit at my desk and I read them and I underline when there is something interesting.

Q: Do you watch TV?

Owens: No, I don’t watch TV anymore. Every so often, I’ll watch a movie with my husband or we’ll get into a show. And then I watch the whole thing, the whole weekend. But TV is not really a part of my life right now. 

Q: Do you ever feel overwhelmed?

Owens: I was literally up at 1:30 in the morning last night thinking, “I can’t do this anymore. I cannot fit all this in.” I think I’ve taken on a little too much. I work a lot and it’s because I don’t feel like it’s work. I really love it, but there can be too much of a good thing. 

But the basic answer is that I work really quickly. I read really quickly, I write really quickly, I type quickly. Everything I do, I can do really efficiently and quickly and I get super focused and I just do it, bang, bang, bang. And then when I have an idea, I just do it immediately. I also have a team of people helping me with my business.

I have help with my kids, too. I don’t want to be in an office. I want to be here with my kids so they always know, unless I’m doing a live thing, they can come in. I bring my laptop and sit on their beds while they’re playing, and I read books while they’re falling asleep, and while they watch TV I am doing emails. I’m very portable. Everything I do, I can move places and I’m just doing the best I can. 

Q: How can we encourage our kids to read?

Owens: I have twins who are teenagers, so I understand this challenge and this demographic very, very well. One thing is not to judge what they’re reading. They don’t have to read literary fiction or anything. My son loves to read graphic novels and I’m like, great. Read a graphic novel. My daughter prefers to read J-14 Magazine, and I’m like, whatever, read whatever you’re interested in. If it’s reading, it helps. 

Fostering reading and teens is tough. I like this subscription to Audible because I thought they might listen to audio books? My son goes to boarding school. I’m like, “Do this in your spare time”. But he wants to play video games. So yeah, I don’t know. I keep sending him books and when he’s here I’ll pick one up and ask, “What about this one?”

I take them to bookstores all the time. On the weekends, that’ll be our adventure. I get the car out and go to Brooklyn and check out Bookstore Magic. So I keep them around books a lot but I try not to pressure them. I feel like anything I pressure them to do, they won’t do. It’s such a tricky territory.

Q: What do you think about book clubs for teens and parents?

Owens: I like the idea of getting kids involved in reading. I don’t know that they would want to do that. I have thought about this though. Probably the best way to get them reading is to have the other teens who are cool get on the bandwagon and recommend more books. Book Instagram for teens would be more helpful than being in a book club with mom. They don’t want to hear from their parents. 

Q: What has surprised you about parenting teens?

Owens: I thought and I feared that they wouldn’t want to be with me anymore from all the stuff I had heard. So I’m surprised and delighted that that’s not the case. We have kind of a scarcity model in our house because there are so many kids and one me. And I’m remarried. So they have a stepdad and they have their dad on some weekends, but it’s like there’s always this fight over me. I feel like they’re not ready to relinquish that quite yet. That’s nice. 

I somehow just wasn’t ready for their clothes to be my size clothes. I know logically that they grow and they can fit in your clothes. But the other day, my daughter had a headache, and I said, “Oh, let me get you some Motrin.” And I went and grabbed the children’s Motrin and looked on the back. “Oh my gosh; this ends when you’re 92 pounds. I can’t even give you children’s Motrin anymore. You’re a grownup.” So it’s just hard for me to sometimes switch how I think about it. We don’t shop for them at the kids’ stores anymore. It’s just crazy to me. 

Jody has spent her life around teens, as a teacher and as a parent of three.

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