Bethany Masone Harar grew up in a family with “gypsy feet” who moved from place to place until eventually settling down in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. As a teacher and writer of young-adult fiction, she is able to connect with the very audience for whom she writes and does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds.
By far the biggest physical challenge for me is managing my weight. As a full-time teacher and mother of two, the only time I have to write is in my “free” time (I’m laughing on the inside, because I barely know the meaning of that phrase), and that is the time I’m miraculously supposed to do everything, which includes working out. Plus, my favorite type of exercise is Latin Fusion (a combination of Zumba, Latin dancing and Hip-Hop), which are scheduled classes at the gym. Magically manipulating my schedule to make it to these classes is as hard as it sounds.
I started “Weight Watchers” a year ago, and did lose quite a bit of weight, and upped my exercise routine at the same time. If I can make it through the day without snacks, or only snacking on fruit, I find I keep the weight off and feel better physically. Because I’m so short, it is very easy to put the weight back on, and I swear I can tell when I’m up two pounds! When that happens, I just go back to the routine I followed for a year and take the weight off again. But working out is huge, because I can eat more. Without it, I feel like I’m starving. A few weeks ago, I started P90X3, which is a love/hate relationship for me. I’m so proud of myself when I finish the workout, but they are some tough routines! Every day, however, I feel myself getting stronger, which keeps me going.
I live in a perpetual cloud of self-doubt and self-deprecation, so writing is a tough profession for me. I think the hardest part of being a writer are the ups and downs. I write the book, and feel on top of the world. I start editing, and am convinced I’m terrible. I finish the editing, and decide I’m worthy again until I let my mother read it, and worry it isn’t good enough. This cycle continues until . . . well actually, I don’t think it ends.
This self-doubt affects my writing goals when I look back at something I wrote the day before and am convinced my ideas aren’t good anymore. I’ll spend too much time trying to perfect a few pages instead of pushing on and writing more. As a result, I produce less. I get to the point where I’ll only read the last sentence I wrote the day before and force myself to keep writing. Otherwise, I’d get nothing written!
My darkest moment was when I had to give up on my first book. I still love that manuscript, and it will always hold a special place in my heart, but the time came when I realized it just wasn’t good enough for publication. Rejecting your own work is pretty rough. This doesn’t mean I’ll never come back to it. I just accepted that as much as I wanted the manuscript to be picked up, it wasn’t worthy yet.
I’ll go ahead and be perfectly honest here. I see a therapist weekly to keep myself emotionally strong. Sharing my feelings and conflicting emotions with a neutral third party is incredibly helpful. Also, my therapist has taught me fantastic techniques to control my self-doubt and increase my confidence. The better I feel about myself, the better I treat myself and others, which then trickles down to every part of my life. I find when I take control of my emotions, I am a more productive wife, mother, teacher and writer.
When I really need an escape, a good book, an emotional song, or a fantastically bad made-for-TV horror movie do wonders for my mood.
The One Thing That Has Kept You On Your Path
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and the day I imagined holding a book in my hands that I wrote was a life-changing moment. But ultimately, books changed my life. My driving force, now that my dream is about to become a reality, is to do the same for someone else. My new goal is to be a better writer, who can have an impact on young adults in a positive way.
Advice for a Young Writer
The query rejections are the hardest part. You pretty much pour your life into your books, and to get a one-line rejection email from literary agents and publishers is soul-crushing. My advice is to not give up. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t accept that your first book might not be picked up. It means be honest with yourself, sit down, and write another book. And then another. Eventually, you will know that the book you are writing is worthy of a publisher. Then, at that point, don’t let the query rejections ruin the experience.
I came very, very close to giving up with Voices of the Sea, but a small voice told me that this book still had a chance. Luckily, I finally found the right publisher.
(Like all of the WiDo authors on our recent “Writing and Wellness” blog post feature, Bethany’s article first appeared on Colleen Story’s Writing and Wellness blog and is used here with her permission. If you are a writer, be sure to check out all the informative articles on Colleen’s site.)