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Sarasota Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020 8 months ago

Turning the Page: Former Sarasota resident Zara Barrie releases self-help book

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Former Sarasota resident Zara Barrie releases self-help book that heads in a different direction.
by: Harry Sayer Staff Writer

Zara Barrie has a lot of thoughts, and she’s determined to get them out there. 

It’s not a new phenomenon for the former Sarasota resident, who says she’s refused to bottle up her thoughts since a young age.

Barrie has spent years expressing her emotions through character and craft, both as a performer and director at a Sarasota theater evolving into a career writing in New York. 

Now at age 32, Barrie has a new title under her belt; author. Her self-help book “Girl, Stop Passing Out in Your Makeup: The Bad Girl's Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together” was published earlier this year. It focuses on her experiences growing up in Sarasota, accepting trauma, and surviving her 20s.

“It's very hard to read a self-help book, when you're anyone who has experienced trauma or seen dark things or partied … How is this perfect person who's never had a hangover going to tell me how to live my life?”

Barrie was born in New York and lived in Connecticut before moving to Sarasota in her junior year of high school. It wasn’t an easy move, and Barrie wasn’t quiet about it. 

“I was just not a Florida girl,” Barrie said. “I was pale and I already had a tattoo and I was very loud and opinionated … I came to Florida kicking and screaming.”

 She eventually was grateful for the move, but at the time she felt lost. Her grades weren’t good, she didn’t have much of an outlet and in two years attended three high schools. Not that any of them impressed her — more than anything, Barrie felt like high school was putting her in a box that didn’t quite suit her.

She found a different path with KT Curran, the director at Source Theatre in Sarasota. Beyond her parents, Barrie says Curran was the only adult who saw a light in her. Curran asked Barrie to audition at one of her productions, and what followed was a love of acting. 

“I did improv for the first time and I remember crying,” Barrie said. “I remember people coming up to me afterwards being like 'you did so well.' And I've never done well at anything … I’d never seen myself as talented.”

But creative expression doesn’t always equate to stability, especially when you’re young. Barrie’s 20s, like so many others, were marked by confusion, emotional withdrawal  and trauma. 

The worst of it was during a short-lived stay in London. That was where Barrie decided enough was enough and a change was in order. 

“I was just struggling and suffering and again could not get the courage to tell anyone I was having trouble,” she said.

A Thanksgiving trip back home to Sarasota turned into a few years where Barrie started working as assistant director with Curran at Source. Teaching and instructing children was a calming position for Barrie. It was around this time she came out of the closet to her parents.

Barrie began exploring writing, both professionally and with her own blog. She returned to New York and found a writing position with Elite Daily, a millennial-oriented website. The work started as listicles and fashion pieces, but she discovered there was an audience for her point of view.

“People also want deeper content and personal content and they want to feel connected,” Barrie said. “They do have an attention span and they don't need everything broken down in a list.”

Writing for an online publication taught her the discipline needed to write seriously, which led to her book three years later.  There were popular self-help books at the time, but Barrie felt she could go for a different market. A major theme of her book is accepting the feelings that come with bad experiences. 

“I think that where people get in trouble, and particularly young women is if you have a trauma, and you all of a sudden are ‘Oh, if this is what feeling is, I'm not gonna feel’,” she said. “And that's against the human condition.”

Thirty-two publishers rejected the pitch before Post Hill Press picked it up and published it in May. Reviews have been strong: Google called it "self-help meets memoir.''

(My book) got rejected as many times as it possibly could have,” Barrie said.  “And I tried again, and it worked and I'm proud of it. And it's resonating, and I'm so happy that I led with this book … I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Harry Sayer is the Black Tie Reporter for the Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and previously worked the Black Tie beat for the Observer newspaper in Winter Park and Maitland. You can catch him at one of Sarasota's fundraisers and shindigs. 

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