Can A Visual Story Become A Book Proposal?

That's what Toronto celebrity chef Zane Caplansky and I are going to find out, and you're invited to join us.

We're collaborating at (formerly named Selfish), the new visual storytelling service where I've been heading content and community for the past year, to create the foundation of a book about his adventures building a deli empire.

Zane's a great storyteller, and his quest for the perfect smoked meat sandwich has taken him on a personal and professional journey around the world, from dive bars and divorce into foodie business ventures on wheels and construction lots, and onto the shelves of Whole Foods and television shows judging donuts and national radio airwaves talking about what makes Canadian food uniquely Canadian.

He's changed his name and returned to his roots and now he's serving handmade, homemade Jewish deli food the way his mother and grandmother taught him, and sharing his biggest lessons about life and how what we crave -- yes, it could be a sandwich -- holds the key to our future.

It's a story we can all enjoy.

In fact, a major Canadian literary agent requested Zane's book proposal.

Two years ago.

Does that sound familiar?

It's a common story and nightmare of many promising writers. You're busy. It's a lot of material to get your arms around. It's overwhelming! It takes time to pick out a narrative, pin down the content you want to draw from when you start writing. It also takes time to compare and contrast other related titles.

So here's what Zane and I are going to try at, with its topic-specific, ongoing stories and its moments of photo, video and text:

We'll start capturing chapter ideas for his memoir in an exclusive story, and in this collaborative story Proposing Deli Man we'll walk you through what we’re doing together. Kind of like a blueprint for how we're doing it.

If you're a writer you'll probably find it interesting in a behind-the-scenes-in-publishing kind of way (and you might want to try it yourself, right along with us).

If you're a fan of Zane's food and his life stories, you might like to see him put together this book like he puts together his lovingly made smoked meat sandwiches.

He'll also be sharing about this project on all his platforms -- like a media- and audience-savvy book author needs to -- and inviting people to come peek in and comment. That includes you. We want to hear your thoughts every step of the way.

"It's a good example of collaboration, as well as a brilliant idea and useful for me," Zane says.

We can't wait to get started. So subscribe right now to our behind-the-scenes story Proposing Deli Man, and Zane Caplansky's Storywhere we'll be capturing all the delicious material representing his story, and be sure you're following Zane too so you don't miss any new stories he starts.

If you know anyone who would like to watch this unfold, or take part themselves, share this right now.

See you in the story!

I'm doing an AMA on Reddit. Come ask me a question.

EDIT: Here's where you can see my completed AMA.




I'm doing an AMA on Reddit this Thursday February 5 11am Pacific, 2pm Eastern.

AMA stands for "Ask Me Anything", an interview where everyone can participate.

Come ask me some questions?


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My topic is "What's so wrong about being Selfish?" and in true AMA fashion, that's just a starting point for what we'll be talking about. I'll be joined by Brock McLaughlin, manager of the Luke Austin Band and a Canadian Selfish brand ambassador who racks up karma points with his obsession of dressing up his pug Sidney Vicious, and Selfish's iOS project manager Marat Kinyabulatov checking in from the Ural Mountains.


Here's one of my favorite questions from the day: "Do you think the name "Selfish" might turn people off from joining the network?"

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My answer:

"Yes, it's a hurdle because our associations with the word are so one-sided. Since childhood we've been admonished "don't be selfish." When someone's breaking up with us, we dread hearing the reason "you're selfish." But we have to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before we can help anyone else, right? And there's also a growing trend that we need to take care of ourselves, and nourish what we care about.

"We have an assortment of interests and relationships and ways of being. Social networking and mobile apps and visual capture tools should be able to map to those realities, and give us the control and power we desire."

Successor to Expat Harem Launches: Expat Sofra

So thrilled to share this expat lit news! Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 4.07.53 PM

Katherine Belliel and Rose Margaret Deniz, (Expat Harem book and blog writers you'll recognize whom I've had the privilege and pleasure of working with for many years) are now calling for submissions to their new anthology for expat women writers who've lived in Turkey.

It's called Expat Sofra: A Gathering of Foreign Voices Around the Turkish Table.

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 4.18.54 PM As they explain,

"Follow in the footsteps of Tales from the Expat Harem by going deep into personal, introspective experiences that have a love and respect for the local culture and traditions.

"Sofra invites you to a second course by taking a seat at the Turkish table.

"Just as the sofra is the heart of the Turkish hearth, we want stories that are steeped in the experience of being an expat in Turkey. The editors have a combined twenty-five years in Turkey and are editing this compilation of essays to give back to the culture that has nourished their lives abroad."

If you've lived in Turkey for at least a year, or know someone who has, take a look at the call for submissions, open to April 1, 2015.

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"At the heart of every story is a flavor. Expats pack their bags with spices from home to find that incorporating it into meals, and subsequently their life abroad, can require trial and error, a sense of humor, and even failure. Relationships flop. Meals get burnt. Life abroad does not taste the same. But it evolves. Becomes enriched. And can even become decadent."

Storytellers with iPhones! Want to be a pioneer?

  s_03-3 I'm heading community and content in a new semi-private social networking tool for visual storytelling called Selfish. We're about to launch our beta iOS apps in Russia and Canada, then in the US and Android a little later, along with our desktop component. Big, global stuff for socially savvy publishers!

We're looking for digital media pioneers and adventurous, creative people to work with us as we get the kinks out of the technology, and gear up for a public  launch. We're a work-in-progress, and we want to pay you for your own works-in-progress.

I'm pleased to announce the Selfish Content Creator Program.

Our paid content creator program runs from August 25-October 25. Those dates may shift, so check it out no matter what. (See full details here, and get the link to download the app on your iPhone. You'll need iOS7 or iOS8 to use the app.)

You'll be using the tool to fashion a short, connected string of posts with photos and brief text on a topic, either alone or with other co-authors.

  • You can do this with your friends or family, in fact, we prefer you do it with other people since this is a collaborative tool.
  • Use informal language and conversational tone.
  • Ideal topics are a weekend road trip; details about your obsessions, hobbies or work or sports you play; attending a special occasion, an event like a concert or a wedding or a conference; events in an interest group you belong to.
  • You can repurpose previously published material.
  • You can use personal content.

s_02The aim of this program for North American/English language creative communities is to attract diverse content into the app that reflects best uses of the tool.

I'd like to encourage creatives and bloggers out there to try the app and test its capabilities in telling a story that comes naturally to you, including stories that are happening in your life right now. Capturing real time, ongoing adventures is something this app supports well.

Also, we're going to pay you to start a story but you can always continue your Selfish stories after you reach the pay mark. We imagine you'll want to as you realize the value you've created and the new ways you discover to share your life and interests with the people who matter to you.

What are we looking for? The basics of a winning Selfish story in this program are:

  • has a good cover/title/story description,
  • with coauthors,
  • a minimum of 10 moments total of photos and text,
  • uses hashtags and geotags and @ mentions,
  • with active comments, and
  • social shares throughout the creation process.

s_01Presenting our content creator program in a Selfish story (see it here) is an experiment to show you how a Selfish story works, how it's an ongoing thread of small moments, how it's different than a blog post, how it's different than a tweet or a Facebook status or a Facebook photo album, or a Pinterest pin, or an Instagram photo.

As my fellow content creator, communicator, publisher, writer, transmedia storyteller, as my fellow friend, family member, and member of other interest communities, I think you might want to know about this new mobile, social, online option for connecting what you care about with how and what you capture and share, and with whom you choose to share it. If you have questions, just ask me. I'd love to try to answer.

This story about the program shows you sample screens of existing content and creation flows while you consider the guidelines. It also demonstrates what kind of Selfish powers you can expect to harness for your own storytelling goals:

  • a Selfish story has one link and is shareable everywhere;
  • a Selfish story can have multiple coauthors, all posting into the ongoing story;
  • a Selfish story is made of multiple moments of photos and text all linked together;
  • a Selfish story is created in the mobile app and displayed on the web;
  • a Selfish story on the web is displayed in animated moments with rotating images and blocks of text;
  • a Selfish story is interactive, with comments and likes on each moment;
  • if you’re a registered user, you can subscribe to any public Selfish story so you get all the moments in your feed;
  • and, Selfish is free;
  • there's more, because Selfish is all about user controls, but hey this post has to end some time.

s_04-4Check out the content creator program, or send this link to someone you know who might like to try it:

Faye Brann Addresses The Gap In The Market For Narrative Expat Literature


Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 2.37.18 PM Thanks to expat author in Dubai Faye Brann for interviewing me about #expat #literature and the #publishing world's opportunities to capture expat lit's readers.  She blogs about it here. Here's the interview as it was conducted on Twitter this week -- which is where Faye and I met!


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Faye is working on her first book, There’s No Place Like Home, to "look at the often misunderstood life of the ‘trailing spouse’ abroad". At her blog she explores the gap in the market for narrative expat literature.

Featured By Global Living Magazine As One Of Best Expat Books

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Thanks to Shelley Antscherl for naming Expat Harem among best expat anthologies in the January/February 2014 issue of Global Living Magazine!

I'm proud the book is listed alongside the work of editors like Suzanne Kamata of "Call Me Okasaan: Adventures In Multicultural Mothering", Monica Neboli of "Drinking Camel's Milk In The Yurt: Expat Stories from Kazahkstan", Diane Dicks of "Ticking Along Too: Stories About Switzerland", and Kate Cobb of "Turning Points25 Inspiring Stories From Women Entrepreneurs Who Turned Their Careers and Their Lives Around".

And thanks to Summertime Publishing publisher, Expat Book Shop proprietress and fellow expat writer Jo Parfitt for the review. "A fine bit of not just good writing, but literary writing, and that is due to the fabulous work of the editors."

See what else is in the issue here. Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 8.38.03 AM Global Living is a luxury lifestyle magazine for global citizens and sophisticated internationals who live, have lived, or may someday will live outside their country of origin.

Turkey's Top Selling Novelist Elif Shafak Recommends Expat Harem in The Telegraph

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 9.13.43 AM Thanks, Elif!

Turkey's highest selling novelist Elif Shafak recommends Tales from the Expat Harem, the anthology I coedited with Jennifer Gokmen, in the United Kingdom's Daily Telegraph.

In "Flights of the imagination: Elif Shafak on books about Turkey", she writes about Expat Harem:

"It brings out the voices of Western and Eastern women in Turkey. Travellers, students, teachers, housewives – the cultural shock that some of them went through, their personal encounters and how they made Turkey, or perhaps limbo, their home."

Elif also wrote the foreword to our book back in 2005 for the Turkish Dogan Kitap editions in both English and Turkish!

Making This Site A Reconstruction Blog

This portfolio site is the #1 Google result for my name. This month I've started a reconstruction blog here.

It's going to be the blog that would have existed if I'd known then what I know now.


...if I'd been telling my personal and pro story all along with today's perspective on where it leads, and what matters.

Few little edits, but mostly going in as it already exists. Later I'll start linking all the pieces together, and developing further some of the content.

I'm also pulling together my material that's been scattered around the web, plus adding unseen pieces that germinated in the dark social of email, and in general, bringing out unpublished and otherwise fallow pieces of all kinds.

I'm thinking it'll be a way to refresh my own interest, and, with the help of web search, eventually connect me with others who are interested in those topics or treatments. They may even be future collaborators to bring the work to fruition. A public filing cabinet of sorts.

Have you tried this, or another retrospective approach to building a blog?

Update: Social media marketing pioneer Chris Abraham posted this related and detailed suggestion to "Fill in your entire social media and blog history", July 26, 2013.

"Spend this week digging through memories predating the moment you joined the online conversation and start posting them," Abraham writes.

Using Pinterest As An Author

Literary agent Amanda Luedeke posted at Jane Friedman's blog about using Pinterest as an author. Anastasia Ashman's memoir in progress at PinterestHere's how I use Pinterest as an author.

I have a board for a memoir WIP which is a way to keep it active as a project (and something others can peek into the themes of) even when I am not writing.

Here's what I pin.

Comparable titles. Images of people who remind me of characters. Expressions and sayings that capture major themes. Images that capture what it feels like to be writing the book.


I have pinned news items and fashion pictures that would be of interest to my subject (my best friend, who's deceased).

I have pins of settings in the story, and figures she liked and things she'd be interested in today.

In this way, the project is alive. The subject is alive. The whole thing can be interacted with, now, before it has been published.

And, the transmedia storytelling is taking place right now.

My Artwork Selected For International Museum Of Women Exhibition

Anastasia Ashman - artwork selected to appear in International Museum of Women's art exhibition on Muslim topics, 2013I heard from Yasmine Ibrahim, a fellow on the museum’s next online exhibition which launches in 2013 and will explore Muslim Women’s Art & Voices.

The International Museum of Women asks to highlight my image of a door from the Topkapi Palace Harem that I've been using as my profile background all around the web for several years. For me it signifies the liminal state of being an expat woman in Turkey, a multiculturalist, a hybrid soul.

I took the original photograph in 2004 when my coeditor and I toured the harem before embarking on our creation of the Expat Harem book. Then I manipulated the image in Photoshop.

I entered it into a gallery exhibition of Istanbul photographs by members of the International Women of Istanbul and American Women of Istanbul photo club in 2005 and it was the first image of the show to sell. Penang, 1997, Original Artwork by Anastasia Ashman Even though I'm not a Muslim woman so technically may not fit the specs for this exhibit, Ibrahim writes, "Your image was selected because it is related to Islamic art. Personally it is my favorite image because it is abstracted and joyful. As a Muslim, I felt that it symbolizes many aspects of Islamic culture."

The image seems a cousin to a photo of a 19th century mansion I took in Penang, Malaysia in 1997 and also manipulated in Photoshop.

Your Content Adds Up. Now Make It Discoverable, Too.

We're born content producers. The more prolific among us are literally volcanoes of content.Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 12.23.09 PM

Yet, what you’ve generated probably isn’t working for you.

It’s probably not laid out as a path where you want to go, nor presented as an invitation to other like-minded souls and interested parties to join you in your journey. It’s not contributing to the discoverability of you.

Do you have shelves full of:

  • paper, boxes and binders, clippings, photos, slides, sketches and notes
  • memorabilia and scrapbook materials

What about in the hall closet, and all that stuff in the basement?

  • floppy disks
  • hard drives
  • external drives
  • CDs, cassette tapes, video tapes

I bet you have a bunch of content stored here, there and everywhere. There’s a reason you haven’t gotten rid of it.

That mountain of stuff represents your effort and interest, and independent research. 

That mountain represents the things you chose to do because they make you feel alive.

Think of all the activities you’ve poured yourself into and how you’ve retained the evidence of them.  Anything that represents your experiences, your thinking and feeling on certain topics. All those photos of people and places and things that hold meaning and jog memories, yet haven’t seen the light of day in practically FOREVER. Some of it may represent creative failures. False starts. Ancient history. That's okay. Include it.

Maybe now you’ve got a mental image of your piles of creation, content associated with the life you’ve lived and the things you’ve loved (or hated, who knows).

At GlobalNiche we believe it’s forgotten gold. (Don’t feel too badly. We all have similar piles that we haven’t used for much of anything. YET.)

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 12.00.22 PM So, next question.

Are you sitting on that mountain of content -- and also wondering how you’re going to make ends meet, effect a career change, or achieve a goal?

Maybe you’re thinking you can’t do what you yearn to because you live in the wrong place and don’t have the right contacts and there’s no opportunity to pursue that interest where you are. As an expat for 14 years, I spent a lot of time wondering if my location was a disadvantage to what I want to do. The answer was "yes" most of the time. But no longer.

If we consider that earlier output and experience not as failure or a waste of time, but instead a chain of events that make us who we are today, then we can start to get an idea of the arc of our lives and how what we’ve done in the past can help us get where we want to go in the future. No matter where we are -- with the help of the web and the platform we build on it.

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What if you were prominent and findable in your chosen field of interest or activity? 

How might your opportunities change if you let your content support your aims? <---Tweet that.

Whether you’re positioning yourself to land jobs or funding or a book deal, or you’ve got a completed book or other product or service to sell, it will make a difference to your results. If you’re findable and well-represented, you have a chance. If you’re unknown, unfindable, and a jumbled mess when people DO happen to stumble on you, you won’t make much of an impression.

Whatever you want to do, you’ll need help and support. An important part of gathering support is going public with your process, to attract likeminded people to your cause and to involve them in your journey. The kind of people who are interested your vision and your way of thinking and feeling, parties who can help you develop your plan, the kind of peers and confidants and guides who will form the basis of your network.

We've entered a golden age for content creators. Do you know how to wrap your arms around your content, see the story it tells, and link it with your goals?


A version of this post originally appeared at Kristin Bair O'Keeffe's Writerhead, September 7, 2012

Talking To Cigdem Kobu's Creative Solopreneurs

Anastasia Ashman interviewed by Cigdem KobuExcerpt from a profile in Cigdem Kobu's A Year With Myself program for introverted creative solopreneurs.

Are you location independent by choice, or necessity? Why?


First by necessity when I lived very far from my culture, removed by thousands of miles by people who knew me, who spoke my language, dislocated from my professional fields. Swallowed up by my foreign-to-me surroundings.

Then, as I realized the power of location independence, I became location independent by choice.

I believe that we all can tap into that same power no matter where we happen to be. If you think about it, we’ve all felt like a fish out of water at some point in our lives, and for too many of us, that’s an on-going feeling we have today. It doesn’t have to be that way.

That’s what is about. You could say we teach people how to be globally unbound -- by choice.

Although expats and international types have more reasons than most to find a way to operate independently of where we happen to be physically, I see now that we don’t even have to leave home to do it.

It’s not about being mobile physically (and working on a beach in Thailand, as many in the location independent and lifestyle design movements talk about).

It’s about being okay with where you are, and setting up your life so you can be fufilled and, unlimited by your surroundings.

With today's economic uncertainties no matter who or where we are, we all have to embrace an enterprising view of ourselves -- a way to operate unlimited by the options around us.

We’re really lucky to be part of a trend toward entrepreneuring and indie creative careers, as well as using the social web and mobile devices to help us achieve what I call “psychic location independence”.

We don’t have to be a tech expert or social media guru to build a micro-yet-global base of operations with a professional web platform and virtual network for continuing education, professional development, and a close-knit but world-flung set of friends. We can be digital world citizens and achieve a cutting-edge state of being.

You believe that our metamorphoses choose us. Can you explain that a little?

I said this after a year on Twitter, back in 2009. I noted that the major undertakings of the year hadn’t rated a 2008 resolution. I didn’t plan any of them.

Nilofer Merchant, a cutting-edge entrepreneur I admire and author of The New How and the upcoming book Social Era Rules, recently tweeted, “Once you find your purpose it pulls you effortlessly into the future.” That’s definitely what happened when I opened a Twitter account and followed the trail of my interests out into the world of all possibility.

I was on soul-auto-pilot. Suddenly I took charge of my own web presence, an intention I hadn’t held, a vision I didn’t see, and a plan I don’t recall making.

All it took was that first microblogging step that lead to a curated-webpath to what I now recognize as my specific interests and larger intentions. I was pulled into my future, effortlessly, and without warning!

I was virtually attending conferences on publishing, interactive media, women’s issues, and participating in live webchats on branding, innovation, and literature.

I became a joiner and a beta-tester, signing on for an experimental blogging course before I even had a blog, and volunteering for a life design course for expat women entrepreneurs that helped me hone my vision and introduced me to my present day business partner, Tara Agacayak.

I experienced a reawakening of my inner student to learn exactly what I needed to know, and fresh direction on how I might contribute to the future of my communities.

I have seen this same thing happen with other people on Twitter too, so if you’re willing to dive in and let your metamorphosis choose you, that is the first place I’d recommend you go.

How do you help other women change their lives?

By sharing my own journey, and how I’ve combined my talents, interests and experience to create solutions for myself.

The largest solution I have to offer is the power to change our own lives by building a custom platform to operate from.

Also, by seeing in them what they could be, and telling them, which gives them the opportunity to see themselves and build their own place in the world.

The Native American Medicine Wheel card for hummingbird really resonates for me. The hummingbird is an agile creature which withdraws nectar from flowers and pollinates them at the same time, making them productive and viable.

I would love to be that force for the women in my life.

My Interview With Asian Geographic Passport Magazine

This Singapore-based magazine with a worldwide distribution approached me for an interview about being an expat in Turkey for the February 2012 issue. Here are my answers:  

Where are you from? What's your job? Could you tell me a bit about your background?

I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area in California, and have lived abroad for almost 15 years.

I was in Kuala Lumpur for five years in the ‘90s, where I learned some good lessons about what it takes to survive and thrive as an expat.

I drew on those realizations a lot during my time in Istanbul, and they inform much of the work I now do as the founder of, a work-life initiative for cultural creatives, mobile progressives and other global souls.

When did you move to Turkey? What brought you to Turkey?

I moved with my Turkish-born husband in 2003 (and we relocated to San Francisco at the end of 2011.) But even before that, we chose an Ottoman palace in Istanbul as the site of our 2001 wedding. So maybe a stint living there was fated?

Could you speak a bit Turkish after living there for almost 10 years?

Yes. I took a month-long course at a language school when I first arrived, and then employed a private tutor a couple of years later to consolidate what I’d held on to and work on advancing my conversational skills.

I get along just fine with transport and shopping but since my work is English-language based and I’m not a linguist (I’ve studied 8 languages and am proficient in none!) my Turkish has never allowed me to express complex thoughts. I no longer agree to Turkish-only business meetings, and swore off Turkish language television appearances after it became clear that they didn’t work well for me.

I have been surrounded by only-Turkish conversation for untold hours, zoning in and out. Sometimes understanding perfectly, responding in English. Other times, lost!

It’s an agglutinative language -- meaning you keep adding endings and some words have 20 letters in them -- and the word order in a sentence is backwards to what I’m used to with English. You have to back into a sentence -- sometimes you never make it to the end. The funny thing is, people either say “Turkish is really easy, isn’t it?” or “Turkish is really hard, right?” and both groups are correct. Most Turks love to hear you try. There are conventional things to say which you can use a lot on a visit. Pick those up.

Which part of Turkey do you think remain pretty much untouched by mass tourism?

Anywhere off the beaten path.

You can even find this in Istanbul, where massive cruise ships dock and zillions of people get off and go to one or two spots.

I suggest you go down a back street, don’t stay in a tourist neighborhood if you can help it, don’t eat at restaurants with menus in English or other non-Turkish languages (or menus at all -- Turks don’t order from the menu, they ask what’s fresh, in season, special).

Try Beyoglu, or the Asian side of town. Try some walking tours to explore areas you might not find otherwise.

Head the opposite direction of crowds, you will find something. If you want to see a mosque choose one by master architect Mimar Sinan, not the one with the big line in front of it.

How would you spend your weekend in Turkey?

Walking along the Bosphorus Strait, eating and drinking with friends at all the cafes and restaurants and bars and clubs along Istiklal, the pedestrian street in the European quarter of Beyoglu. Museums, film festivals, nargile establishments, tea houses. For glitzier occasions, events at a multitude of ancient and antique locations that are now nightclubs and restaurants, concert venues and other hangouts.

How about your food experience? Apart from the traditional dishes like kebab, baklava, what is your favourite and where to try it?

Neither of those are favorites of mine -- in fact, there’s so much more depth in traditional Turkish cuisine than kebab and baklava.

Turkish food is the cuisine of a vast empire, after all. Lots of taste and ingredient influences, and many dishes perfected for the sultan. Try the stewed homestyle dishes made with olive oil (called “zeytinyagli”), the roasted lamb on a bed of eggplant pureed with cheese (“hunkar beyendi”), or a tangy okra stew.

With four different seacoastlines (Black Sea, Sea of Marmara, the Aegean, and the Mediterranean), Turks do great fish and seafood dishes. A spicy shrimp sauteed in butter and red pepper flakes...grilled octopus. Dreamy! If you visit during the turbot season in winter it’s worth going to a place that specializes in this huge, flat and spiky Black Sea fish.


I’ve been partial to the chewy lokum (what you may know as “Turkish delight”) since I was a child in California, with my recent favorite being the pomegranate lokum studded with pistachios. Malatya Pazari is a national chain that sells it.

Try the different milky puddings at Saray or other traditional restaurants, one even has chicken breast in it.

Basically I could talk about Turkish food all day and not mention kebab or baklava.

If you’re staying in the old town, go to Beyoglu to eat. Greasy bland tourist food is an awful waste of your palate. If you’re after a spicy kebab though, ask for the ground lamb Adana kebab from the Southeast of the country.

What are your favourite nooks and crannies or hidden retreats in Turkey?

I like the private waterside setting of Assk Cafe in Kurucesme, the wild surf around red-roofed Amasra, the archaeology museum in the grounds of the Topkapi Palace and the overlooked mosaic museum under the Arasta Bazaar -- which is where you can see the decor of Emperor Constantine’s palace. He’s the Roman who founded the Eastern Roman empire, and why the city became known as Constantinople.

Hidden retreats are everywhere but most recently I enjoyed a hotel at the top of Assos on the Aegean. If you stay there you can visit the Temple of Athena at sunset, when it’s deserted and the Doric columns are bathed in an orange light. Great for portrait photography.

Do you know anything about the working culture in Turkey?

Yes. I worked fulltime as a cultural writer and producer which means I worked solo but in collaboration with many individuals and organizations. I pitched, sold, edited and published two books with a major Turkish publisher. That’s the anthology Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey, and its Turkish translation, both in 2005.

I also wrote for Cornucopia, a magazine for international connoisseurs of Turkish culture published in Istanbul, as well as web consulting for Turkish companies. The work culture differs from my own personal work culture -- closely tracking along cultural differences, as you can imagine.

I suggest you learn as much as you can about Turkish culture if you’re interested in working in Turkey or with a Turkish company. It affects what people expect around deadlines and goals and standards and other basics like that.

It’s good to know what people mean when they say “yes”. Turkey is a Eurasian culture so it’s got a bit of the west and a lot of the east in it.

Is there any particular myths you heard most about Turkey? How much of it you found to be true?

All the cliches.

Wolfish rug dealers. Men in mustaches and tweed suit jackets. Coffee shops with no women present.

That’s all there, but that’s not all there is.

In fact, the reason those things are cliche is because the details in between the lines are missing. Who those people are, why they behave that way, where the women really are.

There’s a huge spectrum of Turkish society from the most rural and conservative to the most urban and secular, and a very young, forward-looking population. There are also deep traditions, an interdependent culture, and a multiethnic population. It’s an ancient place and a modern republic, its contradictions and tensions spring from the ground itself.

Overall, what do you think about Turkey in terms of a place for expats to work and live?

I think there are opportunities -- the Turkish economy is strong and has been only minorly affected by the worldwide economic crisis -- and the lifestyle can be really good.

However, like any foreign country it’s best if you do your homework. Come visit a few times before you try living here.

Make some contacts in both the expat and Turkish communities, and preferably in communities that contain both expats and Turks.

You want to be able to live in a bridged way, not in a bubble.

You’ll also want to know what kind of work you want to do, and where in the country you want to live. Even what neighborhood. The more you know before you commit the better off you’re going to be. Try poking around at an active online forum like

That’s where you’ll pick up some useful lessons of cultural awareness like how to walk through the Grand Bazaar area without being harrassed (hint: it’s things like body language, and appropriate dress).

I have also written a lot about life in Turkey which you can find at my neoculture discussion site expat+HAREM  (

My Memoir Work In Progress

A forensic memoir of best friendship with a multiple personality, a family culture tale that parallels the development of string theory with its multiple dimensions. Both tracks of the story are controversial (and so far unprovable!) cosmologies. Repped by Foundry Literary + Multimedia, NYC.

Please visit my work-in-progress Pinterest board for conceptual images that capture the making of the book and relate to its contents, comparable book and movie titles, elements of the story. It's the best way I've found to transmit the mood and the reach of the work. If you haven't seen a Pinterest board about an author's process, check this one out.

At the bottom of this photo set are some images from my work-in-progress, a forensic memoir of friendship. Hover over the images to see the caption. Click on an image to enlarge. (There are some unrelated images in the below Facebook set for reasons out of my control.)

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French Ladies: How My Sister And I Stopped Fighting By Becoming Foreign Women

This appeared as "Sibling Rivalry" at AOL's MyDaily/HUFFPOST WOMEN. +++

"Whoever gets a D in math has to sit in back."

That's how I'd call shotgun when it was time to squeeze our teenage bodies into the family's tiny Honda.

My younger sister Monika didn't appeal to my mother at the wheel. This cruel, impromptu rule was imposed by a straight-A sibling, and grades were everything in our California household.

She'd trundle into the backseat, probably hating life.

Our oldest sister, whom we called the "Queen of Mean," was away at college but present in spirit.

Family films show that sister pinching me, a swaddled newborn. Then the 2-year-old beams when she notices the cameraman.

In another reel, her golden curls flying in the wind, she's pushing me -- a pigeon-toed toddler -- off the back of her moving tricycle.

We've got no babyhood footage of me doing that kind of thing to Monika, 15 months younger. Bad behavior would become apparent later, during years of being pitted against each other in academics, sports, music.

Maybe our parents encouraged the fractiousness as a parenting technique.

We three kids must have been more manageable as rivals and informers, rather than allies and colluders.

By school age, we were experts in our household's reward and punishment system based on my father's experience in the Army. Misbehavior led to grunt chores like scrubbing bathroom tile grout with a toothbrush.

Accomplishments won us R 'n' R passes to slumber parties.

We sisters provoked each other for extra privileges. "Look, Mom, I'm being good and she's not."

Eventually we'd harass each other for pure sport.

"That shirt makes your teeth look yellow," Monika would happen to notice as I headed out the door for a junior high dance.

The moment was a far cry from our brown-haired toddler years, when Monika and I adored each other. Back then, our favorite pastime was playing a game we called "French Lady."

A cosmopolitan fantasy of drinking tea from a porcelain set, old lady handbags swinging on our forearms, we were two preschoolers speaking in French accents. Continental ladies-of-leisure must have been quite a stretch in late 1960s Berkeley, a town known for hippies and beatniks.

In college, Monika and I struggled to rekindle our "French Lady" rapport. Tentative, well-meaning contact was always a hair's breadth from implosion.

Visiting her at school in San Diego, I offered her a new hairstyle. I wanted to try a razor technique I witnessed as a model for a European salon.

I was not a stylist, and the only tool she had was a Daisy razor. Monika decided to trust me anyway. Having girlie fun, we disregarded the probability of disaster.

I pulled out a back curl and scratched at it with the pink plastic razor. A few strands caught and held on the narrow blade.

I increased the pressure and suddenly the entire lock gave way. The razor plunged to her scalp.

"What was that?" Monika reached up to feel the new concavity.

"It's -- nothing," was all I could say, overcome by a sudden fit of giggles.

I wanted to keep going, to fix it. But she was already across the room rooting in the dresser for a hand mirror.

"I'm dropping you at the bus station right now," she screeched. "I want you out of my sight!"

A 500-mile bus ride back to my parents, a truncated vacation with my sister. No.

But what were my options? I didn't know anyone in San Diego.

Except my older sister. She hardly talked to me.

The wounded creature in front of me had invited me in. If I wanted to stay, I'd need to change the drift of the afternoon -- and the entire course of our sisterhood.

Imagining what my friends wanted to hear from siblings who tortured them, I started: "I didn't mean to ruin your hair. I care about you."

The words sounded so formal and undefended. Unlike me.

"I want you to be happy," I heard myself explaining.

She stopped screaming. This wasn't just about the bad hair cut.

"I love you, and I'm sorry," I finally squeezed out, a surprise sob in my throat.

To admit how much I felt for this brown-eyed girl in a Hawaiian shirt put me in a sad, vulnerable place.

We stood looking at each other from opposite sides of her cinder block dorm room. Tears started to roll down our cheeks.

Monika came in for a hug, whispering into my ear, "I love you too."

From that day on, we relied on each other as sounding-boards for shared anxieties and revelations. We began to appreciate our kinship -- and our kindredship.

Later, I was living 9,000 miles away when Monika needed surgery. She wanted me to take care of her. Arranging a medical power of attorney, she gave me the right to have her unplugged if something went awry.

That's when it hit me. My baby sister now trusted me enough to put her life in my hands. Beyond accident of birth, we chose each other.

The month I attended her pre-op appointments, shopped and cleaned for her was the best time we'd ever spent together.

She was a grounding family presence at my wedding, and soon I was able to return the favor.

Monika's house burned down. Returning to a charred pile of rubble, she wasn't able to function. I was her first call and we puzzled through the devastation with the same analytical skills I once used to banish her to the backseat.

I was thrilled when she claimed to friends, "I borrowed my sister's brain to start rebuilding my life."

Socializing in genteel situations is still one of our favorite things, dressing up and affecting our best sensibilities. Sometimes we don't bother to dress up, or drink anything. When we get together, what's important is that we bring our best selves.

Expat Images: Unrecognizable Vs. Iconic

On my first serious expat stint, Southeast Asia in the ‘90s, I achieved a state of photographic oblivion. When I set out from Los Angeles I was already solidly unemployed, unproductive, and unmotivated. I had a capricious romance to see me through.

In Asia, life losses piled up: heirlooms ransacked at the container yard, the cruel theft of a puppy, the unfathomable demise of my best friend.

I did not write about any of these things. Too much shock, no support. Turns out capricious romance isn’t the best fallback in a crisis.

LANGUAGE AND CULTURAL BARRIERS PREVENTED ME FROM BONDING WITH THE CHINESE, MALAYS, TAMILS AND THAIS AROUND ME. My reactions were miscalibrated: I laughed when introduced to a person with the name of a celebrated American boxer -- a common moniker in Malaysia -- and took offense at the quickly-retracted handshake of a traditional Malay greeting. I expected dinner party banter at gatherings that instead seemed to focus on the scarfing of food in silence.

Soon enough I was as unrecognizable as my new world.

My own body was erasing me. A spongy, knee-less Southern Italian genetic inheritance asserted itself with the help of a greasy local diet while my hair frizzed mercilessly in the tropical air.

Friends who knew me during cosmopolitan past lives in New York, California, and Italy wouldn’t identify me as the 30-pounds heavier creature with the ill-fitting clothes and unschooled haircut photographed in jungles and palaces.

Uprooted from my milieu, in a harsh climate and surrounded by perpetual strangers, I was desperate to locate comfort whatever the cost.

My Asia photographs are stowed, an expat adventure distressing to recall, impossible to frame. Yet, scraping bottom (especially on the far side of the world) has a benefit. It’s easy to see which way is up.

My 12-time zone couch surf back to New York was like a Phoenix’s ascent from the ashes

RECENTLY I'VE BEEN PICTURED MONSTROUS AGAIN. Breathe easy: happily married, in possession of a hard won sense of self. This particular snapshot of expat life is a mantle piece pride. There I am in 2005 commandeering the lens, the microphone, the printing press in Istanbul as Turkish newspapers and television discuss my expat literature collection by foreign women about their lives in modern Turkey. Tales not universally known, many writers never before published. All of them minority voices in a Muslim nation with a reputation for censorship.

The celebrity-studded book launch is a blur, except for my unauthorly leather pants and shiny rock star coiffure -- those are in fine focus in my mind’s eye! I haven’t often been so polished before or since, nor managed to squeeze into the lambskin trousers, but no matter.

As a coiner of the concept of the Expat Harem virtual community -- feminine storytellers making sense of life’s evolutions through the filter of another culture -- in a flash I became iconic.

A positive image of an expat to others, and to myself.

THE FLEETING, PICTURESQUE MOMENT CAPTURES AN ENDURING TRUTH ABOUT MY EXPATRIATISM. In a wide world of strangers I’ve finally found my perpetual peers, and a theoretical home for both my literary career and my life abroad.

Now I have a way to nurture and sustain my most valuable expatriate possession -- my sense of self -- no matter where I am, or what heights or depths I face.

What image captures you at your most unrecognizable  -- and your most iconic? What was happening in your life in that moment? +++++ This post originally appeared in Amanda van Mulligen's blogseries "Expat Images"

Woman-Of-The-World Producer Newsletter

I'm starting a *completely irregular* newsletter about my cultural entertainment productions and all the wild places they're taking us plus my thoughts on the ever-changing media/entertainment world.

This mailing will be a personal take on a professional life. A behind-the-scenes look at a far-flung entertainment bizwoman.

In a variety of formats, I'm developing five hybrid projects about identity, culture, relationships. Art historic soap operas of imperial proportion. Funny truths of family culture clash. Personal epic of friendship and healing.

Along the way you can select which of those five you want to hear more of, which project you'd like to follow more closely, what kind of notifications you want. Like: "Just tell me when I can download your Ottoman Princess 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding-meets-Meet the Parents' ebook comedy to the iPad!"

* You may not yet be familiar with my wider body of work, but you probably guessed my beat of women, culture, and history, with an emphasis on personal dynamics, from one family to entire hemispheres.

My Transmedia Wedding Project

....imagine “Meet the Parents” colliding with a grittier “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”! Transmedia ebook/screen adaptation of my Expat Harem wedding tale “Like An Ottoman Princess”, about bridging my radical West Coast family and traditional Near East in-laws at a palatial Istanbul wedding.

STORY EXCERPT Two families colliding. From different nations with textbook opposite cultures and traditions: An avant garde American family with a traditional Old World one. Secular Christians with secular Muslims. People from a famous anti-war community in the San Francisco Bay Area with a Turkish family steeped in military service and proud participation in NATO’s SHAPE, from a nation where the military is revered as the guardians of the republic. Bringing them together -- or is she keeping them apart? -- is a countercultural bride who may have arrived on this palatial doorstep through a lifetime of reinvention, but her past and her parents are somewhere else entirely.

More details to come about this and the counterculture family-themed prequel, THANKSGIVING WITH MARY JANE (featured on the homepage of the Red Room writing community, November 2010) and Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family (2009).

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The Output Of A Holistic Writing Coach

Check out the cool shelf of books (including my Expat Harem, and my college pal Lisa Lemole Oz's US: Transforming Ourselves and the Relationships That Matter Most, and my Twitter acquaintance Maryam Montague's Marrakesh By Design) from Victoria C. Rowan's Ideasmyth clients.Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 6.12.22 PM

I've worked with Victoria as a holistic creative consultant since I did her journalism bootcamp at Mediabistro in 2001. (Victoria launched Mediabistro's media training program.)

Later I joined her writing critique groups for 40 weeks, and then I was a private writing coaching client.

Her workshops focus on "development of craft, professional writing habits, editing skills, communication skills, marketplace savvy, career development, and life/creativity management in that order."

Self Mute: Choosing A World-Flung Life When You're Language-Averse

When I was a girl I had an office -- and a mailbox. Besides filling order forms we'd salvaged from local companies going out of business, what I loved most were the messages I'd trade with my sisters. Plus, my grandmother nicknamed me “motormouth”. Years later an astrologer pointed out Virgo in my Third House of communication, a sign ruled by Mercury, the very planet of information transfer. Mercury also rules Virgo, some kind of communication double whammy.

But loving to communicate is not the same thing as communicating well. Nor does it mean that communication comes easily.

According to family lore my first sentence was a complete one at the advanced age of two. Developmental specialists -- yes, they checked me out, mute toddler -- concluded I wasn’t comfortable with my own baby talk.

So imagine the paradox of studying eight languages. Traveling to more than 30 countries. Choosing a world-flung life that often surrounds me with people who don’t speak English. I remain language-resistant. I’m the monolingual American you hear so much about, and the muted presence so many of the people around me perhaps don’t hear at all.

Today fellow writer Amanda van Mulligen’s post hits home. She questions how self-expression can pierce a language barrier, especially if you’re shy. That would be me. Shy to speak like a baby.

What are you drawn to in life that doesn’t come easily to you?