Istanbul

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."

Byzantine Paving Stones For My Istanbul Intern Marina Khonina

Marina KhoninaSO PLEASED to be able to provide this LinkedIn reference to my Byzantinist intern Marina Khonina on her road to applying to grad school!

And what a fun walk down memory lane on my pop cultural/historical project that remains in development...

Marina was a joy to work with in Istanbul on my pop cultural, Byzantinist research project about the Church of Polyeuktos.

Her facility with Byzantine history and exuberant curiosity helped me develop the outline for an art historical saga of interest to a modern audience about a Byzantine aristocrat, Anicia Juliana, and her architectural rivalry with Emperor Justinian which resulted in him building a wonder of the ancient world and seat of Christianity for 1,000 years (Haghia Sophia), and her forgotten.

Marina contributed valuable context and insight into the story’s most compelling themes of religious symbolism and gender roles, including the link between Jerusalem and Constantinople and

  • what it meant for a woman to be a non-royal patron of the arts
  • what it meant to equate herself with King Solomon and the emperor
  • what it meant to claim she was head of the Christian church

...all of which Juliana did in building her edifice.

 

(You begin to see why I picked this subject to develop.)

Marina added rich new perspective to how Juliana was misrepresented historically vis a vis the lesser-accomplished Empress Theodora, and the daring Chalcedonian statement Juliana made in restoring another woman’s building project.

I’d recommend Marina for inclusion in any advanced research venture.

Turkey-Related Entrepreneurs, Founders & Funders

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 5.29.29 PMOut having antique cocktails (that's the San Francisco way) at Comstock Saloon with family and friends. The international (and Turkish-related) set of startup entrepreneurs, founders and funders included Bora Sahinoglu, Burc Sahinoglu (of CratePlayer & HIVEBEATS), Rostem Hairedin (of Selfish.me) and Ersin Pamuksuzer of StartupBootcamp in Istanbul.

Ersin's latest venture was in the news this week, with TechCrunch announcing "As Investor Interest Heats Up In Turkey, Pan-European Accelerator Startupbootcamp Launches In Istanbul."

TechCrunch also reported that heat up this week. Congrats to my friend global VC Cem Sertoglu who's managing the $130 million Earlybird Digital East Fund (EDEF) "to invest in early and early growth startups in Turkey and Central and Eastern Europe."

Turkish Unrest Makes My Facebook Timeline A True Interest Graph

My Facebook timeline has in past 8 months become full of irrelevant sponsored posts and ads but before that was not an activated global neighborhood posting on interrelated topics.

What's happening in Istanbul and Turkey and the Turkish diaspora around the world this week has made my Facebook timeline suddenly a relevant, activated global neighborhood.

 

  • I am seeing posts this week from contacts whose posts I have never seen in my TL. (Turks were early and enthusiastic adopters of FB so many connected with me back in 2007 as I told Intel Free Press here.)
  • I am seeing posts from people who are saying they never have posted on this topic before.
  • I am seeing groups of people I know from different locations, settings and times actively share and comment on a related set of posts.
  • I am seeing people from my high school trying to parse a topic that other people in my feed (people I've met over more than 10 years, some I worked with, others I spoke to their class, others I know socially, etc) know about intimately and are reporting first hand.

This week has been what Facebook should and could be to make it a place I want to go in the age of Twitter, but so far never has been.

This phenomenon is due to the severity of the news, and the fact that my network is seeded with a majority of people who care about that type of news.

If Facebook has been making the shift from social graph to the more valuable (commercially, and for readers) interest graph, this week my TL made that shift on its own.

 

 

TurkishWIN Dinner At Pera Palace With TED Curator June Cohen

TurkishWIN dinner with TED curator June Cohen, at Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul.After tonight's Turkish Women's International Network dinner with TED curator June Cohen, at Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul. With Berin Galatalı Aksoy, Nilufer Durak, Managing Director of Endeavor Turkey Didem Altop, lady in silver (and to-die-for shoes) is Sandrine Ramboux, June Cohen, founder of Turkish WIN and TEDx Gotham curator Melek Pulatkonak, Semiha Ünal and Işık Aydın Deliorman.

Earlier in the evening we'd been joined by Turkish parliamentarian and my fellow TurkishWIN speaker Safak Pavey.

I'm pleased to be a member of the advisory board of this network of women with professional, cultural and global ties to Turkey since 2010.

Community Crowdsourcing My Move From IST to SF

As I relocate from Istanbul to San Francisco, we're crowd sourcing the psychic transition. Whether you're familiar with Istanbul or have a little bit of San Francisco in your past or not, the Global Niche community is full of experts on the growing pains of displacement -- and replacement.

In your opinion, what connects Istanbul to SF, and vice versa? What are the biggest differences?

Care to share your favorite places to see, eat, relax, exercise, work in SF? What Bay Area 'hood can you see a global citizen like me settling in? Suggestions of who I MUST meet in town?

FOREVER GRATEFUL! ....for helping me say my goodbye to Istanbul -- and hello to San Fran. (And be sure to let us know when you need the Global Niche crowd to help you process a displacement of your own!)

GlobalNiche.netScreen Shot 2014-03-01 at 3.45.19 PMScreen Shot 2014-03-01 at 3.43.59 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 3.44.29 PMScreen Shot 2014-03-01 at 3.41.03 PM

Talking Broadway With The Book Of Mormon Director

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 9.40.58 PMDining at Bebek's Poseidon with visiting Broadway musical director Casey Nicholaw (he won the Tony for the satirical Book of Mormon!) and Josh Market (he does actress Jane Krakowski's hair on 30 Rock). We had plenty of entertainment world issues to talk about since I used to work for Broadway & Grammy Awards producer Pierre Cossette when I lived in LA.

Thanks to former Discovery Networks president and founder of Akoo (that's social media television to you) Billy Campbell for the introduction!

Why Social Media Is Perfect For International Professional Women

Speaking about being a foreign correspondent in Turkey to Project Istanbul American journalism college students, Bahcesehir UniversityI sent this list to the group International Professional Women of Istanbul in advance of the social media panel I am conducting for their membership.

Social media is all about making personal connections, fostering them, benefitting from them. Women excel at this type of interaction.

If you think you’re ‘too old’ to learn you'll be surprised to hear women over 40 dominate social media!

If you feel limited by life abroad: using social media’s networks to meet your career development needs and pursue your interests is a natural fit.

If you feel disrupted by numerous location changes, social media can provide consistent connection with your communities worldwide.

If you're a professional person, knowledge of social media offers you a relevance unmatched by any other skill or tool available today.

(image is from the IPWIN social media workshop I conducted with Tara Agacayak)

Here's the announcement for the event

BUILD YOUR PROFESSIONAL WEB PLATFORM: (Saturday, January 22nd, location TBA, 75TL/person)

If you want to test the social media waters beyond your personal Facebook profile, consider this two-hour interactive event about creating your professional path online.

Using the principles from their “Mastermind Program for Creative Entrepreneurs”, Tara Ağaçayak of Turquoise Poppy and Anastasia Ashman of expat+HAREM will demonstrate how social media, web technology, and a community of globally-diverse creative professionals can help you design a location-independent career.

In the first hour they’ll walk you through the growth process of a local entrepreneur building her personal brand on the web. In the second hour, *you* will each become a case study as Tara and Anastasia moderate a live mastermind session.

What you’ll take away from this event: a better connection to your professional passion and a clearer understanding of how social media tools and techniques can be used to develop this passion through the web.

In order to best benefit from the session, participants should have at least two of these: social media accounts (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook), a blog or website, or an email newsletter.

 

Here's our write up of the event for the Lale magazine:

IPWIN MEMBERS FINDING THEIR GLOBAL NICHE -- ONLINE!

 

On January 22nd IPWIN hosted a social media workshop:  “BUILD YOUR PROFESSIONAL WEB PLATFORM” for women interested in building a serious online presence. Tara Agacayak of web consultancy Turquoise Poppy and Anastasia Ashman of expat+HAREM, the global niche gave excellent support and advice to 20 participants on how to grow their professional selves on the web.

 

We started with a round of introductions and got an overview of the various enterprises run or being developed by IPWIN members. We heard distinct stories, and overlapping concerns. “How can I sell my service when the local market doesn’t value it yet?” “How much of myself should I expose?” “I had to take time off to raise my family, and we moved a lot but I want to get a career started in Istanbul.” “How do I present my company, my product, my idea, my brand?” “I run multiple businesses, should I merge them in one site or have separate Facebook pages?” “Which language should I blog in, how do I decide if French or Spanish is best?” “I’m trying to figure out what new business is going to last.”

 

Here are some of the issues we discussed during the meeting.

 

Why is social media important today?

Social media used professionally is an unrivaled way to become visible to a global audience at very low cost, by building a virtual network and sharing your expertise. People now want to do business with people, not faceless corporations. Even big companies are now trying to appear “more human”. Solo entrepreneurs everywhere can thrive in this new online environment.

 

What does the ‘social’ part of social media mean?

It means user-generated web content -- as opposed to static web pages -- that allows us to interact with each other through various web technologies. Think of “liking” a Facebook page, or tweeting a blog post, or even commenting on a blog. We can get feedback on our work, we can respond to customers in a public forum and demonstrate the quality of our service, we can meet and learn from others who are interested in the same things, and we can share our best discoveries on the web with our own networks.

 

What is creative entrepreneurship?

A successful business provides a product or service that solves a problem or fills a need. Creative entrepreneurs design offerings based on their personal inclinations, skills and talents. Often these develop out of a need to live and work in non-traditional situations. Social media is a wonderful vehicle to build professional projects on the web regardless of your location, time or language constraints. Creative entrepreneurship is a perfect solution to the problem faced by people who move around a lot or live in cultures not their own. It’s how to “bloom where you’re planted,” as Tara’s Turquoise Poppy catchphrase suggests.

 

What is a global niche?

Coined by Anastasia for global citizens to feel at home,  a global niche is where you uniquely belong in the world, both personally and professionally. Your sweetspot. A place occupied completely and perfectly by you -- so naturally there are no competitors, there are only neighbors. It’s where you can operate to your potential, and embrace all the worlds you love to belong to. Finding your global niche is part of being a successful creative entrepreneur.

 

How do I define my profile on the net?

Building your global niche -- in this case, a professional web platform --  involves uncovering your place in the world and defining that place on the web. Inevitably one of the first steps in establishing your digital profile is communicating who you are in a way that others can relate to and may include using text, images, audio or video. For those who are in the process of self-discovery, social media is an extremely useful tool to explore and have conversations with like-minded global citizens.

 

Does being accessible on the web require extensive personal exposure?

Social media facilitates your interaction with others. People want to know who you are before connecting with you whether personally or professionally, help them find ways to relate to you. You’re not required to share private information that might compromise your security. By using a clear photo of yourself in your profile and including a link to your hub site people can learn exactly what you want them to know. (Don’t know what a hub site is? Find out in Tara and Anastasia’s free email tutorials.)

 

How can I find potential clients, customers and collaborators using social media?

Your ideal customer or client (or employer, if you’re a job seeker!) finds you by entering specific keywords into a search engine like Google. By entering these keywords yourself you’ll learn where you rank amidst the competition and you’ll also see where conversations relevant to your niche are taking place around the web. Social media enables you to monitor these conversations (with tools like Twitter and Google alerts) and participate in them with your own ideas, expertise and professional solutions.

 

How do I fit social media into my work day?

Social media is useful to creative entrepreneurs because it allows you to work in a way that suits your lifestyle. Setting your own schedule for publishing content as well as interacting on sites like Facebook and Twitter means you can work at your own pace. Keep your posts short and “mindcast” rather than “lifecast”. Share important thoughts, what you are reading, what moves you -- not mundane things like what you had for breakfast. Give your network value through the things you share. Use automation and syndication services to reach relevant audiences at key times around the world -- without actually working around the clock!

 

What is my ROI for the time I spend using social media?

Using social media to build your network and reputation is an investment in yourself. The time you dedicate will pay off when you want to sell your product or service - whether it’s a book, a necklace or a coaching program. Use social media to educate yourself and stay on the cutting edge of your field. In today’s market, trust and attention are valuable commodities that you can only develop by being well-informed, authentic and providing useful, accessible content.

 

What is the Mastermind Program for Creative Entrepreneurs?

Anastasia and Tara’s mastermind program brings people together into a virtual work group (conducted on LinkedIn over a few weeks), where each participant contributes to the solution of a problem; like a combination of a brainstorming session and focus group. The success of this technique for creative entrepreneurs relies on the diverse expertise of the group, and your connection to peers you can continue to grow with.

 

Artist, illustrator and writer Rose Deniz demonstrated the power of the mastermind program when she described how her creative business changed after participating in Tara and Anastasia’s “Build your global niche” program. She wondered how to effectively present herself as a multifaceted artist, graphic designer, writer, blogger and handbag designer. Rose was able to see that she needed a unified platform to integrate her work and audiences in one place. Within three months of completing the program she was able to craft her own solution at the site Love, Rose.

 

This IPWIN workshop was very motivational and informative and the spirit is still present. Our members have already asked us to organize a follow-up event! Tara and Anastasia provided the participants with free, on-going tutorials by email which everyone in IWI can access by signing up for their “Build your global niche” mailing list. They’ll also alert you to upcoming mastermind sessions and other resources that will help you get serious on the web.

 

Useful links:

EMAIL LIST for free web platform tutorials: on.fb.me/globalniche

Turquoise Poppy: www.turquoisepoppy.com

expat+HAREM, the global niche: www.expatharem.com

Love, Rose: www.rosedeniz.com

Creative Entrepreneurs on LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/creativeentrepreneurs

 

 

Custom Creative: The Making Of An Authentic Indie Life

Happy blizzard -- or dense fog in the morning! We've got entrepreneurial social media life/work things to do in the low-visibility season ahead. BTW here's an overview never before available: If you're at all interested you can now peek behind-the-scenes of my top five cultural producing projects related to but not strictly expat+HAREM. Hint: Family culture clashes! Art historic soap operas of imperial proportion! [link removed, no longer available]

+++++ AT expat+HAREM

Our shiny new Facebook page replaces a group set to retire one random day. Don't want to lose you in the shuffle. Please post on our FB wall any kind of culturati link you're liking today.

Do we look older more experienced? We just celebrated our first full year of bloghood! 23 guest bloggers to thank, we're also grateful for 2300 comments which took us to surprising intersections of culture and identity. Here we all weigh in on the posts which affected us the most.

2011 starts with the editor of Matador Life Leigh Shulman contrasting the peregrinations of a fictional exile with her own rolling stone life. Why do we leave the places we know, and is the melancholy of disconnect any different if it's elective or imposed on us?

YOUR PRO GLOBAL NICHE IS A WEB PLATFORM...

Not just a dreamy concept of world citizenship, your global niche is about "blooming where you're planted" in a holistic way, being creative and entrepreneurial to find happiness, growth and success wherever you are and in all your aspects.

In conjunction with creative biz consultancy Turquoise Poppy, expat+HAREM is excited to lead a January 22 demonstration of how to build your global niche through social media.

Not geographically convenient, or complete newbie? Cultural creatives and mobile progressives everywhere can now start learning the web tools, techniques and technology: our new mailing list will get you started with free tutorials and keep you posted about next steps, like our upcoming mastermind program for creative entrepreneurs.

That's a high-impact online course where a supportive set of your international, creative peers will help you build your global niche on the web. +++++ AROUND THE WORLD & AROUND THE WEB

We loved Dr. Brene Brown's recent TEDxHouston talk on  wholeheartedness and its root in expressing our vulnerability.

But the blog of longtime expat Diana Baur and majorly creative entrepreneur (the American potter is an innkeeper in Italy) sharpens the point for identity adventurers and global nomads like us. "Wholehearted people don't have an externally-driven directive about living correctly."

To live authentically individual lives we need to embrace the parts of ourselves that don't fit anywhere.

Publication to watch --> BETA is an about-to-be-released quarterly print mag from the global online travel network Matador. All about motion, journey and place, apparently the cheeky thing subtitled the topography of living will be sold at "some of our favorite camel markets and opium dens worldwide."

+++++ YOUR THOUGHTS

In the new year we're looking at where others end and we begin. "What are you redefining?" we asked.

Beth Wettergreen, the new liaison between a private university in Istanbul and U of Maryland, is struggling with the concept of 'private life' in Turkey. "Here, one is almost never unobserved. I have a feeling that the notion of a truly private life is reserved for the upper middle class and upper class."

Meanwhile another expat is facing the boundaries of a life vision at odds with cultural expectations of a woman who 'works' from home yet is not a traditional housewife.

"I risk appearing rude and living up to the stereotypes of the self-centered American in order to further myself along the path that feels right to me - even if others can't see it or understand it."

What creative, custom life/work solution are you looking for?

The Accidental Anthologist: Creating A Literary Harem

All the editions of Expat Harem bookTurkey often makes the news for suppressing its authors. Ironically, as an American expatriate in Istanbul I found my voice -- by creating a literary harem of my expat peers. My third month in Istanbul I found my way to an American women's social club. Milling among the crowd at the consul general's residence, I introduced myself by describing my writing project.

"At 40? You're too young to write a memoir," snorted a white haired librarian as she arranged second-hand books on a card table.

"Istanbul's such chaos, I'd be surprised if you can concentrate," thought a freckled socialite in tasseled loafers.

My memoir was going to happen. It had to. It was the cornerstone of my survival plan.

 

MY BRILLIANT CAREER WAS PORTABLE. I moved to Istanbul in 2003 so my Turkish husband could take a job in mobile telecommunications. Even though I lacked a formal proposal for my high-concept travel memoir charting the peaks and valleys of what I was calling “an adventurous life,” I already had a literary agent waiting to champion it. I was thrilled my spouse would be developing the kind of advanced cell phone software that excites him and that emerging economies demand. Yet my international move required a defense strategy.

"I'm not going to waste a minute sitting in language classes, diminishing my facility with English," I informed him.

"Whatever makes you happy," he replied.

In my mind I'd be on an extended writer's retreat, free from the daily distractions of our “real life” in New York City, where we had met.

I'd be an asocial expatriate writer who would one day emerge at the border clutching my passport and a masterpiece.

This exotic vision had been percolating since I'd last been an expat—in Malaysia. I’d spent five years rotting away in the tropics like a less-prolific—and more sober—Somerset Maugham.

Foremost to decay in the equatorial heat was my personality—the core of my writing voice.

In steamy Southeast Asia, my first long-term stint overseas, language and cultural barriers prevented me from expressing even the simplest aspects of my identity. When I told people I was a writer they'd reply, "Horses?"

 

I WAS DECOMPOSING at time-lapse speed. Vintage handbags and L.A. sandals sprouted green fungus overnight, while silvery bugs infested my college texts and a decade of diaries. I was also mistaken for a very different kind of Western woman in Asia, like when a crew of Indonesian laborers working at my house wondered when I was going to drink a beer and take off my shirt.

Three years later, in cosmopolitan Istanbul, I was a resurrected ambitious American prepared for my future. I imagined a successful literary life abroad—supported by a defensive version of expatriatism. "This move won't turn my world upside down," I cockily assured worried friends and relatives, who recalled my anguished Kuala Lumpur days.

Now I was all about the work. My plan to avoid alienation in Turkey was foolproof.

Istanbul, a hilly metropolis of 12 million, made Kuala Lumpur look like the sleepy river town it is. I couldn't envision navigating a car on its traffic-logged streets or squeezing into public minibuses or straying too far alone without a translator. I couldn't wait to hole up at home with my computer, DSL connection and a view of the Bosphorus.

Upon my arrival I joined an expat social club for some English speaking company. There I met the scolding librarian and the socialite. I also ran into an upbeat Michigan writer named Jennifer Gökmen, a 10-year émigré also married to a Turk. She had no doubt I would write my memoir. We both needed some writing support so we created a workshop with a handful of other American women.

Within weeks, the memoir stalled as I struggled to map my entire existence... dear god, what's the arc of my life? Maybe that caustic librarian was right! My resistance to Turkey started to wear down.

Jennifer and I began playing with a proposal of our own: an anthology incorporating essays about our Turkish lives.

I was bursting with that kind of material. The cultural gauntlet I faced on my first trip to meet the family. My glitzy Istanbul wedding. Inspired by the original harem of the 15th century Ottoman sultans, where foreign-born women shared their cultural wisdoms, new arrivals comparing notes with old hands, we figured we formed a modern version: the Expat Harem.

And that’s when the harem walls closed in.

 

SILENCED BY WHOOPING COUGH: I contracted a mysterious and ancient ailment of the pharynx. Local doctors unfamiliar with the diagnosis prescribed medications for asthma and antibiotics to treat a lung infection, neither of which I had. I passed the cough to Jennifer. For the next six months we were both homebound, hacking to the point of incontinence, succumbing to every little flu. I avoided anything that might incite a new round of spasms, like conversation and laughter, the coal smoke emanating from rural shanties, chills from the ancient city's stone walls, gusts of autumn blowing down from the Black Sea. The only thing Jennifer and I were suited for was speechlessly working, and we only wanted to think about the anthology.

"Embedded here, we're destined to be alien."

I brainstormed in an email to Jennifer, pointing out the dilemma of life abroad—even for those who want to blend in to local culture, it’s near impossible. Our cultural instincts will forever lead us to different choices— from simple aesthetics like lipstick color to complicated interpersonal communications.

Topkapi Palace harem door by A.Ashman

"The Expat Harem is a place of female power," she shot back, linking us to an Eastern feminist continuum little known in the Western world.

Harem communities offered women the possibility of power—in the imperial harem, they offered the greatest power available to women in this region. These women had the sultan's ear, they were the mothers of sultans. Several harem women shadow-ran the Ottoman empire, while others co-ruled.

Giddy with our anachronistic metaphor, I replied.

"Ethnocentric prison or refuge of peers—sometimes it's hard to tell which way the door is swinging!"

Like a secret password, news spread as we called for submissions from writers, travelers and Turkophiles. Fascinating women from fourteen nations poured their stories into our in-boxes. They shared how their lives had been transformed by this Mediterranean country in the past 50 years, moments that challenged their values and their destinies as nurses and scientists, Peace Corps volunteers and artists.

These women's tales were not universally known.

Many had never before been published and all were minority voices in a Muslim country with a reputation for censorship.

 

ALTERNATE REALITIES flooded over me: eerie Sufi pilgrimages to Konya, the intimacies of anthropological fieldwork on the Black Sea, glimpses of '70s civic unrest in Ankara, a wistful gardener's search for the perfect Ottoman rose in Afyon. Many represented a depth of involvement with the country I couldn't imagine: harvesting dusty hazelnuts on a brambly hillside, trying to follow the 9/8 rhythms of a clapping Gypsy, sharing space on a city bus with a dancing bear in the Technicolor 1950s.

I whispered to Jennifer, "Compared to these women, I'm a cultural wimp!"

Their struggles to assimilate nudged me to forgive my own resistance, and inspired me to discover the country, the culture and the Turkish people.

Now I could use the editing skills I had been suppressing since I was an infuriating child who returned people's letters corrected with red pen. From the comfort of my home office-with-a-foreign-zipcode, I was able to shape other writers’ stories. The anthology rewarded me for postponing the memoir, by laying the foundations for a more insightful next book. The joys of collaborating with writers from my home office clarified confusing aspects of my character—like how I am a prickly introvert who nevertheless craves connection with people.

One late winter day Jennifer and I stopped coughing and sold Tales from the Expat Harem to Doğan Kitap, a prominent Turkish publisher.

"That's more like it," snapped the librarian when I next saw her at a club meeting, my reputation somewhat rehabilitated in her eyes.

Four decades’ worth of expatriate self-discoveries earned its shelf space, more than my own 40-year life story would have.

"It's a love-letter to the country. I put it on my house guests' pillows!" shared the smiling socialite.

The anthology became a #1 English-language bestseller in Turkey and was recommended as a social and cultural guide by National Geographic Traveler and Lonely Planet.

My literary career and conflicted mindset about life abroad now had a promising new cultural context in the expat harem.

 

I FOUND MY THEORETICAL HOME. I arrived an insular writer afraid of losing my voice. In a temporary silence, Turkey suggested an empowering metaphor. It seems the country not only connected me to a worldwide band of my global nomad and expat writing peers, it provided a place to flourish out of restriction -- and raised my voice in the cultural conversation.

[This essay first appeared in JANERA: The Voice of Global Nomads, January 2008]

+++++

What surprise context has your location provided you?

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[18 months, 2 expat writers, one feminist travel anthology with three editions. Our first book! A bestseller. How'd we do it? Read the story of making Tales from the Expat Harem]

New Year's Evolution: Our Metamorphosis Chooses Us

We resolve to be different. Fitter. Pay off debt. Volunteer. Clean out that god-forsaken garage. Stepping into a fresh calendar year seems like a chance to try on a colorful persona, yet new year's resolutions are so often based on territory (and self-images) we already know. Instead, surprising facets of ourselves are evoked by a novel landscape and our metamorphosis chooses us. moths by A.Ashman This year I took charge of my own web presence. A major undertaking requiring vision and planning -- but it didn't rate an end-of-'08 resolution. When I set down a tiny microblogging footprint with Twitter 18 months ago I didn't foresee 2009's curated-webpath to my interests and intentions.

Suddenly I was virtually attending conferences like the interactive SXSW and participating in live webchats on branding, innovation, and literature. I became a joiner and a beta-tester, signing on for a month-long experimental blogging course and volunteering for a conference-call-based life design course for expat women entrepreneurs.

I’ve become a full-feathered indie blogger, and a player in the digiventures of others: founder of the group blog to build on hybrid Expat Harem themes so many of us are living, a new media guest blogger, a location-independence blog carnival participant, administrator of a LinkedIn group for creative entrepreneurs using social media, and the curator of a year-long 2010 webcarnival to celebrate Istanbul.

Being proactive in the blogosphere is an epiphany, a 2009 reawakening of my inner student....a time to learn exactly what I need to know -- as a writer and publisher, a global citizen and cultural creative in Istanbul -- and contribute to the future of my communities.

What's your surprise metamorphosis of 2009? Who did you become this year?

[Gratitude to everyone who taught me something in 2009!]

The Twinge Of Heritage: Ghostly Urges Of A Post-Immigration Life

Since the Ottoman royal harems were filled with women from the Mediterranean and the Baltic -- Italian families even casting their daughters on the Adriatic to be picked up by the sultan's sailors -- my Turkish husband jokes he finally brought me back to Istanbul where I belong. I don’t know, anything's possible. The Turks were also laying seige to Eastern Europe and my Lithuanian family name, echoing a town and river on today’s Belarus border, sounds a lot like the imperial Turkish bloodline of Osman.

For New World types like me the mysteries of our extended lineage often crop up as synchronicity. Wanderlust. Quirks of taste, like ghost urges from genes and culture long ago severed.

Why does this Northern California girl raised on turkey burgers crave the beet soup borscht? When I feel kinship with my Ukrainian, Estonian, Jewish, Italian and Greek friends, what do their wide brows or brown eyes, their stoicism or talkative personality, remind me of? Do they mirror the mix that is me?

You could call me a fourth generation immigrant. My parents and their parents and their parents before them each left their homes in search of safety and opportunity. Moving to Europe in 2003, I completed what we know of my family’s loop. When I slather Aegean olive oil on a spicy bed of wild arugula, I’m enjoying a harvest like a distant Italian ancestor must have -- yet one my closer relatives did not, as my grandmother served Spam in Chicago and my mother laid tofu taco salad on the table in Berkeley.

What ethnic or regional mystery reverberates in you? +++ I remember meeting a blueblood American at a Thanksgiving dinner in Bedford Hills NY and within a minute he had already inquired where my people were from and we’d established that I had only a general idea. As a Californian, a person from a state of reinvention, I remember thinking it was an odd thing to get hung up about. For him, it was a way to know who he was dealing with.

I was just talking with a friend on Twitter about these ethnic stirrings…for many of us it seems nationalism (especially for melting pot nations like America) has been a way to calm those feelings by lumping us together with others who happen to share passports or places of birth — but ultimately it’s superficial to who we are.

Social Media As Self Actualization: How Has It Launched You?

I'll be speaking with creative entrepreneur Tara Agacayak on a panel about social media for the International Professional Women of Istanbul Network (IPWIN). The happy trends of Web 2.0 online networking, collaborating, and user-generated content seem tailor-made for pro women like us who often face a more difficult career path abroad. Whether "trailing spouses" lacking a local work permit like Jo Parfitt recounts here or in some other way being at a geographic or cultural disadvantage is a common expat woman experience.

IN AN ATTENTION ECONOMY WE'RE NO LONGER OUT OF SIGHT We're used to relying on technology to fill the gaps in our expat operations so social media has the potential to level the playing field for the most far-flung female professionals:

  • Social media works best the way women work best: it's about making and tending personal connections
  • Social media supports and consolidates the spread-out personal networks expats and global citizens have already initiated in their mobile lives
  • Social media provides access to state-of-the-industry practices, trending thought, and leading players in our professions

So, as social networking renders overseas women like us visible and relevant, it's a powerful tool of self-actualization. Our presence online becomes an advance calling card in life and work. We're driven to fine-tune who we say we are, and how we behave, and where we appear online and who we choose to interact with, who our target audience is and how we do business. If we commit to social media, we evolve.

How has social media launched you?

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On another network an expat woman writer asked me what the benefit of social media is besides meeting other writers. She also wondered why she might need it before she has a book to sell.

Social media networking is something you can do long before you have something 'to sell' -- in fact, 3 years in advance of a product is the period I hear from the kind of people whose book goes straight to the top of bestseller lists. It takes that long to get a meaningful network in place before you really 'need' it. Building trust, credibility, presenting yourself authentically, being generous and helpful. That takes time.

I agree meeting other writers is an important component of online networking for women like us scattered around the globe, living among people who may not speak, let alone read or write, in our language. However, there are so many more people you can meet. Taking the writing professional as an example: Potential readers, agents and editors and publishers -- and with the massive upheaval in publishing right now being able to follow developments is more important than ever-- people in related fields. Living abroad, we can attend conferences virtually, or take part in live chats on women's issues, cultural concerns, literature, branding, social media, bookselling, marketing, etc. I wrote about many of these issues last April in "How This Author Uses Twitter". Becoming visible to the people in your niche -- finding out who works in your niche, that's priceless legwork.

How it helps me now: Social media has helped bring me up to speed on the trending/cutting edge thought in a variety of areas that affect what I do, as well as put me in touch with people I want to work with. It's like continuing education, cultivating a professional peer group, professional development.

+++

Here's a slideshow based on our presentation, including links to scores of the below resources we discussed during the event:

WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA?

TOP WOMEN IN SOCIAL MEDIA 2008 & 2009

TIPS & TOOLS TO GET STARTEDOPTIMIZE & IMPROVE YOUR PRACTICES

DOs AND DON’TS

BLOGS AND SITES OF PANELISTS ANASTASIA (microblogindividual bloggroup blogFacebook groupLinkedIn profile,Delicious bookmarksNing writers' network)

TARA (individual blogmicroblogLinkedIn profile, Facebook profileLadiesWhoLaunch profile, artisan training site-blog-microblog-Facebook page, bazaar tourssite-blog-microblog-Facebook page, web consulting site-microblog-Facebook page,women's microcredit site)

Is That A Pain Cry? What We Want To Hear About Death

I don’t see death every day, but I hear it. From where I sit, in my home office overlooking a little Bosphorus bay, the day is punctuated by recess at a large school below. Sometimes through the din I think I hear a high-pitched pain cry echoing in the valley. An intermittent wail. Out on the balcony I listen, some primitive hackle raised. The source: the government hospital on the waterfront. Not a patient. Someone realizing a loved life is over.

I caught a grief panel live-webcasted from The Women’s Conference 2009, America’s foremost forum for women as architects of change. California’s First Lady Maria Shriver -- whose mother and uncle died recently -- and other high profile grieving women talked in raw terms about love and loss. Tremulous voices....courageous for getting on stage in front of an audience of 25,000 for what is usually a private conversation.

Buttoned-down American culture is “grief-illiterate”, they agreed, one woman appreciating the Middle Eastern tradition of ululating which she saw as stress relief. Celebrity means they mourn in the public eye.  Shriver’s iconic clan has had a lion’s share of public bereavement -- it’s practically the Kennedy family culture -- yet she counted it as a benefit: people treated her gently, strangers transformed into supporters.

Many of us grieve in private, our mourning unnoticed outside of networks of family and friends.

Restricting who we talk to about it can cut us off from people unafraid to hear about death, perhaps those even able to console us.

I know when my best friend died -- 15 years ago -- I was on the opposite side of the planet from everyone who knew me, and her, which muffled my pain cry and made the isolation I felt even more acute.

What do you hear about death? What do you want to hear? What do you share?

Publishing And The Digital World Citizen

I once opened a can of ebook whoop-ass on Stephen King. “No interactivity, no extra benefit for readers!” I scolded the usually imaginative novelist back in the go-go days of Y2K. From my desk on New York’s Silicon Alley where I had the publishing beat at an internet industry magazine, King’s self-publishing experiment The Plant – a flow of static installments lacking flexibility, community and collaboration – was a lackluster leap of faith.

I was used to doling out tough-love to content owners peering across the digital divide. After previous stints in media and entertainment, intellectual property rights and audience concerns were also familiar to me but my exuberance came from a new media clean slate of the expat sort.

I'd just parachuted into the dotcom boom from Southeast Asia.

For five years my Malaysian office was minutes from Kuala Lumpur’s Multimedia Super Corridor, a futuristic zone advised by Bill Gates and Intel’s Andy Grove. Like the rest of the Newly Industrialized Nation, I was plagued by weekly power outages and wrote by candle light. While my attention span shrank to the length of a Compaq battery life, expatriate skills included patience to wait one month for a government-issued phone line. Waiting for internet access expanded my endurance to a couple of years.

When I finally got online the possibilities of global and real-time connection revolutionalized my estranged expat life.

A decade later I’m dipping into the professional fray from 6,000 miles to the East. I’ve been a writer and producer of cultural entertainment in Istanbul since 2003, and continue to live here. My first book Expat Harem took a conventional route: lit agent, Turkish and American publishers, road trip book tours, an electronic release for Expat Harem on Kindle (aff) and Sony eReader. My second effort — an edgy nonlinear memoir of friendship — requires a complete rethink. (Three months to set up our 49-day 10-state road tour across America, three years to recover from? Wouldn't do that again!)

Geographic disadvantage demands I compete in my home market virtually. With the economic crisis, collapse of traditional publishing and fresh hope pinned on the social web, my global audience is also now virtual.  I’m shifting to new school thinking in distribution, promotion, and sales.

Like internet access equalized my ‘90s expat reality, now social media closes the professional morass as my Tweetdeck columns resonate thought leadership across publishing, technology, and marketing. (Follow my Twitter lists of  300+ publishing professionals and 200+ interactive media people, transmedia visionaries, digital storytellers and marketers.)

I’ve got Web 2.0 and 3.0 plans for my second book -- see Digital Book World, the publishing community for the 21st century -- not only because as a contemporary author abroad I must connect with readers and offer dynamic interaction with me and my material, but because as a digital citizen I can.

Building community around the healing power of friendship – the memoir’s heart — promises to bring my writing world even closer to who I am and what I care about, making where I am viable. Exactly where I want to be.

Have you been culturally or geographically challenged in your career? How has the playing field shifted today?

A version of this essay first appeared in former editor of Writer's Digest Maria Schneider's Editor Unleashed, 2009.

See more images relating to this story here and here and here.

Discussing Life At The Crossroads On Satellite TV With Martin Anthony

Talking about foreign women in modern Turkey, the making of Expat Harem the book, and other cultural crossroads, in a live television interview with Turkey's 6 News. Expat Harem coeditors Jennifer Gokmen and I appear in THE CROSSROADS, an English-language TV talk show broadcast out of Istanbul via satellite -- from Ireland to Mongolia!  The channel broadcasts programs in Turkish, English and Russian, which is why the news crawl appears in Russian.

Click on the photo to view Expat Harem on the Crossroads at YouTube. ⇒

Canadian host and personality Martin Anthony kept us on the hot seat for an hour in this lively session...we may be sitting next to a refreshing-looking pool in the city's breezy Etiler district, but can you tell it's the muggiest day of the year? Ooof, July 10, 2009.

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Istanbul As Epicenter Of Pro Expat Women & Social Media Tribe?

I just spent an hour on the phone with a member of Professional American Women of Istanbul (PAWI) asking for guidance on using the internet to grow her business. She’s 51, hearing all about social media networking and willing to try whatever it takes. I was sorry to learn she’s spent a lot of time joining professional “e-marketing associations”, as if she’s shifting her business to marketing when in fact what she wants to do is add an online component to her existing business.

“Which automation tools should I use?” she asked, “they’re all talking about automation tools like Seismic and Tweetdeck.”

To automate what, I asked. Content you haven’t created, to put into distribution channels you haven’t forged, leading to niche customer bases you haven’t identified beyond their age and where they live in Istanbul? Cart, horse.

 

“I went to the Twitter site and couldn’t figure out what to do.”

I agree Twitter has a high barrier to entry, but once she’s got it she’ll be accessing all the information she needs to grow her business, and she’ll be learning it from the very individuals who are pioneering this field. That’s the beauty of Twitter.

I'll be leading a panel this fall on social media for professional use for International Professional Women of Istanbul Network. After today's call, now I'll be inviting members of PAWI.

Perhaps this can be the start of a connected, digitally-savvy tribe of international professional women in Istanbul and expat women everywhere.

 

I’m envisioning people in the community self-identifying themselves as “Social Media enthusiasts” or “SM-interested” parties after this panel, and then we can create an actual Istanbul Social Media subgroup for mutual support, skill training and sharing, and more.

I'll suggest the entire panel be proponents and active users able to demonstrate their individual professional development through Social Media.

1. What is social media? Definition, main platforms/tools, overview of its rise to prominence and communication paradigm shift it represents 2. Personal/professional uses of social media including expertise and platform building, professional development, job hunting, collaboration 3. Best and worst practices

BTW TRUST AGENTS by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith is the hot book coming out of Social Media at moment and encapsulates the most progressive thinking on the issues.