career development

Old School, Part 2: Would You Take Twitter Advice From Someone Who's Never Tweeted?

I wouldn't. Let's get more specific.

How about taking advice on social media best practices -- for something serious with high stakes, like looking for a job, becoming visible to recruiters, re-entering the job market after a hiatus or otherwise attempting a career change  -- from an advisor whose Twitter account is empty?

Existent in name only.

How about if it's April 2013?

How about if it's the same month that the Wall Street Journal declared The New Resume: It's 140 Characters and @WSJCareers held a Twitter chat about using social media to get a job, concluding it's all about LinkedIn & Twitter & a digital footprint that shows your best stuff.

(I participated in this blisteringly-paced and totally on-target chat that featured The Daily Muse's Kate Minshew. Some of the tweets are Storified here. Search for more with the hashtag #WSJchat.)


How about expecting to get guidance on the latest advances in online career development at an event conducted by someone who thinks LinkedIn is exclusively for connecting with people you already know well rather than people you are loosely associated with professionally and want to grow closer to? Someone whose policy lets connection requests go unanswered while, creepily, LinkedIn alerts us she's reviewed our info-rich profile and decided that's a no.

Again, I wouldn't. Yet these are things I have witnessed and experienced recently.

Do you see where I'm going? This is not helpful. This is place holding.

Old-school is occupying the space where actionable help is supposed to go.


And, if you find yourself thinking you don't need up-to-the-minute Twitter advice from a career advisor -- you're wrong.

Location Independence Begins At Home I Tell HSBC Expat Explorer

Anastasia Ashman's expat survival tip for HSBC Expat Explorer My tip for HSBC's Expat Explorer guide:

In career & personal life, location independence begins at home. No matter where you are for how long, keep contributing to your communities.


Commit to social media/mobile technology to stay centered.

See the tip and many others from expats around the world.

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.

Talking Sociotech Advances, The Value Of Our Content, & Going Paperless

This is an excerpt from an interview by John Zipperer for Northside, a San Francisco neighborhood newspaper, April, 2012

So tell me about Global Niche. What is it? Who is the audience/customer?

Global Niche is my startup with my partner Tara Agacayak based on our combined 20 years of expatriatism, my experiences as an author building her publishing platform (that’s where you demonstrate your expertise, your reach, your ability to draw an audience) and the rising notion of creative entrepreneurship (which is where who you are is what you do best -- doing what you love).

Global Niche is a life-work initiative for global citizens, mobile progressives, cultural creatives, independent professionals and any one who finds themselves in a situation mismatch. In this day and age we should be able to operate independently of traditional limitations like geography, time zone, culture, language. I call that achieving “psychic location independence”.

There’s a place in the world just for us, where we can be both as unique as we want to be, and as big as possible. We don’t even have to leave home to find it, and build it out -- and our progress in doing so is reflected in a professional web platform. That’s where the world finds you. It’s about making ourselves a global microbrand.

By combining recent sociotech advances that digital nomads take advantage of, like mobile devices, online education and the social web, the Global Niche philosophy supports your effort to make your life work in straitened situations. To live a globally unbounded life.

I call it “creative self enterprise for the global soul” but our audience don’t have to be expats, world travelers or professed globalists to tap into a bigger view of themselves -- and gain access to a wider assortment of opportunities for community, lifestyle and work.

Anyone in a disadvantageous situation -- for instance, recent school graduates who are discovering a thin resume doesn’t get their foot in the door, corporate refugees, stay at home parents and people forced into early retirement -- can also use Global Niche’s “creative self enterprise” approach to build a more empowered life and livelihood.

You've mentioned a new product or service you're rolling out in April. Tell me about it.

It won’t be launching in April, but we’re close!

It’s a content packaging program inspired by the content marketing movement (and once again, a concept borrowed from the publishing world, of a building an author platform -- you don’t have to be a writer, just think of yourself as the author of your life).

That is, letting your content support your aims, whether you’re positioning yourself as an expert in a field to land jobs or funding, or you’ve got a product or service to sell.

Whatever you want to do, you’ll need help and support and part of that is going public with your process, to gather likeminded people to your cause. The kind of people who are interested your stuff, can help you develop your plan, the kind of people who will form the basis of your network.

Many of us have generated a lot of content in our lives which is not actively working for us. Hobbies we’ve poured ourselves into. Independent research we’ve done (and no one around us thought was a good use of our time!). Things we alone are very knowledgeable about. The older we are, the more boxes of stuff we’ve got that we’ve never used for anything. Photos that haven’t seen the light of day. Artwork in the basement. Things we may consider failures.

I imagine many of us are sitting on a mountain of it, at the same time wondering how we’re going to make ends meet, or finally leave this job we hate. Or actualize that dream we’ve always had. But if we consider that earlier output not as failure or a waste of time, but instead a chain of events that make us who we are today, then we 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.

At Global Niche we’ve created a 6 week group program to help you wrap your arms around your content and link it with your goals. We’ll also be releasing a self-study guide.

Describe a typical day for Anastasia Ashman these days.

After breakfast with my husband, we both settle down to work. We’re on the dining table with our double monitors at the moment.

I’ll scan my emails, which I have almost down to nothing by judicious pruning of subscriptions and automatic filing rules.

If I receive things that aren’t personal, I’ll adjust my email rules to make sure I don’t see that kind of correspondence again. I’ll peruse, bookmark and participate on my Twitter account (my favorite social media platform to swim in deep, intellectual waters. I’ve been a top ten user in Istanbul in 2009, top 20 women entrepreneurs according to in 2010, and this year a top 50 follow according to another business personality).

I’ll have a Skype call or two with people in other time zones about collaborations or a Webex call with a TEDx Women Entrepreneurs group in Silicon Valley (we’re creating a pitching support group after TEDxBayArea), and maybe an hour-long Linqto video chat with my Global Niche partner in Istanbul, a guest expert on creativity coaching or women’s leadership like Tara Sophia Mohr along with all the members of our community who also log on for these live monthly events.

Throughout the day I’ll share links relevant to my field and interests and my own work, at multiple Facebook pages, Twitter and Google+. Reading news and other links I’m directed to by my Twitter network.

I’m building out my Pinterest account too, a place to visualize my handful of cultural projects in a fresh light, as well as discover more likeminded people.

I’m going through my research and web bookmarks to find ways to bring more previous work to light and familiarize myself with sources after a hiatus. Most of this is preparation for what’s coming: as this relocation displacement comes to an end, I’m preparing to begin a huge memoir rewrite based a plan devised last fall with my editor and agent.

If I met someone the day before I’ll connect with them on the social media platforms and then throw out their card. No more paper!

What's ahead?

Just further along on the path and projects I have simmering now. Offering life-work solutions for the globality of us, through Global Niche.

Running a transmedia production house for all my cultural entertainment projects like my Byzantine princess art historical soap opera about the forgotten woman builder who spurred an emperor to beat her with the Haghia Sophia, and my Big Fat Greek Wedding meets Meet the Parents tale of culture clash at my Istanbul wedding.

I can see having the staff to enact some of the ideas I’ve had for producing the work of others. For instance, having a stable of illustrators working on digital graphic novels based on unproduced screenplays, that’s an idea whose time has come and with a huge amount of polished writing lying fallow due to the high barriers to entry of the past.

Speaking at storytelling and innovation conferences, producing retreats and summits of my own.

At that point I hope my memoir is released, and optioned for film, so I may be involved in book tours and writing the screenplay, or involved in the production.

Job Seekers & Career Pathfinders: Identifying Our Assets Is Just One Part Of The Puzzle

At my GlobalNiche LinkedIn group, I've been talking with , a soft skills trainer and interpersonal communication coach at Knowboundaries Coaching and Training...

Stephenson writes, "In building the resources and opportunities its important to use all our skills and talents built up over the years, tasks which we carried out excellently in the past may be redundant now - but the skills are transferable, and its well worth recalling those skills and acknowledging them."

My response:

Acknowledging our skills and talents is good. But it's not enough to "remember" things we did that were extraordinary -- we also have to communicate them. That has to be part of the plan, too, especially if we're hunting for employment or want to be found.

How do we best demonstrate that for the greatest impact in our career and life satisfaction opportunities?

The work I do with GlobalNiche stresses that identifying our valuable content is just one part of the puzzle. We need to be active in our fields and interests regardless of whether or not we are employed by someone else to operate in those fields. In general, the concept of building a global niche is about creating a platform for yourself to cultivate your opportunities.

If I were looking for a job in this tough market, I'd be doing exactly what I am already doing with my own global niche -- sharing and participating and being visible with who I am and what I am interested in and what I've done in the past and what I am doing now and what I am aiming to do in the future.

I'd be my own ideal candidate.

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:



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:

Turquoise Poppy:

expat+HAREM, the global niche:

Love, Rose:

Creative Entrepreneurs on LinkedIn:



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."

How To Build Community On Twitter: A Workshop for Professional American Women Of Istanbul

Today Tara Agacayak and I are conducting a workshop for the members of the PAWI professional network.
We'll be demonstrating how to use Twitter and talking about next steps.
Of particular interest to foreign national professional women, we'll emphasize how to tap into like-minded, interested communities for your own personal and professional purposes.

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.

How Use Twitter As An Author

As the coeditor of an anthology by foreign women in modern Turkey, and an American living abroad in Istanbul, Twitter has been an invaluable tool to bring me closer to the world I work in, and up to speed on my industry. I meet my readers (fellow expats, travelers, writers, and culturati among them) and my publishing world colleagues (agents, authors, editors, publishers) to discuss not only issues relevant to my first book, but also to the memoir I am currently writing, and the rapidly changing state of publishing. I’ve also connected with professionals who are giving me feedback on my work in progress.

Some examples of how I use Twitter as an author:

1) On May 29 at EST 4pm, I will guest host #litchat, an open discussion series founded by a fellow author (@litchat), on the topic of expatriate literature. (#litchat is an hour-long open discussion on a topic, three times a week. You can follow it in Twitter search or on using the term “litchat”.) I’ll be guiding the discussion, soliciting opinions and offering my own based on this view: Expatriate literature may be stocked in the travel section, but does it deserve a shelf of its own? Living for extended periods in foreign locales, expatriates struggle to reestablish themselves and find meaningful access to their new home. Travelers passing through often have the luxury to avoid the very issues of assimilation and identity that dominate the expat psyche. We’ll talk about the unique depths this can bring to expat lit’s combination of outsider-view-from-the-inside and journey of self-realization. See for more info.

2) #editorchat – I follow the illuminating transcripts at since the chats take place at 5am Istanbul time and I haven’t managed to be awake during them yet!

3) Through Twitter I’ve also been invited to write a guest post for an editor’s blog, voted in the top 100 publishing blogs, about my experience as an author abroad trying to get up to speed with my traditional and digital publishing options and comparing today’s conditions with those I once reported on the e-publishing beat at Internet World trade magazine in 2000.

4) #queryfail and #queryday – these discussions (also found by Twitter search and Tweetchat) have been consistently good to refresh my own agent pitching techniques, especially as I prepare a package for an agent this month

5) A pop physicist I met on Twitter is currently vetting some popular science in the foreword of my current memoir, and I’ve discussed some of my emerging theories about online psychology (also in current memoir) with a group of psychologists championing it, including the founders of #mentalhealthcamp

I wholeheartedly recommend authors use Twitter in these ways and all the others you’ll likely be inspired to pursue.

Shifting From Writing For Others To Writing For Myself, With Mediabistro's First Journalism Bootcamp

My Mediabistro alumni interview with Claire Zulkey for Mediabistro Toolbox. I took Mediabistro's first media program given by creator of the series, Victoria Rowan, in 2005.  

What course did you take, how did you hear about the boot camp and why did you decide to take it?

I took Parris Island Journalism Boot Camp with Victoria Rowan, Fall 2001, eager to reinvigorate – and focus — my writing career after being laid off from a trade magazine editorship.

I wanted to make the shift from writing for others to writing for myself.


Also, like many writers who have not explicitly studied journalism or the business of writing, I knew I could benefit from a more professional approach to the craft.

Did it lead to any assignments, connections or jobs? What did you learn?

Yes. One week we interviewed newsworthy acquaintances and tried to sell the profiles. With that material I published a profile/book review/event announcement in the Village Voice — the managing editor’s hybrid idea when I emphasized the curating work my multimedia poet interviewee was doing at St. Mark’s Poetry Project, and an upcoming performance there of a new Brion Gysin book.

Thanks to Victoria’s pragmatic ‘so-what, why this audience, why now’ coaching, emphasizing these elements of my pitch set my subject at the helm of an upcoming event where avant garde artworld legends would be appearing. The right story for the right audience.

I also understood from Bootcamp that I had a time hook most appropriate for a weekly newspaper like the Voice. The editor’s suggestion entailed a lot more work but Bootcamp taught me that if an editor was gracious enough to tell me exactly what he could use all I needed to do was accept the challenge. As Victoria explained, “We’re here to eliminate the reasons an editor has to reject your work.”

MB’s Bootcamp offered operable information about writing and selling in seven genres (personal essays, travel, op-ed, business features, profiles and reviews and tone-dependent pieces like the New Yorker’s Talk of the Town).

The bootcamp also underscored the importance of astute portfolio building to get a writer where she wants to go.


I benefited most from Victoria’s deconstructive clarity about composing and selling nonfiction writing — and today it is appreciable how much I learned about piloting a writing career.