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Lived in Turkey for at least a year? Have a story you want to tell?

Editors Katherine Belliel and Rose Margaret Deniz are seeking original, personal essays for a new non-fiction expat anthology from women writers called Sofra: A Gathering of Foreign Voices Around the Turkish Table.

Ten years ago the editors of Tales from the Expat Harem, Anastasia Ashman and Jennifer Gokmen, took us into the sanctum of the harem. 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.

This anthology seeks stories that are savory – they have a tang, include aspects of expat life, and depict a real intermingling with Turkish culture. Calling for stories that are sweet – happy endings, new traditions, satisfying moments. Stories that are bitter – overcoming difficult experiences, relationships that make expat life palatable, things that may at first been off putting, but when steeped in time become a staple. Encounters that are tangy – surprising, unexpected impressions, deep knowledge gleaned in a short time, getaways and exploring new places. Moments that are spicy – daring adventures, whirlwind romances, extremes, the seasonings brought from home to help your palate adjust.

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. The editors of this anthology want to know how your experiences in Turkey tie into the flavors that grace the Turkish sofra.

Submission window January 1, 2015 to April 1, 2015. Unpublished work only. Contributors must have lived in Turkey for at least one year. Women only. Personal essays of 2,500 words or less. Please send your story as an attached Microsoft Word Document (.doc), double-spaced 12pt Times New Roman font to The email subject line should read: Last name, First Name: TITLE of your piece (in uppercase). No names on attached document please, title only. In body of email, please indicate which flavor your story represents (savory, sweet, bitter, tangy, or spicy). Simultaneous submissions accepted, but please notify the editors immediately if the work gets accepted for publication elsewhere. Longlisted writers will be announced Summer 2015. Payment $75 upon publication.

About the editors:

  • Farm-girl turned expat Rose Margaret Deniz writes young adult fiction and explores the intersection of food and wellness on her blog Paleo Abroad. A serial contributor to expat+Harem, the Global Niche, she facilitated a series of roundtable discussions with cultural innovators from all over the world. Her YA sci-fi novel Tracked received an Honorable Mention from Undiscovered Voices in 2014. She holds a BA in Art from University of Wisconsin – Madison and an MFA in Painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Rose left the Midwest for Turkey in 2005 and when not plotting her escape to a Turkish village to raise chickens, she can be found in her kitchen concocting substitutions for rural Wisconsin comfort food. She is a member of Slow Food International. Follow her on Twitter: @rosedeniz
  • Katherine Belliel is an American writer based in Izmit, Turkey. With roots in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Columbus, Ohio, this midwest native turned global citizen has a B.S in History and Religion from Eastern Michigan University. Her work has appeared in the expat anthologies Tales from the Expat Harem (Ashman and Gokmen, 2005) and Encounters with the Middle East (Bowman and Khashan, 2006). In addition to writing a weekly column for the English language, Istanbul-based daily Today’s Zaman under the pen name “Elle Loftis,” Katherine spends her time making mud pies with her preschool aged son, globe-trotting with her pilot husband, or caring for the neighborhood cats. She is currently finishing her first historical fiction novel. Follow her on Twitter: @KatieBelliel
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Rose and Devrim - 10K - November 16, 2014

Rose and Devrim with a slice of the Boğaziçi Köprüsü – Bosphorus Bridge – in the background. Istanbul Marathon 10K – November 16, 2014

Runners in red, blue, and green bibs bounced on their toes to warm up on a cool, Istanbul morning, and when the Turkish national anthem was played, everyone went silent. A zip of energy ran through the packed crowds, easy conversations happening at the endless porta-pot lines because you are united in a possibly grueling task: getting from the start line to the finish line.

The 35th annual Istanbul Marathon was happening. And I was one of the shivering hopefuls in the 10km line. Its been years since cross-country and track meets, but one thing never changes – stretching out hamstrings and cries of “good luck”. When I crossed the Bosphorus Bridge, I couldn’t feel my feet I was so excited and awestruck by the view.

I confused the race packs, so Devrim and I wore the wrong bib numbers. He’s ranked 361 on the women’s list (under my name) and I’m 1976 on the men’s – hee hee.*  I hit the 5k mark at 33:08 – yes! At 6k I felt something funny in my left leg, and by 8k I had to walk. I wanted more than anything to run past the finish line. And I tried to stay cheerful as hoards of people passed me by, even one guy I remember from the waiting line yelling at to me to “koş koş! – run, run. I wanted to, but I had to accept my leg wasn’t having anything to do with it.

I could just end the post here – vow to run the 15k next year, but be better prepared, stretched out, and realistic. But full confession: did I mention that in addition to loving bacon, I am also competitive?

Stretched Thin

I have been running since I was twelve. Running is something I take seriously. Much like being taken seriously as a writer and artist. But that mindset can get in the way of enjoying something. Like – feeling like you don’t deserve the medal at the end of a race. Like feeling like you didn’t finish even though you crossed the finish line. I know I have to shut off the negative thoughts and take a look at the bigger picture – hey, I did it! But if you are anything like me, and felt like at many points in your life you had to prove yourself – academically, work-wise, and I-can-make-it-as-an-expat-abroad, or I am not just a stay-at-home-mom – you’ll understand why that is so hard. I have my own internal goals: to beat my last time, to lift heavier weights, to improve on a scale that I can see.

Turning off the part of my brain that strives to get ahead is maybe one of my biggest challenges. Ever.

I hobbled to the metro station. Took one step up the stairs at a time. Went to bed at 9:00 p.m. When I woke up, I still had a twinge in my leg. CrossFit was out for a couple days. My best friend killed the race – she went at her own pace and finished all ten kilometers with a huge smile on her face. My husband was just in it for fun and was hyped up on the thrill of his very first competitive race.

I have spent a lot of time on the other end of fun: why can’t I just enjoy things like other people? And when it comes to food and wellness, excruciating negative thoughts: why can everyone else eat normally but food makes me feel bad? Why am I a binge eater? I worked 12-hour days to start up a design consulting firm that never happened. I started writing books I never finished. I shuttered a handbag design gig. I started sewing projects that sit in plastic bins in the closet. I wrestled with why I couldn’t just do one thing. Three years ago, I called it quits on teaching English and working as a volunteer for a non-profit. I was tapped out. Sick. Stretched thin.

Stretched Out

On Sunday, I wanted the wind in my hair, feet pounding the pavement – I wanted the runner’s high, the crazy amazing feeling of picking up speed and knowing your lungs can take it. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. But then I couldn’t. And I know I can’t do everything. I know I can’t be everything to everyone. Can’t hit the box five times a week every week. Or crank out 1,600 words every day all the time. But this is also very important: I don’t want to reject the fighter in me. She needs to live and thrive. Because she propels me forward. She makes me look at the world through the lens of possibility. And I never want to stop asking questions. Or learning.

So I’ll feed her good food. Get her to bed earlier. Get her stretched out and fit for the next race. In less than a year, I went from not being able to do a real squat to squatting with a 30kg barbell. I can touch my toes again. And I am going to be vigilant about this: I vow to care less what people think about my career path. The creative process is an explorative one, and if you try too hard to follow straight lines, you’ll never discover the good stuff: the ideas and questions that turn into a story, the I can do it attitude that gets you into the gym in the first place, the I believe in myself mantra that allows the seeds of change to grow.

At the end of the race, a guy with a goatee – his hair in a ponytail, the strands streaked gray, walked past us without a limp in sight as we tried to find the busses holding our bags. His knee was bleeding. Somewhere along the racecourse, he fell. But he kept going. So will you. And so will I. And grouchy internal voice be damned, I’ll do it with a smile.

Power to your feet, your pen, your plate.



*If I hadn’t mixed up the numbers, he’d be 1201/3242 (1:02:55) and I’d be 950/2691(1:13:36) according to finish line times.



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