The sun had just risen in Izmit as we crawled out of bed and into the car. Roads clear, we made it to Kadıköy with an hour to spare, which meant copious amounts of coffee before we arrived jittery and excited at Montag for our talk about Sofra for The Professional American Women of Istanbul (PAWI).
Over 25 women joined the meeting on November 14, 2015. We talked about food, expathood, writing, how PAWI and a strong expat network supported our early writing endeavours (and still does), the ten-year anniversary of the anthology Tales from the Expat Harem, and life in Turkey. Attendees participated in a short food writing exercise based on an assignment in Lynda Barry's Syllabus, a fantastic book on creativity and the mind and visual thinking. The energy was palpable as stories were read, and we will be sharing several of them here on the Sofra blog. In closure, we read Virginia (Ginnie) Lowe's submission to Sofra about a Göreme expat wedding in honor of her memory. The world lost a vibrant, loving soul when she passed away in October.
The Writing Exercise:
Based on Lynda Barry's short writing exercise in Syllabus, we asked participants to think of one of their strongest food memories in Turkey. They wrote the name of the food at the top of the page, and we asked a series of questions that they answered in quick succession. Those answers were used as writing prompts to pull together a quick story in under ten minutes. The results were incredible, and at least one of the Sofra editors wanted to snatch them out of the writer's hands and cheer.
Thank you so much to the PAWI Co-Coordinators for inviting us to speak about Sofra. It was an honor and we enjoyed it so much! Read more about PAWI here, and follow them on Twitter. And thanks to Montag Coffee Roasters for hosting.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
We are pleased to announce the fifty-one longlisted writers for Sofra: A Gathering Foreign Voices Around the Turkish Table. Over 80 writers sent us stories from all over the world, and we are honored to have been able to read them.
This summer we poured over stories that made us laugh, cry, and stumble into our kitchens in search of flavors described in stories set in bakeries, gardens, ancient ruins, home kitchens, cafes, airports, and tables set across Turkey, a literary tablecloth stretching from one end of the country to the other. We bumped into furniture while turning pages, not wanting to put the story down on our way from one room to the next. One of us, at least, burned a few sauces because of being utterly engrossed. It was a privilege to be invited into each writer’s world and sofra. We savored each story.
Stay tuned to the blog and our Facebook page for further announcements.
Finding my Feet as a Mother In Istanbul, With or Without Shoes
C. Elizabeth Akarslan
Meet the Parents
Letting Go of my Inner Control Freak
Invited Into the Inner Sanctum
Ode to Mahaleb
Oracle of Datca
Melanie Ann Cakir
Building Dreams - And Nightmares!
Jayme Jo Ebert
Not Your Mama’s Bazlama
Roots Like Museum Pieces
Sometimes, a Peach is just a Peach
In the Offering
Sally Edith Green
Come to the Table
Kofte and Everything After
Tara Chantal Hopkins
Are you a Villager Too?
Communication is Easy
Test Riding Turkey
Polish Heritage Withering Away at the Bosporus
Feeding the Beast
A Lesson to Savor
An Expat at a Goreme Wedding
Istanbul: My Sweet Love Affair
A Bunch of Basil and a Skew Smile
Kickboxing in Turkish Cyprus
Rakkas - Being and Becoming
How I Met His Mother
Ekrem, the Bread Man
A Village Bound to Trees
Mary Anne Oxendale
Eating with Men in Kayseri
It Doesn't Always Take a Village
Bitter Sweet Love Affairs
Turkey; a Land of Strong Coffee and Even Stronger Women
Sade, Orta, Sekerli
The Bitter Made Sweet
Monday, May 18, 2015
Our submission window has come and gone, and while the thrill of waiting for the Expat Sofra inbox to fill has passed, we are humbled, amazed, awed, and moved as we read the 80+ submissions we received.
Tangy, sweet, bitter, spicy, and savory they are. We have already been moved to laughter, tears, and deep movements of recognition.
So thank you, thank you.
Stay tuned for the longlist announcement late summer/early fall 2015.
Health to your pen.
Friday, March 13, 2015
What does an editor of an anthology do?
Besides edit?* Well, a lot of stuff actually!
First, we agreed to work together. While that might sound easy, anyone that has been a part of a partnership knows that working together can be the trickiest part. After five years of friendship and cheering each other on through writerly ups and downs, we knew we were a good match. Plus, we love Turkey. Plus plus, we love food. Perfect, right? We sat down and created the Expat Sofra concept, then had to spend some time on our partnership and how to divide tasks (Katie loves in person socializing, Rose loves designing and behind the scene stuff!). We outlined ideas, made a plan for the book, and brainstormed everything from how to get the Call for Submissions out to querying publishers.
Once we agreed on a timeline and put out the Call for Submissions (reminder: April 1, 2015 is the deadline!), we added another element:
Part of what we love about the expat world is the sense of community, the ability to meet new people, push our boundaries, embrace the unexpected. We love the prospect of working with both new and professional writers, and expats that may write in English as a second language. So rather than feature only Writers with a capital W, we opened the Call up to a larger community so we could hear as many stories from expats as possible. You do not have to be a career writer, or think of yourself as a writer, to submit. But are you storyteller? Do you have a story to tell? Share it! Inclusivity suits our sofra.
Since the Call was officially put out on January 1st, we have been active publicly and through social media reaching out, attending expat events, joining groups and forums for expats throughout Turkey and the world. This has led to some funny exchanges. Katie accidentally joined a Facebook group for Turkish men seeking foreign girlfriends, but thankfully made a hasty exit! Despite occasional bumps, the response to Sofra has overwhelmingly been positive. We editors spend a good chunk of our day making sure the Call has been placed on as many sites and venues as possible. Being interviewed by websites and magazines (Yabangee, The Displaced Nation, Time Out Istanbul's April 2015 issue, and The Guide's Straightangle blog) We also spend many hours answering questions from contributors and potential contributors. We both gained so much confidence through working with the editors from Tales from the Expat Harem, and it is crucial to us that we keep that positive support system going.
We love talking to people about Sofra, and offering whatever we can do to encourage people to take a chance. To let you know that we can be trusted with your stories.
After April 1st, 2015 we will be busy reading and selecting submissions: for us, that is the main course of our meal! Other mundane tasks will also keep us busy in the marketing, legal, and publishing world, but we are looking forward to all of it. We also are committed to maintaining the open dialogue we have established with all of the members of the Expat Sofra community. There is a way for everyone to participate in the sofra we are creating. Once the book is published we will be busy promoting it. Doing whatever we can to keep this wonderful, supportive, community going. This is how we define our roles as editors of the Sofra anthology.
As the deadline approaches, please do not hesitate to send us a message of any questions you have. Let us know how we can help!
*And consume vast amounts of chocolate-covered pistachios?
Friday, March 6, 2015
With roots in Arabic and Farsi, the word ‘sofra’ shows up in languages throughout the Middle East and Caucasus. The root of the word is ‘sfr’ in Arabic, and directly referred to food given to travellers.
In Arabic and Farsi scripts, short vowels are not outright written in most cases. Looking for the word in Arabic or Farsi will lend many different spellings and interpretations: “Soffreh,” “Sofreh,” or “Sufreh” are common spellings when translating the word from Arabic or Persian script to the Latin alphabet.
Regardless of the roots, the word sofra in all three of the main languages where it is primarily used (Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish) directly translate into English as the word for tablecloth.
Once this direct meaning was very true, during the time when meals were partaken atop an oil cloth on the floor. Later, the Ottomans referred to sofra as the little tables that were used for eating. Large metal trays atop short legs, where diners would still sit on the floor to eat.
Nowadays, the Turkish sofra is at a modern table with all the trimmings.
It might seem like a cut and dry definition, but for anyone that lives in the region, we are aware of the larger, more untranslatable meaning. The meaning encompasses everything from the tablecloth to the feast.
Sofra refers to the food on the cloth, the company at the table, and sometimes the occasion for the meal. In Turkey, there are meals as diverse as a kahvalti sofrasi (breakfast meal) to a düğün sofrasi (wedding meal). In Iran there are many different religious sofras, including spiritual sofra ceremonies carried over from Zoroastrian times. The word has a long, deep meaning.
The word Sofra perfectly complements our project, with it’s diverse meanings and rituals. From a simple cloth on the floor with bread and cheese to a lavish table set during Ramadan, both have sofra rights. From the simple to the exotic, the basic to the beautiful, all have a place at the table or on the cloth. The stories in Sofra, the book will reflect how we were welcomed to take a seat at the table of Turkish culture, and what we tasted during the journey of our meal.
What did we eat? What do we expat women bring to the table? In our houses, our kahvalti sofrasi might have the usual Turkish breakfast but with a jug of maple syrup brought from back ‘home.’ Lively conversations over cups of tea or filtered Americanos. Dashes of things from here and there, our sofra both traditional and unique. Instead of redefining the word, we change the seasoning.