Friday, March 13, 2015

Ask the Editors: What Are Sofra's Editors Doing While We Write Our Stories?

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

Defining Sofra

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.