Meet the Contributors

Leanna Fry Balcı is a professor of Information Literacy, teaching students how to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information. She teaches in the Library Instruction/Information Literacy section of the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Her research focus is information literacy and English language learners, and she teaches information literacy classes to first-year and advanced composition students.

Jeri Bidinger is a retired lawyer from Alaska who along with her retired oil-guy husband Curt opens her door to the world at Spa for the Soul, an informal monastic space they created to shelter prayer, listening, rest, writing, art-making and other solitary pursuits located on a Mediterranean hillside near Kaş, Turkey. She blogs sporadically at Cracked Old Pots and can be reached at

Dawn Borndahl-Çimen, an adventurer at heart, was given a choice: a biking trip in Holland or camping through Europe, Middle East and Africa. Unbeknownst to her, when she left the bike behind, her fate was sealed. In 2007, Dawn finally set aside her backpack, acquired a husband, two adorable kids and co-founded an education fair and marketing company in Istanbul. Today she resides in a quiet village with her family.

Fourteen years ago, stifling sobs, Diane Caldwell boarded a plane for Greece.  She hasn't lived in the U.S. since. She has performed a wild salsa, belly dance fusion onstage in Cuba, chatted with monks beneath the shade of ancient temples, and ridden a camel named Bob Marley across a corner of the Sahara. When the muse taps her on the shoulder and whispers, she grabs her pen and scribbles its secrets on napkins and scraps of paper. Diane’s stories are included in eight different anthologies and she has received several awards for her travel writing. She currently lives in Istanbul where she dances with gypsies on backstreets and speaks wretched Turkish. 

Corina Carthew is a fifty-something solo female traveller, ESL teacher and expat who lived in Turkey for 6 years, but now calls Spain home. In late 2008, after 28 years of marriage, she decided to follow her dream of adventure and accepted an English teaching position in a language academy in Izmit, Kocaeli. Her 18-year-old son accompanied her on his gap year and together they enjoyed new experiences, made many new friends, and travelled extensively around Turkey.

On any given day you might find Jayme Jo Ebert fiddling around with new recipes in the kitchen, illustrating children’s books, photographing the light at her neighborhood pazar, keeping up with a travel blog, or looking for quality chocolate (she’s always looking for more chocolate). Before moving to Istanbul three years ago, Jayme worked where her inspirations led her, doing everything from guiding whitewater rafting trips in Montana to working in special education, environmental conservation, as a pastry cook at an award-winning bakery and more. She finds Istanbul a delight of all the senses and keeps a travel blog of her little family’s big adventures at turkEberts.

Maria Eliades is a Greek-American writer been living in Istanbul for six years. Her published fiction and non-fiction has appeared in publications such as Rosetta World Literatura, Gastronomica, EurasiaNet, Hürriyet Daily News, and Istanbul Altı and she writes for the Ploughshares blog. Maria is currently an instructor of Academic Writing at Boğaziçi University and is working on a historical novel about the Greeks of Istanbul in the 1950s. She earned her MSt in Modern Greek with a focus in Turkish at the University of Oxford in 2012, and her BA in English Literature with minors in Writing and Classical Studies at Drew University in 2008.

Katherine M. Fierro is a passionate world traveler and currently spends her time between Istanbul, Turkey and Los Angeles, CA. Katherine is working toward developing her professional writing skills and perfecting her Turkish/Mediterranean cooking skills. She enjoys watching Pedro Almodòvar movies repeatedly. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications with and emphasis in Public Relations from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

V.M. Payne left Hot Springs, Arkansas, when she was 18 to attend the University of Missouri. She moved to Chicago, followed by St. Louis, then Mexico City, and back to St. Louis. Since 2005, she has hopped between St. Louis, Hot Springs, and Istanbul. She considers all three places home, but she lives in the St. Louis area, where she teaches world literature and creative writing at a suburban community college.

Jennifer Herrick-Gibbs visited Turkey for the first time on a one-week sailing holiday to the Southern Aegean in 1993 at the age of fifty, which unexpectedly led to an instantaneous love affair with this fascinating country and which she quickly made her adopted home. She soon bought an ancient farmhouse in an inland village with her new Turkish partner, where they still live for part of each year, reveling in a culture so different from her own. During her time in England, Jennifer is a popular public speaker. She gives talks on her unusual and surprising life in Turkey. Visit her at Turkish Talks.

Jennifer Gökmen was born in Wayne, Michigan, and received her B.A. from Western Michigan University in Creative Writing and American and British Literature from Western Michigan University in 1994. Jennifer has lived in Istanbul with her Turkish husband since 1994. She has been a regular contributor to TimeOut Istanbul magazine and Turkish national daily newspapers Hurriyet Daily News and Today's Zaman. Her writing has appeared in National Geographic Traveler and Perceptive Travel. Gökmen, along with Anastasia M. Ashman, created and edited the nonfiction anthology Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey. Jennifer and her co-editor Anastasia M. Ashman were honored with the 2006 Daughters of Atatürk "Woman of Distinction Award", a title that is bestowed annually on selected women who have "demonstrated vision, leadership, innovation and professionalism" in "giving their talents to the international Turkish community". Other 2006 honorees include Güler Sabancı, Caroline Finkel, and Leslie Peirce.

Sally Edith Green
, novelist and essayist, teaches writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has also taught at Bosphorus University in Istanbul, Turkey and Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, as well as Kiev-Mohlya Academy in Kiev, Ukraine and the Institute of International Relations in Hanoi, Vietnam, where she directed programs for the Ford Foundation. In addition to various other published work, she selected, edited, and introduced a special issue of American Book Review on Middle Eastern Muslim women writers. She has read from her essays in Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey (Dogan Press, Turkey and Seal Press, USA) at Moon and Stars Turkish Cultural Festival in NY, NY, academic conferences in Turkey, and Northwestern University’s Buffet Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Spending several weeks each year in Turkey, Sally lives in Boulder, Colorado, with her husband, a native of Turkey, and their two teen-aged children. Her novel, Listening to Istanbul, was recently accepted for publication. An avid dancer, traveler, bicyclist, and reader of long fiction, Sally speaks fluent Turkish.

Nicola Huxley
 left her hometown in Cornwall in 2012 on a mission to walk across Europe, from the UK to Istanbul. One year later she had done just that, and amassed a blog full of stories and memories of the people and places she encountered along the way. The captivating city of Istanbul soon became her new home and she set about exploring it from top to bottom, developing her travel writing with blogs and articles for local websites as she went. She is now continuing her travels by bicycle and work exchange volunteering through Turkey, Central Asia and beyond, whilst contributing to various websites, guidebooks and publications. To find out more head to Razistan.

Slawomira Kozieniec 
was born in Poland. Educated in Theater Academy in Krakow, she spent more than a decade on Polish stage in the city of Gdansk. For her successes as an actress in film and theater, she received several awards for best roles at theater festivals. She also taught at the Actors Studio of Gdynia. Even while living abroad in the Netherlands, the USA, and Turkey, she has been occupied with theater, art, and photography. Her native country and her calling as an actress never left her mind. Now she explores different cultures and uses her photography to share her impressions and meetings with all kinds of people via newspapers and magazines. In her free time she is still busy with art on stage and in front of the camera. @PolkainIstanbul

Camille Leganza currently lives and works in Seattle, Washington with her husband and daughter. After a long career in film, she escaped to Turkey and taught English, started a walking tour company, and wrote for her blog and one of the local newspapers. Back in the US since 2008, she is back working in film and enjoys writing and reflecting on her days in Istanbul.

Leigh Lewis has worn many professional hats over the years: marketer, sales manager, product manager, and now writer. These days, Leigh spends her days writing girl-power and/or diverse kids’ stories. After moving around extensively in the U.S., Turkey and other far-away places, she currently calls Houston, Texas home, and lives there with her Turkish delight, Serdar, and their three daughters, Sanay, Selis and Tola.

Third culture kid and long-time news correspondent amid the wars of the Middle East, in her writing Jessica J.J. Lutz often explores how people cope when abroad and out of their depth. She has authored non-fiction books, novels and short stories, and, in a parallel career as a healer, now also deploys her accumulated wisdom to heal fellow wounded souls. Learn more about her here.

After working as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, Joy Ludwig-McNutt ditched her day job to become a professional pastry chef. Since then, she has worked in some of the top kitchens on the East Coast and taught baking classes while living in Istanbul, Turkey, and Warsaw, Poland. A habitual expat, she currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and writes about her food and travel adventures on her blog at My Traveling Joys.

Anna McMurray has an M.A. in English, with a focus in literature and film, and has taught academic writing and cinema courses in the United States, Micronesia, and Turkey. She currently works as an Academic Writing instructor at Koç University in Istanbul, where she has been living and working for the past ten years. She has published and presented papers on the works of Louisa May Alcott, the films of director Abbas Kiarostami, and science fiction films. Anna also writes poetry (her work can be seen at Dogwood Literary) and enjoys reading and writing on a broad range of topics, including popular culture, television studies, visual culture, and the media.

Kristina Moritz moved to The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus after graduating college, and lived there with her husband from 2002-2004. Returning to the States, she completed a graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Music Theory and advanced Turkish, Ottoman, and Azeri languages, supported by a Foreign Language- Area Studies Fellowship from the US Department of Education. From there, she taught in higher education for the next four years, eventually leaving the field to found Modus Design and Management, a company that uses technology to improve community engagement programming for schools and healthcare institutions. She currently lives in Nederland, Colorado with her husband, Ben, and three sons: Solomon, Atticus, and Frederick.

Lisa Morrow is a sociologist, blogger and the author of three books about Turkey, most recently Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom. With a monthly spot on San Francisco Turkish Radio, she has been interviewed on several national radio programs in her native Australia, and she is a frequent contributor to international websites, magazines, and blogs. Lisa is determined to scratch away the seemingly mundane surface of ordinary Turkish life to reveal the complexities below. To learn more about her, including how she feels about kelle paça (traditional sheep’s head soup) go to Inside Out Istanbul.

“Hubble bubble spoiled and troubled; Bosphorus breeze and hamam bubbles,” is how Australian Leeann Murphy sums up her life in Turkey. Part magical, part murky - it’s this love-hate relationship with Istanbul that provides the fodder for Leeann’s writings. Professionally, Leeann is a freelance writer, copywriter, and author of Moon Guide’s Istanbul & the Turkish Coast. Her meanderings of Turkey have seen her write also for US-based publications such as Afar and Matador Network. A desire to live overseas and a passion for belly dance is what initially brought Leeann to Turkey in 2009, and she’s been feasting on a smorgasbord of new experiences ever since. Find out more about Leeann at Wired Write.

Ilse Naves-Scheidel is a curious, restless globetrotter who loves to travel, read and write. She is co-author of the Ankara City Guide. Since 2014 she has been living in Shanghai, China where she works as freelance content manager and Dutch teacher at a Chinese high school. Ilse has a Bachelor in Economics and Languages and a Master in Dutch literature. Born in the Netherlands, she has lived in France, Turkey and China. She loves to explore new cultures. Most of all she is curious about the background stories of places and the people. To be able to connect with people she makes an effort to learn the language of the countries she resides in, which has resulted so far in learning 7 languages.

Annie Onursan is a freelance cook, author of BacktoBodrum blog and a frequent contributor to Land of Lights newspaper. When not travelling to Scotland, Sweden and Greece on catering assignments she can be spotted wandering the streets of Bodrum with Jake the dog, taking photographs and gathering copy for her articles and posts.

Originally from Washington State, Annie Prior Özsaraç has lived in Istanbul for 15 years as a high school English teacher.  Her other hats include being a mom to twin boys, taking photographs and occasional contributor to

Cecile Popp teaches high school English at Robert College in Istanbul. Originally from Toronto, she has lived in Turkey since 2006. She is the mother of 3 young boys and when she’s not spending time raising them, she writes. 

Gabrielle Reeves is a visual artist from Casper Wyoming. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the University of Wyoming in 2009, and upon graduation engaged in a number of exhibitions, residencies and juried shows throughout the United States as well as abroad. In June of 2011, Gabrielle moved to Istanbul Turkey where she is now living and working as a freelance artist.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Susan Şipal had to travel halfway across the world and return home to embrace her father and grandfather's penchant for telling a tall tale. After having lived with her husband in his homeland of Turkey for many years, she suddenly saw the world with new eyes and had to write about it. Perhaps it was the emptiness of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus that cried out to be refilled, or the myths surrounding the ancient Temple of Artemis, but she's been writing stories filled with myth and mystery ever since. She can be reached on Twitter at @HP4Writers.

Kirsten Voris writes in order to figure out why she does certain things and how she feels about it. She hopes that by doing so she will encourage herself—and anyone else who has ever felt they shouldn’t—to take up more space! Kirsten has been a presenter at the Magic Collectors’ Association Conference, a storyteller at Odyssey Tucson, and her essays have appeared in Magic Magazine and in Hippocampus and Cowbird. She lives in Tucson, Arizona with her partner and their cat born on the mean streets of Ankara, Turkey.

Catherine Yiğit is a writer and translator who lives in northwestern Turkey near the mythical city of Troy. Born, bred and buttered in Dublin, Ireland, she arrived in Turkey in 2001 having circumnavigated the globe. She’s interested in the intersection of real and imagined history within the landscape, inspired by the footprints of people who have crossed the Dardanelles. She does language editing and translating from Turkish to English, primarily academic papers and articles. You can learn more at her website the Skaian Gates.

Jennifer Yonan is an educator and professional nomad. She was born in and spent her formative years in Flint, Michigan. She is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in History & Political Science and a Master’s degree in Social Science with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies. After graduating, she accepted a position as an English instructor for elementary age students overseas. Her more than ten-year adventure in English education allowed her to live and teach in South Korea, Turkey and Thailand. Jennifer is currently based in Chicago, Illinois and continues to work with children in an after school enrichment program.

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