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I once opened a can of ebook whoop-ass on Stephen King. “No interactivity, no extra benefit for readers!” I scolded the usually imaginative novelist back in the go-go days of Y2K.

From my desk on New York’s Silicon Alley where I had the publishing beat at an internet industry magazine, King’s self-publishing experiment The Plant – a flow of static installments lacking flexibility, community and collaboration – was a lackluster leap of faith.

I was used to doling out tough-love to content owners peering across the digital divide. After previous stints in media and entertainment, intellectual property rights and audience concerns were also familiar to me but my exuberance came from a new media clean slate of the expat sort.

Expat Harem editors interviewed on Today Show by Matt Lauer

I’d just parachuted into the dotcom boom from Southeast Asia.

For five years my Malaysian office was minutes from Kuala Lumpur’s Multimedia Super Corridor, a futuristic zone advised by Bill Gates and Intel’s Andy Grove. Like the rest of the Newly Industrialized Nation, I was plagued by weekly power outages and wrote by candle light. While my attention span shrank to the length of a Compaq battery life, expatriate skills included patience to wait one month for a government-issued phone line. Waiting for internet access expanded my endurance to a couple of years.

When I finally got online the possibilities of global and real-time connection revolutionalized my estranged expat life.

A decade later I’m dipping into the professional fray from 6,000 miles to the East. I’ve been a writer and producer of cultural entertainment in Istanbul since 2003, and continue to live here. My first book Expat Harem took a conventional route: lit agent, Turkish and American publishers, road trip book tours, an electronic release for Expat Harem on Kindle (aff) and Sony eReader. My second effort — an edgy nonlinear memoir of friendship — requires a complete rethink. (Three months to set up our 49-day 10-state road tour across America, three years to recover from? Wouldn’t do that again!)

Geographic disadvantage demands I compete in my home market virtually. With the economic crisis, collapse of traditional publishing and fresh hope pinned on the social web, my global audience is also now virtual.  I’m shifting to new school thinking in distribution, promotion, and sales.

Like internet access equalized my ‘90s expat reality, now social media closes the professional morass as my Tweetdeck columns resonate thought leadership across publishing, technology, and marketing. (Follow my Twitter lists of  300+ publishing professionals and 200+ interactive media people, transmedia visionaries, digital storytellers and marketers.)

mapping my Facebook contacts

I’ve got Web 2.0 and 3.0 plans for my second book — see Digital Book World, the publishing community for the 21st century — not only because as a contemporary author abroad I must connect with readers and offer dynamic interaction with me and my material, but because as a digital citizen I can.

Building community around the healing power of friendship – the memoir’s heart — promises to bring my writing world even closer to who I am and what I care about, making where I am viable. Exactly where I want to be.

Have you been culturally or geographically challenged in your career? How has the playing field shifted today?
Anastasia Ashman is a California-born writer/producer of neoculture entertainment based in Istanbul. This series covers what’s crossing the mind and desk of expat+HAREM’s founder.

A version of this essay first appeared in former editor of Writer’s Digest Maria Schneider’s Editor Unleashed, 2009.

See more images relating to this story here and here and here.

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  • Tracy


    Your insights to my bio is so valuable – as you will appreciate, another advantage of living away from the comfort of those who have known you always, their is a need to clarify your personal story (I come into contact with may different nationalities daily with all our amazing cultural differences). This in turn really has given me the luxury to focus on what I really want to be creating. I now, more than ever, focused on producing my own artwork, which is not only in different lands butt also at sea :-) (

    With the aid of social media, artists now can promote and create connections with other artists all over the world. A fantastic sharing of minds that may never have been so easily accessible before. This is particularly useful when you are base is not always fixed.

    Through digital technology I can tutor those who are new to experience of starting a new life abroad and help other to start developing their own creative journey (

    I look forward to more of your thought provoking blogs –

    Best wishes
    Tracy in the shed with the chandelier :-)

  • Anastasia

    Hey Tracy! Thanks for the comment and the link. I took a peek: looks like you’re Irish, raised in Scotland, live in Cyprus with your family now, a theater costume/designer and and arts educator. The name of your site alone “The shed with the chandelier” speaks to your hybrid existence, and the way you’ve brought something together in a new combination, in your work, the way you do it, and your life in general.

    I’d agree with you, being geographically challenged is absolutely an incentive to find ways to succeed despite traditional boundaries. And as you say in your bio, your varied experiences then can be reflected in the work you do: so it’s an advantage.

  • Tracy

    Very thankful to be geographically challenged it has pushed my creativity forward – have a look at my website to have all explained

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