“One of my favorite parts … is when I help to pair up writers and architects to create pieces together.”
A chat with Joseph Altshuler, editor of Soiled.
Soiled positions itself between a literary journal and a design magazine. Produced an artist-led team of four and published by a Chicago-based design practice, the journal publishes themed issues, the most recent of which focuses on children’s stories.
Interview by Caroline Gray.
What has been your journey to becoming the editor in chief of Soiled?
Well, I started it ten years ago and we’ve been producing roughly one issue per year. I’m an architect, so I wanted to create something about architecture. Architecture is a part of the arts. Every other type of art has a dedicated space, whether it be galleries for paintings and sculpture, or theaters for plays and music. Architecture and design struggle with that a lot and it’s difficult to create a space for something that is seen as just practical work. I think I started Soiled because I wanted to create a space to tell stories about young, feverish optimism about getting things out into the world. Like actually making something that lasts for a really long time and is seen by millions of people. I don’t want people to dismiss things like that. I wanted to create a platform to tell stories about architecture. Architecture is taken for granted; it’s only really seen as practical. In the beginning, I didn’t even realize that it was a literary journal, I was just trying to create something.
What is unique about this journal?
The journal that I sent you is only printed with two colors, which is really quite intentional on our part. We wanted to build cohesion between pieces, and make the transitions extremely simple. It really creates an intersectionality between literature and architecture. Choosing to print only in two colors, was a.) less expensive and b.) creates consistency. The 8th edition, which is the one that I sent you, was actually an anomaly. We usually don’t write literary journals for children, but that was the prompt that we sent out.
How often do you publish emerging writers?
We have an open call for submissions that have a very specific prompt attached. We ask our friends to create content, and we’ll specifically seek out people that we know who can create something that we’re looking for, whether it be writing related or visual, so it doesn’t really matter who it is, it’s more about whether their work fits the prompt.
Does editing Soiled change your reading practices?
Well, no, I’m not really hands on with the actual editing process. We have a staff of four people and I’m the editor-in-chief, and we have an editor that we contract on staff. We also have a graphic designer on our team, and actually, one of my favorite parts of my position as editor is when I help to pair up writers and architects to create pieces together where the writing complements the image and the image complements the writing.
What is something about your job that you didn’t expect?
Well, I’m entering the literary journal community coming from the architectural world where I’ve been working for a pretty long time. And like I said before, I didn’t really realize that this was a literary journal at first; I think it bolsters the identity of the magazine. I don’t really edit the journal; I do a lot of the organizing of the journal and the writers, so I think that I’m more hands off than I thought I would be, especially when the word ‘editor’ is in my title.
Caroline Gray is a senior at Gonzaga University pursuing a degree in English and Psychology. She hopes to break into the world of forensic and clinical psychology while also staying active in her literary and editorial roots. Caroline enjoys listening to serial killer podcasts and country music when she's not busy with school and planning her future.