…or Salad

The creators of Talking Soup Magazine get some things off their chests in an interview with Open Pen.

Continuing a series of features with our favourite lit zines and journals, editor Sean Preston has been catching up with the creators of Talking Soup, a magazine that “aims to be a platform for aspiring writers to express their everyday life experiences.”

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What’s Talking Soup all about?

Talking Soup was born from a desire to escape the concept of click-bait journalism that has flooded both the Internet and, sadly, traditional press too. There are so many great writers out there, busting their balls to get noticed, but due to the absence of meaningless lists or cat memes within their work, they pass under the radar. From Euripides to Bukowski, the inherent banality of everyday life has provided a constant stream of inspiration for writers worldwide and why should that stop now? Especially considering that the cycle of “work, play, die” has reached levels hitherto unheard of. People should write about what they know and Talking Soup is here to help them.

How big is the team? Tell us about yourselves.

We’re a small team of two. We both met at a university in Scotland where we both pursued further education in essentially pointless subjects – one choosing to learn the intricacies of old pots and toilets in ancient times, while the other learnt about various tribes in remote regions of the world.

At the moment, one of us is currently in exile, teaching English in rural Spain while the other is an office drone / occasional freelancer in video and graphic design in London.

The site looks great; feel’s easy to navigate. Was that always an important part of Talking Soup?

The design and structure of the site was always going to be important. Nowadays, the bottom line is simple: if the site is clunky and cumbersome, nobody will stay, regardless of content. Simplicity is key, the focus is on the writers but the design of the site is integral to the whole experience.

We wanted to create a site that almost emulated the look of a magazine. It was important for us to have a strong visual impact on the site as we feel images and stories complement each other well. From constant observations of human behaviour garnered from the Westbound Central Line at 8:00 in the morning we also recognised how a lot of people are reading stuff online on their tablets and smartphones, so we designed a site that easily scales down to each device, making it accessible for everyone.

What’s the plan for Talking Soup? Where do you want it to go?

The unsubtle balance with working all the time means that artistic progress can often be hindered by the inevitable Friday night lager washout. However, we have grand plans for the magazine. This summer, in a vague attempt to combat banal free literature, we would like to release our first print edition, primarily an anthology showing the diverse works we have published so far. It will be free, yes, but banal? Never.

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Exciting. Will the collection be straight fiction/fact, or will it work in the same way as the website?

It will be a carefully selected collection of stories and articles that we have already published on the site. We will be printing in small quantities and distributing it free of charge. Our main purpose for doing this is to hopefully get it seen and read, but also to collect valuable feedback.

[If you live in London and would like a copy, shoot Talking Soup a message at info@talkingsoup.com.]

In the few months we have been live we have started to acquire a small but growing audience. It’s all a process, and we’re learning as we go. Our following in America is very healthy too and we think this bodes well for the future. The Americans have an overwhelming sense of optimism, which is normally absent from British culture, permeated as it is by a strange sense of resentment since the Empire went down the shitter. We think this might facilitate our growth across the pond. Presently we have been releasing three new stories and articles a week but intend to publish more frequently as we grow.

There are also plans to expand into producing original video content in the form of short documentaries. We are currently in the process of making our first short on the niche subculture of young vinyl collectors.

Oh yeah? How’s it turning out? How does filmmaking differ from the writing process, aside from the obvious stuff? As in, creatively, how does it differ, if at all? When are we going to be able to watch this?

The idea came after I made a short video in 2013 during Record Store Day in London. We collected a lot of extra footage that day and kind of forgot about it. We then decided to try and use it to create a character documentary focusing on one person’s obsession with collecting vinyl. We wanted to find someone young (ideally under 30) who bucks the trends in an era of free music downloads and Spotify. Normally in documentary filmmaking you allow the subject or situation to guide you to the story, but this time we have a very specific film in mind. This came to us upon reflecting on our first time at the event in 2013 when we were quite surprised to meet and talk to a lot of young people who had spent the best part of an hour or two waiting outside a small record shop in Angel, north London. We aim to keep the documentary very short (less than 5 minutes) and it should be available on our currently empty YouTube channel in the summer.

We’ve been lucky to gain the support of, and write some features on, some very talented emerging artists such as Khalik Allah, Susan Copich and the England Your England films, and this is an area we wish to expand on.

All quite positive. Now for some negativity. What really pisses you off about the world and business of publishing?

Everything is just so fucking watered down. Everyday living is usually boring as shit but we are content to while away hours and brain cells, grinding away our imaginations reading about “Ten things to do on your lads night out” or what cocktails are “in” this summer. Every fucking day this shit is thrust in your face in the form of free literature on the Underground or mindless links on social media. We can do better. Challenge yourself to stop reading about different kinds of risotto and tune in to some genuine human emotion. You have nothing to lose.

Laurence Rivers is one writer I’ve noticed that handles the honest observation thing well. Writes it cleanly, so to speak. What are your thoughts on him?

Laurence gave up a while back. If there is one man that doesn’t understand the institutions and structures that govern our existence, then it’s Laurence. I think that’s why he writes about them. That, and he’s frequently unemployed and thus has a lot of free time. Laurence “tells it like it is” because at the end of the day (or the middle of the day if he gets sent home), Laurence can process his boring, miserable existence into fairly entertaining prose.

What’s important about Talking Soup? What is it providing that you’re not going to get elsewhere?

It’s an easy site to get around, the visuals are excellent and the writing is great. If you want singing goats or numerical lists you know where to go, in fact, you probably won’t be reading this interview.

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Discover Talking Soup for yourself by visiting their smashing website: talkingsoup.com

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