I had the pleasure of meeting Katie Hogan last year. A vivacious literature lover, editor, publisher and author.
Katie is the founder, editor-in-chief, and creative director of The Altar Collective. She is a twenty-two-year-old student from the University of Southern California with a BA in creative writing. Katie first fell in love with a piece of paper and a pencil when she was eight years old. Ever since, she has been dedicated to pursuing writing, especially poetry. Katie has spent time in San Francisco, New York City, Paris, and New Orleans on a constant search for the best iced coffee and answers to her cliché quarter-life crisis. She has studied advanced creative writing at Columbia University and has been nationally recognized for her writing by the National Council of Teachers of English. Katie’s poetry has been featured in publications such as Quiet Lightning and The American Library of Poetry, and she has gained editorial experience as an editorial intern at City Lights Booksellers and Publishers in San Francisco, CA. She is currently living in Boston to get her MA in Publishing & Writing from Emerson College. So, with Katie I launch my interview series of writers, editors, publishers, agents and others involved in the literary world.
Tell me a bit about your publishing company.
The Altar Collective is a small press and arts collective based in Los Angeles, CA and Boston, MA. We specialize in publishing poetry, hosting events like open mics and music/art festivals, and uniting the artistic community together.
What was the impetus to start the company?
In 2012, I dropped out of college after my freshman year and decided to take a year off. During my year off, I traveled to Paris and lived in the city for six months in order to learn French and gain new experiences. Paris was nothing like I imagined, though. Prior to leaving America, I believed Paris would be a lovely trip—full of riding bikes to pick up fresh baguettes, meeting nice people who would show me around the city, and basically all those other cliché, overly happy moments you see in movies.
Although I was very grateful for the opportunity to live in a beautiful city and have this experience, it was more difficult than I thought it would be. Fortunately, I stumbled across a weekly bilingual open mic that took place in the basement of a bar. This open mic inspired me more than I can describe—it was where I felt the most comfortable, and it took away all my fears related to the cultural differences. I was not only able to meet many influential people, but I was also able to really understand the power of poetry and writing in general, regardless of language barriers.
That inspiration followed me back to the states and eventually became one of the main reasons I started The Altar Collective. I wanted to provide a stepping stone and platform for writers. I have been way too lucky to be surrounded by such amazing artists, and I wanted their voices to be heard.
Prior to Paris, I helped a friend run a weekly open mic down in Long Beach, CA. That experience plus my year living in San Francisco and being exposed to groups like Quiet Lightning also really pushed me to create my own press.
What is the most interesting aspect of publishing to you?
My favorite part of publishing has been working with artists. Our poetry anthologies have introduced me to so many talented poets. Some poets flew in from Chicago and New Jersey to participate in our monthly open mic/book release shows, and we still keep in touch. Working with our featured writers, like author Kris Kidd and musician Inch Chua, was an amazing experience, as well. I love getting to know each artist we work with; picking their minds and being able to dive into their writing/art is a real honor.
What has surprised you the most?
People love poetry, contrary to what many believe. Before I started The Altar Collective, I kept hearing that poetry didn’t have a market, that it wouldn’t sell. However, I found that there really is an audience for poetry, and that audience is hungry for quality poetry and a community surrounding it.
What are some of the book you’ve published and what was it about those writers that spoke to you?
Years ago, when I was focusing on pursuing photography, I met another photographer/model named Kris Kidd. Kris and I became friends, and over the years, I realized that not only was he a talented photographer, but he was an amazing writer. After starting TAC, I approached him about his writing, and within a few weeks, we had a manuscript of his essays organized and edited. The manuscript, which would become I Can’t Feel My Face, was a collection of essays about Kris growing up in Los Angeles and his struggles losing his father, joining the modeling industry, and growing up in general. Kris was a friend before we worked on this collection, but working with him on I Can’t Feel My Face allowed me to dive deeper into his struggles and his suffering. Although the essays have a very specific tone to them, they really speak out to what it’s like growing up in Los Angeles.
We published his most recent book, Down for Whatever, in June 2016. I loved working with Kris on Down for Whatever because it shows his growth. It is his first poetry collection, but each piece shows strength and vulnerability, and watching him grow up as both an artist and a writer has been an amazing experience.
Another experience I really enjoyed was working with Singaporean musician Inch Chua. Inch went through all her diaries and chose entries from each one, then compiled a new diary of sorts. I loved getting to know her on a deeper level, and her story of traveling from Singapore to America to continue pursuing music was not only inspiring, but a story I felt like every girl should hear. Inch doesn’t let anything get in her way—if she’s passionate about it, she will achieve it, and that is a message I stand by.
Your also currently studying at Emerson College. How do you juggle your various responsibilities and interests?
It has definitely been difficult, but it’s a challenge that I’ve enjoyed so far! I’m currently in graduate school at Emerson College, studying Publishing & Writing. It’s a great program so far and I’ve learned a lot about the publishing industry that has helped me think about the future of The Altar Collective.
I also work at MIT in patent law during the day, and act as managing editor for Write Bloody, another fantastic poetry press that has been a major influence of mine since I was 13. Going to school, working two jobs, and running TAC while living in a new city has been exhausting at times, but I am so happy to be able to have each experience. Each teach me a different lesson and reveal new skills, so it’s nice to be able to dabble in different areas—it keeps me going!
You also write. Tell me a bit about your works?
Writing has been a therapeutic activity for me since I was a little kid. I’ve mostly been writing poetry, and some of my work can be found in Quiet Lightning, The American Library of Poetry, and Nostrovia! Poetry’s Fuck Art, Let’s Dance.
What are your top two pointers for writers looking to publish their works?
If you are seeking out a publisher, I highly advise working with a press that you love and trust. Go for one that makes you feel like family and makes you feel comfortable.
Never, ever, ever let anyone take advantage of you—financially, creatively, etc. The publishing industry is great, but there are a lot of people out there that are just looking to gain profit off of your art. Protect your work, protect your heart, and never let anyone alter or try to change your work against your will.
For more information on Katie and The Alter Collective, visit www.thealtarcollective.com