Delivered by Stack, December 2016:American Chordata

Based in Brooklyn, American Chordata is a magazine of brave and illuminating writing paired with photography and illustration that the editors artfully weave throughout each issue.

Name
Ben Yarling

Job title

Founder and editor

What is American Chordata?

A biannual literary and arts magazine celebrating bright, earnest voices on smallish, lovingly designed pages.

What makes it different to the rest?
I suppose the main thing would be how we make works of visual and written art interact. We try to bring works from each medium into conversation with one another as equal voices; sequence and present them in a way we hope distracts from neither and creates new layers of resonance for each.

Who makes American Chordata?

Bobby Doherty art directs and selects all the art and photography for each issue. He’s also the staff photographer for New York Magazine. Adly Elewa, an incredible designer, web-coder, and all-around generous, lucky resource for us, designs the layouts. I work with a big team of friends — publishing professionals and artists — to decide on all the writing for each issue: Ali Lewis, our fiction editor, daylights with a literary agency. Me, Quynh Do, Melanie Tortoroli, Ryan Harrington, and Emma Berry are book editors with various publishing houses in New York, and Liza Sweeney does digital marketing and social media strategy for the trade division of one of the big book publishers here. Justin Cahill, our non-fiction editor, has been a book editor as well and is currently doing very well as a sales rep for textbooks. Bekah Shaughnessy, also a publishing veteran, manages the cafe at Housing Works Bookstore, among other things. Alice Rha used to be a book publicist and is now in business school. Zach Fruit and Matthew Hitchman are finishing up their PhDs, and Rachel Stuart is applying hers to writing and reading and various brilliant projects that I can hardly keep up with. I think that’s everyone?

Who reads it?

I’m 90% sure that my mom does. Beyond that it’s not entirely clear, but presumably the smartest, coolest, most beautiful and open-hearted people in the world. One of my favorite things is when readers write or email with some deeply thoughtful comment about something they read in the magazine. Or when a literary agent picks up one of our contributors after reading their work in AC, things like that.

Why do you work in magazines?

The easy but true answer: For love of magazines, the cherished artifact. I think there’s an ethos of respect and care around the breed of independent magazines that organizations like Stack promote, and it’s really rewarding to share the work of our contributors in that space, knowing it will be read by a community of people who will approach it with the time and care and respect that me and the other editors feel for it and think it deserves.

Aside from the print magazine, what else are you involved in?

Oh, a lot of little things. Events and panels and art fairs, things like that. We’re members of CLMP.org (Community of Literary Magazines and Presses), and it’s fun and helpful to be connected to that literary community, which is a big and cool one. We’re a 501(c)3 nonprofit in the US, which comes with various responsibilities. All of us who work on the magazine have a lot of stuff going outside of it, too.

What would you change about American Chordata if you could?
I shouldn’t say this in type but maybe the name? It’s a bit long, doesn’t fit in a Twitter handle, the pronunciation of ‘Chordata’ (with a hard ‘c’, like ‘corn’ rather than ‘cherry’) isn’t self-evident. It’s a little esoteric. I do like it and stand behind it, I do. A lot of our readers say they like it, too! But for purely pragmatic reasons it’s possible I’d give that a second pre-leap look if I could do it all over again.

Where do you see American Chordata in five years?
A little older, a little better organised, our community a little (maybe a lot!) broader, and proudly publishing our 12th issue.

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