American Chordata began as a passion project for its editors, founded in Spring 2015 on the belief that a literary magazine can celebrate sophisticated design and earnest expression on the same page. Five issues later, the magazine is now available on bookshelves from McNally Jackson in New York to Powell’s in Portland. On Wednesday, December 13th, American Chordata hosted a party and reading at Commend on the Lower East Side.

“We tend to think of ourselves as a Brooklyn-based magazine,” said editor Alison Lewis, who lives in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. “Most of our editors live in Brooklyn, and our editorial meetings are often hosted in my apartment.” Alison learned about the magazine from a colleague at a publishing house she worked for, and was immediately on board to help. In fact, many of the editors of the magazine originally met at their day jobs in a major publishing house.

Nonfiction editors Quynh Do and Justin Cahill. Photo by Natasha Soto.

Quynh Do, nonfiction editor at American Chordata also works as an editor for nonfiction titles at her publishing job. “My list at work includes a lot of serious nonfiction titles, and almost everyone who I read comes to us through agents. At American Chordata, I get to read pieces from new and emerging voices.” The editors try to celebrate the diversity of human and non human experiences, as “Chordata” is the phylum that includes everything with a spinal chord.

American Chordata will be paying its contributors in 2018, but writer Shayne Terry said that there are other perks to having a story chosen for the magazine. “They actually edit your pieces and communicate with you in the process. One editor gave my story edits for structure, while another helped with line edits. I feel like it is very rare to receive such personal feedback when you submit your work.”

As the guests gathered around to hear writers perform the pieces from issues past, Alison Lewis announced, “seeing everyone here tonight, you realize that there really is a community involved in creating this magazine.”


Magazine Covers Courtesy of American Chordata

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