As the 2019 submission season comes to an end, The Kenyon Review — Kenyon’s internationally renowned literary magazine — is preparing itself for a change in leadership: in June 2020, editor David Lynn ‘76 will step down from his position. During his time as editor, Lynn has shepherded the magazine through a number of changes, including the inception of the Kenyon Review Associates program and the introduction of the Kenyon Review Online. Now, Lynn is ready to give up his seat to someone new.
Lynn clarified that he’s not retiring—he simply believes that, after 26 years as the editor, it’s time for someone else to have a chance.
“I’ve been editor for a long long time, and I think we need some fresh eyes in the business,” Lynn said. “I’m going to step down and do special writing projects for the president [of Kenyon].”
Lynn joined The Kenyon Review in 1994. A Kenyon graduate, Lynn was invited back to the College to teach English. In those days, The Kenyon Review was much smaller, and was on the verge of economic collapse; hiring Lynn was the College’s attempt to revitalize the publication.
“They were about to close the journal down, and at the last minute the trustees of the College said that would be crazy,” Lynn said. “So they turned to me and asked me to take over. In those days we didn’t have any student volunteers at all. All it was was me and a managing editor and a part-time secretary. All we did was put out a print journal three times a year—that was it.”
A lot has changed in the Review since then, much of it thanks to Lynn’s influence. While the new editor has not yet been chosen, they are unlikely to share as strong a connection with Kenyon. The editor is being selected from a national pool of applicants with the help of Korn Ferry, an external consulting firm. Lynn hopes to have the new editor chosen by March or April of next year.
As part of the transition process, the Review is cutting its fall submission window this year from six weeks to two. The change is intended to reduce the number of submissions that the new editor needs to process. However, a shorter submission period is nothing new to the magazine; Abigail Serfass, the Review’s managing editor, describes it as a necessary step, given that the online submission process makes it easier and easier for more writers to submit.
“Even five or six years ago we used to have a four-month window,” Serfass said. “Ever since then, every year we’ve been shortening and shortening and shortening. We just can’t process that many submissions; we can’t get through them all. So we were hoping to limit this year by going down to two weeks. Last year we had over 7,000 [submissions], but [with the shortened window] I think it’ll be less than that.”
Serfass will miss Lynn’s contributions, but she looks forward to what a new editor might bring.
“I think it’s going to be really hard to say goodbye to David,” Serfass said. “I think we hope to see [a lot of his characteristics] in a new person: openness to new ideas, [being] supportive to staff. But I think we’re all looking for someone who does have a new vision, does have some fresh ideas—someone who’s able to harness all the different constituencies and make everyone work together, in a way [that] I think David has done really well.”