Never underestimate the role that chance is bound to play in your life and career. That's one of the toughest things to teach students for college English professor, author and long-time editor of the Kenyon Review, David Lynn.
"I started writing stories as a sophomore at Cranbrook, and that shaped me in a lot of ways," Lynn said. "I assumed I would go to law school, but I had an itch to write."
When Lynn didn't get accepted by his first choice law school after graduating from Kenyon College in Ohio, he moved to Washington D.C. with his wife and distinguished historian, Wendy Singer. There he wrote for an advocacy organization, writing fiction on the side. It wasn't until an old friend phoned him from Kenyon College and asked him if he would return to his alma mater as a writer-in-residency. He accepted, keeping a home in the nation's capitol and traveling back and forth.
"That's where chance comes into play," he said.
In 1989, Lynn was asked to serve as acting editor of The Kenyon Review – the college's acclaimed literary magazine, which published early works by generations of writers, such as T.S. Eliot, Flannery O'Connor, Maya Angelou, Dylan Thomas and other important writers. He was later asked to replace notable poet Marylin Hacker as the editor, who stepped down in 1994.
"That year turned into 31 years," said Lynn, the longest serving editor of the 80-year-old publication.
As an author, Lynn was given the O. Henry Award for his work, "Divergence." In 2019, Lynn wrote “Children of God: New & Selected Stories.” Additional works include "Year of Fire," "Wrestling with Gabriel," "Fortune Telling," and “Hero's Tale: Narrators in Early Modern Novel.” Lynn has also been recognized with the Glimmer Train Short Story Prize and the Ohio Library Association's Award for Editorial Excellence, and was an award finalist for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.
"If you want to be a writer, don't become a writer for an organization or go into publishing. Work in a bank or something totally separate," Lynn jokes about his repertoire of personal work. "Still, I have written a fair bit over many years. I usually write over the summer when I can grab some free time. At the same time, I think of (work) as a creative endeavor, and it fills in some of the same desire as writing novels and stories I might have done."
While serving as editor, Lynn oversaw the expansion of new writers workshops, and its digital version of KROnline. The magazine went from publishing just three times a year to six. Lynn also helped to lift the magazine financially, which was at risk of closing in the 1990s.
"The standards haven't changed. We are still interested in publishing the very best creative writing from around the world," Lynn said. "But, we have expanded to include online multimedia and new programs that have been folded in and have been part of our mission and what we do."
Lynn earlier this year announced he would step down as editor of the magazine in the spring of 2020. While he will be leaving the position, he will continue to work in several capacities at the college.
"I'm not retiring, but I've been the longest serving editor ever. I think it's time for some fresh vision," he said. "Someone who is connected to the younger writers... It's been a long, wonderful ride."