100 Word Story, Lynn Mundell (Interview)
Interviewed by Christina Beiter
What was your introduction to editing & publishing?
I majored in English in college and earned an MFA in creative writing. Those university experiences gave me a good foundation as I published or edited literary journals at each, and then interned and eventually worked as a newspaper writer during those years, too. Truly, I have been reading since I was four, writing since elementary school, and reading and writing are really my happy place.
How did 100 Word Story get its start?
Grant Faulkner asked me if I would like to start a flash fiction journal. We had met at a corporate job around 1998 and became good friends. At the time Grant made his pitch to me, I had stopped writing creatively for some years, and I did not know what flash was. He is an old friend, though, and I had felt bad that I had dropped my creative writing to make money as a corporate writer, so I said yes. Like parenting, there have been many unexpected joys to the original endeavor. I resumed my own creative writing, as a result, and have made many friends over the 10 years the journal has existed. I get such pleasure from publishing writers’ work, sometimes being their first publisher!, that I often say it is even more fulfilling than having my own work published.
What do you do as the co-founder and co-editor of 100 Word Story?
I do pretty much everything, because we have no budget, and it is purely for the love of the word. So, I read and then vote on submissions with Grant. We need two yes votes to publish a story or essay, because we are the only readers. I also edit and put the pieces in our content management system, publish on an alternating monthly schedule with Grant, let writers know when their stories are live, promote them on social media, devise and organize readings, and troubleshoot, with the most recent example being when a bad guy on Medium was publishing our writers’ stories there as his own! (Who does that?!)
What are the press’ future goals? How has the press’ mission evolved since creation?
We started without much of a plan. We wanted to be a positive influence in the flash community and the literary community overall. Along the way we hit a new goal that was a bit surprising, which was finding a publisher for an anthology of 117 of our stories. That book, Nothing Short Of, was fun but a lot of work. I handled the permission forms for each writer, which gave me a lot of gray hairs. But it is neat to have a book in the world. Our goal now is to perhaps do a second book at some point, but to largely just keep doing what we are doing…
What was it like to work on the latest/current issue?
We accept/reject/publish not so much in issues, but on demand, meaning not so much on a schedule but as we are able. We do try to publish a new story around once weekly. The stories are always surprising and full of a lot of good attempts and then a couple jewels.
What do you look for when selecting works from the submission pile? How do you distinguish between “good work” and work that belongs in your magazine?
You sort of know it when you see it, somehow. It needs to be a fully formed story, unusual in topic and writing, cleanly and well written … beyond that it could be funny or sad, timely or timeless, prose-poemish or a list. Perhaps the answer is that writers have to have the talent, sure, but there really needs to be an understanding of the 100-word story specifically, and the same care and commitment given to the piece that a novelist would give to that genre! You must be all in.
What is your favorite genre to read?
I like to read anything personally, I love novels. I love to read flash, poetry, nonfiction, plays, magazines, blogs, The New Yorker, you name it. But I love a big, fat novel. I just do.
Who is the (envisioned) audience for this magazine/press?
Our audience is anyone who loves the form. We have received submissions and fan mail from everyone from middle-schoolers to senior citizens, professional writers to newbies, from around the world.
What does the press consider to be its greatest successes?
We have been pleased to see the work we have published anthologized in Best Short Fictions and Best Microfictions books. But really our greatest success is the enthusiasm and fellowship spawned by the site and the anthology. It came to us when we attend the AWP conference in Portland a couple years ago, and we were actually mobbed by people, including many of our writers who were so excited to meet us or see us again. We sold out of our anthology and it was incredibly fun.
What is most challenging for you about working on a magazine like 100 Word Story?
Time, or lack thereof, perhaps. The complaint of all creative people and perhaps all people, period. We have a great photo editor, Beret Olsen, who is the third member of our team. Among the three of us, we have 6 kids, 2 jobs, 3 spouses, 3 recently widowed moms, worries, hopes, dreams, bills, and a lot of other stuff. Perhaps one day when we are older—because we plan to do this into our dotage—we will have time to do really epic readings, giveaways, scholarships, art installations, and international workshops! Stay tuned because you are invited!!