Friday, August 18, 2023

Six Questions for Lynn Mundell, Editor, Centaur

Centaur is a quarterly online journal that publishes up to eight hybrid works of 400 words or fewer and one piece of art depicting a centaur in each issue. Hybrids at Centaur are experimental writing that push beyond genre definitions, including prose poems and stories that may or may not be memoir. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Lynn Mundell: Over the past few years I noticed that some of the journals I loved that were more open to fiction that blurred the edges had closed up shop, including Threadcount, Thread (a totally different journal than Threadcount), Vine Leaves (but the press is still open!), Paper Darts, Waxwing, Connotation Press, Crack the Spine, matchbook (which did a series of elegant and intriguing side projects including a postcard series that on one side depicted a piece of visual art or a poem and on the other held the artist or author's note), and The A3 Review (literature and art on folded maps), to name just a few.


These were places that were more open to non-standard fiction rather than strict hybrid as some may think of it, such as hermit crabs, in which stories are told in the shell of something totally different, like a shopping list or a bank statement. As a writer, I felt sad to see these great journals go. As a publisher at 100 Word Story, I thought it may be my chance to fill the void by retiring from that journal and starting something dedicated to the less standard writing. Since I would be working solo on this new venture, I limited Centaur's word count to 400, a cap that I really like when writing and reading, and that would also enable me to nominate the stories to the annual Best Microfiction anthology series.

SQF: How do you define “hybrid”?

LM: I have a pretty loose definition of it, really. For some it means the work you would often see in the great journal Diagram, which might be a true marriage of words and art into something wholly unique. For me it is inviting writers to send me their non-traditional stories. I have a real soft spot for prose poems. I also like creative nonfiction that is very experimental. I like it when people may tell a logical narrative but it is done in an inventive format. I really do like hermit crabs, too. I just don't have the bandwidth and skill, frankly, to get into the design needed for very involved hybrid word-art pieces, as much as I enjoy those.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

LM: Three months in, I am a bit surprised at how often writers are not following the guidelines. I am getting pieces that are 2,000 words, that are attachments, and that start with overly long bios. I am also getting pounded by multiple submissions when the guidelines direct writers to only send in one piece every three months. I urge writers to read the submission guidelines very carefully. They are there for a reason.

SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s)/stanza(s) of a submission?

LM: I think I join a lot of editors when I say that I don't need a big introduction or fancy bio. I want to look right away at a piece that a writer dug deep to produce and then polished with a lot of pride. I don't care if someone is a high-schooler or a writer with 10 published chapbooks. I just want to know that they sent me the best nontraditional writing they have in them. Since Centaur only publishes a few dozen pieces, max, per year, nominates the best for anthologies and "best of" contests, has a relatively quick turnaround on submissions, and pays its writers and artists, I really do want the best.

SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

LM: I don't like to read either of these because they are sometimes distressing and ultimately boring. I don't think this kind of work is really in service to the reader, which is what writing for publication should be. If writers read the first two issues of Centaur, I think they will get a sense of what I am looking for. Stories that sing. Plots that surprise. A love of language. Humor. Melancholy. A mood caught precisely right. What I really love so far is that I am receiving writing from around the world! As someone who lived in the Middle East as a teen, has travelled a lot, and who is fascinated and enthusiastic about different cultres, I encourage writers and artists from around the globe to submit their work to Centaur


SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

LM: "What is your overall vision for each issue of your journal?" 

A: I am really just getting started since it has not been a year yet with the journal, but I am realizing when I put the issues together that I am almost thinking of them as literary dinner parties, where a handful of varied, unique pieces, ideally from around the world and very diverse and different perspectives, are speaking to one another and each other. I'd like readers to take away at least one--but hopefully more--piece that really moves or delights them. 

Thank you, Lynn. We all appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project. 

Thank you, Jim! This was fun! -- Lynn

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