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From Humble Ashes Come Creative Sparks

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

"To unleash the full power of the federal government for this effort today I am officially designating a national emergency. Two very big words."

On January 20th, 2020, the U.S. Centers

for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the very first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States. The outbreak of the virus, 2019-nCoV, originated in Wuhan, Hubei Province in December 2019 and was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) on January 30th, 2020.

In the weeks that followed, news outlets and social media frenzied over disputed facts and false reports (coined, an

“infodemic”), prompting global discussion and concern over digital literacy. Soon after WHO’s announcement, Italian government announced a national state of emergency, but it was not until March 13th, 2020, that Spain and the U.S. did the same. Kazakhstan followed suit two days later and, most recently, so did Japan on April 7th, 2020.

U.S. schools began suspending in-person classes in mid-March, and for some high school students (such as those in California), those suspensions will last until the end of the school year. This state of global anxiety has been a source of exigence for creatives all over the world, and it certainly has been for a group of concerned young writers, forged between two halves of a hot Ohio summer.


“I knew that rough times like these were the times when literary magazines were needed the most. So I just decided to make one, for me, for my writer friends, for artists everywhere.”

Below is discussion between Incandescent Review Journalism Editor and Columnist Julia Do and Founder and Chief Executive Director Ariel Kim.

IR: It may have seemed out of the blue for our staff members, but this project is clearly something you've put a lot of thought into. Tell me the story of how the magazine came to be!

Ariel Kim: I’d be happy to! I’ve been interested in creating a youth-centered literary magazine for a while, the reason being that all these global problems— whether they be skyrocketing income inequality, resource shortages, or climate change— are impacting our generation of young adults the hardest. We’re going to be the ones facing these problems at the forefront, and the stress of such a herculean expectation can be overwhelming, which I believe is one of the reasons why mental illness in young adults is at its all-time high. I think the youth of this generation need an outlet for all of this emotional baggage, and I also feel the world could benefit from learning about their honest, personal perspectives as well. I’ve been using the arts as an outlet of expression for as long as I can remember, and it’s helped me through the darkest nights. I can only hope The Incandescent Review will become the same sort of solace for our readers, our submitters, and our staff— uniting us all together in the arts.

As for the actual process, our lit mag first started as a Google Doc of brainstorming, and The Incandescent Review was actually named SimileMore. I first brainstormed the idea for a community service club I founded called the Jericho-Syosset Leos Club, as all of our community service club activities had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. When our advisors made it clear that we would have to confine the staff to simply our local club members, and that each of our decisions would have to go through a slow process of being approved by the higher council of Lions, I decided to go off on my own and create a separate literary magazine (while continuing the club’s, of course).

The majority of our staff seem to know each other through the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop (KRYWW). Is there a reason for that? Had you discussed the idea of a literary magazine with peers from KRYWW before?

I hadn’t talked to any Kenyon peers about the possibility of a lit mag previously, but the reason why a lot of our team is composed of peers from the Kenyon Young Writers Workshop is because, simply put, I contacted the most talented and passionate people I knew to be part of The Incandescent Review, and the majority of those people simply happened to be from the Kenyon Review YWW.

What about timeliness? Why now?

COVID-19 was really just the breaking point. As I mentioned in my first answer, I’ve always wanted to create a lit mag—it was just, COVID-19, and the emotional turmoil I saw happening all around me, solidified my conviction and resolve to create it.

Art and writing have always been a solace to me, and I found myself turning to both crafts more than I usually would as an outlet. I then looked for youth literary magazines to submit to, and found that many—such as Canvas Literary Magazine and Winter Tangerine—were shutting down, some due to COVID-19 issues. I was frustrated; I knew that rough times like these were the times when literary magazines were needed the most. So I just decided to make one, for me, for my writer friends, for artists everywhere.

Where do you hope to see the magazine going? What do you want our staff to achieve (for themselves and the magazine)?

Global all the way. I believe that everyone has something to gain from artistic expression, and I wish for this opportunity to spread to youths in all corners of the world. Our readers will benefit from encountering a diverse range of voices, beliefs, and experiences.

Our executive board has four explicit main purposes off of which we base all of our activities:

  1. Creating a global, interactive, online community

  2. Supporting teen artists worldwide

  3. Becoming part of the solution

  4. Creating high-quality content

There’s also a hidden number five, which is to create an accepting, tight-knit community right here at The Incandescent Review. Already, working with everyone here, I feel overwhelmed by how empathetic and accepting our staff members are, interacting with each other and creating friendships that never would have been possible otherwise. It reminds me of the Kenyon Review YWW, where the writers there created one of the most accepting, inspirational communities I’ve ever been a part of. There are so many diverse voices here, and I feel that everyone in the team is learning, growing, thriving in this small community despite this difficult time. I wish for The Incandescent Review to become a place of solace for our readership, our contributors, and our staff members.

Final thoughts?

I’d like to end with the slogan, “The Incandescent Review: Illuminating the voices of the youth." Especially during these times of division, I think it’s essential to amplify diverse voices. That’s exactly what our magazine is all about, and I can feel it in the accepting community we’ve created here, with open and civil discussions on religion, politics, sexuality, mental health, and more. I hope we don’t get so caught up in the process that we forget what we’re aiming for and what we’re doing it all for.

Founder and Chief Executive Director Ariel Kim

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