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Open Letter to the Youth Literary Community Regarding “Wordpress Wars” Among Other Issues

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Edited Wednesday, July 22nd: We would like to clarify that Fatalflaw Lit Mag, Resistance of Our Generation, Earth2Usmag, Yellow Paint Mag and Placeholder Zine are not youth lit mags as originally assumed, but zines or media platforms with a diverse range of goals and audiences. We acknowledge that the unedited article contained these errors of fact.

To the readers, partners, and staff of The Incandescent Review, and the larger youth writing and arts community:

On Sunday, July 19, The Incandescent Review published a blog post titled “Wordpress Wars: Tracking the Teen Lit Mag Boom.” Several peer magazines and members of the community responded to the piece and The Incandescent Review as an organization following the piece’s publication. In this letter, we would like to acknowledge the impact that this piece has had, address comments and claims made about The Incandescent Review, and detail our actions taken in response. As writers, we respect our community and, in particular, our peer organizations’ valuable feedback. And as a magazine run by an exclusively youth staff, we are deeply committed to further conversation and self-reflection.

The original, unedited version of “Wordpress Wars” published on Sunday afternoon is available here. Following the response to its publication, two edits were made to the published article. EX/POST Mag and Perhappened Mag were removed from the list of publications, as they were originally erroneously identified as youth literary magazines. Additionally, the section “Inciting Factors” was deleted. All other content in the article, including the editor’s note identifying the article as “tongue-in-cheek,” were published in the original version, as can be verified through revision history upon request. Following the release of this statement, the article was taken down from the website entirely.

“Wordpress Wars,” written by staff writer Victor Xia and edited by The Incandescent Review’s editorial team, is a commentary piece about the large number of youth literary magazines created in the last three months—32 publications are named in the article, along with The Incandescent Review itself. The article points out similarities among these magazines’ mission statements and calls for reflection on the larger impact that the increasing number of youth literary magazines is having. Following the publication of the article, several other publications and members of the writing community wrote publicly and directly to us, criticizing the post for devaluing other literary magazines and questioning the intended impact of the article.

As youth writers and artists ourselves, we first and foremost understand that running a literary magazine requires an immense amount of passion and dedication. We never mean to degrade or downplay the hard work of our team and that of other literary magazines established in this time, whether youth-led or not. We acknowledge that our magazine has also been created out of the pandemic; Victor writes as satire in the post blurb: “On March 27th the Incandescent Review sanctified the grounds of the Internet forever more with its blessing.” Our editorial team decided to publish “Wordpress Wars” because we believed that it was a valuable and nuanced, as well as satirical and humorous, commentary piece on relevant and recent developments in the youth literary world. We affirm that the intent of the piece, in its writing and publication, was in no way meant to be damaging or negative, and stand by our writers’ rights to publish opinion pieces and satirical commentaries on other publications and organizations.

However, following the receipt of much feedback and further reflection, we acknowledge the harm that may have come to our peer organizations and members of the community due to the faults of “Wordpress Wars.” We acknowledge that the implication that our peer literary magazines started for resume or college application purposes is a generalization. We do not believe that it is the reason that we are moved by the hard work and dedication that all of our fellow founders (and in many cases, our good friends) put in. One specific acknowledgement we would like to make is of BIPOC writers and artists and leaders of BIPOC-oriented publications, whose important labor was erased in the article’s generalizations. We acknowledge that this blog post made young writers uncomfortable, and we’re extremely distraught to see the negative impact the post provoked in the youth writing community. As a result we’ve made the decision, along with Victor, to remove the article from our website.

We would also like to address a few other claims made by community members about The Incandescent Review:

Community members accused The Incandescent Review of “stalking” winners from the YoungArts Foundation. To solicit submissions from artists we admire, our art team had planned to personally reach out to creators from the publically available YoungArts winners list for our future magazine issues. Many of our team members live in mostly STEM-focused schools, so we try and reach out to artists in the ways that we can, hoping to highlight the incredible talent in the youth arts community. We are in no way trying to find artists’ personal information. To stay organized, one of our content teams created a spreadsheet. Our spreadsheet title was a satirical joke among the team—we do not condone stalking or doxxing of any kind. Doxxing is a serious issue, and we apologize for the discomfort and hurt that we have caused. We have deleted our spreadsheet and resolve to do better.

To address a comment made regarding us utilizing fraudulent accounts on Reddit threads: our members either used existing accounts or created new ones (if new to Reddit) to generate buzz for The Incandescent Studio, our summer mentorship program for young writers. We advertised our Studio across many different types of social media: Reddit, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. For Reddit, members used actual accounts (with some retracting from using their full names in order to protect their privacies) and began threads encouraging applications. We have never marketed our Studio as a way to get into college, or a guarantee to win Scholastic or YoungArts awards, nor will we ever do so. We are genuinely passionate about what we have to share with our mentees, and hope that we are building a safe and supportive community for them to explore their passion for writing.

Our “AP spreadsheet” was also mentioned by some community members. The spreadsheet was created to track our team member’s AP test dates (with no mention of any specific AP test names) to accommodate for optimal meeting time availability for our high school staff members. We want to ensure that our high school staff members were not overworked between their busy academic schedules. We prioritize the mental health and time of members of The Incandescent Review very seriously.

We take this incident as a learning lesson and opportunity for reflection, and we are now more aware of how the content we put out can impact the writing community and the public as a whole. In the future, we will ensure a more formal vetting process for content published on our blog and elsewhere within The Incandescent Review. The function of our blog is to include a diverse range of multidimensional perspectives and viewpoints; we often even publish articles with contradictory opinions. Though individual articles don’t necessarily represent the entirety of The Incandescent Review, we take seriously the impact that the pieces we publish on our platform have, regret the harm caused by “Wordpress Wars,” and are committed to doing better moving forwards. We thank our peer institutions and members of the community for your feedback, patience, and support, and are always open to further conversation.


Ariel Kim

Chief Executive Director

Victor Xia

Critical Writing Staff Contributor and Associate Editor

Ocean Wei

Critical Writing Team Director

Samson Zhang

Video Team Director and Critical Writing Associate Editor

Sofia Miller

Art & Web Design Team Director

Esther Kim

Creative Writing Team Director

Annie Guo

Marketing Team Director

Ethan Phan

Fundraising & Activism Team Director

Minnie Zhang

The Incandescent Studio Director

The Incandescent Review

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