By Grace Liang
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
For young writers, submitting work for magazines can be hard. Rejections can damage a writer’s self-esteem, and a lack of feedback denies them the tools to rebuild it.
Jessica Wang, a seventeen-year-old writer from New York, sought to solve these issues by creating a space for the work of young writers to be thoroughly appreciated. Wang established the Ice Lolly Review, an online publication that gives young writers constructive commentary on improving their writing. Since its creation in August 2020, this platform that is “for the youth and by the youth” has flourished.
“I noticed that there weren’t that many magazines that offered a space specifically for young writers,” Jessica said, when asked about her inspiration for founding Ice Lolly. “In fact, I remember scrolling through the NewPages young writers publication list and clicking on every link to try and find a home for my work.”
According to Ice Lolly’s home page, its name is based “on summer sticky fingers and sweet syrup, [how] the saccharine liquid molds to your teeth and coats your tongue in vibrant colors... the feeling of ice underneath plastic and the sharp twinge of coldness against teeth.”
Many responded to this invitation for such evocative work with delight. Ever since its creation, Ice Lolly has received over 1,100 pieces of art and writing from 32 different states in the United States and from 38 different countries across the world.
Ice Lolly responds to each submitter with courtesy and appreciation. When asked what she considered unique about Ice Lolly, Jessica cited its quick feedback and response system: one can expect to wait a maximum of two weeks before getting an acceptance or a rejection. In addition, each acceptance and rejection—and occasionally, acceptance with edits—is accompanied by two to three lines of constructive feedback, and a justification for the decision.
“[W]e’re constantly looking for new projects to give back to the youth writing community.” Jessica stated.
Ice Lolly’s projects seek to help young writers to engage with the world. For Valentine’s Day, Ice Lolly compiled the “Love Letter Project” between January and February of 2021, with a theme of love and the option of anonymity. The platform also launched The Campaign Contest, which ran in December 2020 and prompted young writers to explore social issues in their work. This project also gave writers the opportunity to win a cash prize and donate money to a charity of their choice. The crowd-funded Hope During The Pandemic issue will be delivered to nursing homes in Long Island, in order “to help get our elders through these difficult times through art and writing composed by today’s youth.”
The team and dreams behind Ice Lolly have been central to its success. Jessica, its founder and editor-in-chief, is driven and accomplished, finding inspiration in every part of life. For instance, her idea for the Hope During The Pandemic project came from her grandparents’ pastime of meticulously reading the issues of the Ice Lolly Review, despite a language barrier.
Jessica’s vision for what the writing community could become for young writers is one of support. She prioritizes “offering words of encouragement or recommending a literary magazine that they submit to”, and “looking over someone’s piece and offering consecutive criticism and kind feedback.” She named some magazines and writing organizations, including Polyphony Lit, Perhappened, and Novel Minority, that she felt lived up to such a mission and gave unique opportunities to youth, either through feedback or workshops. The rest of the masthead, composed of young writers, is working diligently to achieve the goals propelling the Ice Lolly Review.
The Ice Lolly Review can be found at https://www.icelollyreview.com/.