Chicago is a city with rich and artistic literary communities. What is less well known is that Chicago also boasts a vibrant, buzzing youth literary community. Youth in Chicago are respected literary artists in their own right, be they slam poets, novelists, zinesters, or talented wordsmiths across an array of literary disciplines.
Since 2014, our project has sought to bring together some of the city’s leading literary organizations (and their youth participants) with a grand dream: to launch a teens-only literary festival that celebrates the diversity and creative spirit of Chicago’s young writers, as well as, create for them a strong literary community. Drawing inspiration from established festivals and conferences like the Association of Writing and Writing Programs Conference (AWP), Printers Ball, Louder Than A Bomb, and others the Chicago Teen Literary Fest will serve as a coming together for all teen writers to meet, learn, network, and connect in a dynamic way.
Our intended outcomes for our planning period included:
- establishing a timeline, plan, and feasibility of bringing a Teen Lit Fest to Chicago through forming a committee of experts and enthusiasts, holding regular development meetings, and enlisting the advice of other cities and organizations who have planned such large-scale events,
- create an outline for a digital tool to act as a hub, resource, and extension past the Teen Lit Fest itself, and
- recruit and engage up to 10 Chicago youth (high school aged) as our Youth Advisory Council who will be active participants in the planning process alongside the planning committee, and will have self-assigned roles and goals.
Our intended outcomes for our implementation period included:
- Further development of our Youth Advisory Council and establishment of a Youth Branding Team to design and manage all marketing and promotional aspects of the project,
- Develop a strategic festival plan inclusive of programming, logistics, marketing, and partnerships
- Develop additional points of youth engagement leading up to the festival.
- Host a two-day festival developed by young people for a goal of 500 young people.
This festival seeks to bring together the various youth writing communities, organizations, schools, educators, and even technologists to create a festival of readings, performances, workshops, panels, book fairs and book exchanges, connections to authors, making, and more. Youth will not only be participants of the festival, but also presenters, demonstrators, facilitators, and co-leads alongside adult writers and authors.
Here is our mission statement developed by our Youth Advisory Council:
The ChiTeen Lit Fest aims to provide a safe and creative space for young adults to unlock and discover their unique voice through literary arts. The Chicago Teen Lit Fest seeks to bring together young people from across Chicago and celebrate their talents as they express themselves through exceptional and honest art.