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ChiTeen Lit Fest

A city-wide convergence of all things youth and literary.

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.

Lead Organization:
Chicago Public Library

Partner Organizations:
Center for College Access and Success , Poetry Foundation

Project Goal:
The Chicago Teen Lit Fest seeks to create a public space that allows literary-minded youth to connect with others who share their passion, create opportunities for a public showcasing of their creative works, connect youth to programs and writers in and beyond Chicago, provide visibility and support of a vibrant youth literary community, provide role- and project-based learning opportunities for teens, propel writing-inclined youth toward greater engagement with writing opportunities online, in their communities, schools, and across the city that can illuminate possible futures, and build an annual event that will increase the literary enthusiasm among youth of Chicago in the home, school, and community.

Project Tags:
2014 Round 2 RFP, 2015 Round 2 RFP, 2016 Round 2 RFP

Project Portfolio

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    Chicago Teen Lit Fest Mission Statement

    As a part of their work, the Teen Advisory Council for the Chicago Teen Lit Fest created the following Mission Statement for what we hope to be annual gathering of Chicago’s young literary community:


    The Chicago Teen 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.

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    ChiTeen Lit Fest Website

    The ChiTeen Lit website was designed and managed by members of our Youth Branding Team. The website features student generated content in addition to festival event information. Media on the website includes teen and guest presenter spotlight videos, social media engagement, podcasts created by member of our Teen Ambassadors, and featured teen writing.

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    Teen Pre-Survey

    The Teen Advisory Council created and distributed this survey that was taken by over 200 teens in the early stages of planning to better understand what teens might want out of  Lit Fest.

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    Teen Created Media

    This page shares all of the media content created by teens from our Branding Team, as well as, our Teen Ambassadors.

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    Media Kit

    The Media Kit created by teens shared with partners for support in promoting the event(s).

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    Comprehensive Timeline

    This document shares our final comprehensive timeline and checklist.

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    Presenter Questionnaire

    This is a questionnaire we requested our guest presenters complete once they accepted the invitation to participate.

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    Preview Event at Poetry Foundation

    We held a preview event in March 2016 to highlight elements of the festival. This is a video of our panel with headlining guests Rhymefest, Erika L Sanchez, and Ben Tanzer.







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    Guest Presenter Poster

    This large-format poster shares all of our guest presents for the 2016 festival.

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    Teen Spotlight with Semira Truth

    The Teen Branding Team created spotlight videos of young Chicago writers. http://

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    Moderator Itinerary

    Teens also moderated the panels at the festival. This document provided teens with tips, schedules, and information related to their roles as moderators.

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    Social Media Promotion

    This is one of the social media posters created by the Branding Team to highlight different festival programs.http://

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    Festival Program Counts

    Over the course of the two days, the festival served 322 individual students. This document shares the attendance counts taken at many of the festival’s programs.

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    More Social Media Engagement by the Branding Team


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    Feedback Survey

    This is the survey distributed to teens that attended the festival.



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    Snapshot of Teen Ambassadors

    This is a quick peak into our Teen Ambassadors for GEAR UP!