ChiTeen Lit Fest: Helping Chicago teens 'author the culture of their times'

It’s the kind of party you sort of hope and dream your teenager will go to on a Friday night: It’s at a library, and it ends at 10 p.m.

It promises to be anything but dull, however.

April 21 marks the kickoff of ChiTeen Lit Fest, a two-day festival of performances, storytelling, reading, writing and workshops — all free, all open to the public, all conceived and organized by Chicago teens.


“If we want teens to come to it, teens should design it,” said Jennifer Steele, Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia partnerships coordinator. (YOUmedia is a library and studio space located in a dozen CPL branches designed for teens to read, create and hang out. The equipment and resources are free with a CPL card.)

“Rather than design a festival and try, as adults, to explain to teens how to build a community and what writers they should be learning from,” Steele said, “we decided to draw on what we already see happening in the teen community and let them create a festival for themselves and their friends.”

From 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, teens can mingle with peers and professional writers, grab some food, listen to music and watch dance performances in the winter garden at Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St. On Saturday, a series of workshops, panel discussions and readings will begin at 10 a.m. and run through 6:30 p.m. at Columbia College, 1104 S. Wabash Ave.

“I see this as an opportunity to extend Columbia College’s mission beyond the walls of the institution,” said Eric May, novelist and associate professor at Columbia. “We want students to author the culture of their times, and this is an opportunity to extend that citywide.”

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