Teen Hopes First LitUp Festival Is Just the Beginning

High school sophomore starts literary and arts festival for teens that she hopes can become a national YA tour.

For more than a year, high schooler Emery Uhlig worked with the Mid-Continent Public Library (MCPL) in Independence, MO, to create the LitUp Festival, a literature and arts festival for teens. “I thought that if I could give teenagers a chance to meet some of their favorite authors and artists (and get some free books in the process), they might be more interested in reading,” Uhlig, 15, wrote in an email.

Emery Uhlig and MCPL Director Steve Potter/Photo courtesy MCPL

With support from the library, sponsors, publishers, and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, Uhlig put together a day featuring nationally recognized authors and artists, including Ishmael Beah, Nnedi Okorafor, Marie Arana, Amy Ellis Nut, and Rainbow Rowell. The high school sophomore, whose mother is author Candice Millard, set up speakers, workshops, a creative contest, and a poetry slam. Uhlig focused on making it easy and fun for kids to attend—arranging for free transportation from local high schools and offering free food all day, not to mention the free books. On Saturday, May 12, nearly 800 teens and adults attended the festival, according to MCPL's Emily Brown. “It went great, better than I had even dreamed!” wrote Uhlig. “ I couldn’t believe all the bestselling, award-winning authors and illustrators we were able to convince to come, and then a lot of teenagers started signing up to volunteer—we ended up with almost 100. Then submissions started pouring into our Creative Contest. In the end, we had more than 330 submissions in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and art.” The attendees heard Beah, Okorafor and Rowell gave keynote addresses that touched on a variety of topics and the writing process. Beah, author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, spoke about his childhood in Seirra Leone and the transition to living in the United States, as well as the impact of experiencing Shakespeare at a young age.

Ishmael Beah/Photo courtesy MCPL

Okorafor, who wrote the “Akata” series and Black Panther comics, shared how she overcame obstacles in her childhood, her inspiration for writing, and what it was like working with George RR Martin and the Black Panther comic series she developed.

Nnedi Okorafor/Photo courtesy MCPL

Eleanor and Park author Rowell was interviewed by Uhlig and discussed the balance between career and family and the inspiration for her characters.

Rainbow Rowell/Photo courtesy MCPL

Now that Uhlig’s idea was a resounding success, she has bigger plans. “My dream for LitUp has always been that it will spread all around the United States, and even to other countries!” Uhlig wrote. “I want teens in every city and town to be able to go to their own LitUp, and I think that’s definitely going to happen.” She has received emails from out-of-state librarians asking how to plan their own LitUp Festival and is working on a resource kit that will provide the logo, website, social media links, and a guide to getting sponsors, teen volunteers, and authors and artists. “What I’d really like to do is start a LitUp tour for YA authors, which I think would be so great for everyone—teens, authors, artists, and libraries.”

Attendees at LitUp Festival/Photo courtesy MCPL


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Alexandra Cornejo

I need all the info on this!! Where can I get it?

Posted : May 31, 2018 08:13



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