The inaugural LitUp, a literature and arts festival for teens, was held on May 12, at Mid-Continent Public Library’s North Independence Branch in the Kansas City, Mo., metro area. The festival, which was founded by 15-year-old high school student Emery Uhlig in partnership with the library, featured presentations and workshops by 22 award-winning authors and illustrators, and was attended by approximately 800 teens and adults. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority offered free transit from two Kansas City area high schools to and from the festival. We’ve gathered a selection of highlights from the event.

Rainbow Rowell, author of several YA novels including Eleanor & Park and Carry On, delivered a keynote address.

Emery Uhlig said of her inspiration for founding the LitUp festival, “I hope that by giving teenagers a chance to meet some of their favorite authors and artists, they’ll be more motivated to read and to pursue careers in art and writing.”

Keynote speaker Ishmael Beah (A Long Way Gone) signed books and spoke with fans.

The event drew a crowd of roughly 800 book lovers.

Author Nnedi Okorafor (Akata Warrior) gave a keynote speech.

Mikhail Shadeed led a graphic design workshop.

Festivalgoers helped themselves to a complimentary lunch.

A crew of volunteers.

One of the winners of the LitUp Creative Contest signed a copy of the LitUp Anthology, which includes the top three submissions for each category in the festival’s writing competition: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Graphic Art. There were 300 submissions from 192 teens.

A student takes part in a writing workshop.

Festival founder Emery Uhlig’s mother, author and journalist Candice Millard.

Young readers show off their books.

Uhlig with MCPL director Steve Potter.

Royce “Sauce” Handy performed during a poetry slam.

(Standing, from l.): LitUp participants Rainbow Rowell, Maya Van Wagenen, Ishmael Beah, Amy Ellis Nutt, Jen Mann, and Mikhail Shadeed; (seated, from l.): Emery Uhlig, Pamela Newkirk, Nichole Millard, and Shannon Thompson.