One Book Two Book Festival, Iowa Young Writers Studio celebrate youth writing in Iowa City

While many of Iowa City’s writing programs focus on the success of adults pursuing literature, The One Book Two Book Children’s Literature Festival and Iowa Young Writers’ Studio are two programs that encourage youth writing in Iowa City.



Jami Martin-Trainor, Arts Reporter

Iowa City is internationally recognized for producing talented writers. Through programs like the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, the Nonfiction Writing Program, and various literary magazines on campus, the city has gained a reputation for producing excellent writers and allowing authors to flourish.

Many of the noteworthy programs in Iowa City cater to adults seeking to further themselves as writers. Yet, the city still holds a great deal of potential and opportunities for young writers looking to explore the world of literature.

The One Book Two Book Children’s Literature Festival is one such celebration that focuses on the success and talent of local kids. Hosted by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, the organization’s website explains that while children are often recognized for their athletic and musical talents, praise for literary accomplishments is lacking.

“As a UNESCO City of Literature, we rightly laud the published and soon-to-be published authors among us, but we tend to overlook the most abundant pool of talent in our area: our K-12 schools,” the event’s website reads.

The One Book Two Book Children’s Literature Festival aims to fill that gap, allowing children to submit content that is judged and awarded in a public setting. This year’s festival took place on Feb. 26 and 27, where winners were announced, and other activities related to books and reading were held.

City of Literature Director John Kenyon said that the program provides a lot of freedom regarding what children can submit to the contest portion of the event. Through honorable mentions and multiple different categories that select winners, many writers can be recognized.

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“We’re able to recognize usually between 70 and 100 kids for their writing,” Kenyon said.

Whether a child wants to pursue writing as a career or simply uses the craft as a form of expression, Kenyon said that all kids are encouraged to participate.

“It encourages them to write — it gives them something to work toward, to give them a goal, particularly the [kids] that want to be recognized for their work,” Kenyon said.

Youth writing programs in Iowa City not only support local kids, but they have a nationwide reach as well. The Iowa Young Writers’ Studio is a program that invites students from across the country to stay at the UI and learn from local writers.

Iowa Young Writers’ Studio Director Stephen Lovely said that the selective program shows the immense talent and demand for writing in Iowa. The program receives a high number of applicants each year.

“[The students are] eager for knowledge, for information, and resources about how to develop this writing,” Lovely said. “So many of them are at a point where they want to know more about the finer points of craft. They want to learn how to take the sort of expressive outpouring of language and thought and emotion and feeling, and turn it into art.”

While held virtually for the past two years, the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio has plans to move ahead in a hybrid format this summer.

Kenyon said that regardless of age, writing tends to be a journey that is taken alone, and because of that it is essential to share work that deserves praise with the world.

“Writing — it’s such a solitary pursuit that sometimes, you think it’s nice to just shine a light on people who are doing a great job,” Kenyon said. “It’s not as public, there’s not as much pomp and circumstances around it as there is around other activities kids do.”