top of page
Image by Maxime Bhm
WOW LIT FEST LOGO-2_edited.png
Image by Nick Sarro
Image by Ismail Salad Osman Hajji dirir


The Annual Words of Wonder Literary Festival is a celebration of books-to-be-written and books-to-be-read.

Come and join us each year for a literary festival on the South Side of Chicago designed with young readers and writers of all ages in mind!

We will have interactive literacy and art programming, opportunities for youth and families to connect with community resources, animated storytelling by Black authors and illustrators, a diverse group of book vendors and installations for all ages, story-based dance, interactive writing workshops, Indigenous and African styled drumming, a wide range of live music, healthy food choices and snacks, giveaways and much more!!

2023 W.O.W Lit Fest


We had a total attendance of 825 people at this year's festival.

We had over 90 vendors in attendance to make this event a success.

We had both local and national authors who were a part of the event.

We had 14 sponsors for the festival.

Hundreds of books were sold, given and blessed to all attendees.


What Attendees Had to Say About The Festival

I was happy to attend the WOW Literary Festival because I know I just witnessed something special! I'm already looking forward to next year and I know it will grow exponentially because people will want to go and experience this for themselves, their families, and their organizations!

- Jessica Smith

The inaugural WOW Lit Fest 2022 was a gathering of some of the most intentional organizations in youth education, advocacy and community advancement. It was an honor to be invited to be in that room and serve youth alongside everyone.

- Cydney Edwards

The W.O.W. Literary Festival and its venue was steeped in Black excellence along with meaningful exchanges between literary organizations from across our city. Our Southside communities need these kind of events as staples in our community. Keep it up and see you next year!

- Jami Rhue

I absolutely loved everything about the event and so happy to be a part of it. I was amazed at the amount of resources, performers and services that were provided. I also love that this was on the south side with highlights from Black Excellence in every spectrum. Thank you for having us and would love to work together again in the future.

- Bria Jackson

This Literary Festival made books come alive for children. The excitement was palpable. Children and families had a lovely time meeting authors and other reading enthusiasts.

- Attendee

Burst into Books

is very inspiring!

- Camesia Perry

Great family event!

First time vendor but I have it already marked on my calendar

for next year.

- Attendee

This festival is a true celebration of the importance of books. A place for people of all ages who appreciate that making great literature accessible for young people can change the world.

- Emily M. Hooper Lansana

The WOW Literary Festival was a great experience, both as a vendor and as a participant. There were so many activities and so many interesting people to speak with.

- Attendee

The LITerary Fest organized by Burst Into Books was a phenomenal celebration highlighting literary culture and togetherness. It was well executed and we were thrilled to be a part.

- Chrislin Flanagan

We extend our deepest thanks to each and every one of you who graced us with your presence during the 2nd Annual Words of Wonder Literary Festival.  Whether you were a distinguished author, an avid reader, an aspiring writer, or a dedicated volunteer, your enthusiasm and shared passion for literature breathed life into every panel discussion, every reading, and every creative workshop. Your presence truly made this event a resounding success.

We would also like to express our heartfelt appreciation to our sponsors, partners, and collaborators who generously contributed to the festival's success. Your support enabled us to bring together a diverse array of voices and perspectives, fostering an atmosphere of literary exploration and intellectual growth.




Our 2024 Author Headliner is

Derrick Barnes

Derrick Barnes is a National Book Award Finalist for his 2022 graphic novel Victory. Stand!-Raising My Fist For Justice, which also won the 2023 YALSA Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award, and a Coretta Scott King Award Author Honor. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed, multi-award-winning picture book Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut which received a Newbery Honor, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor, the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award, and the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers.

In 2020, he became the only author to win the Kirkus Prize twice for his twelfth release, the New York Times bestseller, I Am Every Good Thing. The title also won a Charlotte Huck Award (NCTE), and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor.

Derrick is also the creator of the New York Times Bestselling companion picture books, The King of Kindergarten (2019) and the Queen of Kindergarten (2022). 

He is a graduate of Jackson State University (BA-Marketing ’99) and was the first African-American male creative copywriter hired by Hallmark Cards. Derrick is a native of Kansas City, MO, but currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his enchanting wife, Dr. Tinka Barnes, and their four sons, the Mighty Barnes Brothers.


You can learn more about him at


Be A Sponsor!

This one-of-a-kind sponsorship opportunity

will allow you to be a part of history! 

When you invest in the inaugural Words of Wonder Literary Festival you help us weaken the hold of the last two years’ frustration and resignation and

re-ignite the interest of our young people in culture, creativity and community. 


Our 2024 Headliner Illustrator is

Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Vanessa Brantley Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. 


Being part of a diverse, tight-knit community during such turbulent times, Vanessa learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment in shaping a young person’s life. 


When she read Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, it was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, she includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants all children to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.

Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz. Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art. 


The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody.

You can see her works at


Sign up for the 

Dare to Share Workshops

Come engage in writing and illustration workshops!

Workshop Series Schedule


Our 2024 Mainstage Moderator is

Dr. Gholdy Muhammad

Dr. Gholnecsar (Gholdy) Muhammad is an Associate Professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture. She has previously served as a classroom teacher, literacy specialist, school district administrator, curriculum director, and school board president. She studies Black historical excellence in education, intending to reframe curriculum and instruction today.

Dr. Muhammad’s scholarship has appeared in leading academic journals and books. She has also received numerous national awards and is the author of the best-selling book, Cultivating Genius: An Equity Model for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy.


She also co-authored Black girls’ literacies: An Edited Volume. Her Culturally and Historically Responsive Education Model has been adopted across thousands of U.S. schools and districts across Canada. In 2022 she was named among the top 1% Edu-Scholar Public Influencers due to her impact on policy and practice. She has also received numerous awards from national organizations and universities. She was named the American Educational Research Association Division K Early Career Award and the 2021 NCTE Outstanding Elementary Educator in the English Language Arts. She has led a federal grant with the United States Department of Education to study culturally and historically responsive literacy in STEM classrooms. Her forthcoming book, Unearthing Joy, is the sequel to Cultivating Genius and provides a practical guide for putting culturally and historically responsive education into curricular practice. 


You can learn more about her at

Media Features


Words Of Wonder Literary Festival Bringing ‘The Best’ Creatives To The South Side Saturday


Inspiring the next generation of readers


This Saturday, Burst Into Books Presents the 2nd Annual W.O.W. Lit Fest

Image by Manu

W.O.W Lit Fest


Main Stage Performances: