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History

SUELLEN LAZARUS

SUELLEN LAZARUS

A BRIEF HISTORY

The book festival was founded in 2005 as an outgrowth of the Chilmark Community Center's evening lecture series. Suellen Lambert Lazarus founded the festival after running the evening lecture series for a number of years and seeing the National Book Festival in Washington, DC.  Suellen and the Community Center agreed that Martha’s Vineyard needed a book festival, too. The Chilmark Town Affairs Council, a 501(c) 3 organization responsible for overseeing activities of the Chilmark Community Center, supports the festival and provides many of its volunteers. Bunch of Grapes, the island's beloved independent bookstore, was also a founding partner. The Vineyard Gazette has been the festival's stalwart media sponsor from the beginning producing a beautiful supplement for each festival.   

At the first festival, all the authors were local, the programming included children's and young adult books, and Judy Blume agreed to speak.  The first festival was run in partnership and with support from the Chilmark Free Public Library.  The festival now feature authors from across the country who travel to the island to participate in the festival.  The festival has gained a national reputation with authors and publishers, and we now limit our programming to newly published adult fiction and non-fiction in a range of genres.  We also have gathered a distinguished Advisory Panel who guide the author selection and programming processes. But, the festival remains free. 

In 2012, the Martha's Vineyard Author Lecture Series was officially launched and branded on the alternate years of the Martha's Vineyard Book Festival.  It features a world class group of authors speaking to sold out crowds at the Chilmark Community Center throughout the summer.