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History

Suellen Lambert Lazarus

Suellen Lambert Lazarus

A BRIEF HISTORY

Suellen Lambert Lazarus founded the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival in 2005.   After running the Chilmark Community Center’s evening lecture series for many years and seeing the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, Suellen felt that Martha’s Vineyard needed a book festival, too.  Luckily, the Chilmark Town Affairs Council, a 501(c) 3 organization responsible for overseeing the Chilmark Community Center, agreed and has generously supported the festival and provided 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. We 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 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 help guide the author selection and programming processes. But, the festival remains free. 

Suellen was formerly a director at the World Bank Group in Washington, DC where she worked for 24 years before retiring and now is an independent consultant on environmental and social issues in project finance.  A summer resident of Martha's Vineyard for 39-years, she lives the rest of the year in Washington, DC with her husband, Billy Lazarus.  They have two sons, Eben and Oliver, who are devoted book festival volunteers.