Holding true to tradition, the Martha’s Vineyard Author Series is set to kick-off its biennial programming on July 30, however this summer the event will take place virtually.

The usual seven-speaker lineup has been pared down to four dates this year, taking place on July 30, August 2, 9 and 13.

The series opens with Sarah Broom, author of The Yellow House, a memoir that tells the story of New Orleans through the lens of one house.

Suellen Lazarus, executive director and founder of the author series and the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival (which takes place on alternate years), said that despite the changes, running the series amidst the pandemic was a chance to unite the community.

“A lot of people wanted me to cancel, but I didn’t want to,” she said. “In this environment where everybody’s isolated...people still need cultural events and people are still reading a lot. It’s nice for them to be able to talk with one another and to talk with authors.”

The series continues on August 2 with Erik Larson in conversation with Amor Towles, a panel of writers about the Supreme Court on August 9 and a Black Lives Matter event on August 13, the details of which are still being worked out.

“I’m excited about all of them,” said Ms. Lazarus. “I think they’re each different, and that’s what I think makes it as a whole, a compelling package.”

In February, the organization had secured a lineup for the series they felt reflected the issues of the day. But when the pandemic hit in March, the team went back to the drawing board, said Ms. Lazarus.

“The situation with Covid and then Black Lives Matter protests really changed our direction,” she said. “We wanted to deal with poverty, we wanted to discuss leadership, the court, and then Black Lives Matter. We think it’s important to have these kinds of discussions now and the authors allow us to do that through their books.”

Ms. Lazarus hopes that the series’ new virtual format will allow the event to expand its usual audience base, reaching readers on and off the Island.

“We want something for everyone—young people, older people, people of color, transgender people,” said Ms. Lazarus.

In keeping with the goal of accessibility, the organization has chosen to forgo the event’s usual admission fee, opening the series to the public free of charge. The absence of a price tag is significant for the organization, which usually uses revenue from the author series to fund the book festival the following summer.

“We figured this is an important year to just not worry about the financial component,” Ms. Lazarus said.

But beyond audience engagement, Ms. Lazarus feels that the series will serve authors as well by providing them with a chance for exposure and publicity—a rare currency for writers in the pandemic.

“These fabulous books are launched into nothing,” she said. “Usually authors travel, they have book tours and suddenly there is this void. The author series allows us to support the authors, too, and give them another platform and a new audience.”

Ms. Lazarus said that the series is also an opportunity to have conversations she feels are vital to the health of the Island community and the national at large.

“It’s important to have civil discourse,” she said. “The series provides the opportunity to promote civil dialogue [and] real engagement on issues in a way that’s respectful, so people learn and gain new perspectives,” she said. “That’s why we didn’t cancel.”

To register, visit mvbookfestival.com.