Flynn's Harp: McGovern's Harlequin award not a career move (2-8-12)
Posted on 2/10/2012 by Mike Flynn
Helen McGovern, who three years ago put aside a career as elected official and prominent real estate executive to become the head of a non-profit engaged in fighting hunger in Pierce County, chuckles at the idea that a third career as Harlequin Heroine might await her.
While it may not actually turn into a “career” with the publishing house best known for its pervasive romance novels, McGovern and her role as what Harlequin describes as “making a positive difference in the lives of others” will be the inspiration for an ebook fictional short story.
McGovern received word a few days ago that she was one of three women voted winners in an online and Facebook competition to determine recipients of Harlequin’s “More Than Words” award.
Seems that Harlequin, as one of the world’s leading publishers of books for women, turns out more than romance novels. And the Toronto-based publishing house has as an aspect of its social corporate responsibility an annual award aimed at “celebrating the lives of women who make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
McGovern, a woman from Ohio and another from Toronto were voted winners by Harlequin readers, 111,000 participating online and 7,800 via Facebook, and each will receive $15,000 for their cause and be “the inspiration for three fictional short stories,” according to Harlequin. It was the first time in the eight years of the event that readers, rather than staff members, did the selecting.
The short stories on the three, written by Harlequin authors who are donating their time to talk with the women and gain inspiration to create stories based on their experiences and contributions, will be available in 2013 in ebook format and can be downloaded then at no cost.
As a Harlequin spokeswoman explained, when I called her in Toronto, the contest and awards “are to publicize to the women who read our books the causes of women worthy of being publicized.”
Forsaking the corporate world and elective office for the dramatically more modest trappings as executive director of Pierce County’s Emergency Food Network was a move McGovern had long anticipated as a focus on “a more purposeful life” when she made the move in April of 2009.
As a result of a column I did on her a year ago, McGovern was invited to speak before Seattle Rotary, which she did last week. And leading into her comments about guiding the nonprofit that distributes 1.3 million pounds of food each year to Pierce County food banks, she disclosed, with a chuckle, that she had received the Harlequin honor
But the jokes about being a romance-novel heroine, which is possible but not really the
likely outcome of the short story she’ll have written, didn’t change the fact of this being an important recognition, following one a year ago with a Second Half Champions award.
That’s was statewide award presented each year by Wells Fargo Advisors, along with ArtsFund and Seattle Community Colleges, to individuals who have “completely repurposed the second half of their lives to make significant contributions” after the age of 50.
It was after finishing her “most financially successful year ever” at Colliers and with her decision not to seek re-election after eight years on the Lakewood city council, including two years as deputy mayor there, that she decided the time had come for her move to a non-profit career.
So she learned of the opening at Emergency Food Network, set up a meeting with the board, and when she was asked if there was anything she would like them to know about her, she calls saying: “Yes. This was meant to be. I was meant to have this job.”
And the manner in which she’s fulfilling the nonprofit role she sought is obviously drawing considerable recognition.