Yesterday I had the good fortune to attend my friend Helen’s retirement party at the Library of Congress. Helen has been the Head of Publications at the Copyright office since 1997, but I’ve known her longer than that.
I first met Helen in the the 1980s when our husbands became coworkers, but we didn’t become friends until she joined my very first writers group in 1995 when I first started writing. Now I count her as one of my very dearest friends.
Helen has been with me on my whole writing journey and she has read nearly every word I’ve written. I credit her with helping me insert commas where commas need to be and also with correcting some of my stupid mistakes. Like writing “a hair’s breath” instead of “a hair’s breadth.” I also credit her with introducing me to Traditional Regencies (Mary Jo Putney’s The Rake and The Reformer, Mary Balogh, and others), which sparked my love for the Regency.
Helen also started our writing group’s annual Christmas Déjeuner Avec Des Chapeaux (lunch with hats). We go out to lunch, but, like ladies of old, we wear hats. We also open presents. Every year someone in the restaurant compliments our hats.
At the retirement party, Helen’s coworkers praised her for her enthusiasm, her friendliness, her energy and her general cheerfulness. They nailed her personality to a T. They also gave her credit for coordinating The Science Fiction and Fantasy Forum, a group of Library of Congress workers who love those genres and invite authors and other speakers for a lunchtime program. When Helen took over she really raised the bar on attracting speakers. I know everyone at the Library of Congress will miss her.
In honor of Helen’s love of costume, attendees to the retirement party were asked to dress in steampunk. The writers group appeared in steampunk hats Helen made for us last year. Here we are in the center of the group.
Helen will not spend one moment of retirement bored or at a loss for things to do. She can sew, make hats, create steampunk and other costumes. She can indulge in her love of movies, play with her dog, Gaius, arrange Barbie tableaux, edit books. She can also write and I’m hoping she will finish her New Orleans book she started years ago. She’s also been asked to be on the Advisory Board the American Women Writers National Museum, which she’ll probably transform.
And Helen will continue to read my books as I write them and help me make them the best they can be. I am grateful to her for that, but I am mostly grateful to count her as my friend.
Helen, this one is for you!!!