In my novel, What’s Left, Cassia becomes a rising executive with half of the country as her territory. The experience of growing up in the family restaurant gives her a head start over her colleagues, but she’s also much more vulnerable in a highly competitive, often hostile, financial world, than she’d ever been back home.
What are the biggest threats in being a woman in management? How would you avoid them?
Let me repeat, What’s Left is my final novel, even though it’s appeared before several earlier ones — or their later revisions. That doesn’t mean I might not rework some more of my earlier books, but I have no intention (at this point, ahem) of undertaking such an ambitious project.
Still, if it’s ever successful, there can be a demand for a sequel. There are many possibilities that point to further development.
One plot twist I considered was this:
A handful of the Erinyes’ grandchildren rebel by returning to attend college across the street from Carmichael’s. Perhaps it’s inevitable that they apply for jobs in the restaurant.
Can they work? We’ll let them decide about becoming cousins.
This could have opened considerations about rebalancing the ownership, for one thing. Or more dimensions to our understanding of what it means to be a family. Or even their own reasons that parallel those of Cassia’s father in moving way back in the early ’70s.
It’s a big book, admittedly. But it could be a lot bigger.
Where would you take the story of What’s Left from what’s already there? What would you like to have answered?
A huge challenge to family-owned businesses arises in the passing of one generation to another. The unanticipated death of the patriarch or matriarch in his or her prime can wreak havoc on the company, even if inheritance tax liabilities aren’t overwhelming. Sometimes the heir apparent isn’t the best option, not all of the heirs want to be part of the operation, or bitter rivalries emerge. Getting through the fourth generation, with a spreading number of family members and interests, can determine the fate of the enterprise. As I saw in the newspaper industry, most nameplates sold out to media chains at this point, losing much of their underlying local connection in the process.
Do you know of any businesses that fit this description?
When a family-owned business has two siblings at the helm, how effectively they resolve conflicts – or ignore them – is crucial. As one well-known New England brother has said, he learned that family was more important than always being right. In their case, it worked. They even became TV stars in their ads. I suppose there were other corrective mechanisms behind the scenes or ones that would kick in later. We’ll see the biz school case study in time, no doubt. On the other hand, differences can also lead to lawsuits, the breakup of the company, even its sale to rivals, perhaps followed by a longstanding refusal to speak to each other. We’ve also seen those headlines.
We’ve been watching the renovation of a former bakery downtown, including the clues it was going to be a brewpub. Everyplace seems to have one, except Eastport, until now.
The work felt like it was taking forever, but then, to our surprise, the one storefront had some “soft openings,” 2 to 7 or so over the past couple of weeks, ironing any kinks out. It was announced only by a small chalkboard on the sidewalk. I’ll just say they’ve been lovely, low-key, and fun. The Horn Run’s brew’s excellent, too. From all signs, Lisa and Jeff know what they’re doing. They already have a loyal following.
The interior is cozy with an English pub feel, with a view that would be hard to beat. It’s become a place where it’s easy to make introductions.
The choice for the official opening matched many of the downtown stores and galleries, which already planned to reopen for the season today. We’ve definitely felt something building in the air.
Horn Run? Well, for baseball fans, it’s a kind of pun, with a moose as the runner. But it’s also an inside joke, based on the nearby Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. Seems that when the pub’s owners were younger and wanted to go for a drive, they’d say, “Let’s take a run around the ‘Horn.” Which then introduces a second inside joke. Moose don’t have horns – they have antlers.
Work on the apartment porches overlooking the harbor continues. I have seen some of the daring residents already having their morning coffee on the deck, enjoying the ocean air and the view.
The hope is that Horn Run will spark renewed vitality downtown as we come out of Covid. It definitely has appeal for summer visitors as well as younger residents looking for a suitable social center.
In my novel What’s Left, her generation of the family will face some crucial decisions that resemble those their parents were charting when her father-to-be showed up in the household.
In a passage I cut from an earlier draft, she wonders:
What would you do?
While Dimitri and Barney have niches in the business, Nita has her chosen career. Tito, meanwhile, will likely have his hands in both the Zap enterprises and an independent law firm.
That leaves Manoula, who hopes to head off in a literary direction, not necessarily as a writer.
As I’m revisiting this, I’m getting a bit steamed. I realize how little guidance I had regarding my future. We didn’t talk much about it at home, and even college was somehow mostly off the table. The so-called guidance counselor at my large high school was mostly a disciplinary officer and military-draft registrar. College? No help from him!
I got more from the editor of the first newspaper that hired me as an intern. He had a knack for nurturing talent. I just wish he hadn’t retired when he did.
Dimitri seems to possess much of that skill, perhaps even more than Nita. They’d likely ask:
What would you really like to be doing with your life? What do you need from us to help? So what do you really want to do with your life? And what do you need to get there?
Her aunt Nita in my novel What’s Left, has an interesting insight on showing up for work before all the others. It doesn’t fit every job, but it did hers. And then I cut this from the final version of the book:
If you’re the first one in and the last one out, you can disappear in the middle of the day and your coworkers and bosses are none the wiser. They just assume you’re out on assignment.
Not all jobs require you to punch-in or punch-out on some kind of clock. I’ve never had to work one of those, fortunately, although I’ve often had to fill out weekly time cards before being paid.
What I did find, though, was that even when I was putting in a lot of unpaid overtime (the joys of being low-tier management!), I could still feel the judgmental eyes behind my back.
Are you ever considered a slacker on your job? How does it feel? How do you respond?