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?
Cassia and her brothers and cousins face a crucial decision. Do they continue to jointly hold the family business as a resource for future generations, requiring them to keep working for a living, or do they divvy up their shares and then live independently wherever and however they desire?
Put yourself in Cassia’s shoes.
How would your life be different if you didn’t have to worry about how you’d make ends meet? What would you dream of doing?
I was perplexed that they kept raising the price on our broadband service, seemingly monthly, and then privately complained about monopoly abuse. We haven’t had a TV for years, but for some reason, that didn’t affect the pricing, however they tried to justify that.
Canceling when we moved, though, was a great pleasure. Besides, our new provider is $720 a year cheaper for the same service, perhaps because there’s some competition.
Not everybody’s sticking to broadband for digital access, either.
As a blogger and author, though, I’m just not ready to do all my online stuff on a smart phone. Not that the option couldn’t be tempting.
In one of the early drafts of my novel What’s Left, I tried this perspective — which I removed from the final version of the book, feeling it was too preachy:
If our workroom was where we could act honorably under the eye of God, it was still no substitute for times of celebration and worship! No, we need to take time every day for prayer and the study of scripture. Just remember: work spent in activities that help our neighbors and enable us to come together for periods of common delight is quite different from anything I see in the realm of time cards or the Harvard Business School.
Whew! Let’s try to bring this back to everyday experience.
Is there somebody you encounter someplace during the day who makes you feel special? A coworker, cafe wait person, bus driver, teacher, friend? Do tell us!
Karma yoga, by the way, is explained in my novel Yoga Bootcamp. Work itself gets complicated, no?
Maybe the family restaurant was oppressive? In my novel What’s Left, there’s no question the kids won’t be working shifts in Carmichael’s as they grow up. Do they ever want to rebel? Or does peer pressure and pride keep them in line?
As one of them said in an earlier draft:
So it was off to serve more Streetcars and slaw.
Well, they knew what was expected. And they knew how to pitch in and be effective.
What were you expected to do in your family? How did you help? Were you compensated in return? Should you have been?
Even though I cut this from the final version of my novel What’s Left, it’s still true:
What people need, and this is essential to a proper approach to labor, is balance.
Two things are going on here, one inside the other, but I’d like to be less confusing.
The first, quite simply, is my belief in what we Quakers call centering. We find our stopping all outwork activity for a time of deep meditation and reflection helps bring us perspective on the other parts of our lives. Add to that moderation and simplicity or focus all leading to a healthy balance of individuality, home, career, community, faith, and so on.
The second touches on attitudes toward labor itself, which quite frankly has been demeaned in modern society. What makes the concept of leisure so exalted? The danger, I suspect, is in overworking — often sucking any joy out of the project at hand.
Think of your job. What could management do to make it more human?