“Why Did You Take the Listing?”

The protagonist in my novels is a coach and real estate agent specializing in second homes. His boss, a tough office manager, told an out-of-state owner to “find another office” when the owner requested a grossly inflated asking price.

Recently, a longtime acquaintance and agent reduced the price of a waterfront second home by $500,000. Half a mil, more than 30 percent. When I stopped the agent on the street and asked him about it, he said “the original piece was the seller’s price. It wasn’t my price.”

I replied: “Then why did you take the listing?”

He responded as if I had insulted his child. Obviously the guy stands to get one side of the commission, regardless what price the house brings.

A real estate salesperson’s MAIN job is to set a listing price that the market will bear, regardless what the owner says. It’s human nature to think your home is worth more than it is. But what percentage of agents EVER turn down a listing, especially in this market?

Even though it’s fiction, perhaps I should present facts closer to the truth in the books.

Great player, person, father is gone . . .

One dark January night more than 30 years ago, I took a ferry across Puget Sound to see Christian Welp play basketball for Olympic High School in Bremerton. The campus, known mostly then for its swim-gym (a playground top can be rolled atop the indoor swimming pool, creating an additional full-court) sits close to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. When the annual fair is in full swing, cars overflow into the high school parking lot.

The night I arrived, the high school needed parking help from the fairgrounds. A 7-foot kid from Germany not only was the talk of western Washington, but he also would follow Detlef Schrempf  to the University of Washington to play for Coach Marv Harshman. Had Harsh found a German Connection that would delight Husky hoop fans for years?

Christian Welp, who became Washington’s all-time leading scorer, died yesterday of an apparent heart attack near Seattle. He was only 51. Kind, talented, a great father and husband, Welp underplayed his accomplishments and was known as a terrific teammate. He was the 16th pick in the 1987 NBA draft, but a No. 1 friend to many in his community. Here’s a piece from The Seattle Times:



Fiction vs. Non-Fiction: Less structure does not mean fewer hours

I’m often asked about the difference between fiction and non-fiction writing. Both require dedication and preparation, yet a different mindset.

Both also involve a ton of time. Less structure does not mean fewer hours.

Forty years in the newspaper business teaches you all about deadlines, importance of accurate facts and writing to a definite space. There are hours spent on developing sources, research and interviews. In my case, it led to books with major publishers (McGraw-Hill, John Wiley & Sons, Dearborn-Kaplan).

The business did not encourage exploring a creative imagination or wondering what could be. Get it done, get it right, get it in the paper.

For example, I loved covering college football. I’d start the day by submitting a first half play-by-play from the press box, add the second half action, and then sprint the locker room for quotes. Returning to the press box, I’d file a game story, locker room sidebar and then sub both pieces for the next edition. Action happened in front of me. People spoke with me. I recorded both in a logical way and sent it to the newsroom.

When I began focusing on fiction, nothing happened in front of me at a specific time that I needed to document and record. There was no finite space to fill. Much of my research became remembering the thoughts and emotions, smells and colors of places I’d been. Observations and reflections needed to be stowed in a memory bank or an entirely different kind of notebook. Sure, facts needed to be checked and dates confirmed, but there was no library to visit to find what could be.

What I underestimated was the time and discipline required to enhance personal imagination. What are the variety of things possible? The results proved to be more rewarding—and the preparation more time consuming. Fiction may be more casual, but it’s not easier.