I admire trailblazers. They fascinate me. I’m talking about individuals who are out there ahead of the pack because their eyes see what few others see. With keen visionary insight, they blaze the trail for others to travel along a more comfortable path. Robert Walker was just such a man. (On the left in photo.)
Steven Strang, editor and founder of Charisma Magazine (on right in photo), wrote a moving tribute to Walker, noting that April 30, 2012, marked the 100th anniversary of the publishing giant’s birth. (Walker died in March, 2008, at age 95.)
I want to quote a paragraph from Strang’s article which helps to illuminate my point about Robert Walker being a trailblazer.
Back when he [Walker] started there wasn’t Christian journalism as we know it today. There were a few publications such as the Christian Herald newspaper, but there were virtually no magazines and no journalistic reports. When Walker founded Christian Life in 1948, it was considered so unique and newsworthy that Newsweek magazine wrote about it.
Christian Writers Institute
In many very personal ways, Robert Walker and his work affected my life and my writing. Early on in my career I enrolled in, and graduated from, the Magazine Writing Course offered by the Christian Writers Institute. Walker is the one who established this correspondence school because he saw a need to train up Christian journalists.
Walker founded a publishing house which he called Creation House. In a historic undertaking, Walker used this publishing house to present the biography of Pat Boone entitled A New Song. The book sold over 2.5 million copies and affected and changed many lives – mine included.
On my bookshelf I have a very dated copy of The Successful Writers & Editors Guidebook published by Creation House. (Yes, girls and boys, that is a picture of an actual typewriter featured on the cover!)
On page 49 of said book is a much marked-up and highlighted article (chapter) written by Robert Walker. In fact, as I flip through the pages, it is his article that is marked more than any other.
Here is one of the highlighted quotes from Walker’s article:
In disciplining yourself as a writer, the first principle is to determine that you will spend a given amount of time writing each day. I don’t recommend less than one-half hour. An hour is better. And be sure that you spend that full hour writing – not dreaming about writing.
Re-reading this, I can remember how that admonition kindled a fire inside me and intensified my deep desire to become a disciplined writer!
In another groundbreaking business endeavor, Walker established the Christian Bookseller magazine in 1954 (later to become Christian Retailing after Steve Strang took it over). It was Walker who saw the need for Christian bookstores to have a central publication to create interactive forums and disseminate needed information.
Many a copy of Christian Retailing magazine carried articles bearing the byline of yours truly. A couple of those were featured on the cover.(If you squint — or enlarge the screen — you can see my byline on this article on the right.)
CR magazine was fun to work with. It not only honed my writing skills, but my interviewing skills as well. Many of the articles required multiple one-on-one phone interviews in order to flesh out needed content.
Christian Life Magazine
In 1948, Walker acquired Christian Life & Times from friend Clyde Dennis at Good News Publications. He merged Sunday and Christian Life & Times into Christian Life. Christian Life was yet another publication in which several of my articles were published.
In 1986, Christian Life merged with Charisma magazine and became Charisma+Christian Life, the flagship publication of Strang Communications. Walker mentored Stephen Strang, who is today president of Strang Communications and author of the article mentioned above.
As founder and coordinator of the Professionalism in Writing school based in Tulsa, I on occasion had the opportunity to interact with Steve Strang and his then editor of Christian Retailing magazine.
On Staff at Write-to-Publish Conference
The height of all of this was in 1991 when I was invited to serve on staff as a speaker/instructor at the annual Write-to-Publish conference (under the auspices of CWI) held at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL. Robert Walker, as president of CWI, was present. I had the honor, at long last, of meeting him face-to-face and shaking his hand.
Thank You, Robert Walker
Interesting that I never put this intricate puzzle together in my mind until the moment I read Steve Strang’s tribute. I’m so thankful that it set my thinking into retro gear and allowed me to snag a few of these old memories, because now I can give my own tribute to a man who in many ways affected my writing career.
With giants like Walker who have gone before me, is it any wonder that I have such a passion to pass it on by reaching out to those who are coming along the trail that I’m blazing? This is what Be A Novelist, and the Six-Month, Finish-My-Novel Challenge programs are all about!
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Photo Credit: Charisma Magazine