Sunday, December 13, 2015

Good Luck, Dale Walker.

There are many factors that play into achieving any sort of success as a writer. One of them is luck.
One of the luckiest things that ever happened to me when it comes to writing was meeting Dale Walker. Dale was one of those larger-than-life characters I first encountered at a Western Writers of America convention when the author paint on me wasn’t dry. He was a past president, past Roundup editor, past several other things in the group, and revered, it seemed, among the entire membership. He also edited the novels of many admirable writers and was a respected author of nonfiction himself. Being the socially awkward type I am, I admired him from a distance.
Then, still not long after I became a WWA member, the organization announced the creation of a fiftieth anniversary anthology with Dale as the editor. Not knowing any better, I submitted a story.
I saw Dale at the next WWA convention and screwed up the courage to introduce myself. He hinted that my story would be in the anthology. It would be, outside of some success with poetry, my first publication of any note.
It must have been at the next year’s convention or one soon after that I again screwed up my courage and handed Dale a proposal for a novel. He tracked me down the next day and said it was one of the best proposals he had ever seen—but, unfortunately, the publisher he represented wasn’t inviting any new authors into their Western line.
But he asked if I knew anything about a guy named John Muir. As it happened, I knew a bit more about the man than Dale did and related one of my favorite Muir stories about his riding out a Sierra windstorm perched in the top of a tree just for the fun of it. Dale said he was working on a project and may get back to me. Later that day, or perhaps the next, he took me aside again and asked if I would like to write a book about John Muir for a new nonfiction series—“American Heroes”—he was editing for Forge Books.
Just like that, I became a writer of books. All because I had the good luck to meet a man named Dale Walker.
My admiration for Dale only grew through working with him and getting to know him better and becoming friends over the years. I only wish I had gotten lucky earlier. Not because it may have helped me become something of a writer sooner, but because it would have been my good luck to know Dale longer and better, just because he was Dale.
Dale died December 8, 2015.


  1. Luck, my tail. You got your tail going and went to a WWA. Most of my students during to recent visiting professorship at U. oklahoma regarded this as too much trouble. And you WROTE. When I told the students that writing is a profession like law and medicine and required a big investment of time and money, they smiled behind their hands.

    I call to the troops once more with Don Coldsmtih's three rules of becoming a good writer:

    1) Write every day.
    2) Write every day.
    3) Write every day.

    1. Thanks, Win, for your comments. Writing certainly is work--but it doesn't hurt to enjoy a little luck now and then.

  2. I met Dale in 1982 and for 9 years in a row attended WWA conventions, looking forward to seeing him. He was a good friend. We saw each other less and less over the years, but I will always remember him fondly as a friend.

    1. Thanks for your comments. You should know that meeting you, too, was a lucky break for me and your assistance and support as an editor are appreciated.

  3. Great story, Rod. It's the members that make W.W.A. so special. They live on in the memories they leave us.